By Ashley Lodato
Many of us voice idle aspirations, but the father-son team of Jerry and Dylan Oliver recently made good on at least one impulse ambition.
Nine years ago, Jerry summited Mount Rainier, and the experience stuck with him. Still, it wasn’t until a day trip snowshoeing up Goat Peak in the spring about a year ago that the goal of an African summit was articulated. At the end of the hike Jerry said to his son, “We should do Kilimanjaro,” and the dream was born.
Dylan, who is on the Baker River Hotshots, enlisted two friends, and the party of four planned a trip to Tanzania for the following year. Jerry spent a year training for the expedition and says that the preparation for the trip was nearly as enjoyable as the trip itself. “I got to get out hiking a lot,” he says, “which I loved.” He did, however, acknowledge that “riding the stationary bike in the basement after work wasn’t much fun.”
Once the Olivers and their comrades reached Tanzania, they joined a commercial guiding operation and one other hiker to embark on a six-day journey to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Traveling along the Lemosho route, the party took five days to reach the base camp of the crater at 15,000 feet, walking through four separate ecosystems where they saw animals such as blue monkeys. On the third day of the journey they hiked up to 15,000 feet to acclimate, then returned to 13,000 feet to sleep. Jerry says that this acclimation was quite beneficial; he was queasy for the first few days of the trek but felt much better after the acclimation.
From base camp at 15,000 feet, the Olivers’ party started up to the summit at midnight, reaching the 19,300-foot top of the crater just in time for sunrise. “I felt kind of fuzzy and my coordination was a bit off,” says Jerry, “but my adrenaline was pumping and when the sun came up it lit up the glaciers all around us. It was so beautiful. We could stare down into the crater at the summit. We were light-headed, but it was worth it.”
Jerry says that due to the help of porters who carried the bulk of the party’s gear and prepared food for them each night in camp, the expedition was fairly deluxe. “It was pretty familiar food,” he says. “A lot of chicken, vegetables, soup, and mangos.”
Speaking of cooking, where was Jerry’s wife, Cyndy, during this whole adventure? “Someone had to hold down the fort,” admits Jerry, referring to the Olivers’ 3 Bears Café & Quilts business in Winthrop.
Jerry hadn’t slept in a tent for five nights in a row since getting married 30 years ago, so it was quite a memorable experience to get back out into the backcountry and embrace life on the trail again. He can’t wait for the next expedition. Watch out, Mount Baker, the Olivers have their eyes on you next.
One more thing, unrelated. If you went home from the House Jacks concert with Wayne Mendro’s black gloves on by mistake, kindly return them to him.