Summit team climbs Kilimanjaro |

Summit team climbs Kilimanjaro

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Summit County, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyHeidi Eilers (left), Eric Ebarb, Stacey Todd, Zak Himmelman, Clayton Carson, Matt Eilers, Jake Himmelman, Jim Curtis, and a guide pose for a photo while on a safari before their ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro.

SUMMIT COUNTY ” Seven locals returned home last weekend from summiting Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa and the highest “walkable” mountain in the world.

“It was like the walk of the dead,” said team leader Matt Eilers when asked Tuesday about the final ascent up a scree field on Kilimanjaro’s peak. “If someone was crawling, they would have passed us.”

Locals Matt Eilers, Heidi Eilers, Stacey Todd, brothers Jake and Zak Himmelman, Eric Ebarb, Clayton Carson, and Jim Curtis of Australia, completed the climb in seven days from top to bottom. It was the first of its kind for everyone involved.

Climbing Kilimanjaro, a mountain reaching 19,335 feet, is a difficult feat because oxygen at the top is less than half the amount that is common at sea level.

According to Eilers, the last ascent was just more than 2.5 miles and 4,000 vertical feet. The guides enforced a slow pace due to high elevation and the last trek upwards took between six and seven hours, starting at midnight on the hike’s fifth night.

“The mental challenge was the hardest part,” said Eilers. “.. .It was really surreal because we hadn’t really been sleeping and we didn’t eat breakfast. We were sitting on top of Africa watching the sunrise. It was like a dream. The mountain cast a shadow on the clouds.”

Jake Himmelman’s drinking water froze three quarters up along the final summit.

“It was close to 15 below zero at the top and the wind-chill was probably double,” he said.

And Stacey Todd wore every article of clothing she packed during the final climb.

“I’ve never been so cold in my life,” she said. “It was unreal.”

Jake Himmelman said he felt extremely lucky to be part of a team with such knowledgeable guides.

“They were really invested in the health and happiness of our group,” he said.

After summiting, they descended to the base in two days.

“I would have done it again right then,” said Todd, after reaching the bottom.

In preparation for the trip, group members climbed Quandary and Mount Royal.

When the winter season arrived, some members improved their endurance by hiking local mountains and skiing down.

The team’s preparation was sufficient, Todd said. Elevation didn’t take a severe toll on anyone, especially since they only hiked up Kilimanjoro four to six hours a day.

“I think living at altitude (in Summit County) helped a lot,” said Jake Himmelman.

During the three week trip, the group also visited Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, Zanzibar Island and Dubai.

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