In the northeast corner of Tanzania stands its most remarkable marvel – Mount Kilimanjaro. One of the world’s “Seven Summits,” this ancient volcanic mountain towers as the tallest in Africa, topping out at 19,341 feet. Climbing this natural wonder doesn’t involve the same technical prowess as the Himalayas. However, one must be prepared for acclimatization and potential altitude sickness, as climbers begin the trek in a rainforest before reaching the cap of a gradually melting glacier.
Each year, about 25,000 adventurists attempt the audacious ascension, with roughly two-thirds of them able to actually summit. Kansas Wesleyan University Department of Music Chair, Dr. Milt Allen, hopes to be one of those two-thirds, when he heads to Tanzania to begin his trek on Dec. 10. The Salina native and accomplished musician will spend his time between semesters climbing solo, with only a mandatory guide by his side and a few necessary crew members to assist him at times.
A former tri-athlete, Allen has not scaled a mountain of this magnitude previously, but his love for physical exercise, the outdoors and the continent of Africa are huge motivating factors.
“As with many folks, the pandemic made for an even more challenging Spring/Fall and there were also several personal challenges during the same time,” he stated. “I needed something to look forward to, to get me through this semester, and since I started going to Africa, Kilimanjaro has been calling me.”
“Still, it wasn’t enough just to do something to do it,” Allen added. “I wanted to make my own statement about fear and challenge, patience and perseverance, love and belief. I’m hoping that maybe others can identify with some of those feelings and know that others are going through the same thing.”
A musician at heart, Allen has made approximately 20 trips to Africa since 2014. Through his non-profit organization, Music Guerilla, he teaches young musicians in countries like Zambia during his visits to the continent. Before and after his journey up Mount Kilimanjaro, he is looking forward to meeting with music teachers in Moshi, Tanzania.
Allen says Africa became his home away from home before returning to Salina in 2019 to command the helm of KWU’s Department of Music. Heading into the trip, he views Kilimanjaro as an answer to a call and an opportunity to inspire others, regardless of whether or not he reaches the summit. And while this particular journey is about more than C-sharps and E-flats, he anticipates a composition will derive from the peaks and plateaus.
“I’m a musician and every experience I have will come through music at some point,” he said. “I’m excited to see what song Kilimanjaro has for me.”