The body positive movement — which promotes acceptance of all bodies of any size, weight or appearance — is gaining momentum in Colorado as plus-size women and men build confidence and take on challenges.
The Aug. 5 screening of the award-winning documentary “Kili Big” in the Spring Valley Ranch community of Elbert County, an event promoted on social media, offered a look at one Colorado woman's experience hiking 19,341-foot Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and her journey to defy societal odds of what big bodies can achieve.
Kara Hardman of Littleton, a 30-year-old woman who identifies as plus-size and fat, climbed Kilimanjaro with 19 other plus-size, fat-identifying, or nonbinary people in 2019 with the organizations WHOA and Trek 2 Kili. The hikers call themselves the “Curvy Kili Crew,” a group of mostly strangers who came together from across the globe to conquer Kilimanjaro, considered to be the highest single free-standing mountain in the world.
Throughout the six-day trek, Hardman and the Curvy Kili Crew hiked more than 45 miles in roughly 40 hours, proving that people in larger bodies can achieve great feats.
At the film screening, Hardman emotionally shared her story with those in attendance, explaining in detail her journey up the mountain, including her triumphs, struggles, and the community she built along the way. The majority of those present were members of Denver's body-positive fat community, “Denver Fatties.”
Hardman sat among the small group, teary-eyed with tissues in hand as she relived her hike up Mount Kilimanjaro. She provided insider commentary along with the documentary, describing the scenery, her fellow plus-size hikers, and the exciting milestones she hit along the hike.
Each time she would see herself on screen, Hardman would gleefully shout out: “That's me!”
Hardman explained different facets of her trip in a Q&A interview with Colorado Community Media.
What was your experience like as a plus-size person hiking one of the world's tallest mountains?
“It felt powerful and like not a single person could mess with us because we had the power of 19 other fat people standing behind us.”
Did you have any struggles on your hike?
“I got a food/waterborne illness, so that was difficult to deal with. It was also very hard mentally to breathe at elevation and continue walking hours on end.”
How would you describe the community-building or bonding you did with others on the hike?
“There was not much time to get to know people before having to be completely vulnerable with them during this new physical and emotional experience. We bonded quickly and I especially bonded with my tent mate. She will be my friend forever because of what we went through together.”
What advice do you have for plus-size or fat-identifying people who are nervous to get outside and explore joyful movement?
“Find a current or new friend who is fat and go with them! Fat joy in nature is the best!”
Hardman said she has always been passionate about the outdoors, even prior to her experience hiking Mount Kilimanjaro. In 2018, she and co-founder Arwen Turner created a company called WNDR Outdoors that “strives to increase representation of larger-bodied folks outdoors by creating technical outdoor apparel in extended sizes and by providing size inclusive events.”
The “Kili Big” documentary recently won Best Jury Documentary at the Bentonville Film Festival, an annual diversity-focused event in Arkansas. The film will also be shown at the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.
To stream the film at the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival in October, visit chagrinfilmfest.org.
To learn more about the sponsoring organizations for Hardman's hike, please visit whoatravel.com/whoa-plus and trek2kili.com.
For more information on Hardman's size-inclusive outdoor company, please visit wndroutdoors.com.
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