Teacher preparing for breathtaking climb

Mount Kilimanjaro (Mount Kilimanjaro)

July 20, 2010 8:53:41 PM PDT
A Fayetteville woman is getting ready to head off to one of the world's tallest places.Donna Decker-McCollum, a teacher and coach at Fayetteville Academy, hopes to do what few women have done --she's planning to climb to the top of the world.

"When you are sitting on top of the world, it's truly an unbelievable experience," Decker-McCollum said.

She says mountain climbing isn't just a pastime, it's a passion.

"It will test you to the true being of your soul," Decker-McCollum said. "If you want to know who you are, go climb a mountain."

Decker-McCollum has been packing for weeks. She leaves Wednesday for Tanzania and Mount Kilimanjaro --Africa's tallest mountain.

It will take her team eight to 10 days to climb to the 16,000 foot summit where the air is thin.

"You have to stay focused, you can't panic, because you almost feel like you are suffocating at times and as long as you remain calm and realize you are ok, you'll be fine, you can't panic," Decker-McCollum said.

Decker-McCollum climbed five of the tallest peaks in the world during the mid 1980s, and then paused to raise a family.

Last month, Decker-McCollum took a refresher course in Alaska.

"It was rough," she said. "It was a 65 pound pack with roughly a 65 pound sled in it I had to pull. I was the oldest by 15 years in my group and the only female."

Decker-McCollum says climbing Kilimanjaro is practice for the biggest climb in her life. Next spring she plans to climb 29,000 feet to the top of Everest. That climb she says could take 20 to 30 days.

If she's successful, she will be only the 22nd woman in the world to have climbed the seven tallest summits in the world.

Decker-McCollum says the goal is not to just climb to the top, but make it back down.

"It will make you or break you and for me, I just love the challenge," she said.

Decker-McCollum is also climbing to help raise money for Fayetteville Cares -- a community group that helps members of the military and their families.

If you would like to follow Decker-McCollum on her climb, click here for updates.

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