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Climbing mountains

Jason Wood will hike Mt. Kilimanjaro in July as a tribute to his family members that suffer from Myotonic Dystrophy


by: PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY JASON WOOD - Jason Wood (in the green hat) and his brother Robbie.

“If I post on Facebook I guess it makes it official. Yep, I'm going to climb a mountain this year. Not just any mountain, but Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa."

That's how Prineville's Jason Wood announced to the world his intent to summit what is commonly known as the "roof of Africa."

At 19,340 feet, the mountain is not considered a technical climb, but that doesn't mean it's easy.

Climbers must deal with high altitude and four climate changes including a rain forest and a sub-arctic zone.

It was a conversation with his friend, Benjamin Edwards, that piqued Wood's interest.

"Have you ever thought about climbing a mountain?" Edwards asked Wood.

It wasn't so much the climb that got his attention, but the cause. Sponsored by The Elisha Foundation, the trek is a fundraiser in support of retreats for families dealing with disabilities, described as "providing refreshment and encouragement to families caring for people with special needs."

This is something that Wood knows all too well, as his family has been hit hard by Myotonic Dystrophy.

According to the National Institutes of Health, Myotonic Dystrophy is part of a group of inherited disorders called muscular dystrophies, and is the most common form that begins in adulthood.

Characterized by progressive muscle wasting and weakness, people with this disorder often experience prolonged muscle contractions and are not able to relax certain muscles after use. For example, a person may have difficulty releasing their grip on a doorknob.

Wood's mom died from complications due to the disease, his brother Robbie lives with the disease, and his aunt's two children and their three children have it as well.

"With each generation the symptoms get worse" explained Wood, "When my brother and I were born, we both had a 50-percent chance of having the disease."

"This climb just hit home with me," said Wood. "It's just something really positive to be involved with."

The foundation asks its climbers to raise $10,000 in donations, although it is not a requirement to participate.

"This is totally outside of the box for me and my simple life in Prineville," admits Wood. "I've sent emails, phoned contacts and talked to friends of mine. People can give as little as $1, but every bit helps."

In addition to donations, Wood must meet the expenses of the trip, including airfare, passports, yellow fever shots, and the necessary visas.

For the actual climb, Wood will be fully supported by the foundation, having access to a guide service, porters, cooks, food and hotels.

The web site climbmountkilimanjaro.com says this about the climb. "Unfortunately, as any mountaineer will tell you, there's no such thing as a safe mountain, particularly one nearly 6,000 meters tall with extremes of climate near the summit and ferociously carnivorous animals roaming the lower slopes."

Add difficult breathing to the list.

Air pressure at the summit is 40 percent of that at sea level, making it much more challenging to fill lungs with air, with each breathe typically delivering half the oxygen as it does at sea level.

How is Wood preparing for the trek?

"I've pretty much slacked off this last week," laughed Wood, who tries to get on his exercise bike as much as possible.

Wood plans to heed common Tanzanian climbing advice known as "Poli, Poli," which, when translated, means "slowly, slowly."

The climb will take eight days to complete, as the hikers are required to spend time at a number of base camps to acclimatize to the thinner air.

"This is something I would never have thought of doing if not for the foundation," said Wood, adding that he is looking forward to the final segment of the climb, when the group will start out at midnight to arrive at the summit for sunrise.

He will also take a few personally meaningful photographs with him.

Wood will be carrying a picture of his mom and brother, as well as one of Robbie's favorite John Deere toy trucks.

"I will take a picture of me with those things, at the summit," said Wood, "And, I'll be thinking that this is something Robbie could never do."

Wood leaves for Tanzania on July 16 and will return on July 26.

To donate to Jason Wood's climb to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, visit trek4tef.com/trek/ and click on the "Support Jason" link.

For information about The Elisha Foundation, visit www.theelishafoundation.org.




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