On November 11th, a group of volunteer, amateur mountain climbers will begin hiking up Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest freestanding mountain in the world. Their effort, Climb for Real™ will raise awareness and funding for Real Medicine (only if you sponsor them!)

We checked in on them to see how they’re preparing for the biggest climb of their lives.  Here, we interviewed RMF Advisory Board members Dr. Garrett Cale Smith and Mr. George Clardy, as well as Mr. Byrom Hess and Mr. Ryan Clardy, George’s son.  The fab four had a lot to say about their upcoming trip – and why they hope you will follow along.

RMF:  So…how is Climb for Real coming along?

GEORGE: Very well! 13 days until we start our climb of the highest peak in Africa! We are ready to make this happen.

RYAN: So far so good. With less than 2 weeks to go, I couldn’t be more pleased and am anxious to get there.

RMF:  How is the training coming along?

photo: Byrom’s training partner – Momoko!

BYROM: My training is going well. A lot of my training has been taking place in the gym because of my schedule, but I have made a point to go on at least one good hike a week. Most of my hikes have taken place on South Mountain in Phoenix or Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas. In Vegas, I have found a new hiking buddy…my little dog Momoko.  She only weighs about 12 pounds, but she has kept up with me on almost every step.  We just finished hiking to the top of Turtlehead peak in Red Rock Canyon this last weekend.  While preparing for the daunting task of Kilimanjaro, I have also been reaching out to family, friends, co-workers, and colleagues to raise money for Real Medicine.

GARRETT: The Climb for Real is going well!  I have definitely ramped up my training in the last month and a half.  I am spending most of my time these days in Arizona and there are some fantastic desert hikes in the Phoenix Valley.  Some of the popular hikes in the Phoenix area include Camelback (which really looks like a camel), South Mountain, Piestawa Peak, and the Superstitions Mountain.  Within an hour drive, there are some really fantastic hikes in the Phoenix area that have elevation changes of over 1,000 feet.  I am finding myself being able to do these hikes without having to stop too much which is way better then when I started!

GEORGE:  It seems like just yesterday (March) that I was climbing the stairs at the local high school.  Today I climb to the top of Mt Baldy.  Remember, this is a 7 night, 8 day trek to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro at 19,341’.  Many have asked about the air at high altitudes.  At 18,000′ you have half the air you have at sea level.

For training, I am still hiking the Chumash Trail up to Mugu Peak (a steep climb to 1250′) which is the height of the Empire State Building or hike up 1000′ and the Ray Miller Trail (2.7 miles each way) 3-4 times a week.  Both are in the Santa Monica Mountains.  Over the past five weekends I have also climbed Mt Baldy 10,064’ in the San Gabriel Mountains four times and plan to do it again this weekend with Ryan.  This is the highest peak in Los Angeles County.  It is a long 6-9 hour hike depending on the route you take, but is great training and the views are fabulous.

photo: George and Ryan Clardy climbing Mt Baldy

There are a lot of friendly hikers enjoying the exercise, the beauty and the outdoors.  As for Ryan [George’s son] he started out his training in great shape which is a plus, but I can certainly understand how difficult it is for him to balance family and career while trying to find time for training.  That goes for the other climbers as well.  We all live busy lives.

RMF:  Has your training changed?

GEORGE:  Yes.  For one thing it is getting darker sooner, so it is harder to get in a 1-2 hour hike after work.  That’s OK because at this stage we should start tapering off and give our bodies time to rebuild before the big push up Mt Kilimanjaro.

RMF: What has been the most challenging part of preparing for the Climb?

BYROM: I injured my knee while training earlier in the summer, so the most challenging part of preparing has been balancing between rehab and resting my knee while pushing my training forward.

RYAN: Just getting used to incline hiking! I’ve always been active, but mainly studying martial arts and playing tennis. Hiking up a mountain with a 20 lb backpack is definitely outside my comfort zone.

GARRETT: I think the hardest has been making the time to train.  Carving out 2 hours to do a hike 4-5 times a week has been tough.  Once I made the full commitment, it has been much easier.  I find myself making calls to friends and family from the mountain and doing business calls in the car to and from the hikes.  Like with anything you want to do in life, you to commit and make the time!

RMF:  Do you have all the gear you need?

GARRETT: I now have most of my gear.  It’s a hard trip to prepare for gear wise because you really go through all types of weather zones from jungles to snow.  I am starting to prepare myself more mentally for the climb as I continue to train.  I am up to 4-5 hikes a week that last about an hour or two in length.  I have definitely broken in my hiking boots and backpack by now…

photo: Mount Baldy, site of Clardy training!

GEORGE:  This too has been an adventure and to answer your question, we are mostly there.  The temperature on Day 1 as we walk 7 hours on a jungle trail at the base of Kilimanjaro should be around 90 degrees while the temperature at the summit could be 0 to 30 degrees with wind-chills down to the below zero levels.  Therefore, you can imagine the range of gear we need.  I have added some technology such as a GoPro camera and a solar power system to recharge our batteries and phones.  A hiker on Mt Baldy from Great Britain who has hiked around the world said "ounces equal pounds equal pain" meaning the less you carry the better.

RMF: What is your focus leading up to the climb?

BYROM: My focus in the weeks leading up to the climb are to start winding down my training, finish getting all necessary gear, and getting all my work done before I leave.

RYAN: Just to stay on track. Eat healthy and continue to exercise.

GARRETT: I am focusing mentally on preparing myself on the challenge of the mountain.  In particular, high elevation climbs can be extremely exhausting on both the mind and the body.  I am trying to make sure that I will have "inspirational" things with me on the mountain such as photos of friends and family, a good playlist, some meditation apps, and some enjoyable snacks to keep my mental energy up.

RMF: Climbing the highest freestanding mountain in the world is no small feat!  What thoughts will keep you going during the challenging times?

BYROM: I hope to get strength during the challenging times of the hike by thinking of all the love ones in my life.  Both those that are still with me and those that are no longer here.  Their love and support has always given me the strength to face any challenge that comes my way.

RYAN: Getting a picture with my dad at the summit and knowing that my closest friends will completely ridicule me if I quit, ha!

GARRETT: This really is a trip with a purpose.  I think it is a strong statement that the four of us are climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise awareness for the important work that RMF is doing.  In particular, I am inspired by the work that Real Medicine Foundation is doing in South Sudan with directly saving lives of mothers and infants.  Many of them do not have much of a voice, at least outside of South Sudan, so I hope that this trip will raise awareness and funding for an important cause.  It is also an empowering thought that I have the opportunity to take such a trip considering that not everyone in life is dealt the same deck of cards.  The thought that this trip can make an impact on this world is very inspiring during challenging times.

RMF:  Any final thoughts?

GEORGE:  All the guides, assistant guides, porters, and cooks (approximately 20-25 people) have been contracted and are waiting in Tanzania for our arrival.  Aardvark Safaris has done a great job assisting us in this endeavor.  The months of planning and training have ended and it is time to start the trek!

GARRETT: We are still trying to raise awareness of and fundraise for the Real Medicine Foundation.  I would like to encourage everyone to step forward and donate what you can.  So many people benefit from the work RMF does.  Please give what you can to help the RMF climb its own mountains to help others worldwide. 

Thanks for your support and enjoy following us on the RMF blog as the temperature drops and the air gets thinner.

You can learn more about the individual climbers by visiting their fundraising pages. Or donate to the team as a whole by visiting Kilimanjaro.kintera.org.


Real Medicine Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit and your donation is tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.  THANK YOU!

Return to Top