Archbold native Larry Beck reached the summit of 19,341-foot Mt. Kilimanjaro in East Africa, Wednesday, Oct. 24.
Beck, AHS ‘67 and a resident of Christchurch, New Zealand, said a group of eight climbers from the United States, Australia, Ireland, and the United Kingdom went to the top “to see if we had what it took to get to the top of Africa.
“We wanted to find out if we were mentally strong enough for the challenge,” he said.
“Could we break through the so-called pain barrier? Would we face our fears and continue on no matter what?
“What would it feel like to stand on the top of Africa and achieve a life time goal?”
Beck joined a team lead by Mathew Darema of Intrepid Travel, an Australian-based company. Before the climb started, Darema inspected each climber’s clothing. Many had to rent additional clothing to deal with 13-below 0 temperatures at the summit.
The climbers, along with a support group of cooks, porters, and guides, started at 6,100 feet, walking through a rain forest.
As they walked, they passed through five different climate zones.
After spending the night at Kibo Hut, base camp at 14,250 feet, they started their climb to the summit at midnight in snow and windy conditions.
The next goal was Gilman’s point, 18,638 feet above a dormant volcano rim.
The climb was “near straight up the steep, scree mountainside,” Larry said.
Scree is defined as “an accumulation of loose stones or rocky debris.”
“On the climb were dozens of other climbers with headlamps on, taking one step at a time, slowly proceeding upward in the thin air,” he said.
“Watching the lights above was like observing a metronome moving very slowly and deliberately higher and higher.
“The long, slow climb upwards looked interminable, and many of us wondered if we could possibly get to the crater rim as Mathew yelled out in the blowing snow, ‘Don’t look up! Look down!’
“Mathew and his team of guides and porters sang Af- rican folk songs to motivate and encourage us not to give up.
“Some of the songs included part of the support team singing a line with the remaining team of porters and guides singing a chorus or refrain all in Swahili, their native tongue.
“Mathew checked in with each one of us on the entire climb up to Gilman’s Point and Uhuru (Freedom) Peak, the very top of Kilimanjaro.
“When climbers complained that they were tired, he looked into our eyes to determine if any of us had any serious mountain sickness symptoms.
“Then he would say, ‘It’s normal to feel tired. Keep going!’”
Some came down with mountain sickness brought on by the high altitude, suffering splitting headaches and nausea.
Upon reaching the summit, Larry said the group was given 30 seconds to take a few photos, then started back down to avoid additional mountain sickness or worse.
It took 7 1/2 hours to go from Kibo Hut to the summit; the trip down took just 2 1/2.
Larry said, in hindsight, “Little did we realize how dangerous the climb would prove to be and how grateful we would feel to safely return to the base camp.”
On the way down, they spent the night at a hut 12,401 feet up.
“All of us climbers agreed that none of us would have reached the summit without Mathew and his team’s encouragement, singing and refusing to let us turn around and give up,” Larry said.
“Mathew and his team’s support were really quite humbling when one considers how hard their own lives must be and how hard they work to support their families through dedication and physically demanding jobs.
“Mathew said that our climb was the 146st time that he had reached the summit of Kili.”
During the climb, Larry said echoing through his thoughts were the words of his father, Jay, who often said, ‘You can accomplish anything in life that you set your mind to.’
“Sure enough, this proved to be the case with climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, the roof of Africa,” Larry said.