Jamaican-born Freeman displays his home country’s flag on the summit of Mount Aconcagua in South America.
Rocky Hill Resident Completes ‘Seven Summits’
ROCKY HILL - While New Years resolutionists are vowing to head to the gym this year, one Rocky Hill resident just completed his goal of summiting the seven highest peaks in the world--and is setting his sights on his next challenge.
When Rohan Freeman reached the top of Carstenz Pyramid in October, he became the first African American to have completed the ‘seven summits,’ a feat that wasn’t his initial goal when he first started mountain climbing in 2002.
A former University of Connecticut track athlete, Freeman was just looking for a more exciting way to stay fit.
“I love the outdoors and I’m a very active guy, so when I got out of college I didn’t want to just go to the gym and be bored,” he said.
A friend invited him along to climb the first of the seven peaks, Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.
“I was just kind of euphoric from the experience,” Freeman said of reaching the top.
Still, he had no intention of completing the other six summits after reading the book Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster, recounting when eight climbers were killed in a storm while climbing the mountain.
“My opinion was people who climb mountains are suicidal,” he said.
When he returned home from Kilimanjaro, Freeman decided he was going to climb Mount McKinley in Alaska.
“I’d never been on a glaciated climb, snow-covered with bad weather,” he said.
He challenged himself further with Mount Aconcagua in Argentina.
“I wanted to see if I could go higher altitudes so I went to South America,” he said.
Shortly after, he climbed Mount Elbrus in Russia. With four of the highest mountains in the world conquered, he decided to climb Everest.
“I spent a lot of weekends and days off up in the White Mountains in the middle of winter, just kind of honing my skills, trying to find out what it takes to survive in the winter for days, how to walk on ice, how to stay warm, how to stay dry, how to moderate your sweat,” he said.
Freeman explained the challenge with Everest was the amount of time spent at such a high altitude affects breathing.
“There’s no way to train for altitude; the only way to train for altitude is to go to altitude,” he said. “If you’re as fit as possible, your body acclimates better.”
Freeman said he suffered a pulmonary edema, or a buildup of fluid in his lungs, on a first attempt at Aconcagua in 2006 and had to be helicoptered off the mountain for medical treatment.
It took him seven weeks to climb Everest. Once he reached the top on May 19, 2009, he could see the spherical horizon of the Earth.
In 2011 he climbed Vinson Massif in Antarctica before finishing the seven with Carstenz Pyramid.
“I’d worked tirelessly to achieve this goal, and doing so…taught me a life lesson that the impossible is possible if you want it bad enough and reach deep enough,” he said.
Freeman said in any climb “somewhere along the lines something is not going to go right,” and at times had to turn back. He recalled McKinley for its technical ridges and Everest for the length of time spent in the high altitudes as his most difficult climbs.
In some countries, political reasons kept him from summiting the mountain on his first attempt.
Freeman incorporated charity work into his climbs, raising money for groups such as the Boys and Girls Club of Hartford, as well, which he carried its flag to the top of Everest.
Freeman has now set his sights on Ironman Triathlons and a the Marathon des Sables, a multi-day, 151-mile race through the Sahara Desert. Aside from his extreme hobbies he is owner of civil engineering firm Freeman Companies and is contemplating a run for public office.
“There’s one commodity in life that we don’t seem to have enough of and that’s time,” he said. “We have 24 hours every day, so it’s about how you use it.”