He trained over the next year by climbing smaller mountains, including Mt. Whitney in California, the tallest mountain in the continental United States. On August 28, 2008, he was off to Tanzania.
Before his trek, Paddock visited the Usa River School, the only center for children with disabilities in Tanzania. Even without the resources Paddock had in the United States, these children — just like Jake — projected happiness and hope that their lives would one day get better. It was all the motivation Paddock needed. On the morning of September 1, he wrote the letters “J” and “R” on his hiking poles and set off for the climb of his life.
Paddock scaled Kilimanjaro with a team of experts, friends, and a pair of documentary filmmakers. Each step of the eight-day expedition drove a sharp, searing pain down his legs, and each day was more difficult than one before. But it was the mental fatigue that threatened to cut his climb short. He began to doubt he could finish. Maybe the people in his past who had questioned his ability to be successful were right?
But he used these negative memories to power up the mountain one step at a time. Leaning heavily on his poles in memory of little Jake, Paddock dragged his feet up the slope until he reached Uhuru peak, high above the limitations of cerebral palsy.