Summit County women summit Kilimanjaro |

Summit County women summit Kilimanjaro

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Special to the DailySummit County residents Barbara Campbell and Karen Fox summited Kilimanjaro on Valentine's Day.

SUMMIT COUNTY ” Dillon resident Barbara Campbell was ascending Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro when she found out she’d soon be a grandmother.

“I wasn’t sure I wanted to be called ‘Grandma,'” 55-year-old Campbell said of her initial shock.

That is, until she learned that the Swahili word for grandmother is “bibi,” which sounds a lot like baby. Campbell now hopes to be called Bibi by her future grandchild.

“She was so happy,” said climbing partner Karen Fox of Silverthorne. “She was telling everyone that she was going to be a grandmother. She looks very young, a nice-looking lady. People couldn’t believe that she would be a grandmother.”

But she’s no “granny”: fit and adventurous Campbell summited Africa’s highest peak on Valentine’s Day with her partner in crime, 59-year-old Fox.

They ascended the highest “walkable” mountain in the world by taking the Machame route with a guided group to Uhuru Peak, battling heavy winds and a 30-below wind chill to reach the summit.

The two women donned their headlamps and every article of clothing they brought to make the final climb. Strong winds batted them around, and Campbell was glad that darkness masked the danger of the trek. Sunrise brought phenomenal views of bright-blue glaciers and the surrounding area.

“The beauty of the remaining glaciers is beyond description,” Campbell said. “They gave me much reason to pause, as I caught my breath on the way to the summit. The 10,000 foot descent to Mweke camp was a grind, but the beauty of the landscape eased it.”

Most people in the group were younger, and three didn’t make it up. The two Summit County women attribute their successful ascent to hiking slowly, pacing themselves and drinking lots of water.

“You don’t have to be in tip-top physical condition,” Fox said. “It’s more will power. … You have to want to do it. Never give up.”

Fox and Campbell had already climbed many of Colorado’s Fourteeners when they signed up with the Colorado Mountain Club to climb Kilimanjaro.

“Barbara mentioned that she wanted to do it and I said OK,” Fox said of her spur-of-the-moment decision to hike Kilimanjaro with Campbell. “I’m glad I did it. It was a great experience.”

The two women began training together last fall by hiking, cross-training, skiing, snowshoeing and Nordic skiing. They left for Tanzania on Feb. 6 and returned after a safari on Feb. 21.

“I heard that 50 percent of the people don’t make it,” Campbell said. “We were thrilled that we didn’t come home disappointed.”

Caitlin Row can be reached at (970) 668-4633 or at

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