Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania may be inactive, but it is still one of the largest volcanoes on the planet and stands at 19,340 feet. Yet for some reason, Cindy Wilhelmi decided that she just had to scale it. Reaching the top of Kilimanjaro is no easy feat for anyone, especially a 48-year-old who also happens to be legally blind.
Wilhelmi can only see a short distance from the tip of her nose, yet she holds a nursing degree, is a married mother of three and now the second blind woman in the world to hike Mount Kilimanjaro. Wilhelmi says she took the challenge of climbing the African behemoth because she wanted to create awareness about the visually impaired, raise money for a program on the verge of being cancelled and remind herself of all the things she could accomplish sight or no sight.
“I knew the hike was really pretty,” recalled Wilhelmi. “I couldn’t see details, but I could tell if we were going through clouds and at one point we were above the clouds–it was beautiful.”
Wilhelmi scaled Kilimanjaro’s slopes with a team of eight blind hikers and 17 volunteer sighted guides from the Foundation for Blind Children (FBC), which offers resources and services to families, children and adults living with blindness. Team Kili, as they were dubbed, not only reached the summit, but they also raised over $200,000 for FBC’s infant program.
Wilhelmi described the experience of climbing five to seven hours each day as humbling yet immensely fulfilling. There’s just something about braving the elements and altitude sickness and getting to stand at the top of the world that can’t be beat. At Tintoralba we’ve tried to bottle that sensation in our wine Altitude, aptly named after the 1,000 meter heights at which its grapes are grown. A sip of Altitude is a brief taste of the refreshing feeling of parting the clouds and enjoying a serene moment on top of the world.
-Justine Bayod Espoz