Blind B.C. hiker returns from 'fantastic' Kilimanjaro climb
Burnaby's Bill Der travelled to Tanzania with his son to hike the iconic mountain
Not to mention, he's legally blind.
But it didn't stop him from making it more than 4,000 metres up Africa's tallest mountain.
"It was a fantastic trip," he said on CBC's The Early Edition. "Both a challenge and at the same time realizing that after all the planning — I am actually on the mountain."
Der embarked on the infamous 6,000-metre hike with his son, Spencer, last month. They have since returned home from the climb, an effort that was both to raise money for charity and to honour Der's late wife, who died suddenly of stomach cancer last year.
The father-son duo trained diligently for Kilimajaro, hiking the Grouse Grind every weekend and taking on other local trails. They even developed a system where Der's son would guide him with a stick to navigate difficult turns and elevation changes.
Their preparation paid off. Local guides utilized the same system to help Der up the mountain.
"It was difficult in certain parts for sure," he said. "The whole mode of climbing was slow — one pace and one step at a time. That really helped."
Unfortunately, just a days hike away from the summit, Der found himself short of breath.
They made it to Kibo Hut, an overnight base camp at 4,700 metres that's generally the last stop before the 5,600 metre summit.
"I thought my cardio training wasn't good enough ... overnight, it just got worse. I ended up with water in the lungs."
Der learned his breathing problems were symptoms of altitude sickness.
He made the hard decision to turn back. He hiked down to the previous base camp where he was picked up by an emergency vehicle. His son went on to ascend the summit.
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"Needless to say, I was disappointed but also [I realized] it was really out of my hands — totally unexpected. They do say that altitude sickness hits anybody, anywhere, anyhow — wherever."
But a second go at the iconic mountain isn't out of the question.
"I'm thinking about that — I've met many that have gone up there several times," he said.
But first he'll have to convince his son who's still a little sore.
"It was hard. To do it again would be amazing — but I'd be reluctant to do it again," said Spencer Der.
With files from CBC's The Early Edition
To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: Blind B.C. hiker scales mount Kilimanjaro