However, after five days of hiking, Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School junior Holly Shaw, 18, made it to the summit this past June.
Shaw, the daughter of Dr. Chris and Leanne Shaw, of Brookhaven, went to Tanzania for a service trip with Rustic Pathways for two weeks. After the service trip, she and 13 other high-schoolers made the treacherous trip up the mountain.
Shaw said the group did about four to seven hours of hiking each day. The ascent took five days and the trip down two.
“The climate zones were different each day,” said Shaw. “The first day you could wear shorts, but by the third day it was freezing.”
Shaw runs cross country at Holy Innocents’, so she said she had not done much exercise to physically prepare for the hike. She took along altitude preparedness medicine, however. The mountain stands 19,341 feet above sea level at its peak.
“The air up there is so thin, it’s hard to breathe,” said Shaw. “There was a point where I was sick, and I didn’t think I could make it.”
Shaw said everyone in her group made it to the summit, which is rare.
“You don’t stay at the top too long,” she said. “It’s so cold; you’re ready to come back down.”
Shaw was asked to speak at the Holy Innocents’ speaker series Pushing Boundaries at the High Museum of Art in Midtown Nov. 14, along with Miguel Sand Martin, chief engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory; Philip Verre, COO of the High; Jon Ronson, author of “The Psychopath Test;” and Stacey Davis, a teacher and coach at Holy Innocents’ who refereed wrestling at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
“I think it was scarier speaking in front of everyone than it was climbing the mountain,” said Shaw.
In addition to running cross country, Shaw plays tennis, participates in peer counseling, started All Girls United, a high school sorority for younger girls at the school, volunteers with Teen Wings downtown and is a member of the school’s Ronald McDonald House Teen Board and Haiti Club.
Shaw is considering the College of Charleston, Florida State University and the University of Colorado at Boulder for college, where she plans to major in psychology.