(WSVN) - Summer is a time for kids to rest and relax, but for one Miami-Dade college student, it’s a time to fulfill a longtime dream of high adventure. Karen Hensel has her story in tonight’s 7 Spotlight.
Hiking the tallest mountain in Africa isn’t for the faint of heart.
Jessica Raffo: “I think, I always crave adventure.”
And adventure is just what 18-year-old Jessica Raffo got.
For years, she dreamed of hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Last month, her dad, Jaime Raffo, helped make that dream come true.
Jessica Raffo: “One day he called me when he was at work, and he was like, ‘I got the tickets,’ and I called all my friends, and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, like, this is real.'”
They bought new hiking boots and cold weather gear, and off they went.
Jaime Raffo: “I was very excited, more so to be able to do it with my daughter.”
With the help of guides, their group began at the base of the mountain where the temperature is warm.
Climbing to the top would take seven days and six nights through five different climate zones.
Jessica Raffo: “The terrain changes by the day every few days, so you never really know what you’re getting yourself into for.”
The higher they climbed, the colder it got. When it was time to stop for the day, they would make camp and sleep in tents.
Jessica Raffo: “We were so tired every night that those tents felt like a luxury suite.”
Eating carbs at every meal gave them energy to face challenges like the Barranco Wall on Kilimanjaro’s south side.
Jessica Raffo: “It is just this thin, like, rock wall, and all the porters are walking, like, single file line because there’s not enough space, like, on the rocks for multiple people.”
As they climbed higher, they faced another challenge: altitude sickness.
Jessica Raffo: “I just got immediately extremely nauseous, my head sort of pounding, and you kind of lose your, like, stability and also your strength.”
Some 30,000 people climb Mt. Kilimanjaro every year, but only about half make it to the summit.
The guides sing special songs to encourage climbers to stick it out.
On the day they pushed to the summit, they started at midnight and reached the top at sunrise, more than 19,000 feet high.
Jessica Raffo: “Just being above the clouds and all that adrenaline, you feel the happiness.”
Jaime says it was an experience he’ll never forget.
Jaime Raffo: “I was so proud of her. It was just such a special feeling.”
Now they’re home, and mom Kerri Raffo is breathing a sigh of relief.
Kerri Raffo: “It makes me very proud that my daughter has these ideas, has these ambitions, but I’m glad that they’re home safe, and I’m glad that they were able to complete the mission.”
Both Jessica and Jaime find meaning in difficult challenges, and the best part of their mountain adventure was to be able to share that challenge together.
Jessica’s next mountain adventure? She’d like to try to climb Denali in Alaska.
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