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Home / Articles / Arts & Entertainment / Celebrities /  Climbing to New Heights
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Monday, November 7,2022

Climbing to New Heights

By Liz Sterling  

There are some things in life that we feel compelled to do – it may be to play a musical instrument, teach, become a coach, a doctor, a dancer, or an artist. I hope you know what I am referring to. It’s like an impetus that wants to be actualized. Maybe before continuing to read this article, take a moment or two, and reflect on what that has been for you, and how it feels to honor that inner drive.

My feature story this month is about a woman I truly admire. I’ve known Julie Miller for a dozen years. She has a fierce determination and admirable discipline skills. When I met Julie in 2010, she was into running. Almost every day, like clockwork, she carved out the time to build her strength. In our “formal” interview for this article she said, “I have always had the utmost respect for strong women, and always wanted to be one. I wanted to be strong in everything, and was told by my family I could do whatever I wanted. I believed that nothing was going to stop me. Today, I am strong both physically and emotionally.”

It was at this point during our interview that Julie exhibited a bit of frustration. “What’s up,” I asked? “My computer is freakin’ out,” she said, “and I can’t access the picture I want to send you.“Oh, I know that computer thing,” I replied. “When it’s not working, I freak out and generally go into high anxiety.” Julie was quite calm and said, “I’ll just have to figure it out!” There wasn’t a moment’s hesitation. She exhibited confidence, composure and focus – then she put the computer issue aside and fully recommitted to our conversation.

There’s a unique reason I decided to feature Julie Miller this month in the Happy Herald. While visiting her in Vermont this summer, I discovered she was in the final planning stages to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa – a mountain that is 19,341 feet high. I was super impressed and immediately wrote my publisher, proposed this story, and voil!Here we are! We’ll get to her actual climb in a few minutes. First, I want to give you some background and foundational information.

I asked Julie about her foray into physical activity and achievement. This is what she told me. “In high school, there was a pullup bar and I started doing pullups, got bicep muscles very quickly, and thought they were the coolest thing ever. I went on to weightlifting in college. I have to admit, I love muscles and I love strength, but I am not a sports person per se.I am primarily into hiking, running, entering marathons, and running races. I also started doing Spartan Races, and that’s how I keep myself motivated. If I enter a race, I train, and I train hard! I also have had to learn how my mind works, and how to keep focused on what will get me to the finish line.

Julie is a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother. She’s hiked the Colorado Trail, did a trek in Peru to Machu Picchu, went to Iceland to challenge herself, walked the Long Trail, which is the length of Vermont, for 26 days, and now, she adds Mt. Kilimanjaro to the list. “I have family life, home life, work life, then the fitness part of my life, which includes my friends and social family too.

You see, I’m all in when it comes to working out.”

“My husband of 20 years has realized how important this is to me and I feel fully supported. Thankfully, he gives me the space to enjoy my adventures. Being a mother was and is the most important element in my life. I was active throughout the raising of my daughter, and I can remember 19 years ago when my friend and I pushed our kids in baby joggers.”

“My hiking buddy and friend of many years asked me one day, ‘what’s on your bucket list?’ I replied, ‘I don’t have a bucket list,’ and then, all of a sudden, I said,‘Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.’ I went to my husband and daughter and I told them I was going to climb this mountain in Tanzania, Africa, and my daughter was like, ‘COOL!’ and my husband, was really excited for me. It was great!”

“When making a trip like this, there are many things to consider, especially the duration of the trip. We were coming from a lower elevation, under 1,000 feet in Vermont to the peak, which was 19,341 feet high, so we chose an eight-day excursion to help us acclimate.”

“Getting to Africa was filled with travel mishaps, but my friend Jenny and I made it in time to meet our guides and porters, which is mandatory for anyone climbing to the peak. It took three days of strenuous hiking until we finally saw the peak, and that was an encouragement.”

“The day we summited was the hardest thing I ever did in my life. We were awakened at 11 p.m. and left at midnight. We were at an elevation of 15,000 feet with 4,300 to go. We climbed mostly in the dark. Altitude sickness was afflicting me badly and each step was laborious.

I was also very dizzy from lack of oxygen and my stomach was very upset. I was now thinking OMG how are we going to do this for six hours????It was so hard, and it should not have been so hard. In my training I was doing elevation gains of 6,500 feet, but I was doing it in Vermont. The altitude kicked my butt, but I kept trudging on.

“The porters and guides were singing to motivate us. We had another two hours and it started to get light; the sun was rising, we could see the destination, and although it was still far off, we kept walking. My mind picked up a song, kind of like a mantra, and I knew I could do it because there was no chance I would stop. I do not allow any negative thoughts to come into my head.

“We arrived at a junction that merged with the popular trail, as we had chosen the northern circuit, which is not a populated route. So now we’re with a lot of people, and some were coming down and others were heading up, and we just followed the masses.”

This is where you would want a drumroll and imagery that would knock your socks off, but that’s not what happened. Julie explained that once you reach the peak, you have to turn around and descend quickly, because the altitude can kill you.

“I cried, looked around at all the glaciers, watched others have their moments of glory, and it was fun because many foreigners were on the peak, and so many languages were being spoken! I was on the peak for about 15 minutes, drinking in the moment and definitely feeling accomplishment and relief. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I freakin’ did that!’” I feel that this story leaves us with an important message: You can have it all – home and family, care for your community, the ability to live your dreams, and a quest to reach for new heights. Life often asks us to persist and pursue through fears, naysayers or challenging times. That may very well be the case, nevertheless, Go For It and Climb to New Heights!!!

Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy your family, and for those having a Friendsgiving, blessings galore! Love, Liz

Liz Sterling is a writer, coach, teacher, broadcaster, advice columnist and inspirational public speaker. Meet her at:


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