Meet Anna Meneely: Crossing Mt. Kilimanjaro off her bucket list

Anna Meneely ’12 has a pretty hard core list of accomplishments, but her most recent feat is by far the most impressive. While the rest of us Oles spent our interim breaks sleeping or, at most, spending some time in a foreign country, this week’s Campus Celeb was climbing Kilimanjaro, the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. Not only that, but she climbed the western side of the mountain, one of the most difficult routes!
 
“Anna has become the number one person I look up to because of her will to just go for it!” said a former Ole, who wishes to remain unnamed, who nominated Anna for Campus Celeb. “Every year she is doing something new and crazy that no one else would have the guts to do.” Just why is Anna so inspirational? Read on to find out!
 
Her Campus St. Olaf: What were you doing in Tanzania this interim?
Anna Meneely: I was working at a hospital shadowing doctors. It was a government-run hospital, and it wasn’t very good, so I was just helping out. I stayed with a host family. I went because I really wanted to study in a different country and I really wanted to work in a hospital. Plus, I’ve always wanted to go to Tanzania, so that was really fun. I got the weekends off, so I went on a safari and a trip to Zanzibar.
 
HC: How did you end up hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro?
AM: Kilimanjaro is one of the biggest mountains in the world and the tallest in Africa. I decided to climb it – I just wanted to do it. It took me nine days to get up, and it was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. Just to give you a little feel of what it was like climbing up, the guy in front of you is puking over the edge, you’re having to pause and take two breaths between each step, and it’s crazy.
 
HC: Whoa! Did you ever puke?
AM: I never did!
 
HC: What was it like to climb the mountain?
AM: We had to start out at four in the morning so that the rocks were still frozen; otherwise, they’re too slippery and a lot of people have died in the past from that. It was really hard to sleep because it was so cold and the air was so thin that we couldn’t breathe. Some of the people I was climbing with had to be carried up on the last day, because by that point it’s really hard and you go so slow. We also got to see the glaciers, and those are only supposed to be around for another 10 years, so that was really cool.
 
HC: Who were you hiking with?
AM: I went with a group of Americans who had come to Tanzania just to climb, and we had porters to help us out and carry our stuff. So there were 54 Tanzanian porters for a group of eight Americans. I didn’t know any of them before the trip. One of the big problems that people have that causes them not to reach the top is altitude sickness. Everyone in my group except me had climbed mountains before. A lot of them went to Peru and climbed Mt. Machu Picchu as a warm-up. It was really weird: everyone on the trip got altitude sickness except me, even though I’d never climbed before.
 
HC: How did you prepare for this hike?
AM: I tried to work out as much as I could while I was in Tanzania, and when I was staying in Tanzania I was right by the mountain, so that kind of helped me get acclimated. Physically, I should have prepared for it, but the biggest problem once you’re climbing is altitude sickness, and there’s no way to prepare for that.
 
HC: What was it like at the top of the mountain?
AM: When we got to the top it was a really emotional experience, which I wasn’t expecting. All the work we did to get up there – it was just a feeling you can’t describe. We could only be there for a little bit because the air is so thin that you have to get down right away. We got there at six in the morning, so it was really cool to see the sunrise.
 
HC: Were you completely exhausted afterward?
AM: Yeah. Actually, going back down the mountain was really hard. It took us two days. Going down stairs is easy, but imagine going down eight miles of stairs. Our legs would just give out and we’d fall over.
 
HC: Would you recommend climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to people?
AM: I would, but only if you’re really physically fit! It was really tough. Even the living conditions are tough because you can’t get enough air, so your stomach can never really digest your food and you can’t sleep. But it was pretty rewarding; I liked it.
 
HC: Have you done any other daredevil things?
AM: I have a bucket list that I’m always trying to cross things off of. Every year I try to do something kind of big. Last year, I went hang gliding. I went skydiving one time, and the year before that I ran a marathon, which was tough because I don’t like running. I just did it to say I could do it. I’ve done a bunch of other things like try to learn how to blow glass, or swimming with dolphins, which I did last year.
 
HC: What motivates you to do all these things?
AM: Everyone says they have a bucket list or things they’ve always wanted to do, and I just want to actually go do it. It’s so much fun. The song “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw inspires me.
 
HC: What is the next thing you’re planning to cross of your bucket list?
AM: I don’t know… do you have any suggestions?
HC: Have you ever gone scuba diving?
AM: I have, actually. I did that in Tanzania for the first time! But the Ironman is something I’ve always wanted to do, so maybe I’ll do that next.
 
HC: Finish our Campus Celebrity sentences!
St. Olaf men are… funny, outgoing, CraZy.
St. Olaf women are… determined, powerful, inspirational.
 
HC: What advice do you have for Ole women?
AM: Get to know people you wouldn't normally be friends with. What's great about St. Olaf is that it has a variety of people from many different backgrounds. Getting to know people who have different opinions and views from your own will actually help you learn more about yourself and who you strive to become. And keep smiling!

*OLES: If you think your friend, professor, or a St. Olaf staff member deserves to be a Campus Celebrity, please e-mail your nomination and a brief explanation about your choice to [email protected] and [email protected]