Most people spend New Year’s Eve at home with loved ones or out on the town with friends. Justin Federbush (Toronto, 2016) spent his on top of Mount Kilimanjaro — Africa’s tallest mountain. Brother Federbush, his father and sister dedicated eight days in Tanzania to honor his mother, Nita Frankel, who passed away ten years ago. “Since this trip coincided with the ten-year anniversary of her death, we thought it would be good to commemorate it to her. Kilimanjaro was on my dad and sister’s mind and we were always big travelers, so I couldn’t say no when my sister asked me to come with them.”
While his father has always been a positive influence in his mother’s absence, Brother Federbush’s mother remains a motivator in his life. “My mom was an assistant teacher at Zareinu, a small educational center for children with special needs in Toronto. She loved working with them. Everything I’ve done since has been for my mom.”
Brother Federbush graduated last year with his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. While an undergrad, he was very involved with the Tau Omega chapter. “I was always a leader in the chapter without ever being on e-board. Brothers came to me for advice and I did a lot of work on the chair board.”
Since the climb honored his mother, he and his family decided to raise money for Zareinu. Together, they were able to donate more than $7,000 in her name to the organization.
After eight days of sleeping in freezing tents, eating the same food and continuously hiking, the Federbush family reached the summit. “When you climb mountains like this, your one goal is to reach the top. Seeing us all up there was both an amazing and emotional experience.” To train, mental preparation is key. On their trip, they had porters that carried their heavy bags, so it was a matter of getting used to carrying a daypack that weighed between five and ten pounds. “A bulk of my training was to get my body acclimated to uphill and downhill climbing. On Kilimanjaro, you walk up at a 70-degree angle for eight hours straight. Once you reach the summit, it’s another eight hours back down.”
In preparation for the climb, Brother Federbush did five to six-hour marathon hikes with his dad that incorporated a lot of hills. To avoid altitude sickness, the family took eight days to adjust to the changes in pressure. “You have to stay at a certain altitude for a certain amount of time so your body can adjust to the conditions. If you rush this process, you can get very sick.” Carefully elevating themselves up the mountain, they went up 4,000 feet one day, down 3,000 and then slowly make their way back up. “I had some nausea and dizziness the first day, but quickly adjusted.”
“I never thought I could push myself like I did until I was on that mountain. Despite the difficulty of the task, reaching the peak was more than rewarding.” The weather throughout the journey was unpredictable. “In a 20-minute period it would be sunny, then rain, followed by hail and then be sunny again. Kilimanjaro almost has its own climate because clouds form around the mountain so you never know what the weather will be like. One hour you could be stuck in a cloud and have zero visibility, but then it suddenly breaks and is beautiful.”
While hiking up the mountain, the Federbush family celebrated Chanukah with two new friends, Aisha Bowe and Zev Eisenberg, who were in their hiking group. To observe the holiday, the group lit candles each night as they traversed up the mountain.
“Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro helped change my perspective on life. I pushed myself harder than I ever have, and it wasn’t until I finished that I realized I accomplished something I never expected I could. Through my hard efforts, I saw my true potential. It shouldn’t take a mountain to teach you about how far you can go. Take a chance and see how far your limits go. You will be surprised at how much you can accomplish.”