PVHS Physics Teacher Martin Hillier Climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro

By Nate Wicker

Over the summer, students and faculty of Ponte Vedra High School travel the country and world. The Sub-Saharan country of Tanzania is known for treasured national parks and game reserves, but most notably having the world’s highest free-standing mountain, Mt. Kilimanjaro. Peaking at 19,340 feet, Mt. Kilimanjaro allures around 35,000 thrill seekers a year attempting to summit the arduous pinnacle.

This past summer, Martin Hillier, PVHS’s AP Physics teacher, went on a vacation to Tanzania with his sister and attempted the impressive feat of ascending Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Mr. Hiller’s pre-hike preparation consisted of running “between four to five miles, four to five days per week, for a few months.” Summiting such a mountain can seem daunting, especially since Mr. Hillier’s highest hike he’d ever done before Kilimanjaro was in North Carolina, which according to him was “not high at all.” Mr. Hillier stated that hiking Kilimanjaro “was never a thing I’d think to do, but my sister was going to go and I didn’t want her to go by herself.” He did concede and say that he “got pretty excited about it” leading up to the adventure, believing it would be a “once in a lifetime opportunity that I wouldn’t have done otherwise.”

The total hike was seven days, five days up and two days down. Mr. Hiller explained that the “first couple days were pretty easy, but the third day was the hardest day” climbing up the mountain. He believes this because his group “had to go up the side of a wall… which was a little bit tricky to do.” “That was the hardest day other than the last day, which I think we went 5000 feet in about eight hours and we started at midnight so you weren’t exposed to the sun the whole time.” Mr. Hiller emphasized how descending from the summit is “actually harder than you think because you’re so tired from the eight hours going up and going down is actually more dangerous because if you fall, you tumble.”

Mr. Hillier conveyed that he is not planning to do any similar excursions in the future, stating “I would never do anything more dangerous like Mt. Everest, that is life or death stuff that takes a lifetime of training.” He did say that he enjoyed his hike up Kilimanjaro and remembers most fondly the guides he met along the trip. The guides, known as Porters, “don’t make a lot of money, but they make their living going up and down that mountain. They could do it [summit] two to three times a month and they would run by you with your luggage on their heads,” describes Mr. Hillier.


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