A message from our founder, Vern Jones:

Welcome to the Kili Summit Club. We are so glad you are here!

In a chapter of our upcoming book, available later this year, I tell about my dream of one day climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. “The Invitation” is a special chapter, and it recalls the story of how I invited our children (and their spouses) to join me on this life-changing expedition.

It was that climb in 2014 that led our group to begin the Kili Summit Club: A very special website dedicated to helping the many guides and porters who risk life and limb to help others – like us, and you! – to achieve our dreams.

Please learn more about how we are Giving Back to those extraordinary people of Kilimanjaro, and how you can help by purchasing some incredible Bragging Gear for yourselves. Together we can effect real change for those in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania.

In our case, we became lifelong friends with our guides, and we regularly keep in touch with them on social media. And because of modern communications, primarily smart phones, each qualified purchase of Bragging Gear will trigger a direct deposit of money into your guides’ hands. In addition, we will commit 40 percent of our profits to a clothing and emergency fund for the porters of Kilimanjaro.

When we first decided to climb Kili it never occurred to us that one day we would be in a position to help those who helped us. I’m sure you feel the same way. After all, how could anyone make the climb without being deeply touched by both the beauty of the mountain and the people who are sustained by it?

An excerpt from Kili Summit Club, to be published late 2015:

….This year, however, the invitation came from me. After doing nearly a month of research, visiting numerous websites and reading an assortment of blogs from climbers, I couldn’t believe I was actually writing the email. My hands trembled and the tears flowed as I composed the message. The February 27, 2013 e-mail began:

As I think most of you know, I have a relatively short bucket list. Now that I have found the one person I want to spend the rest of my life with, there are only three things left. Number one is to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Now that I’m sixty and my knees are beyond their normal life expectancy, it is time.

In late July or early August, I will be traveling to Tanzania to climb the Kili. I am inviting all our children and their spouses to join me. Even though Irene wishes me well, she has no interest in making the trip, the climb or living in a tent for a couple weeks. I completely understand. The trip I have been most impressed with includes a seven-day climb and four days on safari.

Following our normal family vacation programs, we will pay for all costs while in Africa.

Climbing in July or August of 2014 will give everyone seventeen months to prepare for the trip.

I then addressed a very serious issue regarding groups climbing together. What happens if I cannot continue the climb? Does someone stay back and descend with me or do the other climbers continue their challenge? Or a more personal concern that most can relate to: What happens if one of our daughters is unable to continue, will the husband continue the climb?

I decided that this issue needed to be addressed early on rather than deal with it on the side of the mountain. If this would cause a divorce or physical harm to a spouse, we need to get this out of the way now.

Before anyone makes any quick or harsh judgments, it is important to understand that the person descending is not left to his/her own devices to get back. Each group that climbs is required to hire a sufficient number of guides and porters to match the number of climbers and the gear transported. In the event that the person must descend, they would be transported by one of the guides and as many porters as they may require before being transported back to the resort awaiting the return of the rest of the group following the climb.

I struggled with that scenario for several days, understanding how one might feel betrayed if a spouse or family member did not accompany them. In addition, I also knew how difficult it would be to get into the physical condition required for the climb. It was also important to realize that few get an opportunity to climb Kili once. To get there and not do everything possible to reach the summit would haunt everyone for the rest of their lives. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I also knew that our children are very strong-willed, independent and capable of making this commitment.

I decided to add the following message:

Unique to this trip, there are three small exceptions: I’ll pay for these costs for everyone that climbs at least as far as I do. That shouldn’t be a problem for you kids. Secondly, knowing how competitive we all are, if anyone injuries me or otherwise intentionally impedes my progress—no money for you! Lastly, if anyone is unable to proceed up the mountain everyone else is expected to continue. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and if I couldn’t make it, I would insist on the rest of you completing the climb.

I hope you will consider joining me on this unique journey.

The kids immediately recognized that the non-payment was a bluff as I was making the payments prior to departure and I would never ask them to repay me. It did, however, make a statement that all who were joining us were there primarily for the climb. The safari was merely a reward for taking on the challenge. In addition, they all instinctively understood that it would be embarrassing if a sixty-two-year-old out-climbed them and made it to the summit. If they didn’t this fact would undoubtedly surface at nearly every family outing for as long as any of us were alive to tell the story. There was no doubt that anyone joining us would make certain they were physically and mentally prepared for the challenge.

As I pushed “send” and heard my invitation whoosh out into the web, tears of joy fell to the keyboard. Kili, I hope you have room. I’m coming for a visit.