Author Deb Denis describing climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro By Joseph Busler
If you open a book and its first sentence reads, “The whole idea of climbing Mt.Kilimanjaro started to form when I was in Paris with a group of international accounting practitioners,” you know it will not be boring.
Its author, executive coach and organizational consultant Deb Denis, spoke and held a book signing Tuesday evening at the Delanco Library attended by 28 people.
The event was arranged by Meryle Melnicoff of Pennington Court, a member of the library’s Board of Directors and a colleague whom Denis described as “my mentor.” After the signing, a reception was held at Melnicoff’s home.
Denis, of Newtown Square, Pa., is a serial founder of organizations and Web sites, so it should be no surprise that the 222-page paperback is an example of print in the post-print era: linked inextricably to a Web site, HerSoloSummit.com, that shows you what the gray pages of a book cannot: a place where you “can hear Deb’s words in recordings made on the mountain, see the landscape in her videos and photographs.” Everything but the pain of sunburn and blisters and the smell of 11 people climbing the highest mountain in Africa for 10 days with showers few and far between. We’ll have to wait for WWW3 for that, I guess.
Kilimanjaro: One Woman’s Journey to the Roof of Africa and Beyond is published by Marion Grace Publishers, a company she started to self-publish the book. It is named for her grandmother.
Two of Denis’ international accountant friends had scaled Kilimanjaro. One had summited; the other got altitude sickness and had to turn back. (The three-crater mountain in Tanzania near Kenya is 19,341 feet above sea level.)
She would later learn than only 41 percent of climbers manage to summit. She would be one of them.
Denis describes herself as “a 46-year-old non-athlete” looking for the next big event in her life, something that would make her fitter, thinner, and, in a yogic or Zen sense, “a lighter presence in the world.”
Her determination to scale Kilimanjaro formed at a stressful time. Her mother had just been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, and a complex family situation meant that Denis was cut out of the medical decision-making process.
In June of 2010, Denis was planning a spring 2011 trip to the tiny African country of Burundi for one of the groups she had founded, Coaches without Borders. Searching for Burundi on a map, she noticed that it was right next to Tanzania, home to Mt.Kilimanjaro . Her original plan was to make the climb before she turned 50, but she would be near the mountain in 2011.
The climb took place in 10 days in June of 2011, after her business meeting in Berundi. It was a solo trip, meaning she was the only tourist climber. Of course, she was not alone. She was accompanied by 10 male guides, including Wilson Mosche, a 66-year-old guide who has made more than 1,000 climbs up the mountain and his assistant named Honest, who was.
Asked why she needed 10 guides, Honest said, “Deb, because you are here and we are working, our families will have nice things.”
“Okay,” she said, “Ten men it is.”
They took excellent care of her, and this became one of her takeaway lessons from the trip: To know when to let go, to stop trying to be in charge of everything, and to let herself be taken care of. It would help her come to terms with her mother’s family situation.
Other than sunburn and blisters, she survived the climb unscathed. She didn’t slim down as she had hoped, but is obviously fit.
Of her many Web sites, Her Solo Summit is directly linked to the book. Her personal site, DebDenis, is also useful. She has also founded The Athena Project, dedicated to developing strong leaders, and the aforementioned Coaches without Borders, pairs U.S.-based professional coaches with Africa-based professionals in the non-profit field. She also founded and administers the Web site of Cencibel, a women's wine group, which is where she met Melnicoff.
Denis herself took the photograph that is on the cover of her book. She was high on the mountain and it was dawn. The sun is coming up from behind the mountain, which casts a dark shadow beneath the horizon.