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Peak of love: A proposal on Kilimanjaro
- Click here to see photos from the couple's journey to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro
If one Yuma couple could climb Mt. Kilimanjaro together, they could accomplish anything.
That was Joshua Schaubach's thoughts as he planned to make the long, arduous journey to the peak of world's tallest freestanding mountain with his girlfriend Valine Soto. His mission? To pop the question at the very top.
The trip that was originally supposed to be taken with his father, who couldn't go due to a recent shoulder surgery. So Schaubach decided that an experience like this trip to Africa should be shared with the person he loved.
Although they had been dating for only six months when they made the hike up Mt. Kilimanjaro, Schaubach said, “I knew it was soon but I knew it was going to happen one day or another so I thought, ‘Why not do it there will it will be remembered for the rest of our lives?'”
In regard to other proposal ideas, he said he didn't really have any. “I just had one and that was it.”
The couple had known each other for five years, and Schaubach said he knew he wanted to marry her within the first few weeks of dating her.
The two made the seven-day trek up the mountain last month. Schaubach said that on top of trying to hide the ring box from his girlfriend, the climb was tough in every sense of the word.
Just by climbing the mountain, the two risked it all to reach the peak as many who attempted the same climb often become riddled with altitude sickness that leads to diarrhea, vomiting, headaches, sleeplessness as well as pulmonary or cerebral edema. They were also faced with freezing temperatures that dropped below zero in the early morning hours.
“Just the physical challenge of being able to get up this mountain was tough. People still die on it to this day, it's not a simple feat. Only a handful of people do it every year and when you do it, many people get sick and don't make it to the peak.”
Schaubach said he and his girlfriend trained for months beforehand to make sure they would not be faced with those common issues and they luckily made it through together unscathed.
“We're avid hikers, we enjoy it,” Soto explained, noting that they trained by climbing mountains near Flagstaff Arizona like Kendrick Mountain and they also climbed Telegraph Pass almost every other weekend. “It's something we do together. We love scenery, we love the outdoors.”
The only problem they encountered while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro was when they started to near the top of the 50-mile hike, Soto began to not feel well.
“It was really tough and my fingers and feet were hurting so bad, I felt like I was getting hypothermia. But Joshua pushed me and we had great guides that ... gave me whatever I needed to push on and push through.”
Soto said that despite wearing five jackets and three layers of pants, socks and gloves, she still couldn't get warm.
“There was a point on that first summit day where she was borderline hypothermia,” said Schaubach. “Her hands were starting to go numb and she was about to get sick and have some issues and I was about 90 percent sure we weren't going to make it to the top, we were going down.
“I was disappointed so I wanted to get her going and I wanted to make sure first and foremost that she was healthy and safe but I talked with the guides and ... we all worked together to get her to the top.”
Against all the odds, they reached the highest point of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Uhuru Peak, which stands at about 20,000 feet above sea level. They were both excited but also tired, sore, exhausted, cold and a bit disoriented, he said.
Then Schaubach got down on one knee.
“He pulls out this box ... and I thought I was going to faint but I didn't and I just started crying and I was literally speechless, I couldn't speak,” Soto said. “He was saying all these sweet things but I couldn't really hear it because in my head I was thinking this is not real and this not happening ... When he asked me if I was going to say yes I still could not speak so I just nodded my head and I was just sobbing.
“I couldn't really see my ring because I was crying so much and I put my gloves back on and I didn't actually see it until a few hours later when we were at the base of the mountain and it's beautiful, he did a great job.”
Soto said she hadn't the slightest clue about his plans.
“She knows that I do things big, I don't do anything small,” Schaubach said. “After it happened, she said the proposal fits my character ... It was an interesting story and it is one that we'll definitely never forget and be able to share with our family for years to come.”
Sarah Womer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.