Kara Richardson Whitely has hiked Mount Kilimanjaro three times while weighing as much as 300 pounds. We think she embodies the spirit of JunoActive, because our ultimate goal is to support each woman’s personal version of active. Whitely wore JunoActive clothing during her Kilimanjaro climbs. Her new, inspiring and empowering book, entitled Gorge, shares her experience. She recently appeared at the Barnes and Noble in Edina, MN for her book tour. Anne Kelly, president of JunoActive was there to introduce her to her fans. Here’s the personal interview she gave to JunoActive:
What was your initial inspiration to climb the mountain?
The first time was a celebration of my 120-pound weight loss. The second was trying to be in that place of losing weight but since I took my body and the mountain for granted, I had to turn back, defeated. The third was about being happy with who and where I was and going from there.
Taking the 3rd shot at climbing Kilimanjaro took amazing courage - so does writing a book - what differences and similarities did you experience with the two?
Well, both are a long haul and have difficulties along the way! When I was writing Gorge, I had to relive a lot of painful experiences and it was hard to inhabit them to really show them on the page. But when I was finished both accomplishments -- the mountain and the book -- I was brought to tears of joy.
What did you gain from each of the two summits and the one attempt at Kilimanjaro?
Each of these experiences was valuable. I think the one attempt showed me how much I wanted to end on top. The third hike, the one featured in Gorge, taught me that I have strength to get through the difficulty and succeed.
Did you experience any gear or equipment problems during any trips?
Like a lot of plus-size people it was hard getting gear that fit! Thankfully, JunoActive was there for me with the right fitting gear to help me make it up the mountain!
Who gave you inspiration and support to go the three times?
My husband and my in-laws were my rock during my training and watching our young daughter (my youngest daughter wasn't born yet) while I was away. I wouldn't have been able to take on this journey without them. They continue to be my support while I'm out on the road, talking about Gorge.
What was the scariest moment during any of the trips? The most inspiring?
One of the scariest moments was on my third day of the trek when I got a terrible altitude headache. Fortunately, I was able to take some medication and recover. Unfortunately, one of my fellow hikers had a much worse case of altitude sickness.... but you'll have to read Gorge to find out what happened!
What was the big takeaway from the last summit and has it influenced what you are doing and plan on doing in the future? What's next?
That I have the strength within me to move beyond my past in any direction I decide. As much as I love Africa's highest peak, I'd like to move on to other mountains. I'd like to do a Hawaiian family vacation including lots of hiking at the end of the year. Hiking will always be a part of my life, no matter where I am on the scale.
To learn more about Kara Richardson Whitely and Gorge, click HERE.
You can also learn more about Kara's journey and order your copy of "Gorge" on her website, www.kararichardsonwhitely.com.
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