Recently retired Fargo woman prepares to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

Mary Ann Phillips.jpg
Mary Ann Phillips, 64, climbs the stairs at the Roberts Street parking ramp in downtown Fargo as part of her training to summit Africa's highest peak. Andrew Nelson / WDAY
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FARGO — Many have a bucket list they hope to eventually complete, and right now one Fargo woman is putting one foot in front of the other to accomplish that.

After months of training, recently retired Fargo business owner Mary Ann Phillips soon plans to climb Africa's highest mountain, Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro.

At least three days a week Phillips can be found atop one of Fargo's highest points — the new Roberts Street parking ramp downtown, where she goes up and down the stairs fully loaded with gear as just one part of her training for her upcoming trip.

"This is pretend altitude; it is the best we can get in Fargo," she said as she climbed the steps to summit the parking garage, hauling a backpack along with a tent, sleeping bag and a "great big rock" inside to add some weight.


In an hour she does eight sets of stairs, up and down, climbing to the seventh floor of the structure.

Phillips turns 65 shortly before the climb up Kilimanjaro in June, and now that her video production business sold, the timing is perfect.

"I never had the inclination or desire to climb a mountain like that — maybe a dream, but never (believed) that I could," she explained. "Now that I am retired, and the kids are grown and gone and they don't need me, and I thought, cool, I wonder if I can still do that. And I can."

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is on the bucket list for many. The dormant volcano with a summit just over 19,000 feet is a jewel of Tanzania and attracts tens of thousands of climbers annually .

Phillips is working hard to reach her goal, and she isn't just walking the parking ramp levels downtown. In addition to the cardio in the parking ramp she is working with a trainer from Total Balance in north Fargo, a physical therapy and fitness gym. That means lots of weight training.

"For these exercises, it is supporting the muscles that will help carry the backpack and get her through the day, and as we get close to the climb, it will be all about endurance," explained Phillips' trainer Lori Eddy.

For Phillips, who was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 39, there's another reason to work so hard. Another 39-year-old woman who was scheduled to climb Kilimanjaro was recently diagnosed with the same cancer, giving Mary Ann another reason to make the hike — in honor of a climber she's never met.

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