To climb a mountain, a person can be required to live in the moment and take in the world around them. For people who do not regularly hike or mountain climb, this is the opposite of how they normally live. When University of Indianapolis Associate Biology Professor Dean Wiseman departed for his sabbatical leave last year to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and Meru, he was able to come within five feet of a family of giraffes, but he also got to see glaciers on the tallest mountain in Tanzania before they melted. To prepare for his hike, Wiseman said he did many things to improve physically.
“I actually worked out in the Health Pavilion,” Wiseman said. “I would go over and climb the stairwell. Mount Kilimanjaro and Meru are not super technical climbs, but they are physical. They are very high.”
According to www.uindy.edu, the purpose of a sabbatical leave for full-time faculty members of five years or more is to give them the opportunity to leave for both professional and personal growth. Climbing both mountains helped Wiseman grow personally by giving him the opportunity to witness a vastly different part of the world compared to the United States, Wiseman said. Professionally, it allowed Wiseman to witness and gain more knowledge in ecology, climate, witnessing different climate zones and gain new perspectives on what he discussed in the classroom previously, Wiseman said.
Both located in Tanzania, Mount Kilimanjaro’s summit is at 19,341 feet, making it the tallest mountain in Tanzania, and Mount Meru’s summit is at 14,977 feet, making it the third tallest in Tanzania, according to www.worldatlas.com. After he had climbed Meru, Wiseman said he knew he was ready to take on Kilimanjaro.
“I thought I could do it, but I was worried about the things that were outside of my control more than I was worried about the things that I knew I could control,” Wiseman said.
Wiseman said there were times going down the mountain where the terrain was steep. He and the group of climbers had to overcome certain obstacles including stone benches that range between twenty to thirty feet above the next level of the mountain.
One of Wiseman’s many goals for his sabbatical included trying to see if his body would be able to take care of itself in high altitude, he said This was Wiseman’s first time going beyond 15,000 feet, and he said one of his concerns was high altitude sickness.
“I was worried about [these things], but I was very fortunate I didn’t experience acute symptoms,” Wiseman said. “Not to say I didn’t experience symptoms, though, because it was almost impossible for me to concentrate.”
Being able to meet his physical goal was an affirmation of how he was able to respond and support his weight at high altitude compared to low altitude, according to Wiseman. However, he said that was not the most memorable part of his experience.
“The relationships you develop with the guides and the porters is profound,” Wiseman said. “You’re spending eight or 10, in my case, almost 10 days on the mountain. It was one of the longer trips, but you get to know these people, and you get to know a different way of life. They’re so genuine, they’re so honest, and they’re so willing to give of themselves. It’s absolutely stunning what they do.”
Some of the people that Wiseman met during his climb included the other climbers in his group which included a couple from South Africa and then another couple from North Carolina. During their climb, there was a head guide and an assistant guide. In the group of climbers of 30, there were about 20 porters. Porters are men and women whose job is to assist the climbers in carrying their gear to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, according to www.fairvoyage.com.
One of the things that Wiseman learned from this sabbatical is how humans are all linked in various ways, according to Wiseman. The problems that Americans face are comparable to the problems that people in other countries face. Wiseman said his biggest takeaway was how people were able to experience happiness and content with what little they had.
“We often tie our happiness to our economic circumstance,” Wiseman said. “‘Oh if I was driving a better car,’ or ‘If I had more money I would be happier,’ and that’s true to some extent. I’m not just saying that money doesn’t help out, but it’s amazing to see how fully lives are without that component, or not nearly as much [money].”