Humans of Academy: Alexa and Amelia Traviesa Summit Mount Kilimanjaro

September 21, 2017

Amelia Traviesa was the 10th fifteen year-old in the word to summit Kilimanjaro. Credit: Alexa Traviesa/ Achona Online

Amelia Traviesa was the 10th fifteen year-old in the word to summit Kilimanjaro. Credit: Alexa Traviesa/ Achona Online

On July 1, 2017, Alexa (‘18) and Amelia (‘20) Traviesa traveled to Tanzania, Africa to climb and summit Mount Kilimanjaro. The 19,341-foot mountain hike was a journey dedicated to the children of Collaboratory Prep, along with the help of numerous donors. The proceeds went to the Collaboratory Prep School in order to provide an education and strong future to the less fortunate children in the Tampa area.   


Upon their arrival home, Achona received the chance to chat with the Traviesas about their unique experience.

What was your reasoning for climbing Kilimanjaro?

Alexa: “My dad wanted to give my sister and me a once in a lifetime experience, and we had always talked about going to Africa. He was also opening a charter school, Collaboratory Prep, and needed help raising money. He thought climbing Kilimanjaro would be a great way to do both. When he officially asked me if I wanted to go he looked very excited, and I immediately said yes without thinking. As the trip got closer, I became very nervous and started to regret my answer.”

Amelia visits with the students of Collaboratory Prep upon her return home. Credit: Alexa Traviesa/ Achona Online


How did you prepare for the journey?

Amelia: “Everyday, we had to walk for two hours on the treadmill with the maximum incline, an oxygen restricting mask, and 15 pounds in our backpacks. We also had to wear our hiking boots to break them in. As for packing, we had to bring plenty of warm clothes, none of which were allowed to be cotton. Each we packed had to consist of about four layers.”

“We would often get weird looks from people in the gym when we would wear our backpacks and masks while on the treadmill.” says Alexa. Credit: Alexa Traviesa/ Achona Online


What was arriving to Africa like?

Amelia: “The Arusha airport was the most overwhelming thing I’ve ever experienced. Our plane had held 300 people, and everyone was shoved into this tiny airport. There was no air conditioning, and only two booths to check your passports. We arrived really early in the morning, so everything was dark, and the roads were very bumpy.

It took a total of 14 hours for the Traviesas to reach Africa. Credit: Alexa Traviesa/ Achona Online


What was your average day like?

Alexa: “We would wake up everyday around 8:00am, eat breakfast, and begin to climb. Each climb would last about three to six hours, and we would take breaks. Once we reached our campsite, we would shower and prepare for the next day.”

“We slept in zero degree tents and sleeping bags, but food was very good. We ate a lot of pasta, fried rice, sandwiches, potatoes, and fruit.” says Amelia. Credit: Alexa Traviesa/ Achona Online


What was the hardest day and why?

Alexa: “The most difficult day for us was day eight. We woke up early to climb the Western breach, which is the steepest, most challenging, and most dangerous way to scale Uluru Peace, which is the summit. It had no trail, and was all ice, boulders, and scree. We had to crawl in between rocks and balance on ledges with 10,000 foot drops. We aso had to watch our guides every move to make sure to step where they did. The climb was nine hours long, and we only took two breaks.”

Amelia: “The Western breach was the hardest for me. I began to get very hot, I had not eaten a lot that day, and I was getting very anxious. Our guide then pulled me aside, reminded me that my body was just getting used to the altitude, and it was sending me messages to get off the mountain because I was out of my comfort zone. Every step I took felt like ten.

In January of 2006, 3 Americans died on the Western Breach. They were pumped by rock fall and fell off the ledge. Credit: Alexa Traviesa/ Achona Online


How did you feel when you reached the summit?

Alexa: “I had never felt more accomplished in my life, and my dad and I hugged for a full five minutes. He just looked at my sister and me and said, ‘girls, we did it.’”

Amelia: “I felt like I could conquer the world, and realized that I could overcome anything.”

Due to the lack of oxygen, the Traviesas were allowed to stay at the summit for only 20 minutes. Credit: Alexa Traviesa/ Achona Online


What inspired you most from the trip?

Amelia: “The porters for sure. They were the happiest people on the trip, and they were surviving with so little. They would only wear jeans and a sweatshirt, and would carry all of our things for us.”

The Traviesas trained for two months prior to climbing. Credit: Alexa Traviesa/ Achona Online


What did you take away from your experience?

Alexa: “This trip has made me view my life and all of my priorities in another perspective. After summiting, I felt as if I could do anything, and I realized that nothing is impossible. I gained a new sense of hope for myself. Having the opportunity to participate on such an amazing journey is something that I will remember for the rest of my life.”

Amelia: “I learned that if I set my mind to something, I can do it no matter what anyone says. Any goal that I have is all mental. If I tell myself I can do something, my body will just do it.

Fun fact: While climbing the mountain, Alexa ran into Harrison Ford three times. Credit: Alexa Traviesa/ Achona Online


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