FARMER CITY - Kevin Brady is used to flying above the clouds, but he's not used to walking above them.
The 46-year-old corporate pilot and former Navy aviator of rural Farmer City climbed Mount Kilimanjaro recently and said one of the highlights of the trip was the unique view from atop the mountain.
"When you wake up in the morning and the clouds are underneath you, it's kind of interesting," he said.n;
Brady was part of a group that climbed the famous, 19,000-foot peak in Tanzania in late January and early February.
Brady began thinking about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro after watching the movie "Out of Africa" in October of last year. When he learned the best time to climb the mountain coincided with his vacation time, he made the decision to do it.
"I really didn't want to hang around Central Illinois for vacation at that time of year," he said. n;
Brady booked his trip for about $5,000 with Tusker Trails, which has been leading guided climbs for 25 years. The cost included everything from the airfare and hotel to the required immunizations.
Brady said he had to get a yellow fever shot and take anti-malarial pills before he left.
To prepare for the trip, Brady hiked around the area with a 50-pound pack on his back.
"As long as you're in reasonably good shape, it didn't matter how much technical climbing you did," he said.
After two eight-hour flights, Brady arrived in the town of Moshi, where he stayed in a hotel for a couple of days prior to the climb.
Once he arrived, Brady admitted he had a few second thoughts, but not enough to deter him from attempting the climb.
"You don't know if you're going to be the quarter or the third that doesn't make it (to the top) or not, but you know, I looked at the other people and thought if they can make it, I can make it," he said.
A 35-year-old woman in his group didn't make it to the top and had to return to the bottom of the mountain due to altitude-related sickness.
Of the 20,000 people who attempt to climb the mountain each year, about 12 to 20 people die, mostly due to altitude sickness, Brady said.
Brady and his group spent eight days on the mountain, six days of climbing up and two days of climbing down. On day three, he experienced some altitude-related sickness such as nausea and headaches.
"We had a large altitude gain of about 4,000 to 5,000 feet and we hiked that day for about 10 hours. It was pretty horrific. None of us were feeling too good at the end of that day," he said.
Brady estimated they walked about six to eight miles a day, or 60 miles total. On their way to the top, they hiked through very different climate zones, including the rainforest, the high desert, and at the peak, the Arctic zone.
One of his favorite souvenirs from the trip was a glass of water from one of the melting glaciers.
After reaching the peak, Brady said his group was ready to get back down to civilization and take a shower. "We were tired of sleeping on the ground in a sleeping bag," he said.
Kevin is the son of George and Jean Brady of rural Farmer City.