SPRINGFIELD, NJ – Earlier this year, four local residents of New Jersey set off on an “adventure of a lifetime”.  They climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.  Two of the four, Sonali and Ashu Chahal, live in Springfield and the other two, Margaret Brody and Kathleen Theriot, live in Summit.  All are members of the Summit YMCA where they got to know each other and worked on getting in shape for the trip.

Margaret Brody said, “I was particularly excited to take this journey and at the same time be able to raise money for a very worthy cause, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.”  The four from New Jersey raised a total of $16,614.50.  The entire group of 14 raised $59,226.50.  They became part of an estimated 35,000 to 50,000 people climbing Kilimanjaro every year according to www.private-tours-kilimanjaro.com.

There was a mutual interest in climbing the mountain.  Kathleen asked Margaret before to consider climbing it and Sonali had done other events with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and sent Margaret information on this particular climbing opportunity.

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Sanoli said the journey was a "...50th birthday present to myself."  She called it "...an exhilarating experience."  All were in good shape because of their regular workouts at the Y.  They also benefited from regular hikes.  They also agreed that the last two days were the most strenuous.

Once they got to the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, they set out on an eight-day trek with a group of ten others up the mountain on what is known as the Lemosho Route.  The ten others were from various other parts of the United States including Hawaii.  The trek was designed to let them acclimate to the altitude. 

Mount Kilimanjaro is 19,345 feet high, which is more than three miles high.  It is the highest mountain on the continent of Africa, making it one of the Seven Summits.  It is located in north east Tanzania and there are seven primary routes up the mountain.  The Lemosho Route had fewer than ten percent of the climbers on it when the group started out.  According to REI, the Lemosho Route is “…one of the most scenic.”

National Geographic lists Kilimanjaro as one of the “Top 10 Climbs” in the world.  Part of the description says, “Located on Tanzania’s northern border with Kenya, the mountain is made up of three extinct volcanoes, Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira.   Reaching the top of Kilimanjaro is exhilarating.”

The Lemosho Route provides climbers with the potential to see a variety of wildlife through dense jungles.  The length of the entire climb is almost 45 miles.   The trail passes through five ecosystms on its way to the summit. 

The group arrived in Moshi, which is described as “… the more quaint, laid-back of the small towns sitting at the base of Kilimanjaro” and had the second day of the journey free to explore the area.

On the third day they went to the Londorossi Gate to Mti Mkuba (“Big Tree” in Kiswahili), which saw them start at 7,800 feet elevation and end at 9,000 feet.  On that day they did a six-kilometer hike that was expected to last three to four hours.  The habitat was a rain forest. 

During day four the group went from Mti Mkubwa to Shira Camp One.  They hiked for eight kilometers reaching an elevation of 11,500 feet in a hike that was expected to last up to six hours.  The habitat was described as a moorland.   From Shira Camp One, they went to Shira Camp Two on day five and reached an elevation of 13,123 feet.  Still in the moorland, they hiked for ten kilometers in what was expected to last four to five hours.  Shira is one of the highest plateaus in the world.  During the hike, they passed the first of many Giant Senecios, which are described as “some of Kilimanjaro’s otherworldly massive plants”.

On day six the group went from Shira Camp Two to the Barranco Camp.  They hiked an estimated six to eight hours through semi desert for nine kilometers and ended the day at 13,000 feet after going as high as 16,000 feet on the Arrow Glacier.  The tour description highlighted day six as being “…very important for acclimatization and will help your body prepare for summit day.”

Starting at 13,000 feet from the Barranco Camp on day seven, the group hiked five kilometers over an estimated four to five hours through alpine desert and reached the Karanga Camp at an elevation of 13,100 feet.  The day was meant to be short in order to help the process of acclimatization.

Day eight was the day before the summit.  They left the Karanga Camp and reached 15,300 feet after hiking four kilometers through alpine desert where they spent the night in the Barafu Hut at the Barafu Camp.  At that point, they had completed the South Circuit and got ready for their summit day.  During the hike they were able to see the Mawenzi and Kibo peaks.

Day nine was the summit day and the longest day for hiking.  The group left the Barafu Camp early in the morning and on their way up they went between the Rebmann and Retzel glaciers.  Later they would go through “heavy scree” towards Stella Point on the crater rim.  At Stella Point, they had a short rest and watched the sun rise.

During the ascent they climbed over 4,000 feet, which was about four kilometers, to reach the summit – Uhuru Peak.  The ascent was expected to take up to eight hours and was done in a habitat characterized as “Arctic”.  After spending some time at the summit, they began their descent of 12 kilometers.  It lasted up to six hours and put the group back at 10,000 feet and the Mweka Hut. 

Day ten was the last day of the hike.  The group left the Mweka Camp and hiked ten kilometers through rain forest to the gate at 5,400 feet.  The next day some flew home and some stayed and went on a safari.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) mission is to “Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.”  According to its site, LLS has invested more than $1.2 billion in research.  According to the American Cancer Society about 174,250 people were expected to be diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma in 2018.