A group of adventurers with strong connections to Memorial University of Newfoundland leave this month to tackle one of the world’s most formidable mountains.
They’re heading straight up the face of Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro, the world’s highest free-standing, snow-covered equatorial peak. Located in north-eastern Tanzania, the mountain – which is an astonishing 19,340 feet (5,895 metres) high – is also Africa’s highest summit.
Although the eight women are avid outdoor enthusiasts, most have no professional mountain climbing experience and have never attempted such a daunting trek.
Luckily, though, they have a great coach and leader.
The team is being headed up by well-known mountaineer, author and award-winning educator Dr. TA Loeffler, a professor in Memorial’s School of Human Kinetics and Recreation. She has attempted four of the world’s seven tallest mountains and successfully made it to the top of several of them including North America’s Mount McKinley.
Dr. Loeffler committed to the trip more than a year ago. Word of her next adventure quickly spread and soon enough others were on-board for the journey.
She is being joined by Marian Wissink, a systems administrator with the Department of Computer Science at Memorial, and graduate student Abigail Steel, who is completing a PhD in engineering.
Memorial alumni Wanda Highmore, Flora Seymour and Diane Rendell are also taking part in the trip as are friends Leslie Grattan and Ann Marie Lane. The Newfoundland team will be joined by Americans Karen Warren and Nancy Andrew.
For the past five months, the eight have been engulfed in an intense and grueling training program that’s included climbing Signal Hill 10 times during one day, as well as using a piece of top-notch gear at Memorial that allows high altitude to be simulated.
Dr. Loeffler said she has an exhilarating group eager to head to the other side of the world and reach the top.
“It’s exciting to be sharing my love of high places with others from Newfoundland,” she said. “I’ve been dishing out training tips and general motivation. I’ve told them we’re likely to experience every emotion – nervous, scared, anxious, excited, thrilled, terrified, elated, down, up, and all around – and that they won’t be alone in their ‘yo-yo’ times.”
That advice has been comforting for Ms. Steel. A long-distance runner, she said she’s has also looked to her other teammates for guidance and support.
She said although the quest will be demanding, the group is trying to remain focused.
“The slower you go on the mountain the better you will acclimatize to high altitude and more likely you are to reach your goal – the summit,” she said. “But success is not measured by the summit.”
After months of physical and mental preparation, Ms. Wissink said she’s ready to go.
“During the winter I cross country skied and snowshoed,” she noted. “Now that the snow has cleared I have just been hiking. Lunch times or after work I walk up and down – and up and down and up and down – the trail behind the
Health Sciences that leads to Mount Scio Road as it has a fairly good incline.
“I have also spent countless hours surfing the web, reading up on Tanzania and Mount Kilimanjaro and people’s accounts of their climbs,” she added.
Some of the team members are leaving on Saturday, May 24, for the journey to Africa, while others are leaving next week.
The team will begin the ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro on June 1 and hope to reach the top on June 7.
Dr. Loeffler will be updating her website, www.taloeffler.com, along the journey.