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High Hopes

Mt. Kilimanjaro (Source: Flickr Commons) Mt. Kilimanjaro (Source: Flickr Commons)
(WVUE) -

It may not look like it, but these lifelong girlfriends from Chalmette need a serious vacation. And there are few vacations you ever have to prepare for quite like the one they’ll be taking.

Their trip begins in the dark corridors of a stairwell in a high-rise building downtown. With each step and each small challenge, a big dream is closer to reality. They climb 26 floors – twice - and decide that’s enough for one day.

“We just talked about wanting to do some life-changing trip,” Noel Duplantier said. “We started with the Appalachian Trail, and I said if we're going to do this, let's do this big.”

And when she suggested Mt. Kilimanjaro?

“I was like, I can't stay home while they go do that,” said Rachel Sigur.

Now they're all in. These women, all from a city below sea level, plan to climb the highest free-standing summit in the world: Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. 

Climbing 19, 340 feet in just about 5 days requires some serious climbing experience, right? Not necessarily.  

“So I'm walking the beach and the Bay St. Louis Bridge, which is the highest altitude in Bay St. Louis!” Duplantier said. “Which is not very high.”

And it demands plenty of exposure to the great outdoors, which some clearly lack.

“So I never carried a backpack and had to sleep in the tent,” Sigur said. “And then do it all over again the next day?”

The hike will take them through five different climates, from humid jungle to frigid peak. And despite their lack of experience, each has the willingness to embrace the unknown.

“I think we're gonna be able to it physically,” Duplantier said. “It's gonna be the mental challenge.”

And the practical challenge - to put the rest of life's responsibilities on hold: husbands, kids, successful careers. Duplantier is a doctor. Sigur, a TV producer. Tara and Trudy Robichaux run their own businesses. The decision to break away from all of it and climb Kilimanjaro is their answer to an equation many in their 30s and 40s often face: more responsibilities, dwindling time, and the pressing reality that the only time to do something like this is right now.

“I basically said I'm stopping and you all will have to continue without me,” Tara said. “And I'll readdress everything when I get back.”

The chance to unplug for a while is too good to pass up.

“I think being disconnected from the world. That's the fun and exciting part of it,” Trudy said.

They'll find out soon enough. Even though a tour company will help along the way, like so many other rewarding journeys, the final steps will be the hardest. The itinerary calls for hiking through the night for 13 hours in bitter temperatures to see a dazzling sunrise at the summit. 

Too many of us leave our dreams on hold, as life's clock ticks away. Others, like these lifelong friends from the parish, lace up their boots, strap on their backpacks, and get climbing.

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