Local man scales Kilimanjaro

Red Deer business owner Cabel McElderry spends most days getting people to push a little farther to get to their peak fitness level. As a personal trainer and owner of One-to-1 Fitness in Red Deer, encouraging clients is part of the job description.

Red Deer’s Cabel McElderry plugs his business

Red Deer’s Cabel McElderry plugs his business

Red Deer business owner Cabel McElderry spends most days getting people to push a little farther to get to their peak fitness level. As a personal trainer and owner of One-to-1 Fitness in Red Deer, encouraging clients is part of the job description.

But on a recent trip to Tanzania, Africa, to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise money for the Water School, it took all of his willpower and encouragement from his guide Odel to get him to the mountain’s peak.

It’s obvious looking at McElderry that he is in great physical shape, with his biceps bulging through his T-shirt. The challenge with Mt. Kilimanjaro is that the high altitude and low oxygen makes even a few steps a challenge, with many climbers becoming nauseous and even vomiting.

“The climb itself is not such that any person of good fitness could not undergo the climb, but mentally the effects of the altitude is so different for every person,” he said. McElderry, 34, could take just 30 to 40 steps before collapsing to his knees at times during the climb to the summit. “Some of the guys who do this sort of thing it wouldn’t be a big deal, but for me I’ve always been a strength athlete my whole life. My body metabolically is not designed to function for hours and hours and hours.”

He was impressed by the guides from the local area who not only made the trip faster than the North American climbers, but with gear strapped to them and in some cases multiple times in a day. “By comparison North Americans are fat, lazy and stressed out,” McElderry said. “We have to find reasons to be active, but activity for them is just a way of life.”

The six-day trip over 100 kilometres of terrain started on March 1 for McElderry, Red Deer Realtor Glenn Moore and 22 other climbers from around the world. All of them came with the purpose of raising money for the Water School, which helps provide water disinfectant systems — that use little more than a plastic bottle and sunshine to work — that are given to people in developing countries.

“It’s the first time I’d pretty much climbed anything,” McElderry said. “I grew up in Rocky and Nordegg, but I’ve only ever been moderately outdoorsy. So I’ve never slept in a tent below zero. I’ve never slept in a tent for six days or walked 100 kilometres before. So there were a lot of firsts.”

Throughout the trek the climate changed as much as the geography, with temperatures ranging from minus 25 C to plus 27 C, as McElderry trekked through rain forest, scrub brush and then mountainous terrain, dealing with sunshine, fog, rain, hail and snow.

At Barafu Camp, the staging point, they started their climb to the summit at 2:20 a.m on the fifth day, with snow on the ground and temperatures at minus 20 to minus 25 C, but by sunrise things warmed up to the minus 5 to zero range.

McElderry finally reached the top, known as Uhuru Peak — which means Freedom Peak in Swahili — at 8:30 a.m. on the fifth day, spending just 10 minutes there before walking back down.

In the end everyone but one in their group made it to the summit, raising $200,000 US for the Water School, with McElderry’s share being around $4,000 US.

Over the course of the trek, McElderry lost eight pounds of muscle that he hasn’t yet been able to gain back. After a 33-hour trip to return home the first thing he wanted was to see his wife Wendy and have a diet Pepsi and a cheeseburger.

But McElderry said it was a great experience and he plans to do more charitable work in the future. “If anybody is thinking of taking the chance. Just do it. It was the trip of a lifetime,” he said.

More information is available at www.thewaterschool.org or on McElderry’s blog www.personaltrainerreddeer.com.

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