Team of blind climbers summit Mt Kilimanjaro

A team of climbers from India and Israel that includes visually challenged persons has scaled the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro. DH PHOTO

In a trendsetting initiative, a team of blind and sighted climbers from India and Israel scaled Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest peak of Africa.

Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania stands at about 4,900 metres from its base, and 5,895 metres above sea level.

The team of three blind climbers — two from India and one from Israel — and 10 able-bodied individuals from both countries undertook the expedition from September 8 to 14.

The Adventures Beyond Barriers Foundation (ABBF) and Summiting4Hope (S4H) jointly organised what was India's first "inclusive climb" to Africa’s tallest peak.

Inclusive expeditions question our rigid views about disability and shatter stereotypes that plague persons with disability (PwDs).

“The climb was a major challenge but we did it,” said Anusha Subramanian, the expedition leader. “The Kilimanjaro inclusive climb saw participation of visually challenged as well as sighted climbers. This sends out a strong message that all of us are part of the same society. Mountains and the outdoors do not differentiate between anyone, so why is it that we differentiate among people? I have always believed that to change something, you have to be the change yourself. We can, indeed, play and grow together beautifully.”

The inclusive climb also bore witness to the youngest climber Baepi Donio, a 14-year-old boy from Israel. Accompanying the team comprising two independent filmmakers, a German teacher, and a mother-son duo, among others, were six local and three mountain guides from India.

“Exclusion is something that PwDs have to deal with a lot, because with disability, in our country, comes invisibility. The real challenge is to be empathetic, to be understanding, to be able to dialogue even though we (PwDs and able-bodied people) may have our differences,” said Divyanshu Ganatra, the founder of Pune-based ABBF and one of the visually challenged climbers from India.

For Prasad Gurav, a Pune-based IT consultant, and also one of the visually challenged climbers, it was acceptance of the disability and overcoming it that motivated him to take up the endeavour. He said, "The motive behind the Kili inclusive climb was to encourage people from economically poor backgrounds to get into outdoor activities. Since it was for a cause, I decided to do it. I was not comfortable with my own disability and wanted to be excluded for some time. Accepting your own disability is a big step. The next step is to get over it and share your story with others.” 

Vaishak JP, another climber, said, “I have learned a lot more by interacting with PwDs than with able-bodied individuals. I might be able to climb a mountain alone easily, but I want to prove that it PwDs can do it, too, and that they are no different from us.”

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Team of blind climbers summit Mt Kilimanjaro

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