Eleven Summit County women, ages 56 to 78, look to conquer Kilimanjaro | SummitDaily.com

Eleven Summit County women, ages 56 to 78, look to conquer Kilimanjaro

Janice Kurbjun
Summit Daily News

A group of 11 Summit County women, ages 56 to 78, leave today for Tanzania with a big project in mind: They plan to climb the seven-day Lemosho route to summit the 19,341-foot Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak on the African continent. They’ll then descend a different route in two days. They’re not the only ones from Summit County to set out on the quest to the summit, but they’re looking to conquer the mountain as a group of more-than-middle-aged women.

With a gain of roughly 13,000 feet, the elevation gain to the top of Africa is on par with that of a climb up Mount Everest’s ridges. Though the Himalayan peak scrapes the sky at 29,029 feet, the average gain is about the same – Everest’s base camps range from 13,800 feet to 17,100 feet.

Kari Kronborg and Susan Mason, full-time Summit County residents, said they’re both most nervous about the altitude.

“We’ll drink lots of water, and more water and more water,” Kronborg said, adding that the group is prepping with altitude adjustment medications in addition to their two months of training.

“It’s an unknown,” Mason said. “We have no idea what’s going to happen. I’ve been to 15,000 feet and the world was rocking then.”

“It doesn’t matter what shape you’re in,” she added. “If you body doesn’t like not having lots of oxygen, you’re not going to make it.”

Nonetheless, the training regimen began in early July with Tuesdays dedicated to hiking Mount Royal in Frisco as quickly as possible.

“It’s a good, steep elevation and good to get our breathing going,” Kronborg said.

Every Friday, they’d head out to conquer a Fourteener – one of the nearby mountains that top out above 14,000 feet. Together, they summitted Sherman, Bierstadt, Evans, Elbert, Lincoln, Democrat, Grays, Torreys and Quandary. Mason hit four others with fellow climber Martine Matzke – Red Cloud, Columbia, Yale and Sunshine.

“They’re animals,” Kronborg said of her climbing pals.

The women added biking, hiking, tennis and swimming into their schedules to keep their hearts pumping in preparation.

The idea originated with Diana Dettmering, who stepped off the plane years ago for an African safari and set her eyes on Kilimajaro. She vowed to climb it one day, and decided to set up the trip with two of her friends who also turn 70 this year.

“I got off and saw it and never thought about it,” Mason said, laughing.

Over time, the group grew through word of mouth and, with a little ebb and flow, became the group of 11.

It’s been an ideal situation, too, Mason and Kronborg said. They not only had inspiration and company to do more Fourteeners this summer than they’d previously tackled in any one season, but they also got to know a group of women they’re eager to share an adventure with.

They all agreed they’d hire group and personal porters for the trek, so together they’re infusing the local Tanzanian economy with American cash. Their climbing party will be around 45 people, between the American women, about five guides and 30-some porters.

“My mother told me to get one because it helps with the economy,” Kronborg said, who thought she might be able to make it to at least 15,000 feet with her pack. “It’s a good job over there, and it helps with employment.”

The women all head in different directions after the climb – some hit Italy, some go to the Czech Republic, some come home and others go on a safari – but they all have one thing in common:

“We’re excited about completing the challenge,” Kronborg said.

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