"Bama Hiker" to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

(WTVY News 4)
Published: Feb. 22, 2018 at 6:35 PM CST
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Nearly 30,000 people attempt to climb the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro every year.

One Coffee County man believes he’s up to the task.

"Do you know what it takes to get to the summit? You've got to lose some weight, and you've got to get in some serious shape to go to 19,341 feet."

James Bullinger is no stranger to discipline and high altitudes.

"I'm a climbing enthusiast, and I've been to Ecuador, and I've been out to California peaks."

His infectious passion for climbing grew from a desire to get fit 6 years ago.

"I was not happy with where I was physically,” says Bullinger. “So I decided with my brother we would try to do a long distance hike of about 500 miles across northern Spain, which is known as the Camino de Santiago. I began training March 1st of 2012, and by Memorial Day weekend, I had lost 35 pounds."

Each year, Bullinger sets a new fitness challenge for himself. For this avid hiker, the highest peak in Africa was the natural choice. So he's making the 8 day, 43 mile trek across Mount Kilimanjaro.

"When you're going to high altitudes such as 19,000 feet, you have got to be in shape,” says Bullinger. “I've just turned 60 this past year, and the key thing is you can't wait until the last minute to get in shape."

Bullinger started training 21 weeks ago. His ticket to the top? A combo of cardio and endurance.

"Some people think well I'll spend 2 weeks on a Stairmaster-- that's not gonna cut it,” says Bullinger. “It's a combination of increasing the weight you carry in a pack, and the thing with stairs is it allows you to exercise all your muscle groups going up and coming back down.

And at 19,000 feet, oxygen is a luxury.

"Kilimanjaro toward the summit, the oxygen content compared to sea level is half-- or 49 percent! So you really have to have good lung capacity,” says Bullinger.

"You want to start 6-8 weeks prior to going to the mountain to begin building hemoglobin. And by tricking your body into thinking that you're actually at higher altitude by wearing a mask or being on some type of altitude training system that stimulates the body to begin producing hemoglobin, which has the red blood cells which will carry more oxygen through your body."

Bullinger will document his journey on his YouTube channel, "Bama Hiker."

"I love shooting video,” says Bullinger. “I love being able to share my experiences with family and friends and anyone that wants to watch a video."

But whether at sea level or atop Africa’s tallest peak:

"I think it doesn't matter where you are in life, if you want to set personal goals, and you work hard toward them, you can achieve them."

James flew out of Atlanta Thursday afternoon, and after 20 hours in the air, he should land in Tanzania.