Climbing for a Cause

Most of us cannot imagine climbing Africa’s tallest mountain. UT sophomore Alex D’Jamoos did it without legs—often climbing for hours on his hands.

Alex D’Jamoos is missing his lower legs, but that did not stop him from climbing Africa’s tallest mountain. The trip, he says, “just confirmed my belief that everything is possible if you have a purpose. Even if you have altitude sickness. Even if you have no legs.”

Hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro is no easy feat. The climb is considered difficult even for experienced hikers.

D’Jamoos chose to go into the hike without any research. He wanted to be completely unprepared so that he would not get scared and back out. “I didn’t do any research. I didn’t read about it. I told myself, ’I’ll just go and do it.’”

The first day of the hike, through jungle terrain, D’Jamoos moved 10 kilometers in 10 hours. It’s always a challenge to walk, he says. “When the ground is uneven it makes the walking more difficult.”

D’Jamoos began to question his decision to make the climb. “I’m very unathletic,” he says, “I started panicking because I never work out.”

The third day, he took his legs off and crawled for 12 hours. His hands bled, and for the first three days he wondered why he had come. He remembers thinking, “if I had known, I wouldn’t have done this.”

But D’Jamoos did not quit.

He ended his hike after reaching the third camp at the altitude of 16,000 feet. He hiked 26 miles in four days on prosthetics and his hands.

Despite the physical difficulties, D’Jamoos is clear that his purpose was not any sort of personal fulfillment.  He chose to hike on behalf of Happy Families International, an organization that helps children from Russian orphanages. D’Jamoos was adopted through the organization at age sixteen, and now works for them as a translator.

His purpose in climbing was to push beyond his physical restrictions as an example to children like himself who might feel limited by their situation.

Alex hopes that the video created from footage of the trip will be shown at a Happy Families International event in Moscow to demonstrate that children from orphanages can adapt to normal life. “Nothing is impossible,” he says. “Given the opportunity, you can do anything.”

I Want to Walk — Kilimanjaro 2012 — Trailer from Eric Michael Johnson on Vimeo.

Photos by Eric Michael Johnson provided by the Happy Families International Center


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