James Wilde set out in 2010 to climb to the highest peak of all seven continents. But after he got sick on a climb, his goal changed from a that of a personal nature to one that could touch as many lives as possible.
As a result, he founded GlobalH2O, a nonprofit whose aim is to supply the people of northern Uganda with clean water. Wilde, who graduated from NC State in 1992 with a degree in business management, chronicled his journey in his book Moving Mountains.
We caught up by e-mail with Wilde, who now lives in Germany, to talk about the origins of his quest and where it led him.
How did that quest turn to a more humanitarian one along the way? I always raised funds for charities. Even while I was at NCSU, I worked with my fraternity, Kappa Alpha Order, to raise funds for muscular dystrophy. It was however the bout of dysentery that I came down with while training for Everest in the Himalayas (on Cho Oyu) that led me to the water crisis, and the founding of Global H2O.
What are the efforts of GlobalH2O? We have delivered more than 30 projects to the people of war-torn Northern Uganda, and these projects now deliver clean drinking water to approximately 60,000 people. I always say that if you want to build a school or a health clinic or a community, none of it can be achieved without a clean water source.
What message do you want people to take from your book? Our achievements are limited only by the boundary of our dreams. Each of us has an Everest inside us.
Where and when did your love of mountain climbing begin? Well-,I am terrified of heights. I guess it was that moment on top of Kilimanjaro that changed the trajectory of my life…completely. Being atop the largest free-standing mountain in the world gives you what the Germans call “Weitblick” – an amazing perspective and ability to see great distances.
You used to write for the Technician. How long had it been since you had written? I had not published anything since the time at the Technician. It was not difficult for me to write. I had been keeping a journal during my adventures, so writing the book began with stitching the journals together.
What’s harder, climbing a mountain or writing a book? The editing is the hardest. The work is never done. Everest though was really amazing. The mental challenge of going through my physical limits and the natural stops and barriers I had set was the toughest. My fears were almost overwhelming, and I certainly owe it to my two team mates that I made it to the top.