SEVENTH DAY ON THE MOUNTAIN: DEPARTURES AND ARRIVALS
A tradition that climbers in Laurie Stewart’s Kilimanjaro group observed is the end-of-climb “gear raffle.” Climbers donate unwanted gear at the end of the climb and members of the native support team enter for a chance at items they need. Here, western guide John Hauf of Alpine Ascents International, guide to the climbers, runs the raffle as an enthusiastic winner comes forward to claim his winnings. (Photo courtesy Rebecca Lashley, www.fhcrc.org/about/ne/events/climb).
“I do not recall ever being so happy to see running water and a shower,” says Seattle banker Laurie Stewart after seven days on Mount Kilimanjaro.
Stewart and her fellow climbers had spent seven days climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and if anyone had ever earned modern plumbing and warm water, it was these climbers.
Cleaning up each day while climbing had been a challenge. In the evenings, after settling down, each member of the party received a bowl of warm water, prepared by the support team, for basic ablutions. That, and the faithful portable latrine and tent packed up the mountain by the porters, was it, so far as such creature comforts were concerned.
But we are getting ahead of the story of the final day on the mountain…
Leaving Mweka Camp for the bottom
Mweka Camp, while a good way down the mountain, isn’t home free.
Guide company materials stress the scenic beauty of the trail.
States the official itinerary from Alpine Ascents International, guide to the charity climb that Stewart and fellow climbers made:
“The sunrises are exquisite as we awaken below the towering mountain. We descend through the lush green landscape of the Mweka Route into the thickest jungle we have yet encountered. The environment becomes primordial, with 20-foot-tall fern trees creating a prehistoric atmosphere. After reaching the Mweka Gate we drive to Arusha and enjoy a celebratory dinner.”
Well, OK. But the first thing is, you have to start down.
Going down has been difficult thus far for Laurie Stewart, due to the depth perception issue she had. But while she has felt that some of her difficulties were due to her lack of experience compared to fellow climbers, she found that others also had their troubles.
Trails have been muddy at points on the way down, and, especially with the ascent behind them, grueling at times on the climbers.
“Everybody complained about it,” says Stewart. “They all said it was outrageously bad.”
The party rose early and headed out for the final five hour descent.
“About halfway down, we spotted monkeys swinging overhead and sort of ‘cheering us on’,” says Stewart.
But soon the climb was over, and the party had reached the bottom of the mountain, at Mweka Gate, at 5,580 feet above sea level.
Farewell to “pole-pole”
“Once we hit the park boundary a celebration was in full fore with a nice lunch and African beer,” says Stewart.
Stewart and the climbers found their taste buds returning after losing much of their appetite while on the mountain. The lunch, complete with Stewart having half a beer herself—she swore her late husband, Ken, would haunt her if she didn’t try it—went down well.
Not that the trailside meals hadn’t had their high points. “The cooks were always working up something surprising,” says Stewart. There was even a campstove-baked celebratory cake at one point.
But the lunch at the bottom, that was a high point of the day.
Another high point, especially for the guides and the porters, was the gear raffle.
This tradition allows climbers to donate their gear to the support staff. For the sake of fairness, the guide company structures the giving as a raffle. Stewart was among those donating the bulk of her gear.
She was glad to have made the climb.
“But I decided I was not a mountaineering sort of gal!” she adds.
A three-hour drive took the party to their hotel, and the comforts outlined earlier in this installment. An evening of tired, but pleased, celebration capped off the climb.
In our next and final installment, hear Laurie Stewart’s podcast interview with ABA Banking Journal after returning from Africa, and read the second print edition article about her climb, in “First Person.”
Laurie Stewart, third from left, joins other members of the team in commemorating the completion of the Kilimanjaro trek, for the sake of the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer. (Photo courtesy Rebecca Lashley, www.fhcrc.org/about/ne/events/climb)
Here’s the entire Kilimanjaro climb team, along with their western guide. In front, left to right: Matt Leggett, Denise Dawsey, Rebecca Lashley;â€¨ Back: Maria Naula, Dabby Phipps, Laurie Stewart, AAI Guide John Hauf, and Mark Leggett
Donate to Laurie Stewart’s efforts
Readers who have enjoyed this series can still donate to the cause that Laurie Stewart was climbing for. Click here
Thanks to photographer Rebecca Lashley
Most of the photographs that have accompanied this online companion to
our print edition’s “First Person” columns about Seattle banker Laurie
Stewart’s climb of Kilimanjaro for charity came from her fellow
climber, Rebecca Lashley.
A fellow Seattleite, Lashley also serves as volunteer committee member
for the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer (CFBC), which organized the team’s
climb. Lashley has climbed several peaks in the Pacific Northwest,
including Mount Saint Helens, Mount Adams, and Mount Rainier (also a
CFBC climb). She describes herself as “passionate about kayaking,
cycling, and international travel,” and uses her day job as a business
management consultant to fund her outdoor adventures.
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