The first rule about reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro is that you don’t talk about reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. At least that was the terse response that Jennifer Zivic got when she asked her guide how much further to the top. HIT Entertainment’s director of soft lines licensing scaled the epic 19,342-foot African peak this past March, capping off a climbing resumé that included the Inca trail to Machu Picchu and the hill towns of Italy.
But Kilimanjaro was a lot more personal than any of the other peaks Zivic had tackled. Her father died of a brain tumor in October 2007, and she wanted to connect the experience of conquering Kili with that personal loss, and feed the effort into a related good cause. The Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation, LIMA’s charity of choice, seemed to offer the perfect fit with her goals and professional bent, so Zivic began seeking pledges from family, friends and colleagues in the licensing community to sponsor the climb. She started out aiming for US$10,000, but she hit that target in a week and a half, and wound up corralling an impressive total of US$32,500 for the cause.
Zivic was the only woman amongst five male climbers and 22 guides when her group set out on the eight-day trek up what she calls a ‘regular man’s mountain.’ Kili is comparatively smaller than Mount Everest, which stands just shy of 30,000 feet, and it doesn’t require special equipment or leaps across chasm-like crevasses. But scaling it is not a walk in the park, either – the climbers still grappled with considerable altitude sickness, physical and mental exhaustion and hypothermia. Their ascent began in the rainforest, and as they reached higher ground, they trudged through changing climates in moorlands, a rocky alpine desert and, eventually, the summit’s snow-covered base camp.
Zivic happened to be on the last good climb of the mountain before the seasons changed, but regardless of weather patterns, the keys to climbing Kili are focus and patience – eating when you don’t want to eat, and slowing down when your instinct is to go faster. The group began their summit attempt at midnight on day six, but they got caught in a visibility-reducing blizzard, and Zivic remembers getting lost in her thoughts. ‘You can’t see the top because it’s the middle of the night, so you lose your sense of time,’ she recalls. ‘You know you’re going to summit around sunrise, but you don’t how many hours have gone by, so you have no idea how close or far away that is.’
At around 7 a.m. on Easter Sunday, Zivic reached the top and experienced ‘the best natural high ever.’ After she finished screaming at the top of her lungs and high-fiving all 27 members of the team, she quietly scattered some of her father’s ashes across the summit. She also gathered everyone together for a photo in front of a large cardboard sign that read, ‘We did it…Thank U!’ – a shout-out to the many people who supported her cause.
Back at sea level, Zivic is determined to turn her trek into an annual charity event and hopes to recruit folks from the industry to climb with her. She has her heart set on either Mount Aconcagua in Bolivia or Mount Everest base camp as next year’s site. If you’d like to tag along, drop her a line at email@example.com.