The question from Morehouse College President David A. Thomas came out of the blue.
“Say, man, do you want to hike Kilimanjaro?”
C. David Moody Jr., a prominent Atlanta businessman and a member of Morehouse’s board of trustees, didn’t hesitate saying yes, although neither man had ever hiked at that altitude before.
And both grandfathers would be starting this journey at age 66.
Thomas said his son had climbed the highest mountain in Mexico and Thomas knew of others who had tackled Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak in Africa, located in Tanzania.
“I was inspired by those two things and I thought about other 66-year-olds who might be crazy enough to do it with me and the only person I could think of was Moody,” Thomas said. “To my surprise and delight he instantly texted back and a trek was born.”
The two men wanted to challenge themselves, but also show others that nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it.
“I have an adventurous spirit, but I haven’t really been adventurous,” said Thomas. “I said, ‘Let me try it.’”
His family was surprised at this plan, but supportive. His friends, though, wanted to know “Are you serious? Are you crazy? Why do you want to do that? I didn’t think about it that hard,” he said.
But hiking or climbing one of the highest peaks in the world?
“I like to say that I will age but I will never become old,” said Moody. His firm, C.D. Moody Construction, specializes in general contracting and construction management and has been involved in such projects as Mercedes-Benz Stadium, expansion of the international terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center at Morehouse College.
However, there’s another reason Moody said yes.
In 2013, the 1978 Morehouse College graduate went public about being sexually abused by a teenage male baby sitter when he was 10 years old.
He sees the trip as a way to continue healing from that trauma. He talked to his trauma therapist about the trip, and was given the all-clear by his cardiologist.
“I will get to face all of my triggers on this hike,” said Moody. “I will be completely disconnected and I won’t be with my family. I’m doing this for my grandson. I want him to know whatever you go through, you don’t give up. You keep living and keep growing.”
Prior to this, the most ambitious outdoor adventure for Moody has been to spend seven nights sleeping without a tent in the Grand Canyon in 2017 and then ascending a height of 4,200 feet on the hike out.
The pair landed in Africa over the weekend. They will start the hike on Tuesday, Jan. 17 and finish on Jan. 24. Moody’s wife, Karla, will join him afterward in Africa to celebrate their 40th anniversary.
Karla Moody said she was apprehensive about the trip at first. The more she learned about Mount Kilimanjaro, the better she felt.
“I’m like a lot of people who thought it was more climbing than actually hiking,” she said. “I was thinking he would be using ropes, but then I saw pictures of the trails ... and it made me feel better. I didn’t feel like he would be hanging off the edge of anything.”
Neighbor and hiking partner Robert Burroughs believes Moody is up to the task. The two have done several eight-hour hikes in the North Georgia mountains.
“I think he’s prepared,” said Burroughs. “I think the key to hiking is not just physical preparedness but mental preparedness as well.”
Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC
Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC
Both have trained and researched the trip. Moody said he’s been careful not to watch too much on YouTube “so I don’t psych myself out.”
They are going with an expedition company and will have porters and guides, with frequent checks of their vitals.
Mark Gunlogson, owner of Seattle-based Mountain Madness, said most people consider Mount Kilimanjaro the easiest of the Seven Summits, as the tallest mountain on each of the seven continents are known. It doesn’t require the same level of equipment and technical expertise as Everest, but people should not overlook that it’s still a mountain trek to a summit and still at a higher altitude than the average person might experience.
In April 2022, Phil Henderson, who lives in Colorado, led the first all-Black U,S. climbing team to reach the summit of Everest. The Full Circle Everest Expedition consisted of 11 women and men said Henderson, 60, who has hiked Kilimanjaro twice - once in 2000 and then in 2018.
Everest is more challenging — it can take up to two months to complete and climbers must deal with extreme altitudes and weather, experts say.
Still, Kilimanjaro is challenging “although it that is well within the reach of anyone who is physically fit and active,” said Henderson. “I think they are on the right track, life does not stop at 60 or 65 as long as you remain active there are things you can continue to do.”
Henderson said he also hopes the trek by Moody and Thomas serves an additional purpose. He hopes it will send a message to other African Americans that climbing and other outdoor activities can be enjoyable, healthy, challenging and part of healing “because it makes you look at yourself.”
And Thomas and Moody may do just that in Tanzania.
After Thomas descends Mount Kilimanjaro, he plans to take a few days on safari “to just relax and see if I can see the wildebeest run in the Serengeti,” he said. “The biggest decision after that is should I retire. I may have to go to the mountaintop to see if God gives me the answer.”
Editor’s note: Come back to ajc.com for reports on the pair’s progress.