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ACU professor, alumnus climb Kilimanjaro, provide aid to Zambia

Neal Coates
Neal Coates

Two Abilene Christian University alumni have returned from climbing Africa’s largest mountain, after spending 10 days doing mission work in Zambia.

 Dr. Neal Coates ('87), assistant professor of political science at ACU, and Cam Hurst ('74), principal at Thomas Elementary, joined six others in climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in late July.

Of the 15,000-20,000 people who try to climb Kilimanjaro annually, only about half reach the summit. However, the entire group reached the 19,341 feet peak of Uhuru, the highest peak in Africa. They traveled the second-most used trail, the Machame Route, a 38-mile trip in which they circled halfway around the mountain. The climb took seven days with a porter carrying much of their equipment.

 “It was the hardest mountain I have climbed, and the highest mountain I will ever climb,” Coates said. “It was 0 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, so it was pretty chilly at the top.”

Mount Kilimanjaro is considered the crown of Tanzania. It is the highest mountain in Africa, the highest free standing and “walk-able” mountain in the world, and one of the largest volcanoes.

“We didn’t go to Africa to climb Kilimanjaro,” said Coates, who participated in the Zambia Medical Mission trip for the first time. “We went to Africa to serve the Zambia Medical Mission. That was the real ‘high’ on the trip. Serving 17,000 people by giving them the only medical care they’re going to get all year – that’s the real reason we went. Not to climb some silly mountain.”

The other six in the group included Coates’ 15-year-old daughter, Rebekah, Lynn Berry, Ross Berry, Phillip Gardner, Luke Riddle and Rick Riddle. All eight embarked on the climb immediately after participating in the Zambia Medial Mission sponsored by Hillcrest Church of Christ.

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