Bret Rich to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to honor his grandmother, all cancer survivors


Bret Rich. Grand Canyon back in 2016.

Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer

For Bret Rich, 58, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro has been on his mind for decades. “I had read the ‘Snows of Kilimanjaro’ in high school and the thought of going there was always in my head ever since. I had a friend that made the climb a few years ago. I talked to him about his experience, and he encouraged me to do it,” said Rich, who is a member of Central Reform Congregation.

So, when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ended his plans to take his father to the western Ukrainian village where his paternal grandfather emigrated from, Rich started looking for other travel opportunities.

“I started looking around for something and thought of Kilimanjaro. I was just planning on going myself, but then I started getting a lot of ads from the American Cancer Society about their trip to Kilimanjaro,” said Rich.

ACS and Mt. Kilimanjaro

As part of their fundraising efforts, the American Cancer Society hosts the Kilimanjaro Climb, where participants and volunteers come together to honor cancer survivors and spread the word about reducing cancer risk. Rich decided to climb in honor of his grandmother.

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“She fought that disease three times before it finally took her life,” said Rich.

To qualify for the trip, one must raise $6,000 for ACS, and so Rich got to work. Using social media, he spread the word among friends and family and exceeded the donation minimum.

“I have raised almost $7K for them so far.  Donations are always welcome,” said Rich.

Getting prepared

At 19,341 feet high, Kilimanjaro is the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. Preparing for the climb takes time and determination and is said to be both mental and physically challenging.

To train, Rich began working with weights back in December and amped up his walking and hiking. He even made trips to Colorado and Arizona to work in some altitudes and more severe inclines.  Back home he does a lot of laps up and down Art Hill.

The Climb

Rich will begin his journey this week, flying out of Detroit to Amsterdam, and then on to Moshi, Tanzania at the base of Kilimanjaro. The climb will take 10 days and begin on Aug. 6 on the Lemosho Route. The route is a bit longer than others, about 45 miles, but allows for more thorough acclimatization and a higher success rate to the summit. During his journey on Lemosho, Rich will pass through five ecosystems, including dense forest and heather up to an alpine desert and of course, the glorious summit.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” he said.  “I like to hike and have done some climbing in the past, but nothing quite like this.

“I want to reach the summit; I want to prove to myself that I can do this.”