01092021 Scott Jacques Mountain Kilimanjaro

Former Claremont resident and Stevens High School graduate Scott Jacques poses near a sign at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro after a six-day trek on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021.

In our pursuit to discover life’s true meaning, one must not merely embark in sporadic explorations of what lies beyond, but also embrace kindled examinations of what lies within.

And no one knows this better than former Claremont resident Scott Jacques.

On Saturday, Jan. 2, Jacques reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak and the world’s tallest free-standing mountain. But his journey to the top of the world is arguably just as intriguing and exceptional, beginning on the smaller summits of Mount Ascutney with a simple promise and an unyielding fervor to keep to his word.

“I had read this book a long time ago, ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro,’ by Ernest Hemingway and that kind of planted the seed,” Jacques to the Eagle Times in an interview Tuesday. “I told myself I wanted to do something.”

It was during his time incarcerated in the prison system that Jacques realized the true beauty of nature, and so he made a pact with himself: to one day fly to Tanzania and reach the summit.

So that is what he did.

On Christmas Day, the 53-year-old boarded a plane and made his way to Tanzania. After much traveling, he made it to the base on Dec. 28.

In approaching the mountain on the first day, Jacques equated the steepness as that to the hill at Moody Park in Claremont.

“It’s deceiving,” Jacques explained.

Jacques did not train in the way you would think a person who conquered Mount Kilimanjaro would. With no mountains in Clearwater, Florida, the Stevens High School graduate improvised, running two to three miles a day and walking five miles a day in total.

“It was time-consuming when you’re trying to work and have a life, but I was committed and so I did it,” Jacques explained.

It paid off.

Taking the Rongai route, it would take eight hours a day climbing for six straight days to reach the top, but eventually Jacques and his group made it to the summit at 19,341 feet, fulfilling a goal near and dear to his heart.

“I felt like I was going to die,” said Jacques, reflecting on how he felt as he made his final steps toward the top.

But as far as mountain climbing being his new favorite hobby, Jacques does not have any intentions on pursuing this any further.

“I would never do it again,” Jacuqes said. “I’ll leave it to the experts.”

As for what is next on his list of things to set out to accomplish, Jacques will have to think about it.

“I wouldn’t call myself an outdoorsman. But I do have passion,” Jacques said. “I remember I was climbing [up Mount Kilimanjaro] and I was wondering why I was doing this, but you get to the top and get that rush and you ask what’s next. And I’m not sure.”

For now, he will be icing his knees and tending to some tingling feet after his daring feat.

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