La Jolla fitness trainer hikes Mount Kilimanjaro for a cause
By Kirby Brooks
As the owner of Sharpe Fitness and CrossFit La Jolla, Brandie Sharpe stays in shape. And it’s a good thing, too, as the native Californian recently joined a 5-person benefit hike up Mount Kilimanjaro (19,340 feet) to raise funds for a much-needed ambulance for the Maasia people of Africa.
“CrossFit makes you good at everything,” she laughed. “For our training, we started walking long distances and trying to adjust to the altitude.” Prior to Kilimanjaro, Sharpe said she hadn’t done any major hiking. “We did a lot of the local hikes, traveling to Breckinridge and tackling Yosemite’s El Capitan, but that was a walk in the park compared to Kilimanjaro,” she said.
Still, Sharpe’s hike atop the dormant Tanzanian volcano wasn’t just a test of physical strength and endurance, it was for a cause: Sustainable Healthcare Assistance in Rural Environments. People made donations to send the hikers there.
Sharpe explained the background: In 2010, Dr. Anna Kulidjian (an orthopedic surgeon at UCSD) and her husband visited a Maasai community at Campi Ya Kanzi in a remote area of Southern Kenya (at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro). The couple brought medical supplies donated by the group at UCSD and Dr. Kulidijian volunteered at the clinic, helping set up its trauma care. The village physician was away (one doctor supports some 7,000 villagers) so she and “super-nurse Vivian” manned the clinic on their own.
Dr. Kulidjian reported more than 40 patients lined up outside the two-room clinic each morning! Most had walked miles to get there.
An estimated 350,000 Maasai live in Kenya in rural and remote communities. They suffer from HIV, typhoid, malaria and TB. Though traumatic injuries and malnutrition are common in their children, most Maasai do not receive medical care early enough for effective treatment because there is no means of transportation. Without an ambulance, the village doctor can’t get to women in childbirth and patients with traumas can’t get to the hospital.
Working with Dr. Kulidjian and the Maasai Wilderness Conservation, Sharpe and her fellow hikers spent two weeks in Africa. The group took the slowest and safest route up the mountain, “but even that has just a 40-percent success rate,” Sharpe said with a smile.
The coffee brought to their tents at 6 a.m. each morning woke the hikers, and after their stats (oxygen and heart rate) were checked, they began walking around 7-7:30 a.m. Sharpe said they would hike for six hours and stop for the day, or hike for four hours, stop for lunch, and then hike three more. Everyone in Sharpe’s group completed the hike, a triumph in itself, and one hiker managed to run Mount Kilimanjaro — making it from the bottom to the top in just 7.5 hours.
After the 8-day trek, Sharpe and her fellow hikers embarked upon a three-day safari. They returned home to La Jolla on Aug. 20. “Then I spent nearly two weeks recovering from my life-changing journey,” Sharpe sighed.
Want to know more?
• Trek2Share.org, where donations will go to purchase ambulances for the Maasai
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