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Title image:  Meet a BAI climber

Meet A BAI Climber - Julia Kochuk

BBBS Kilimanjaro Climb, March 2009

By Tracy Jacobson


Julia Kochuk

My name is Julia Kochuk, and I am a 17 year-old student at St. John’s-Kilmarnock School in Guelph, ON. I am in Grade 12 and am looking forward to finishing this school year and embark on a new adventure: university in September. I believe that it is important to keep a balance between mental and physical health, so I enjoy being involved in sports, personal training, writing, and music.

Why did you go on the BBBS climb for kids?

I heard about the BBBS Climb for Kids from John Stewart, who works with BBBS of Hamilton and has done the Climb for Kids three times.

My dad was interested in doing the climb, so my family started planning his trip. I have wanted to go to Africa my whole life, and have spent recent years researching charitable groups in Africa in hopes that I would make it there. My parents knew this, and they surprised me and told me that I could go with my dad. I didn’t know much about Kilimanjaro, other than it is an African volcano that I saw in Lion King 2, but I figured this would be an exciting way to get to go to Africa and spend time with my dad. As we continued to plan the trip, I learned more about the climb.

I was excited to go on this adventure, and challenge myself physically and mentally. The fact that this was a fundraiser for BBBS made it even better. There are so many children who do not have older role-models to do things with; I am very fortunate – I got to climb Kilimanjaro with my dad. I was happy that I could be a part of something that would help children have exciting experiences with people they could look up to!

What was your experience like climbing with your Dad?

Being in Grade 12 and being a very involved student at a very busy school, I often find myself spending most of my time in lessons, at practices, or doing homework. I feel as though I do not get to spend as much time with my family as I would like, especially since I plan on going away to university next year. Knowing that I would get to spend time with my dad, and do something so amazing, was very exciting.

Climbing with my dad was one of the best experiences of my life. When I needed it, he would take care of me, like when we had to pack up our bags each morning. I also found myself constantly helping him: reminding him to drink his water and take his pills, or helping him get organized, I am becoming my mother (which I am perfectly fine with)! One thing that I will never forget is how hard my dad worked. Every step of the way, he walked behind me, “following in my footsteps”, and he made me very proud. My dad and I grew closer and will have many stories to tell and laugh about for the rest of our lives.

Team's day-hike in Mt. Meru Foothills

Barranco Wall

Barranco Wall

Was the climb hard? Did the altitude affect you?

When looking back on the climb, I do not think about it as being hard. Of course, there were times of physical and mental exhaustion, but our group was so close and positive, that our hard times were soon forgotten through laughter and talk at meals and breaks. The trek to Stella Point was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but our guide Julius made sure that we had plenty of breaks and walked a slow pace. I think more about the joyous moment reaching Stella Point, than the hard trek to it.

The altitude affected me, but not to the point where I did not think I would be able to continue. I took Diamox, an altitude sickness medicine, drank a lot of water (which was sometimes annoying because Diamox is a diuretic), and took an ibuprofen when needed. I experienced some minor headaches, had vivid “altitude dreams”, and sometimes felt sluggish and tired because of the lack of oxygen. The effects of altitude were most strongly felt after summiting and sleeping in the crater; I felt as though I didn’t want to do anything other than sit in the dining tent, or go to sleep in my tent!

Greg and Julia accomplished their goal together Greg and Julia accomplished their goal together

Greg and Julia accomplished their goal together

What did it feel like at the summit?

Summiting was an amazing experience. Before reaching the summit, our group dropped our poles, linked arms, and walked to the summit together. Because our group was so close, this was extremely emotional. Almost everyone was crying and taking moments to themselves to take in their accomplishment and the beautiful surroundings.

I shared moments with my dad and with Julius at the summit that I will remember forever. Having our entire group achieve our goal, and achieve it together, was truly remarkable. It was also amazing to leave a piece of myself at the top of Africa’s highest point.

The BBBS team on Uhuru Peak - Kili’s Summit!

The BBBS team on Uhuru Peak - Kili’s Summit!

Would you climb it again?

I will definitely climb Kilimanjaro again. Not only is the experience amazing, but meeting the people, making the friendships, and seeing the things I saw is something I would do again in an instant. I can’t wait to go back and share the experience with my brother someday.

Julia, Greg,Trevor and Tracy on Lava Tower

Julia, Greg,Trevor and Tracy on Lava Tower

How was the wildlife safari with your family?

Everyone who was on the trip with me knows about my love for Disney’s The Lion King. This love has instilled within me desire to see all of the animals that were present in the movie. I saw thousands of zebras, wildebeests, and antelopes, as well as lions and “Pumbas”, and many more.

Our safari guide was great and told us many great stories and shared his knowledge. It was also nice to see my mom and sister after missing them during the climb. We were shown Tanzanian hospitality at all of the hotels with “Kilimanjaro cakes” and singing, and great times with new friends. I have never enjoyed spending so much time in a car as I did on safari!

Lunch stop on Safari

Lunch stop on Safari

How did your experience in Africa change your life?

Julia with the students at Linde School, Arusha

Julia with the students at Linde School, Arusha

My experience in Africa changed my life. Being as young as I am and seeing the things I did will dictate how I will live the rest of my life. I am so fortunate, yet I get hung up on unimportant things. Everyone we spoke with in Africa had such an amazing attitude that was welcoming and loving that truly made you feel as though you were part of their family. I hope to be as welcoming to everyone I meet and also adopt their “hakuna matata” way of life. My time in Africa was extremely humbling and the climb made me confident that I can accomplish great things if I work hard and have strong support behind me.

Would you recommend this Adventure to others? Why?

I would, and have been, recommending this adventure to others. I learned so many things about myself and another culture and saw so many great things on this trip. It was a life changing experience and I wish I could have stayed longer. I would also highly recommend travelling with Berg Adventures on this trip because they anticipated every need and made this adventure the best trip that I have ever been on. All of the guides were knowledgeable and helpful, and the Berg staff made our trip run smoothly and enjoyably. I always felt safe and organized, and as soon as my trip ended, my family started planning what we would do when we go back.

To read the dispatches from Julia’s and BBBS Berg Adventures 2009 Kilimanjaro Climb and Wildlife Safari, go to:

For more information and bookings on BAI trips and BBBS 2010 Adventure, contact Berg Adventures: or go to our website: