Mussie Kidane

It’s 6.20 am on 25 June 2022 and Mussie is surrounded by the eternal snows of Kilimanjaro. Standing atop the highest peak on the African continent, he steps aside from his group and dries his tears, overcome with emotion. Read his story.

For the past ten years, Mussie and his wife Martine have – through Compassion Suisse – been sponsoring Denissa, 15, who lives in Haiti, and Fetu, 12, whose home is in Ethiopia. Mussie and Martine come from large, devout families, and both are keen to ensure that their action should have a positive impact. From an early age they developed a strong sense of solidarity and the need to help others. Through a friend – also a member of Compassion Suisse – Mussie heard about a fascinating project that combined his passion for helping others with his other great passion: sport. It’s a Swiss initiative and involves climbing Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise funds and help the most vulnerable families in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

With the support of his wife and children – who were all jealous that they couldn’t join him on his ascent to the apex of Africa – Mussie threw himself fully into his training. And three months before leaving he pledged to raise at least CHF 10,000 for Compassion Suisse.

This climb enabled me to combine two things I’m passionate about: a sporting challenge and a spiritual and humanitarian cause. And I'm convinced the experience was a watershed moment in my life. There was such a stark contrast between the reality of that stay in Africa and my daily life at Pictet.

Peak performer

The climb was extremely demanding physically: a six-day hike, with temperatures ranging between +25C and 15C. Add to that a 5,896-metre ascent and the risk of altitude sickness. Stamina wasn’t a problem for Mussie, though, as he does sport regularly. His main problem was dealing with the altitude – he’s just not used to it. So, as a preparation, he went on two hiking weekends high up in the Swiss mountains.One of the stand-out features of Mussie’s support team of guides, chefs, porters and attendants was that they were all Tanzanian.

They were attentive, great company and real mountain experts... You couldn’t wish for better guides. And they impressed me with their knowledge of the terrain and their respect for this mythical site.

The diversity among the group of climbers also lent a special charm to the whole adventure. There was a mix of trekkers and safari lovers, farmers and bankers, as well as fathers and sons, all of them in different physical condition. But their only barrier was language.

Once Mussie had reached 5,000 metres he was faced with a major challenge: the first signs of altitude sickness.

I had headaches and nausea. Every step was agonising but brought us closer to the goal of our journey. For the last ascent we set off from 4,800 metres, at night, to climb 9 km and negotiate an altitude gain of 1100 metres, using head torches and wearing 5 layers of clothing. When we’d almost reached our target, we couldn’t even look up from the ground, otherwise we’d have become demoralised. One arduous step at a time, I trudged on at the same pace as my fellow climber in front, her steps guiding mine.

With the glistening snows covering the roof of Africa in sight, Mussie's emotions began to run high. An icy wind swirled around and the temperature was close to -15C. But the first rays of sunshine gave the small group of adventurers an extra boost of energy. Mussie and his team finally reached the summit of Kilimanjaro after some seven hours of climbing, their feelings running the gamut from pride and gratitude to sheer wonderment.

I still find it hard to describe what I felt at that moment. It was so intense and unique. I’m an introvert by nature and remember stepping away from the group and letting myself be carried away by a tune that had accompanied me since the start of the adventure. I was exhausted but filled with a deep sense of well-being.

Back in Geneva, Mussie has donned his suit again and is easing himself back into his old routine. He keeps a photo of the Kilimanjaro porters with him as a reminder that the little ‘mountains’ he has to climb in his everyday life here are a far cry from the burdens those porters carry on their shoulders. Mussie has raised around CHF 15,000 with his climb – CHF 5,000 more than his initial target. That money will go towards a project to support young mothers in Tanzania.

When he’s not climbing a mountain or looking for new ways to help people in need around the world, Mussie is head of fund selection at PWM and has just been appointed as the new CIO of Pictet North America Advisors.

Some figures behind the fundraising

  • Total amount collected by Mussie: CHF 15,000
  • Total amount collected by everyone who took part in the climb: CHF 220,000
  • Number of new sponsors for the association: 35

If you’d like to make your own donation, please click here.

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