Overcoming Obstacles to Hike Mt. Kilimanjaro

Ian Warshak plans to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro in December as part of The Cloud Walkers.

Ian Warshak plans to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro in December as part of The Cloud Walkers.

In 2012, Ian Warshak, a software developer in San Antonio, came down with what he thought was a cold.

But within a few days he got really sick with a bacterial infection in his lungs. The infection spread and led to septic shock. He was put on life support and put into an induced coma because the infection was causing organ failure.

Warshak was not expected to live. But he woke up after eight days on life support and his body began to recover. During his sickness he had lost circulation in his fingers and feet. They had turned black. He had to have both lower legs and all of his fingers amputated a few months later.

But Warshak didn’t let the loss of his limbs get him down.

Since then, Warshak has coached his four-year-old son’s soccer team. He has been snow skiing four times. He went snorkeling and ziplining this summer on a cruise to Honduras. He’s training for a half marathon and he’s going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro this winter.

For a few years Warshak couldn’t work. But now he’s back to doing freelance work for clients and he’s working with a few San Antonio startups.

“I feel like losing my fingers and my legs, not to minimize it, is just at this point, it’s an inconvenience,” Warshak said.

Warshak is part of a group called The Cloud Walkers, sponsored through the San Antonio Amputee Foundation. He’s one of 13 amputees who plan to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa at 19,341 feet.

This weekend, the group travelled to Taos, New Mexico to do a practice hike on Wheeler Peak, a 13,100 foot mountain. The group meets monthly to do practice hikes around the country. They also train individually.

The day after Christmas, the group plans to leave San Antonio to travel to Tanzania, Africa. A medical support team and a film crew will accompany them. The film crew plans to create a documentary depicting their stories.

“The biggest challenge is going to be the altitude,” Warshak said. “So we’re taking it pretty slow.”

Another challenge is the ability of the prosthetic limbs to endure hiking five to seven miles a day for five or six days, Warshak said.

“We’re all going to have to take back up parts and back up legs,” he said. “Everyone wants to make it to the top. We don’t want to get carted down by the locals.”

The Cloud Walkers are raising money through the San Antonio Amputee Foundation, which is organizing the trip. They are looking for corporate sponsors. In addition, Warshak has raised $2,980 of a $6,000 goal through a Go Fund Me campaign.

Warshak said he was grateful and didn’t take life for granted before his illness. Now he seeks to live life to the fullest.

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