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Published: Saturday, 1/18/2014 - Updated: 3 months ago

Perrysburg girl, 11, and her mom climb Mount Kilimanjaro

BY MATT THOMPSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Alexis and her mother Suzanne Peats during the climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. Alexis and her mother Suzanne Peats during the climb up Mount Kilimanjaro.
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Alexis Peats woke up at 2 a.m. about a week ago, but not from a bad dream or to get a glass of water. The 11-year-old Perrysburg girl was ready to make a eight-hour trek to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa.

At 10 a.m. on Jan. 10, she reached the peak of the 19,336-foot tall mountain in Tanzania, on her sixth day climbing the mountain. It's the tallest mountain in Africa.

"Lexi did very, very well," said her mother, Suzanne Peats. "It was difficult mentally and physically, but she did very well, even when she was exhausted. She was outside her comfort zone and stuck with it."

Ms. Peats, Lexi, Cokie Berenyi and Ms. Berenyi's daughter Helen, 9, made the hike under the guidance of a non-profit organization called She Climbs. The group, founded by Ms. Berenyi, was created to help women and girls of all ages gain self esteem and confidence.

“I learned that if I try hard enough, I can do anything,” Lexi said in a statement. The Fort Meigs Elementary fifth grader didn't want to talk to a reporter for this story.

While the trip was cold and exhausting for the four climbers and their guide Ms. Peats said keeping things silly with singing songs and games helped the girls not lose interest. Both mothers were concerned about Acute Mountain Sickness getting to the girls and monitored it, but the girls were OK.

Ms. Berenyi and her daughter live in Silverton, Colo. 

"Basically, I had my second daughter in 2005 and it scared me," Ms. Berenyi said about the organization. "It was clear to me, the best thing I could do for the girls would be to build their self esteem.

"I'm still choked up about it, they did it with such ease."

Ms. Peats said one of the great parts of climbing a mountain is everything else about life is left behind. There's no pressure of going to soccer practice, because all the focus is on breathing, eating, drinking, and sleeping, she said.

Shown at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro (which used to be called Uhuru), are, from left, Cokie Berenyi, Alexis Peats, Helen Berenyi, and Suzanne Peats. Shown at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro (which used to be called Uhuru), are, from left, Cokie Berenyi, Alexis Peats, Helen Berenyi, and Suzanne Peats.
SHE CLIMBS Enlarge

"It puts everything in perspective," she said.

That also means Lexi now gets friendly reminders from her mother when she complains about something. "That can't be the same girl that climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro," Ms. Peats will remind her daughter.

Mountain climbing for Ms. Peats started in 2004, but the training for her daughter was recent. Her mother said Lexi had only done day trips for hiking at local parks. The soccer player also began hiking weekly in boots and doing interval cardio work on the treadmill to prepare. But the first real mountain Lexi climbed happen to be one of the tallest in the world.

Seven days in the mountains -- six up and one down -- also gave the mothers great time to connect with their daughters.

"Bonding with my daughter was incredible," Ms. Berenyi said. "We weren't dealing with any outside pressure. It was a great experience one-on-one."

Ms. Peats and Ms. Berenyi met five years ago on a mountain climb. Both women have had mountain climbing experience for many years. The trip cost just under $3,000 per person for the airfare, climb, and other essentials.

"Being on the mountain is so empowering and inspiring," Ms. Peats said. "You get a new sense of freedom, and who you are and what you can do."

Contact Matt Thompson at: mthompson@theblade.com, 419-356-8786, or on Twitter at @mthompson25.



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