Written by Barney Leeson of VoyageAirGuitar.com
Robby LeBlanc takes his Voyage-Air guitar to conquer Mt Kilimanjaro!
This story actually starts back in 2004, when Robby LeBlanc was daunted by a variety of physical ailments: many related to his being overweight. That year was a turning point in his life, where he was challenged by friends: “IF you could drop 100 pounds, what would you do? How would you celebrate?”
Robby’s immediate and offhand reply? “I would climb Mount Kilimanjaro! To the top, and play my guitar at the top to celebrate!”
Frustrating years passed as Robby struggled with his weight and his health. Finally, as his weight dropped, he stopped dodging phone calls, and started to make plans. To climb Mount Kilimanjaro with a guitar.
It was an expensive proposition. With exposure on the TV Oprah Winfrey Network, Robby found sponsors. Even so, it was down to the last minute to get his plane ticket in hand, and join an expedition that would climb the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. Kilimanjaro.
His choice for a guitar? “I originally wanted to take my usual guitar, but considering its weight with the case, I knew that would be tough. Then I found out about Voyage-Air Guitar, and that proved perfect: a full-size guitar with backpack straps and case, and it was overall very light to carry.”
On his first days upon arriving in the Serengeti of Africa, Robby played his Voyage-Air guitar for children and villagers in remote areas near the base of the mountain. “That was a thrill,” said Robby. “If nothing else happened, those days would have made my trip complete.”
But a lot more happened, as Robby and the group began to climb the mountain.
Torrential rains on Day 1 of the first base camp, that nearly swamped and overturned the truck carrying their supplies. A mandatory ‘acclimation climb’ that pushed Robby to his limits, dealing with the thin air at altitude. And in the next days, a mud slide that left Robby clinging for life, dangling over the edge of a 100-foot precipice, held by one hand from a porter/guide. In the ensuing moments, Robby was pulled to safety.
Robby said: “I have to tell you, Voyage-Air, that your guitar was a trooper. For this climb, the guitar endured temperatures from the jungle tropics, down to 20 below zero. And I could always open and play it, with a bit of time for the guitar to adjust to the temperatures.
“There were times when the guitar was put in with the expedition cargo, and all of that was left outside at night, 20 below zero. Even with that exposure, lugged up the mountain under incredible conditions, the guitar looks as brand new: there are no cracks or problems.”
When Robby conquered the summit of Kilimanjaro, he pulled out his Voyage-Air guitar and played a few of his favorite tunes. Followed by his own rendition of “Amazing Grace“ in a personal prayer of thanks for his achievement.
The ascent group bowed heads in reverence as he played, atop the highest mountain peak in the African Continent. “My fingers nearly froze while playing Amazing Grace“ said Robby. “But it was the crowning moment of my personal struggles, and this trip. Only a Voyage-Air guitar could do this, and make that moment possible.”