7 Fort Wayne residents climb Mount Kilimanjaro and reflect on their emotional experience

Published: Oct. 9, 2023 at 10:31 AM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - After a month of reflection and rest, seven Fort Wayne men and women are looking back on the nine-day journey that led them to the 19-thousand-foot summit on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Andrea and Mitchell Maisonneuve, Tyler Thomas, Gretchen Moon, Michelle Kraus, Ally Gaylor and Lisa Hollister all traveled to Africa in late August for the climb.

Mitchell Maisonneuve says right before his mother passed away, he made a deal with his wife, Andrea, to begin adventuring and living life to the fullest. The first task on the list: Mount Kilimanjaro. The Maisonneuves were joined on the trip by five friends and coworkers.

Halfway up the mountain, he came down with a respiratory infection and was left to come back down the mountain without the rest of the group.

“Disappointment and accomplishment can be tied together. Because we did accomplish, we as a team, did accomplish things and that was extremely important,” he said. “The comradery was huge. There’s a lot of things we learned about ourselves which is important, the family aspect of working together. So, I didn’t summit? They did. I’m unbelievably proud of this team that we put together and that’s the accomplishment.”

While Maisonneuve was the one who sparked the idea, each of the seven had to work as a team to make the climb. Michelle Kraus was one of the women on the trip who says the team helped her to overcome the mental battles that come with the hike.

“I was tired, and I was crying, and I was hugging Gretchen, and I was like ‘I just want to go home.’ So, I got to my tent and my three gals here had each written these little notes for me, encouraging me,” Kraus said.

It required more than a year of physical training. The group was accompanied by their physical trainer, Tyler Thomas on the trip as well.

“Everyone should have a Kilimanjaro, not necessarily Kilimanjaro itself but that kind of experience,” Thomas said. “If you don’t think you can do it, then what do you need to do to make it happen?”

The mountain is the tallest in Africa. The hike takes you through five ecosystems, beginning in the rainforest and ending in the arctic.