Ellen Bartz is the clinical supervisor at Corrections Corporation of America. In October 1989, she set out to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, but an injury prevented her from reaching the summit.

Ellen Bartz is the clinical supervisor at Corrections Corporation of America. In October 1989, she set out to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, but an injury prevented her from reaching the summit.
Heartbroken, she vowed to return.
Twenty-four years later, she got her second chance at the mountain, and a more satisfying ending.

1.How long have you worked in the prison system, and at what point did you decide to climb the highest mountain in Africa?
"I was a travel agent for 20 years in Lawrence. The travel industry was changing and everyone was booking their travel online. I sold the agency and had to work for the company that bought me out for one year. During that year, I said I was going to take a trip every month and make no life-changing decisions.
"My first trip was with Heart to Heart International. I decided to participate as a lay-person on a medical mission to Vietnam with a friend of mine who was a nurse. This mission changed my life. Thirty tons of medical supplies were airlifted into Vietnam and we divided into two teams. I was on the team traveling in the south, spending much of our time in the Mekong Delta.
"One day I worked in a leper colony. … I sat on the edge of a bed and held a man’s hand. He was grateful for the warmth of my hand because I didn’t put on a glove before I touched him. This led me to start thinking about nursing school. By the end of the year, I had applied to Neosho Community College in Ottawa. I was accepted and started in January 2002.
"We had the summer off between our LPN and RN year. I needed experience and applied at nursing homes and Lansing Correctional Facility. I chose Lansing, (thinking) it’s only for three months, and when would I ever get this type of experience? Little did I know, I would stay in corrections. I worked at LCF for 10 years, the last 6 years as the heath services administrator. Currently, I am employed at the Leavenworth Detention Center as the clinical nursing supervisor.
"During my first trip to Africa in 1987 on a 'fam' trip to Kenya and Tanzania, I saw Mount Kilimanjaro. In 1986, Dick Bass and Frank Wells published a book about two men with relatively no climbing experience who climbed the 'Seven Summits.' This started my dream of mountain climbing.
"My first summit attempt of Kili was October 8, 1989, one day before my 34th birthday. This was also the year of the 100th anniversary of the first climb on Kili, so expectations were high. My best friend, Cathy Daicoff, and I set off for the summit at about 2 a.m. on a dark and cold (morning). I pulled my groin muscle and was moving too slow and they made me turn around. I was heartbroken. I was the only one on the team to not summit. My failure was hard and I vowed to return. Little did I know, it would be 24 years before I returned."

2. Did you live at some point near mountains, and if not, how does one go about training for a climb of more than 19,000 feet?
"No, I’m from Lawrence. I trained by walking the stairs with my backpack at Free State High School football stadium and walking long distances on the weekends, six to 10 miles, on the roads around our house. I also made two trips to Colorado to hike.
"My desire to return to Kili was after I successfully completed the Milford Sound Track in 2010. When I made it over MacKinnon Pass, I started planning my return to Kili."

3. Can you tell us about what the actual climb was like, how long it took, and if there was any point at which you thought you might give up?
"The climb was a total of nine days, seven days up and two days down. We picked the Western Approach Route because we had more time to acclimate, it was more remote, less traveled and offered two summit attempts.
"We started the day at 4,200 feet, lunched at the Lemosho trailhead and made our first camp at 9,281. I never thought I wouldn’t make it.
"During my training, I focused on the summit and I reminded myself what failure was like 24 years ago. Day five was my toughest day. The morning was relatively easy, but after our lunch we had to climb over the Barranco Wall. I was so worried about getting over the 800-foot wall, as this was the steepest part of the climb, but a few areas were a bit scary. I just tried to not look down.
"Our longest day was summit day seven, Nov. 6. We set out at dawn, to climb the 3,000 feet to the summit. We had exceptional views of Mawenzi, Kili’s second tallest volcanic cone. We reached Stella Point, 18,828 feet, and I was tired. After a brief rest stop, I continued on. I knew if I stopped, I’d settle for making it to Stella Point.
"I continued on with just my guide, the rest of the group continued on their break. My first thought was, 'I can’t believe I made it.' Tears just started rolling down my face. This was also the day before the first anniversary of my mother’s death, so it was also bittersweet."

4. How many people have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and how many women have made it to the top? What advice would you offer someone who decided to train for this kind of physical challenge?
"I Googled this question and it said 43,000 persons per year climb KilI. I found the name of the first woman to summit Kili, but I can’t find any more information, other than her name was Barbara Lapenna Brakus. I was number 294,339 to summit Kilimanjaro, the tallest free-standing mountain in the world."

5. Has this experience helped strengthen your resolve? Are there other mountains you plan to conquer?
"I know if my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it, then I can achieve it.
"Yes, we’re going to climb again. We’re looking at going to Mexico in February to climb Mount Orizaba, 18,491 feet, but we’re also talking about returning to Kili with our children."

— Rimsie McConiga