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Conquering Kilimanjaro requires mental stamina

Bill Roberts, president of Zoomer Media /VisionTV is set to scale Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for CARE.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Bill Roberts, the 58-year-old president and CEO of ZoomerMedia, Television Division, is an avid mountaineer who's training to reach a new fitness peak. This month, the Toronto-based executive will climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for CARE Canada to empower women in developing countries with economic opportunities.

My goal:

"To reach the summit of Kilimanjaro, African's highest mountain at 19, 400 feet, on the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day on March 8[According to IWD website, the first Women's Day was actually celebrated on March 19, 1911, but since it's in a quote.../ad]/note>."

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My workout:

"I play tennis twice a week and I'm working on my black belt in Shotokan karate. I lift weights and go to a climbing gym when I can."

"The principal skills for climbing are balance and lower-body strength. I began alpine climbing with Outward Bound 30 years ago and learned rope work, crevasse awareness, glacier travel and vertical faces. For Kilimanjaro, my training involves long walks carrying a 40-pound pack. Because of its geography, there are no ice or glacial hazards, but a serious concern is altitude. People can get acute altitude symptoms [such as cerebral or pulmonary edemas]as low as 8,500 feet. There is no training for altitude. But the route I'm using goes up and down and my experience in climbing says it's the safest way of acclimatizing to altitude."

My lifestyle:

"Being a president involves regulatory work and connection to other parts of the company such as radio stations and the magazine. There's a lot of paying attention to a computer screen and not a lot of mobility. I avoid salt, sugar and processed foods. I appreciate good food and wine. I get only six hours of sleep a night, but I use melatonin to compensate."

My motivation:

"The normal pattern for charity work in developing countries is to pump rewards towards institutions run by men, but I'm interested in not doing that normal thing.

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"Another motivation is Greg Mortenson, a climber and author of Three Cups of Tea, which tells the story of taking his climbing commitment to northern Pakistan and the building of schools for girls and the tremendous change that brought about."

My anthem

"When I climb the Adirondacks or Appalachians, I love Bruce Cockburn's The Trouble with Normal. But with this climb, I'll want to pay attention to my body and surroundings."

My challenge

"The mountain."

The critique

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Keep spirits up

Eddie Frank, owner and founder of Tusker Trail, who will guide Mr. Roberts' trek, says physical fitness is only five per cent of the climb – 95 per cent is mental fitness. "Self-doubt is the biggest undoing," Mr. Frank says. "So have faith in expert guides that they will get you through safely; then you don't have anxiety of the unknown about what's going to happen to your body as you go up."

Climb slowly

Climbing slowly is key to this ascent, says Mr. Frank, even though some trekkers try to take as few as three days to get to the summit. "My group will take nine days because the more time you allow your body to adjust to the altitude means you're less likely to encounter problems. The climb is not a competition so don't pit yourself against the mountain and race up it. Overconfidence is not a good thing."

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