Valle Del Sol District
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Glendora Boy Scout Climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro
by Sandy Howlett
They say that when you climb a mountain, you don?t conquer it; you conquer yourself. Which is exactly what Bradley Witter, 15, from Boy Scout Troop 491 did when he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with his family this summer.

The first thing he had to conquer was his weight. Bradley, who admits he was a little overweight, took it seriously when his family physician told him he should lose 10 pounds, and also when he saw the detailed itinerary for the trip. With the help of his dad, Scott, who stopped buying snack foods and started packing sugar-free pudding and Jell-O in Bradley?s lunches, he lost 35 pounds.

"When I weighed in at the doctor?s office we were shocked. We looked at each other and started laughing,? Bradley recalls. ?I kept going [with the workouts], and the weight kept sliding off, and I realized that I was a lot better off, and the price wasn?t that much to pay.?

To train for the climb, Bradley, his dad, and his sister Alicia, 22, had a loose regimen at the gym where they trained three days a week. They concentrated on cardiovascular work, doing 40 minutes of training on the Stairmaster, and another 20 minutes of weight training. They also did conditioning hikes in the local mountains (Mt. Wilson, Mt. Lowe, Cucamonga Peak, and Mt. Baldy) carrying 20-30 pounds of gear in their backpacks; and they climbed part way up Mt. Whitney. Due to snow levels they only made it to 11,800 where they spent the night to get exposure to higher altitudes.

Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is the largest freestanding peak in the world, towering above the surrounding plains at 19,340 feet. The highest point is Uhuru Peak which means ?freedom.? It is the highest mountain in Africa, which makes it one of the Seven Summits, the highest peaks of the seven continents.

The biggest concern for the family was the very real possibility of getting altitude sickness, which can occur above 8,000 feet. To combat this problem, they decided to take the route from the Shira Plateau in the West which would be a longer approach and would give them more time to acclimate; and to take prescription Diamox, a medication that accelerates acclimatization.

The trio hiked 55 miles in nine days but, according to Scott, the route was preferable for several reasons: One was the higher success rates of this route, and the other was a shorter summit day. The last day to the summit by this route only took an hour and a half, compared to a six to seven hour summit day by other routes.

But even with all the precautions, the altitude took a toll on the family. ?I started to feel it first,? said Scott, ?At 13,000 feet I started to get a headache and I had it for the next three days.?

At the base camp at 18,500 feet Alicia started to feel nauseous. And the next day Bradley, who had gone the longest of the three without feeling the altitude, was stricken.

The day of the summit, the group departed camp at 4:30 a.m., planning to get to the top by sunrise. They only had 800 feet left to climb, but the combination of single-digit temperatures, lack of sleep, and the extreme altitude, made it a slow and difficult climb.

?Alicia started to feel bad right out of camp,? recalls Bradley. ?The whole way I was disoriented, I was stumbling and leaning on my poles, and when we reached the switchbacks, about a minute after she went down, I collapsed and rolled into a ball.?

But the family made a pact that if one of them couldn?t make it they would all turn back, and Bradley refused to be the weak link. ?I said there?s no way I?m not getting up this?it?s 500 feet away!? said Bradley. After resting for 10 minutes, Bradley and his sister recovered enough to finish the climb. He was so happy to have made it to the summit, and for all the hard work to finally be over that Bradley, an emotionally controlled kid, broke into an ear to ear smile at the summit.

?It was the most amazing moment I know of as a dad,? said Scott, ?I was so proud of my kids!?

There were eight climbers total in the group and, according to Scott, the other climbers were worried about the kids being able to make it to the top. ?When they heard that the ?Witter family? was on the trip, they were concerned about me bringing kids,? he said. ?But within a day they were considered the life of the team because of their energy and positive attitudes.?

The climbers carried about 25 pounds of personal gear each including four liters of water, snacks, warm clothes and rain gear. Their support crew of 64 ?tough guys? carried all the group?s food and made them fresh-cooked meals every day.

To stay sane in the down time at camp, Bradley brought three 700-page books. He also figured out a way to entertain himself on the long, monotonous hiking days. ?I?m in the band program at the high school, so while I was hiking I was going through various songs, doing the marching band thing to match my steps to whatever fit as a way to occupy my mind,? Bradley said.

What?s next for Bradley and his family?

?I?m perfectly happy to go along with school and classes, and since I?m a junior, I need to start thinking about colleges,? said Bradley. ?I don?t think I?ll be doing any more big hiking adventures. But it would be completely impossible for anyone to forget this adventure!? [photos]
Location:Mt. Kilimanjaro Posted:2010-08-18 13:57:22