Crohn’s disease patient Rob Hill has summited Carstensz Pyramid (16,023 feet, 4,884 meters), the highest peak on the Oceanic continent. Hill’s team began the climb on April 15th and successfully reached the mountain’s peak at 4:03 A.M. (G.M.T.) on April 22nd after a week of difficult climbing in Indonesia’s remote Papau region.
The expedition, sponsored by ConvaTec, a world-leading manufacturer of ostomy and wound care products, marks the sixth in Hill’s quest to become the first Crohn’s patient and ostomate to scale the Seven Summits, the tallest peaks on the seven continents. By taking on the Seven Summits, Hill hopes to show other people living with intestinal diseases or an ostomy that they should still live their lives to the fullest.
There was a time when I could barely climb up the stairs from the debilitating pain of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. So to think that I would now be one mountain closer to climbing the Seven Summits has been a dream come true,” says Hill. “Not everyone living with IBD needs to climb mountains, only to live their lives to the fullest.
Nearly 1.5 million Americans are affected by Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (collectively known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease), and approximately 750,000 Americans are living with an ostomy due to either IBD, colorectal cancer or other chronic bowel or bladder diseases.
Fewer than 100 people over the past 20 years have successfully scaled the Seven Summits. The feat is hard on anyone, much less someone without their colon, the organ that is primarily responsible for absorbing water and nutrients into the body.
Each climb Hill makes takes a toll on his body. Keeping up his nutrition and hydration is paramount, but even still, he typically loses up to 15 percent of his body weight on each climb.
Rob’s Story – No Guts, Know Glory! At 23-years of age, Rob was a strong, healthy athlete who had never been sick in his life. Then, confronted with daily diarrhea and sustained, stabbing abdominal cramps, he was eventually diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
As his condition grew worse, Hill lost 80 pounds and a year and a half later his large intestine was removed through an ostomy procedure. “When it came down to losing my colon or losing my life, it wasn’t a hard decision to make,” he says.
Now, 14 years later, Hill has only one mountain left in his campaign he calls “No Guts – Know Glory!” to become the first Crohn’s patient and ostomate to climb the Seven Summits. The campaign grew from Rob’s love of sport and the outdoors, pursuits he returned to with newfound dedication not long after surgery.
To date, Rob Hill has now successfully scaled six of the Seven Summits. Carstensz Pyramid is considered by many climbers to be the most technical of the Seven Summits and only a couple hundred people have reached its summit since the mountain was first climbed in 1962. Hill’s team summited the mountain through a week of snow and rain, traversing jungle, glaciers and sharp rocks along the route.
In 2005, Hill was recognized for his inspirational efforts by the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) and ConvaTec with an Honorary Award from the Great Comebacks® Program, which, for more than 20 years, has given special recognition to those whose life stories inspire people living with an ostomy. Hill now serves as a Global Ambassador to the Great Comebacks® Program, educating other young people about IBD and ostomy with his personal message, “it’s okay to talk about these conditions and not something to hide behind.”
This year, Rob will be traveling to medical meetings, schools, hospitals, CCFA affiliates and youth camps nationwide, speaking to patient groups about his own experiences and encouraging people to get out and conquer their own personal summits.
“I know from experience that Crohn’s and colitis can be debilitating and make you feel very inhibited – physically and emotionally,” says Hill. “If you are living with these diseases or going through surgery it’s important to know that you can get your life back – you shouldn’t let it define you.”
Small Steps, Giant Strides toward Intestinal Disease Awareness Hill began his No Guts – Know Glory! quest in 2002 and has now scaled six of the Seven Summits:
* 2002, Mt. Elbrus, 18,481 feet (5,633 m), Russia/Georgia, Europe * October 2003, Mt. Kilimanjaro, 19,339 feet (5,963 m), Tanzania, Africa * January 2004, Aconcagua, 22,840 foot (6,962 m), Argentina, South America * June 2005, Denali/Mt. McKinley, 20,320 feet (5,895 m), Alaska, U.S., North America * January 2006, Vinson Massif, 16,067 feet (4,897 m), Antarctica. * April 2007, Carstensz Pyramid, 16,023 feet (4,884 m), Indonesia, Oceania