Kasey Bost started her senior year at Susquehanna University on the highest possible note — literally.
Bost, a 2016 Liberty High School grad, is a two-sport athlete at Susquehanna playing volleyball and softball. Earlier this month, she traveled to Tanzania, Africa, under Susquehanna’s Global Opportunities study abroad program for two weeks, where she lived temporarily in a village and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest point and the world’s highest freestanding mountain.
“On the climb, I needed people to help me and I had to go slow,” Bost said. “There’s no way we could have done it on our own … you have to give it everything you have. Every step, we would say a prayer and you didn’t think your feet could keep walking, that’s how long it was.
“If you learn to enjoy the journey, there’s always going to be an incredible view at the top. That’s my analogy to life and it really opened my eyes to that.”
Susquehanna’s study abroad program is designed to expose students to different cultures while teaching them valuable things about themselves, according to the university’s website. Students can choose between three programs: GO Short, GO Long, or GO Your Own Way.
Bost participated in GO Your Own Way, which allowed her to design her own study abroad experience or have one created for her through a different program. Bost said she was involved with Young Life in high school, and used the organization as a tool to help her in planning an abroad trip to Tanzania for two weeks.
“I was so nervous,” Bost said. “I got to meet everyone and we stayed in a village called Legho for about a week to a week-and-a-half. We painted schools there, I bought a volleyball and taught the kids how to play volleyball. They all spoke Swahili and so did most of the teachers. From the village, you could see Kilimanjaro, a peak of it.
“The next week was when we climbed.”
The trek begins
The journey to climb Africa’s tallest mountain peak took Bost and her group six nights and seven days to complete. Their first hike took them from an elevation of 5,000 feet to 10,000 feet, and Bost said the lower elevation was the easiest part of the hike “by far.”
Kilimanjaro hikers are accompanied by a support staff of guides and porters — porters transport gear and supplies for the hikers up and down the mountain. The average ratio of support staff to climbers is two to three porters per hiker and two guides for a maximum of four hikers, according to Kilimanjaro’s information website.
“They would take your overnight pack and tents and things to cook for food, like 100 to 200 pounds on their backs, and run up the mountain before you,” Bost said. “You’d see them fly by you and you’re so slow because of the altitude, and once we finished an eight-hour hike, they were there singing for us and welcoming us to the site with tents set up and food ready.”
Bost and her group woke up around 6:30 almost each morning to hike between six to nine hours, increasing and decreasing in elevation as they trekked. On Day 5, they camped at nearly 16,000 feet, went to sleep at 6 p.m., and woke again at midnight to continue to 19,000 feet.
Bost’s athleticism likely helped her endure the extreme conditions during her Kilimanjaro experience.
She helped the River Hawks go 24-13 in volleyball last fall and reach the Landmark Conference championship match. She was second on the team with 420 digs (3.16 per set) as a defensive specialist, and added 36 assists and 29 aces.
In the spring, she landed on the all-Landmark first team for softball after batting .363 with 41 hits, 14 doubles, and 29 RBIs.
On top of the world
Bost said they reached their summit around 7 a.m. and it was about 15 degrees with wind gusts of 55-60 miles per hour. She wore multiple layers of clothing during this final stretch and when the group arrived at Stella Point, just under 19,000 feet, Bost said the delusion started to sink in.
“Once we were there, the porters gave us tea and at that point we were so delusional because of the lack of oxygen,” Bost said. “I couldn’t answer a simple math problem. Going up was kind of scary and you could see the porters taking stretchers up for those that couldn’t make it.”
When the group arrived at the highest peak — 19,341 feet — it felt almost euphoric, she said.
“Everyone in our group started crying,” Bost said. “We couldn’t believe we just did that — on one side you see ice glaciers, almost like in the movie ‘Frozen,’ and on the other side you can see the curvature of the earth.”
Due to the high altitude, Bost said the group could only stay on the summit for about 30 minutes. The trek back down was difficult, Bost said, and the hikers camped for about two hours at 15,900 feet and hiked another seven hours down in one day.
Bost, who earned Times first-team all-county softball honors in 2016, said she learned a lot about building relationships during her trip to Tanzania. She has continued to do so through her college career, with her coaches and teammates.
“The community at Susquehanna is awesome and I think you’re really learning and growing because of a sport,” Bost said. “In high school it’s a lot of ‘What’s this stat?’ and softball has been in my life for 15 years so it’s teaching me that if you fail seven out of 10 times, you’re a good hitter. It teaches me how to handle failure and that you’re not going to be perfect.”