Jared Johansen and Carter Craze, both students at York Preparatory Academy near Rock Hill, completed the toughest challenge of their lives this month when they summited Mount Kilimanjaro.
Jared, 15, and Carter, 16, climbed the 19,340-foot peak in the African country of Tanzania with their fathers and about 20 others on June 4 as part of an effort to raise money for cancer care in developing countries.
In the team’s quest to help others through a nonprofit group called Radiating Hope, the Rock Hill boys discovered they could complete what might seem an insurmountable challenge.
“It was definitely the hardest thing I have ever done personally,” said Jared, a rising sophomore at YPA. “It was very challenging, but it was an awesome experience.”
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He added: “There were times I didn’t think I was going to be able to make it. But when you’re at the top, you feel like a thousand bucks. I don’t know how to describe it.”
Carter, a rising YPA junior, said the boys and their dads spent months training to get in shape for the climb, which he described as more of a mental challenge than a physical one.
“You just have to be prepared that it’s going to be really tough, and you’re going to want to quit a lot as you go up the mountain because the altitude is getting to you,” he said.
Jared’s father, Joseph Johansen, said Jared’s uncle, Larry Daugherty, a cancer doctor, avid mountain climber and one of the founders of Radiating Hope, asked the boys and their dads more than a year ago to make the trip.
They climbed the mountain through an expedition group called Climb Kili, which provided the guides, porters to carry gear and lodging.
Carter’s dad, Craig Craze, said the 27-member group raised tens of thousands of dollars for Radiating Hope, which aims to provide money for radiation cancer treatments for people in Tanzania and other developing countries. The climbers collected donations and sold prayer flags, which were placed on the peak.
While the group was in Tanzania, the boys also visited the Majengo Children’s Home, an orphanage where they participated in an effort to bring more than 300 shoes to the 86 children there. Craze said one of the team members is a Boy Scout who organized the shoe collection for his Eagle Scout project.
Without closed-toe shoes, the children in the orphanage are not allowed to attend public school, so Craze said each hiker in the group brought donated shoes.
Jared said he wanted to climb Mount Kilimanjaro because it’s one of the seven summits, the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. He said one of his goals is to climb them all.
“I know I want to keep climbing, because that was probably the coolest experience I’ve ever had,” he said. He wants “to eventually climb Mount Everest.”
Jared said it took the group seven days to reach the summit. He said they climbed higher each day, then moved lower to camp for the night, giving their bodies time to become acclimated to the altitude.
Carter said the terrain changed dramatically as they moved through different zones, from a tropical rain forest to a rocky, barren landscape akin to the moon.
He said they took altitude sickness pills and drank a lot of water to help their bodies cope with the altitude. Still, he said he felt ill on the final ascent due to the altitude and had to be helped up the final climb by one of the guides.
“I now know that I can do hard things like that,” Carter said. “It was a great adventure. I’m glad I went because I got to meet new people and have fun.”
Carter said he isn’t looking to do more climbs.
“I was out of it at 18,000 feet, so I wasn’t looking for more of that afterwards,” he said. “I think that’s the only peak I’ll climb, but it’s a good one to climb.”
He said another member of their group, who was 13, got sick on the climb because he did not take altitude sickness pills, in an attempt to train his body to climb Mount Everest. “He made it to the summit,” Carter said.
“If you have the willpower and the mental capacity to do it, you can do it,” Carter said.
Carter said he learned something else from the experience. “I now have a great appreciation,” he said, “for people who go and climb mountains.”
Jennifer Becknell: 803-329-4077