Junior Hikes Mount Kilimanjaro To Raise Money For PKU Research

Hudson Reynolds and his father pose for a photo at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Photo provided by Reynolds.

This summer, junior Hudson Reynolds and his father climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for Phenylketonuria (PKU) research.

Reynolds raised $215,000 for his hike through sponsorships and donations, surpassing his $200,000 goal. All of the donations, which were made through a website built to advertise Reynolds’ hike, were given to the National PKU Alliance — an organization that aims to find a cure for PKU.

PKU is a rare genetic disorder that Reynolds’ sister, Tia ’21, has. It limits the foods Tia can eat and could affect her cognitive development. Tia, who attends the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has had to get a shot in her abdomen every week since she was 18.

Many of Reynolds’ friends and family supported his project. “I was overcome with pride; I thought it was extremely selfless of Hudson to do this for me,” Tia told the Bit

Reynolds started planning for his hike up Mt. Kilimanjaro during the summer of 2022. Through the winter, Reynolds coordinated funding and travel for the hike as well as how to collect donations.

Reynolds trained for six months before the trip, going on hikes around D.C. with a weighted backpack. After that, Reynolds went to Colorado to hike at an altitude of 11,000 to 14,000 feet for five to six miles every day.

During the eight-day hike of Mount Kilimanjaro, Reynolds ate only rice and beef stew. He and his father slept in a tent for seven nights.

Reynolds said that it was difficult to wake up at 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. every day. “It’s a lot, mentally,” he said, “to find the motivation to wake up super early every day, knowing you are going to hike for 10–12 hours every day for eight days.”

“The more we climbed, the more confident I became,” Reynolds said. “I was feeling good pretty much the whole trip,” Reynolds said, except on the final day, because he was tired from hiking.

Junior Sam Pastreich, one of Reynolds’ friends, said he was confident that Reynolds would complete the hike. “Hudson is a responsible person, and I knew Hudson and his dad would have the resources and planning to make a safe trip up,” he said.

Reynolds’ father, Kai, said he was impressed by his son’s initiative. Kai explained that the hike “was a continuation of the family really trying to raise money and awareness for this disease.” Two of Reynolds’ grandparents and his mother went on separate athletic endeavors to raise awareness for PKU research. Reynolds’ grandmother cross-country skied across the North Pole, his grandfather biked across America and his mother cross-country skied across Norway.

Reynolds’ family started an organization called Lifting the Limits for PKU, because there was minimal research into PKU when Tia was born. During one of the organization’s recent annual galas, Tia spoke about her experience with PKU. “I was super nervous,” Tia told the Bit. “It was definitely one of the more vulnerable things I’ve done in my life, but it really made an impact when people were bidding money during the auction. We raised so much more because they got to hear a personal story.”

Tia said that Reynolds wanted to complete a hike because he thought the mental endurance needed to climb a mountain would be similar to the endurance needed to live with PKU.

“It was euphoric overcoming something amazing,” Reynolds said of the hike.