For Jack Nelson, the term “uphill battle” holds fresh meaning, and it has nothing to do with a tough case or managing a big firm office.
The vice chairman of Reed Smith’s litigation department just got back from a 10-day trek to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The steepest part took almost six days, Nelson said. And that required a slow-paced determination. He and another 12 Reed Smith attorneys and staff, mostly from the firm’s London office, hiked about five hours each morning, paused to set up camp and eat lunch, then hiked another hour and a half just to sit, enjoy the view and get used to the elevation before returning to camp for the night. “The trek leader called it ‘climb high, sleep low,’” Nelson said. It was exhilarating to reach the summit 19,341 feet above sea level, he said, and he doesn’t plan on doing it ever again.
“There’s a mental challenge to it, no question to it,” Nelson said from the warm comfort of his San Francisco office today. “You have to stay very focused on putting one foot in front of the other, which is a lot harder than it sounds, and moving slowly. If you move too fast, the punishment is fast and severe.”
He learned his lesson on summit night, when he broke the cardinal rule. He hurried up for “just 30 seconds” to catch up with the group. The fatigue hit immediately, he said, like he’d run a marathon. “We caught them but it nearly killed us, reminding us that we would not be doing it again,” he said with a laugh, explaining that at that altitude, you’re only taking in about 17 percent of the oxygen you’d take in at sea level with each breath.
The group hit the top at sunrise.
“It’s something you should do once in your life,” Nelson said. “When you reach the top, between the absolute beauty and the exhilaration and the sense of accomplishment, and you turn around and go down much faster, it’s remarkable.”
The hike was also worthwhile on another level: the Reed Smith lawyers raised more than $165,000 for Norwood, a UK-based charity helping people with learning disabilities.
One Reed Smith partner didn't make it.