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New Canaan woman climbs to Africa's highest point

Updated 10:20 am, Saturday, March 29, 2014

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  • New Canaan resident Emily Kelting (in the pink shirt) getting ready to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania on Feb. 16, 2014. Kelting climbed to the highest point in Africa with a group of friends from Idaho and four guides. Photo: Contributed Photo, Contributed / New Canaan News Contributed
    New Canaan resident Emily Kelting (in the pink shirt) getting ready to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania on Feb. 16, 2014. Kelting climbed to the highest point in Africa with a group of friends from Idaho and four guides. Photo: Contributed Photo, Contributed

 

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When Emily Kelting traveled to Tanzania in February to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, she hoped to see a beautiful view, which would include one of the world's largest lakes, Lake Victoria.

"I hoped to see the sunrise -- that's why we left at 11 p.m. -- and at the end we would be greeted at the top with a beautiful sunrise over Tanzania," Kelting said. "And it started out like that when we left at 11. There was a full moon and the stars were out. But then it all disintegrated in about an hour or so."

The New Canaan resident and her group were greeted, instead, by a nine-hour blizzard. Instead of a sunrise, Kelting only could see about two feet in front of her face.

"It was more of an adventure than I thought it would be. It was exciting, thrilling and scary," Kelting said. "There was thunder and lightning and winds of 50 mph."

Despite the weather conditions, her 18-hour adventure on that 19,341-foot mountain ended safely Feb. 16.

Kelting said she and her friends felt especially brave since many people who attempt to reach the top of the mountain do not.

"Forty to 50 percent of people who leave for the summit don't make it -- and that's under any conditions," Kelting said. "One of the guides said he's been to the summit 95 times and he'd never seen conditions like the ones we faced."

Kelting took on the climb to raise money for the Touch Foundation, which trains Tanzanian doctors and treats the under-served population at medical schools and clinics in Mwanza and rural areas.

As of March 25, Kelting had raised $3,446. Her goal is $5,895, which matches Kilimanjaro's height.

"I'd love to reach my goal. I reached my goal of climbing Kilimanjaro and making it to the summit. Now, I hope to reach the goal of raising as many dollars as Kilimanjaro's height is in meters."

People can contribute by visiting Kelting's "Climb for Touch Foundation" fundraising page on CrowdRise.com.

Kelting climbed with three friends, who are former New Canaan residents, and three of their friends from Idaho.

It took the group about nine hours to go up and at least four hours to go down for a total of about 13.5 hours.

From Gilman's Point, the top of the crater rim, to the summit at Uhuru Peak usually takes 90 minutes. That night, it took three hours, she said.

But on the way down, Kelting said the weather became clear again.

Her secrets to reaching the summit included walking extremely slowly, drinking a lot of water and taking medicine for altitude sickness.

But before going to Kilimanjaro, Kelting was worried about her fitness and the mountain's height.

"It's really unpredictable who gets (altitude sickness). Some people can tolerate it and some can't," she said. "I really did not experience any altitude symptoms. I kind of felt stronger as I went up."

In blizzard conditions, she said, anyone taking a couple of steps to the right could have fallen.

Though this is the highest point to which Kelting has ever climbed, she's not new to the sport. Last July, she climbed up and over the Inca Trail, a nearly 14,000-foot mountain in Peru, for her 60th birthday.

While she didn't get to see a beautiful sunrise or look out toward Lake Victoria while at the summit, Kelting said she had a great few minutes at Africa's highest point. She said the group snapped a few pictures and she kissed the summit's sign.

Kelting said she's not looking for a new adventure at the moment. She owns a landscaping business, and the season is about to start. But she's considering visiting another country with very high mountains.

"I might go on a trip to Nepal at some point," Kelting said. "But I'm not going to climb (Mount) Everest. That's for sure."

noliveira@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6582, @olivnelson