Emily Pelley gets new perspective on life from rooftop of Africa


Published on April 16, 2017

Emily Pelley and company making the trek to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

©Submitted photo

Emily Pelley pushed her body to the limit in the most physically and mentally demanding venture of her life to get to see the world from the roof of Africa.

The 23-year-old Corner Brook native was among a group of Canadians who went from strangers to lifelong friends after climbing to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro

as part of a charity challenge to raise money for the Tim Horton’s Children Foundation.

Standing at 5,895 metres tall, Kilimanjaro towers over the plains of Kenya and Tanzania. It is often referred to as the rooftop of Africa and the distinction of being the highest free standing mountain in the world.

She had no idea what she was getting into when she accepted the offer to join her aunt Karen Hatcher of Cape Breton on the trip.

She had her moments where she broke down and cried. She fought through the pain and discomfort, fought through the altitude sickness that many people experience trying to conquer the mountain and she had to rely heavily on protein bars to get her through because she had no appetite for the food available to her.

Pelley, who shared her story with members of the Rotary Club of Corner Brook at its regular monthly meeting, said she always knew she was stubborn but didn’t know she had the perseverance to push through all the pain and discomfort she endured in a test of her mettle.

“I know now that no matter how tough things might be, I can push through,” Pelley, who works as director of operations for Subway in Corner Brook, told the group who were treated to an animated and humourous presentation of her experience.

Being able to raise money for charity was something she was happy to do, but her fear of heights is something she wanted to overcome on the trip and there’s no doubt the fear is gone after spending some anxious moments in cramped spaces with a big world below.

It took six days to reach the summit and two more days to work their way back down.

Every day had its twists and turns as they made their way through six different ecosystems.

She watched other people being rushed down the mountain from other groups because they got sick from the high altitude and couldn’t continue. Three people in her group became so sick they had to be evacuated.

Mother Nature gave her everything she could handle. She had to deal with four days of heavy rain. There was one day where it was so hot they all got burned regardless of how much sun screen they put on. When they arrived at base camp it was -10 in a snowstorm.

It was a tough way to find out if she could overcome her fear, but she made it and that’s all that matters, knowing there have been thousands who had to turn back for one reason or another.

On Day 5, she stared an 800-foot rock wall in the face without the support of a helmet, rope or harness. This is where she found out she no longer has to fear high places.

“It was absolutely terrifying,” she said. “I broke down, but with the help of the guides and with the help of my new friends on the trip I was able to overcome that fear and push through it.”

Pelley says she tries to stay active with skiing and ball hockey, but she admits she did the bare minimum to prepare for the climb. She showed up on Day 1 to find out many of those in her group talking about the fitness plans they followed to prepare them.

She thought she was in way over her head.

“If I was lucky I climbed Marble (Mountain) three or four times,” she said with a hearty chuckle. “I figured I have a very great mental game and that’s going to get me through this climb.”

She probably would need some heavy coaxing to put her body through such an ordeal again, but at the end of the day she was all smiles knowing it was a victory for not only a charitable cause, but a personal cause because she found out she’s tougher than she imagined.

“What kept me going was knowing that I was helping so many people,” she said. “To know that 26 people raised $625,000 for the Tim Horton’s Children’s Foundation was unreal.”

Corner Brook’s Emily Pelley shares her story of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to members of the Rotary Club of Corner Brook at the Greenwood Inn & Suites.

©Dave Kearsey/The Western Star