Montecito native recalls climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with her family
Ally Hodosy has crossed off a major feat on her bucket list.
The 22-year-old Montecito native joined her grandfather in climbing the highest free-standing mountain in the world: Mount Kilimanjaro.
The Tanzania, Africa, mountain is one of the toughest climbs for anyone to make.
“It was my senior year of high school when my grandpa pulled the whole family together around Thanksgiving, and he said that it was his greatest wish, No. 1 on his bucket list, to climb Mount Kilimanjaro,” Ms. Hodosy told the News-Press.
Originally, her grandfather was going to do the journey solo, but inspired by his tenacity, Ms. Hodosy and eager family members decided to join him as he attempted to cross this adventure off his bucket list.
“My grandpa is the most adventurous, craziest man you’ll ever meet. He always has these wild crazy adventures and ideas, and I’m surprised I’m still here today with some of the crazy things that he’s dragged us through,” Ms. Hodosy said with a laugh.
For the uninitiated, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and stands 19,341 feet.
“The whole experience was really interesting because it had never been my wish to climb Kilimanjaro,” Ms. Hodosy said. “I love being outside, I love nature, but I am not a professional climber in any way so it took a lot of getting in shape and preparing,”
“But it’s hard because you can’t really, really prepare for it. The altitude just affects everyone differently so mentally I think you have to prepare that you could be in the best shape of your life and still really, really struggle with Mount Kilimanjaro.”
After months of preparation and about two weeks after graduating in 2016 from Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, Ms. Hodosy was off to Tanzania. She went there with her mom, sister, uncle, cousin and, of course, her grandpa to set foot on this grand feat.
“I was in pretty good spirits the whole time, and I had a pretty good attitude going into it, but it was definitely a bit of culture shock the first day,” Ms. Hodosy said.
She recalled looking up at Mount Kilimanjaro from the airport as soon as she arrived.
“I looked up at the top, and I was like, ‘Oh God,’ ” she said with a laugh.
Despite a few setbacks after landing, once the actual climbing started, Ms. Hodosy said she was “dialed in.”
“I was super fortunate,” Ms. Hodosy said.
“I like to tell people all the time if you’re going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, go when you’re 18. I had pretty much the best time out of anyone physically climbing the mountain. I never got sick.”
While she was lucky, most of her other family members succumbed to the altitude sickness that comes with the hike.
Ms. Hodosy shared her tent with her cousin Kieran, who was 14 at the time, and remembered he was constantly throwing up and was riddled with headaches. Her sister was also having a hard time.
“It was absolutely horrible. Having to share a tent with my cousin who has altitude sickness all the time, that sucks and you feel bad for him,” Ms. Hodosy said.
“And it was really hard to see my sister like that. She’s a tough cookie and nothing really shakes her, but she struggled with the altitude sickness and she has a breathing condition, and it was just really hard to watch that and see the ways that it affected my family.”
Around day seven, the group hit the “arctic zone.”
“It’s basically the home stretch to the summit. Temperatures drop below zero, and we climb through snow and ice, and there are glaciers all around us,” Ms. Hodosy said.
She recalled really struggling during this portion, constantly slipping, falling behind and overall just getting frustrated with the trip by that point.
“I had a pretty bad meltdown on the side of the mountain and uninvited my grandpa to my future wedding,” Ms. Hodosy said with a laugh.
But she said it was her grandfather who kept inspiring everyone.
“He’s the biggest stud I know, and it was the coolest thing ever watching him and just really, really amazing. He was always in the front, he was the leader of the pack,” Ms. Hodosy said.
Even the porters came to love her grandfather.
“We had about 25 porters, and everyone was obsessed with him because they don’t see grandfathers climbing Mount Kilimanjaro ever. My grandpa was by far the oldest man that I saw on the trail the whole time so all the porters were just like ‘Babu,’ and coming up to him and he was kind of like the chief of the whole pack. It was awesome,” Ms. Hodosy said.
Finally, on day eight, she and her family stood on top of Mount Kilimanjaro,
“That’s always the first question everyone asks me, ‘What was going through your head?’ and I really feel like I almost blacked out,” Ms. Hodosy said with a laugh.
She recalled hugging her sister and mother through the entire six-minute experience and, funny enough, looking down, remembering her initial feelings when she arrived at the airport looking up.
“To be at the actual top looking out, it was a really special moment, and I don’t think I’ll forget that for a really long time,” Ms. Hodosy said.
“They say it’s the roof of Africa, and you can see everything and it was the most perfect day with clear skies and it was so cool.”
Over the next two days, on the way back down, Ms. Hodosy said it was a party, with smiles on everyone’s faces as they knew they had accomplished such a taxing task.
Looking back at the journey now, Ms. Hodosy said the one thing that she loved about the trip were the porters. She said she asked them to teach her Swahili on the way up and just had genuine fun moments with them, especially on the way back down.
“I had so much fun and I made so many friends with them, and it’s like you become a family,” Ms. Hodosy said.
“It’s crazy to think you do this crazy thing on your bucket list, and then it’s done and it’s in the past. We had been talking about it for so many months before. Every conversation we had leading up to the trip was about Kilimanjaro, and that was weird for me that it was over.
“But it’s also exciting because now we get to choose our next moment, our next adventure.”
As she sits and reflects, it’s these memories that allow Ms. Hodosy to stay positive and gives her something to look forward to once this pandemic ends.
“No matter what you’re faced with, a global pandemic or a mountain, it all comes back putting yourself out there,” Ms. Hodosy said. “It’s hard with COVID, but even when things are scary and uncomfortable you got to just keep staying positive and trying to persevere.”
And, for those wondering, Ms. Hodosy did reinvite her grandfather back to her wedding.
“We got to last base camp, signed the paperwork and I said, ‘Papa I am so sorry, of course you can come to my wedding,’ ” Ms. Hodosy said with a laugh.
“He was pretty happy about that.”