DC woman who conquered Mt. Kilimanjaro at 73 aims to help other Black climbers

This is part of WTOP’s continuing coverage of people making a difference from our community authored by Stephanie Gaines-Bryant. Read more of that coverage.

A D.C. woman, who is believed to be one of the oldest African American women to summit Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, is reaching new heights helping other Black residents in the D.C. area to climb to better health.

In 2022, Sharon Goods, along with 11 other African American climbers, reached the top of the 19,000 foot tall African mountain.

The 73-year-old’s nonprofit organization, the Wisdom Walkers, is now trying to help other African Americans improve their health.

“(I want to) encourage African Americans to take care of their health at every age, every stage of life,” she said.

Goods said the group started planning the climb in 2020 with the initial goal of getting African Americans to work out.

Every week, they would invite people to walk or climb, then one day, during a Zoom meeting, they asked, “We’re going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Who wants to train with us?”

Sharon Goods, a certified yoga instructor, prepared for the climb by practicing yoga as well as walking and weightlifting. (Courtesy Sharon Goods)

Out of the 50 people on the call, Goods said 35 signed up to train. But, by the time the climb began, she said the group was down to 11.

She said most of the group worked with personal trainers during their preparation.

Goods, a certified yoga instructor, said her training involved teaching and practicing yoga and Pilates, as well as walking and weightlifting at the gym.

“We want you to take care of your health because we know that we can do a lot better, we have high mobility and mortality rates,” she said.

All participants were also required to get a doctor’s approval to make sure they were able to make the climb.

Goods says the local Tanzanian guide company, Tusker Trails, provided them with 70 support staff members to guide them.

They walked eight hours per day through a variety of terrains and weather conditions, she said, adding that participants might start the day in shorts and end it in rain gear.

Sharon Goods, the oldest Black woman to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, said she didn’t know she had made history until she came down from the mountain after six days. (Courtesy Sharon Goods)

She said they were required to drink four liters of water per day, and take altitude and malaria medicine. They also had their oxygen checked regularly to make sure they were adjusting right to the altitude changes.

When they reached the summit after the six-day trek, Goods described it as, “An incredible feeling of accomplishment.” She called it “The most physically challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life and I’ve given birth to an 8 pound, 13 ounce baby.”

What was the most difficult part of reaching the summit?

“Think of trying to walk at a 45 degree angle after walking 10 hours with a wet towel over your face.”

Goods said she didn’t know she had made history until she came down from the mountain but she wants to use the climb to inspire others.

She said that’s what Wisdom Walkers is all about. They meet each weekend to walk a variety of distances with the purpose of “just moving.”

Next up, Goods plans to climb Machu Picchu in Peru in the fall of 2024 and the base camp of Mount Everest in 2025.

Stephanie Gaines-Bryant

Stephanie Gaines-Bryant is an Anchor and Reporter for WTOP. Over the past 20 years, Stephanie has worked in several markets, including Baltimore, Washington, Houston and Charleston, holding positions ranging from newscaster to morning show co-host.

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