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Barnhart begins Mt. Kilimanjaro climb

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UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro this week. (Photo via RMI Expeditions Blog) UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro this week. (Photo via RMI Expeditions)
During the offseasons of his 10-year tenure, Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart has made a habit of stretching his physical limits. He's scaled Mount Rainier - the tallest peak in the contiguous United States - and skydived already, but now he's taking things a bit further...and higher.

On Thursday, Barnhart, along with a small group led by RMI Expeditions, completed day one of an ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro. At the end of the first day, Barnhart is already nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, but barely halfway to the peak of the tallest mountain in Africa.

"I wanted to find something that challenged me mentally and physically and this is a good deal," Barnhart told WKYT earlier this month. "And it's extremely quiet and I love nature and I will tell you when you get up high and look down low there's nothing more beautiful."

At the base of the mountain, temperatures were in the 80s, but the 19,341-foot apex is typically below zero. The climb is expected to take five days and Barnhart spent the weeks leading up to his trip to Tanzania running the steps at balmy Commonwealth Stadium to prepare for the physically exacting climb.

"I love being up high, there is some intrigue, there is some degree of risk, a pretty good degree of risk," Barnhart said. "Not a lot people do it, which is really good, and they can't find you very easily on the mountains the cell phones don't work."

Barnhart welcomes the chance to take a break - if it can be called that - from his busy schedule before the 2012-13 heats up in a few weeks. Though he's pretty much unreachable, you can track his climb on the RMI Expeditions Blog here.

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