People often ask mountain climbers why they do it. Why risk life and limb, brave extreme elements and suffer through some of the harshest conditions on Earth just to reach the top of a mountain?
For Capt. Rodrigo Ocampo, 4th Space Operations Squadron spacecraft engineer, that question can be answered simply: to experience adventure.
Early in 2014, he received a request from his good friend and former college roommate, John Gaebler. Gaebler was about to turn 30 years old and wanted to say goodbye to his 20s in dramatic fashion.
“Strangely, I too had been considering tasking myself with a huge challenge,” Ocampo said. “I had been researching Mount Aconcagua in South America. I like hiking mountains and have reached the summit of several 14,000 foot peaks both in Colorado and California, but I wanted to climb something bigger. I learned that Aconcagua was a challenging climb and at more than 23,000 feet, it’s the tallest peak in South America.”
During his research Ocampo learned that many mountain climbers make a goal of attempting to climb the highest peaks on each of the world’s seven continents. He found that idea interesting and soon adopted it as one of his life’s dreams as well. Once he learned that Gaebler desired to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, his attention turned toward Africa.
“I figured I could start my seven-continents goal there,” he said. “My first measure of business was to help Gaebler get into shape for the climb. He is an athletic guy, but he needed to raise his fitness level to ensure he could complete the climb.”
Gaebler, a NASA scientist, started his Ocampo-led fitness regimen in January. He made several trips to Colorado to train at altitude and Ocampo took him to some of his favorite spots, including the Manitou Incline. But, Ocampo also sent Gaebler to train in California’s Sierra Nevada range.
“We’re fortunate in Colorado that we can drive to a good many of the big-mountain trailheads,” he said. “In California, however, you have to hike for a day and camp before you can attempt some of the high mountains there. Hiking there allowed us to simulate the Kilimanjaro trek, which ultimately required four days to reach the summit and two days for the descent.”
Following more than eight months of training, the pair felt ready to attack Kilimanjaro, something Gaebler credits solely to Ocampo.
“I’ve known Rigo since 2005,” Gaebler said. “He has a great attitude for life. He never gets down. He always livens things up, makes things fun and is open to new experiences.”
They flew to Tanzania on Oct. 2 and were at the base of the mountain the morning of Oct. 3.
Surrounded by a pine forest, Ocampo, Gaebler and a group of five others began their trek up Kilimanjaro along with two guides and several porters, who carried the group’s camping gear, food and other necessities.
Source:: Air Force Space Command