BY ALEEN ARLSANIAN
Anthony Ghanime, a 27-year-old Glendale resident, recently climbed the tallest peak in Africa—Mt. Kilimanjaro. A Chamlian and Rose & Alex Pilibos School alumnus, Anthony traveled to Africa on Tuesday, July 9. The trek to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro took a total 8 days, from July 11 to 18. When he reached the summit, Anthony raised an Armenian flag that kept in his Pilibos fanny pack throughout his climb. He returned to Los Angeles on Saturday, July 20.
Anthony is currently enrolled in an MBA program at the University of California, Irvine. With his program starting in September, he had enough time to plan and prepare for his trek up the mountain. Prior to applying to graduate schools, Anthony spent time working abroad at Intel, as well as at an engineering company called Q-MEP.
Below is an interview with Anthony about his trek:
Aleen Arslanian: When did you first start professionally climbing and why?
Anthony Ghanime: Unfortunately, since I’m not paid to climb, I’m not considered a professional climber. Most individuals that pick up climbing/trekking or a mix of the two do so recreationally. However, my interest in trekking started roughly three years after graduating high school in 2013.
The reason I started was simply a way to continue and maintain a healthy lifestyle picking up hobbies and habits that weren’t too common. This soon manifested into wanting to experience and conquer larger than life obstacles, which led me to climbing Kilimanjaro.
A.A.: What inspired you to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro?
A.G.: I was trekking through Petra in Jordan, and as I looked over the landscape I couldn’t help but feel a sense of wanting to conquer something grand. I actively challenge myself as a way of personal development and after doing some research I set my eyes on climbing Kilimanjaro. Climbing to the highest point in all of Africa seemed off-putting at first, but I quickly felt more comfortable with the idea that if I were to accomplish this it in turn may inspire Armenian youth to push past their own boundaries and accomplish feats, or overcome obstacles in their own life.
A.A.: How much research and planning did this trek require?
A.G.: There’s was more than six full months of research and planning that went into the preparation for this trek. This ranges from actually finding an appropriate guide company to lead you up the mountain, since by Tanzanian law foreigners are not allowed to climb without local supervision, to ensuring proper physical preparation and necessary vaccinations to avoid altitude caused sickness and dangerous diseases that are active within that region.
A.A.: Were there any particular challenges during the climb?
A.G.: It seems that every day that I reflect back to the climb the list of challenges continues to grow. However, the most difficult was the reduced amount of oxygen being taken in. A breath at 13,000 feet brings in 40% less oxygen than normal—less oxygen makes tasks requiring precision, like climbing the Barranco Wall, pretty difficult. Also, spending three days at 13,000 feet and higher with a lack of oxygen made getting more than three hours of sleep difficult.
The route during summit was sub-zero, since we leave camp at 11 p.m. and summit sometime around 8 a.m. A challenge I faced that day was water freezing in my camel-back while drinking it.
Mentally, the most challenging aspect was seeing individuals getting carried to camps or getting medevaced off the mountain. In the back of your mind, you can’t help but think the worst.
A.A.: Why did you feel it was important to raise the Armenian flag at the peak?
A.G.: Growing up in a tight-knit Armenian community in Los Angeles, as well as attending Armenian Schools (Chamlian/Pilibos) from preschool until high school, instilled a sense of Armenian pride in me from a young age. The privilege of being able to call myself an Armenian is something I’ve held dear to my heart my whole life and one I’ll continue to hold the rest of my life. It only seemed fitting for me to raise the Armenian flag on the summit, because of the meaning the flag holds in my heart. Being able to raise that flag was my way of paying homage to my community, family, teachers, schools, and mentors for their effort in not only my development as a proud Armenian but the development of Armenian youth in general. I also hoped that it would be a type of catalyst for Armenian youth to pursue and challenge themselves in accomplishing feats that not only our community can be proud of, but that ones from other communities can also admire.
A.A.: Is Mt. Kilimanjaro the highest peak you’ve reached? What other mountains have you climbed?
A.G.: At 19,341 feet, Mt. Kilimanjaro is by far the highest peak I’ve summited. No other mountain comes close to Mt. Kilimanjaro—other mountains I’ve hiked like Mt. Baldy and Cucamonga are nowhere near the same in terms of duration or difficulty. Therefore, I’m not really considering them as anything other than simple practice mountains.
A.A.: Do you have any plans for future treks?
A.G.: Right now I’m just looking to relax a bit and continue graduate school. But I definitely do plan on future climbs, one of which is above 20,000 feet—but this won’t be in the near future. The most important of these climbs is Ararat. I was born and raised in the Los Angeles Armenian community my whole life. I learned about Armenia’s history over the years, at Armenian school, and nothing would satisfy me more than being able to proudly raise the Armenian flag on the summit of Mt. Ararat.
The mountains I plan to climb include: Ararat (a priority for me), Denali (above 20,000 feet, which calls for a lot of preparation—probably not for another couple years), Rainer (technical climb), Longs Peak (preparation climb)
A.A.: Do you have any advice for individuals interested in climbing the mountain?
A.G.: There’s so many things that go into climbing Kilimanjaro, however, don’t let that deter you. Go about things systematically and make a list—there’s lots of resources that can be accessed online that’ll give you a clear point of where you need to start in your preparations. Physically ensure that your body can handle the stress of the climb it’s not easy whatsoever and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Mentally—have a reason to go. Personally, when things were getting tough and fatigue was starting to hit, I just kept thinking of being able to raise the Armenian Flag on top of the highest point in all of Africa. That thought filled me with a sense of pride and purpose and pushed me through the challenges I faced. Ensure that you have something similar to work toward and you’ll get there.