Christopher Cameron and Karen Henderson, residents of Meyers Island
Climb to Celebrate their 40th Wedding Anniversary
WHO: Christopher Cameron age 71 and Karen Henderson, age 64
Submitted by Christopher Cameron
Thurs., Oct. 26, 2023 – Christopher Cameron and Karen Henderson, residents of Meyers Island, south of Campbellford, have recently returned from Africa, where they successfully climbed Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro. At 5,895 metres (19,341 feet), the peak is highest point in Africa.
Christopher, 71 and Karen, 64, planned the expedition as a celebration of their 40th wedding anniversary.
The couple are experienced triathletes and distance runners, but “The nine-day trek took us to a new level,” says Christopher. “We were up and hiking every morning at sunrise and were usually sound asleep by 8 p.m. Like most challenges of this type, preparation and mental toughness are just as important as physical stamina.”
The journey up Kilimanjaro crossed climatic and geographical zones from tropical rainforest to arctic desert, and the long mountain trails took them over some rough terrain. “The trek to the top doesn’t require mountaineering expertise,” says Karen, “but it helps to do a lot of hiking to prepare.”
The two trained for eight months before their expedition, with long hikes in Algonquin as well as Northumberland Forest, Ferris Provincial Park and several local conservation areas. “We were glad to have chances to test our equipment and gear,” says Karen. “We actually began testing out our winter clothing last January, as the temperatures at the mountain’s summit can dip way below freezing, with a sharp wind chill.”
Although it’s possible to hike to the top of Kilimanjaro in as few as five days, Christopher and Karen opted for a longer trek, taking seven and a half days to reach the summit and then one and a half to come down. “Our guides used a Swahili phrase – pole, pole – which means “slowly, slowly,” says Karen, “and that was our mantra for the whole trek.”
The slower pace helped them acclimatize to the extreme altitudes as they ascended. “No supplementary oxygen is used climbing Kilimanjaro,” says Christopher, “and the oxygen levels at the summit are about 60 percent what they are at sea level, so the more time you spend getting used to the altitude, the more chance you have of success.” Success rates for reaching the summit range from 50 to 95 percent, with the higher figure usually resulting from the longer treks.
Getting down from the summit can be its own challenge. “You’ve got to descend as much as you climbed,” Christopher points out. “It’s faster, but you have to dig deep for motivation, because you’ve already achieved your goal of getting to the top.”
Some people have serious issues with their knees on the descent. “We just took it all very slowly, as we had going up. Karen actually sidestepped down a lot of the tough parts – a wise choice – and our knees were fine.”
Those wanting to climb Kilimanjaro must employ a recognized trekking company; no one is allowed to go up the mountain on their own. Many companies offer trekking packages, and not all are created equal. Christopher and Karen stress that you should shop around thoughtfully and look for a company certified by KPAP, the Tanzanian professional association that ensures guides, porters and support staff are adequately compensated and are not exploited.
Tourism – especially trekking and safaris – is a major part of Tanzania’s economy. Up to 35,000 visitors attempt to climb Kilimanjaro every year, providing employment for hundreds of citizens.