Brian Sims Heading to Africa to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro
On December 26th, State Representative Brian Sims will hop a plane to Africa, where he’ll climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for the Military Assistance Project (MAP), an initiative that provides legal and housing services to Philadelphia veterans.
During a phone chat last week, Sims told me he signed up for the adventure because it hit close to home. “My parents are both retired army lieutenant colonels. For years, during my time with the Bar Association, and even with Equality Pennsylvania, if there was a veterans component, or an opportunity to work with veterans I tended to take it,” he says. So when MAP approached him about this project last spring, it was a no-brainer.
As you can imagine, climbing a mountain requires a certain amount of training, training to acclimate to the gradual drop in temperature as you ascend, and, more importantly for Sims, an asthma sufferer, adjusting to the change in elevation. “You don’t want to rush it. Mount Kilimanjaro is 19,000 feet high. If you rush, that’s when you get in trouble with oxygen deprivation and altitude sickness. The route we’re going on is tough, but it’s also the longest, so we’ll have plenty of time to get acclimated.”
To prepare for the adventure, Sims has gone on a couple coordinated hikes in Pennsylvania, and he’s climbed to the top of a couple skyscrapers in Philly. Leading up to this week’s departure, he even got a mohawk, to further psyche himself up for the trek.
He and that mohawk will take off the day after Christmas, at 10 a.m. From there, he says, “I know almost to the hour where I’m going to be the whole time I’m there.”
He’ll fly into Doha, where he’ll catch another plane that takes him to Tanzania. The actual climb begins at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, in the jungle, where he’s told he may see some monkeys. “For the second, third and into the fourth day, most of what we’ll be seeing will be lunar: there won’t be a lot of vegetation; it’s very dry, rocky, stony terrain.”
They’ll start hitting snow on the second to last day, then on to the big mamma jamma: The final day starts at midnight and they’ll climb for 13 hours, until they reach the summit, Uhuru Point, two days after New Year’s. And what will he do when that happens? “We’ll all take a group picture, smile and wave, then turn around and come down the other side.”
The descent only takes three days, then he’s back on the plane toward Philadelphia. In fact, he lands a mere three hours before the swearing-in ceremony for his second term as state representative. “My only rule is that I have to wear a suit and a tie, but I may be wearing that over whatever I get off the plane in.”
Sims tells me the thing that most excites him about the trip is the camaraderie, bonding with the slew of veterans and civilians who will join him on the climb. “I’m really looking forward to Day 2, Day 3 when we’ve had a couple days climbing, and a couple evenings conversing, when we’re really starting to feel like a team on the side of a mountain. By the time we reach the peak, we’ll all have a much better sense of each other and where we’re at. I’m looking forward to that.”