Where they Went by Diane Daniel
(published Oct. 21, Boston Globe)
From Di’s eyes: I was surprised that the mother was facing her retirement as the end of something, not the beginning. She told me she was viewing the mountaintop as “well, it will be all downhill from here.” Instead, she ended up seeing it as one of many mountains to climb. An exciting turnaround! Also, I have a fondness for parent/child travel, probably because my trips with my parents were torturous affairs, mostly from the backseat of the car. As an adult, I never traveled with my mother and father, so I’m a bit in awe of those who do, and have fun along the way!
Who: Meredith Dana Krauss, 30, of Waltham, and her mother, Natalie Dana, 60, of Marlborough, Conn.
Where: Tanzania and Zanzibar
When: Two weeks in July 2007
Why: “I was retiring and turning 60 and I felt like I needed something to knock my socks off, something to fill the void,” Dana said. “I knew that climbing Kilimanjaro was doable, that it’s a nontechnical climb.”
Mother and daughter: “I was going to go with a friend and when I said to Meredith, ‘Guess what I’m going to do?’ she said, ‘Oh, I want to do that.’ To me, the thought of summitting with my daughter was just amazing.” The friend later had to cancel. Krauss, not a big hiker, trained only a little, keeping in mind “you can’t train for the altitude.” Her mother, meanwhile, ran and backpacked to prepare.
Leading the way: Dana’s online research led her to Tusker Trail of Nevada. “They talked about the treatment of their porters and the detail to our medical condition. They check your oxygen level twice a day and carry a hyperbolic chamber.” Dana chose a nine-day climb so they would have plenty of time to acclimate.
Shaky start: They met their two other group members, a 22-year-old woman from New York and a 65-year-old woman from Louisiana, and their three guides in Tanzania. Their first night of camping, they felt the mountain shake. The guides downplayed it, but a guest swore it was an earthquake. The next day they found out she was correct. A quake in nearby Arusha had shaken the mountain.
Step by step: “We went up the mountain one step a second,” Dana said. “There were a lot of rocks and you really had to watch where you were hiking. We would hike five to nine hours a day. They would break up the long and short days. I was not ever sore.” They were accompanied by 24 porters. “At first I felt like I was exploiting them, but then later I felt good that they were being employed,” she said. Krauss was impressed that the porters brought up a portable toilet for the four women to share. “No other groups had that,” she said of the other hikers camping at the same overnight stops.
Lunar and lofty: “Every day was different,” Krauss said. “First the trees were higher than us, then lower, then there were lava rocks and slate. They say it’s like going from the equator to the arctic. The landscape was “like being on the moon, with black lava rock,” Dana said. “It‘s so vast, a haunting beauty. When we got above the clouds, I thought, ‘I walked over these clouds’ It was just thrilling, a real sense of accomplishment.”
To the tiptop: On summit day, they wore crampons to walk along the icy glacier at top to reach the top, at 19,341 feet. They didn’t stay long because the youngest hiker had altitude sickness. That night they camped at 18,300 feet and were down the mountain in two days. To decompress, mother and daughter spent three days on the beach in Zanzibar, which they called a perfect ending. Once home, Krauss started to hike around Boston. As for Dana, Kilimanjaro was “really empowering and life altering. I’m ready to go again.”