Steve Siegfried, left, is pictured at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro with his trip guide. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, and the trip usually takes five to seven days.

Steve Siegfried, left, is pictured at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro with his trip guide. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, and the trip usually takes five to seven days.

Photo provided by Steve Siegfried


Rochester Hills resident climbs Kilimanjaro, plans to take on all 7 summits

By: Jacob Herbert | Rochester Post | Published December 18, 2018

 A screenshot from an app on Siegfried’s iPhone shows some final stats after making the trip up Kilimanjaro. Siegfried would go on long walks around Rochester Hills to train for the climb, but said not much preparation could go into dealing with the elevation.

A screenshot from an app on Siegfried’s iPhone shows some final stats after making the trip up Kilimanjaro. Siegfried would go on long walks around Rochester Hills to train for the climb, but said not much preparation could go into dealing with the elevation.

Photo provided by Steve Siegfried

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ROCHESTER HILLS — In 2006, Steve Siegfried took on his first-ever expedition and climbed Mount Elbert. At 14,400 feet, it is the highest peak in the state of Colorado.

From there, he was hooked.

“Once you’re at the top of that, it’s like, ‘Man, I’ve got the bug now,’” Siegfried said.

Since that initial 2006 climb, Siegfried has climbed an estimated 13 or 14 peaks over 14,000 feet in Colorado.

Siegfried was born on the western side of Nebraska and is currently a Rochester Hills resident. Prior to his stay in Michigan, he lived only three hours away from a plethora of peaks to climb. He said it was his brother, Jerry, who got him into the sport.

Ever so inspired by the Colorado climbs, Siegfried wanted to do more. Originally, Siegfried had a goal to climb Mount Everest. At 29,029 feet, it is the highest peak on planet Earth. But that one goal turned into seven goals, and Siegfried plans to climb the seven summits.

The seven summits consist of Mount Kilimanjaro in East Africa, Mount Elbrus in Russia, Mount Aconcagua in Argentina, Mount Denali in Alaska, Mount Vinson in Antarctica, the Carstensz Pyramid in Papua New Guinea and Mount Everest in Nepal.


The first peak
In July of 2018, Kilimanjaro got first draw. Siegfried said Kilimanjaro was a good place to start because it is the easiest and the cheapest of the summits. At 19,341 feet, Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa.

There are seven different routes on Kilimanjaro to choose from, with things like cost, difficulty, number of people, scenic views and length of climb as differences. Siegfried picked the Marangu Route, also known as the “Coca Cola Route” or the “Tourist Route.”

According to a mountkili manjaroguide.com, this route has advantages and disadvantages. Advantages include low cost, accommodation in huts with no camping equipment needed, and it is supposedly the easiest route. Disadvantages start with it being a crowded route, camping is not allowed, and it is the only route that has the same path going up and down.

On the climb, Siegfried’s group included him, another climber from New York and their two guides. They started on a Monday morning and hiked for six or seven hours to the first base camp. Tuesday was another six or seven hours to another base camp. On Wednesday, the group walked five hours to the base of the volcano.

“It was a fairly steep climb and I felt strong, but it was a tough climb up the side,” Siegfried said. “It took us six hours to get to the rim of the volcano, and that’s when the sun came up. It took another two hours to get around the volcano rim to the highest point.”

Siegfried said he was most worried about how his body would handle the altitude. This peak, just from its sheer height, was different than anything he’d ever done.

“I keep going back to the no altitude sickness,” he said. “That was my biggest worry because of how my body is going to react to the elevation. The highest I had been was 14,400 (feet), and there weren’t any problems. But this was another mile higher.”

Siegfried said he formed a special bond with the guides while on the trip. Among many other things, the guides are there to motivate the climbers and keep them moving at an appropriate pace.

Guides are able to climb the mountain twice a month, wearing typical sunglasses that you might see on the street instead of glacier glasses. Siegfried said they did not wear any gloves, and if they were lucky, wore lightweight hiking boots. Otherwise, it was just a normal pair of tennis shoes.

“We had two guides, and they were really both great guys,” he said. “They were really good at what they do.”

After a lengthy trip up the mountain, Siegfried was elated to reach the top.

“Standing on the summit and saying, ‘Wow, I made it. The highest point in Africa.’ It was pretty amazing,” he said. “That feeling of, ‘Man, this is a big accomplishment.’”

He said it was the most difficult climb he’s ever done, because it was the longest climb he’s ever done. But being able to experience Tanzania, learn its culture and make a new friend with the climber from New York made it all worth it.


Getting prepared
There is both mental and physical training that goes into an expedition like this. For the physical side of things, Siegfried often went on long walks around Rochester Hills a few times per week, resulting in lengths of anywhere from 3 to 10 miles.

“There’s really not a lot of training for the altitude,” Siegfried said. “Even in Colorado, there’s really no training for the altitude at 19,000 feet.”

Mentally, there are many factors. Siegfried laid out four of them, from considering the big and small pictures, feeling fear and doing it anyway, being true to your passions, and thinking ahead on how you’ll deal with setbacks.

There was, however, one mental aspect of the climb that first came to his mind: money.

“My mental training was if I’m going to spend the money to go climb this mountain, I’m going to summit. That’s my motivation to get to the top,” Siegfried said.

With Kilimanjaro in the rearview mirror, Siegfried has a schedule laid out for the rest of the seven summits. In May, he plans to climb Elbrus with his son, Hunter, and next December he will take on Aconcagua. Denali and the Carstensz Pyramid will come in 2020. He plans to climb Mount Vinson in 2021, with the biggest climb, Mount Everest, coming in May of 2022.

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