Christopher Morson went to Africa to climb a really big mountain and found himself on a voyage of personal discovery.
Morson, a money manager who divides his time between Routt County and South Florida, succeeded in his bid to climb Kenya's Mount Kilimanjaro. But the trip was about much more than trudging up a 19,335-foot dormant volcano.
"I'm calmer than I've ever been in my life," Morson said this week. "Stuff doesn't matter as much as it once did."
Kilimanjaro, the mountain that inspired Ernest Hemingway, transformed Morson.
"You ask yourself, 'How much do you want to do this?' And it tells you a great deal about yourself," Morson explained.
Morson is senior vice president/investments with Janney Montgomery Scott, LLC, a subsidiary of the Penn Mutual Life Insurance Co. Morson has been scuba diving in the Red Sea, walked through the Sinai Desert, canoed down the Amazon River and trekked in the mountains of Ecuador.
He went to Kilimanjaro in September 2003 as part of a group 26 climbers bent on summiting the tallest mountain on the African continent in an effort to raise money for prostate cancer research.
The group included prostate cancer survivors, but that description does not fit Morson. His father endured a prostatectomy, and his mother, Pamela Elizabeth Morson, died of cancer last summer.
It was Pamela Morson who introduced her son to the mountains when her career took her from London to Switzerland. Last fall, Chris took her ashes in his pack to the top of Kilimanjaro.
"When I was going to give up, that's what drove me," he said.
Morson had his moment of truth on the last morning of the climb, slogging through scree in the pre-dawn darkness, his backup water bottle frozen solid.
"It's dark and it's extremely cold and you're climbing through steep scree -- it was three steps forward and one sliding step back," Morson recalled. You have no way to know how much farther you have to go and you feel like you haven't slept in days. My mouth felt like a piece of dried leather."
When the sun came up, Morson and his climbing partners reached the false summit of Mount Uhuru and realized they would have to descend 600 feet before making the final climb to the summit.
"That was almost a heartbreaker," Morson said.
All but a couple of people in Morson's group made the summit, and they raised about $250,000 for cancer research in the process.
Anyone who wants to contribute after the fact may call Morson at 736-0247. Specifically, the Kilimanjaro climb was made to benefit the Hap Weyman Memorial Prostate Cancer Fund of the Prostate Cancer Research Institute.
If you get Morson's answering machine, it may mean he's off on his next journey of self-discovery. Morson plans to accompany a group from Outward Bound in Boulder to experience living off the land in the Utah desert.
The journey of personal discovery continues.