A sisterhood of 14 Black women was in the mood to elevate, and they climbed to the top of the tallest mountain in Africa.
Earlier this month, the Sistahs to the Summit group had lunch and danced to Beyoncé‘s Cuff It at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, towering over 19,000 feet high. The ascent makes them one of the largest groups ever to climb the highest freestanding mountain in the world.
They left together with numb toes, lifelong connections, and the desire to keep exploring.
Last week, the New York City and New Jersey-based women sat down with CBS Mornings co-hosts Gayle King, Nate Burleson, and Tony Dokoupil to share their challenging yet triumphant journey.
A 50th birthday wish
The eight-day journey up and down the so-called “Roof of Africa” began with one woman, Erica Liles. She wanted to bring in her 50th birthday with a historical feat, so she emailed her friends with an ambitious proposition. Out of 18 people who responded, 14 women decided to take the journey.
“I had a strategy where I did not want to put any pressure on anyone because I know that climbing Kilimanjaro is not for the faint of heart,” Liles said.
These plans, however, were five years in the making. Liles tagged in her good friend, Malaak Compton-Rock, to bring the vision to life.
“We have the same travel sensibilities,” Compton-Rock said. “We’re talking about Antarctica next. We wanna see the world. We want to discover places and take ourselves out of our comfort zone.”
“When I got her email, it was like instantaneous.”
In preparation, these women enlisted strategies to help them train, including walks at Martha’s Vineyard.
“For me, I couldn’t travel to Martha’s Vineyard, so I broke my boots in in Brooklyn [sic],” J’Nelle Agee said. “[I did by] going to Trader Joe’s and Target. So we all had to find our ways to train…whether it was on the treadmill, doing small hikes in New Jersey, or going in Harlem.”
“The reward is not better than the effort,” Compton-Rock said.
The group also journeyed with 72 porters who helped carry their day packs, but along the way, two women had to turn back due to altitude sickness.
Check out the full interview here: