Plus-Sized Women Hikers Are Coming to Portland to Train For a Summit Attempt of Mount Kilimanjaro

"People respond saying: I see this picture of this person in the wilderness, and they look like me!'"

Crawford (left) and friend atop Dog Mountain.

Bonnie Crawford doesn't look like a typical mountain climber. She says that's the point.

Crawford, 41, is a member of a group that plans to celebrate International Women's Day next March from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's tallest peak. The trek will take seven days and require the 22 women to climb 19,340 feet to reach the summit.

They call themselves the "Curvy Kili Crew"—and all of them are plus-sized.

This weekend, 12 crew members will be in Portland to train at Evolution Fitness, one of the nation's few high-altitude training centers.

With four months to go before the Kilimanjaro climb, WW talked with Crawford about becoming a hiker and what it means to be make mountain climbing body positive.

WW: Why climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

Bonnie Crawford: I am neither a hiker nor a camper. I've never had Kilimanjaro on a bucket list anywhere. I had just come back from trekking around Angkor Wat, Cambodia, and was in a Facebook message group for plus-sized women travelers. [The Curvy Kili Crew organizer] saw my post and reached out, asking if I'd be interested in tackling Kilimanjaro. I signed up in January and started training.

What's the story on the Curvy Kili Crew?

It all started three years ago with a woman from Virginia who went on Kilimanjaro trek and was being left behind because she was slower. She still made it to the first of three summits. But she was left wishing she had friends more like her to hike and set about to organize a plus-sized hiking adventure.

Isn't this kind of dangerous?

Ten people a year die on Kilimanjaro. Only 60 percent of all people who attempt the climb actually summit. It isn't guaranteed even for a regular-sized person that they are going to make the summit, and it's certainly potentially harder for all of us. But we're taking it very seriously and putting in a lot of effort.

What's the training?

I feel incredibly lucky to be in Portland, with Forest Park and the Columbia River Gorge at my doorstep—two places I had never actually hiked in until this year, I'm ashamed to say, as a 25-year Portland native. It has been incredibly inspiring.

What kinds of responses has the group received?

People are coming out of the woodwork. People respond saying: "I see this picture of this person in the wilderness, and they look like me!" Plus-sized can encompass a lot of things. You can be a size 14 and be considered, in America, plus-size. Or you can be a size 28 or 30.

There's now a 30-person waitlist for the group. We're starting to talk about following this climb with a trip to Machu Picchu or Everest Base Camp.

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