NEW YORK — Climbing Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro is no weekend hike, and the "Today" show's Ann Curry was feeling it on Saturday.
The NBC reporter was sent on assignment for the popular morning show's "Ends of the Earth" feature, which begins Monday. The program's four chief personalities will embark on lengthy road trips to illustrate environmental stories.
"This is like climbing a Stairmaster for six hours a day with 20 pounds on your back," Curry said in a telephone interview from her tent following Saturday's climb.
She's hardly an experienced climber. The last mountain she scaled was half the size, and she did it while in college, said Curry, who turns 52 on Wednesday. She learned of the assignment only three weeks ago, giving her little time to train.
Her climb is plotted out so that if she does make it to the summit of the 19,000-plus-foot Tanzanian mountain, it will be shown during Friday's edition of "Today."
"To be honest with you, I'm not sure I'm going to make it to the top," she said. "But all the pain and suffering is worth it because of the incredible vistas all around me."
The mountain made famous in Ernest Hemingway's short story "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" was selected by "Today" because that snow is shrinking, said Jim Bell, the show's executive producer. There's concern that, because of environmental conditions, the mountain's glaciers could disappear.
"I miss my family," said Curry, whose clothes were clammy and wet from a rainstorm Saturday. "And also warm showers. And I could really use a stiff drink."
"Today" is sending Meredith Vieira to Australia to report on drought and Al Roker to geologically active Iceland. Matt Lauer, who already globe-trotted this spring for the "Where in the World is Matt Lauer" segment, will be exploring the natural beauty of Belize.