Cassville man climbs to new heights

Friday, September 7, 2007

Local adventurer and former teacher reaches summit of famed Mount Kilimanjaro

By Lindsay Reed

Dr. Larry Quinalty, of Cassville, traveled across the globe to undertake a task that very few individuals attempt. In June, Quinalty climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest free-standing mountain rise in the world.

Quinalty began mountain climbing while volunteering with the Boy Scouts in 1985. Over the last 22 years, Quinalty has completed numerous climbs with the Boy Scouts and on his own.

This hobby has taken him to the summits of mountains in Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, Peru, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Scotland, Greece, Ireland, Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, Italy and France.

Quinalty has completed 21 treks at Philmont in northeastern New Mexico and spent 14 days hiking a trail that spirals around Mont Blanc in France. He has also hiked across the Grand Canyon, which less than 1 percent of visitors attempt.

It was at the Grand Canyon in Arizona where Quinalty first felt the itch to try his legs on Mount Kilimanjaro. With a summit that reaches 19,340 feet, Mount Kilimanjaro is also known as the highest peak in Africa.

"When we were hiking across the Grand Canyon, we came upon a man who was laying on the ground with his feet up on a rock and his shirt said Mount Kilimanjaro," said Quinalty. "This year, I had part of the summer open and found out that a group was meeting in Arusha to climb Mount Kilimanjaro so I decided to go."

On June 16, Quinalty traveled to Arusha, Tanzania. After only one day of rest after the flight to Africa, Quinalty and 10 other adventurers met at the Mount Kilimanjaro park gate, which is located at 6,000 feet, and hiked five and a half miles up the mountain to Mandara hut.

The following day, the group hiked 10 miles further up the mountain before stopping at Horombo Hut, which is located at 12,340 feet.

Day five of Quinalty's trip was used as a day to acclimatize to the altitude difference on the mountain. The group hiked six miles toward Mawenzi, one of three volcanic peaks that make up the summit of the mountain, before returning to Horombo Hut.

The next day, the group hiked to Kibo Hut, which is located at around 15,520 feet. Although the distance measured only five miles, the steeper hike took around seven hours to complete.

Once the group reached Kibo Hut, the adverturers were treated to a light dinner and a pre-climb talk before turning in for a few hours of sleep. Quinalty and his fellow travelers were awakened by the climbing guides at around 10 p.m.

"They gave us tea and a biscuit and told us to get dressed," said Quinalty. "They recommended two to three layers of clothing, like silk thermals, to keep warm and dry during the last part of the climb."

The final leg of the climb was made in the dark. Quinalty and the other hikers wore headlamps as they climbed the final miles to Gillman's Point to watch a breathtaking sunrise. Quinalty then hiked an additional three hours to Mount Kilimanjaro's true summit, Uhuru Peak, which is located at 19,340 feet.

"I know why they ask you to hike those last miles in the dark," said Quinalty. "If you were making that ascent in the day time, with the cold, your mind and body would want to quit before you reached the top."

Only 10 of the 11 climbers reached the Uhuru Peak summit. Quinalty was one of the 10 hikers who reached the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and received an authentic certificate of achievement.

"The scenery at the summit was unbelievable," said Quinalty. "When you arrive at the park, you can hardly see Mount Kilimanjaro. As you get closer, it becomes this huge mountain.

"Words cannot describe what you see at the top," said Quinalty. "You are above the clouds and it is very angelic. You feel like you could walk on this billowy surface that stretches out in front of you."

Quinalty completed the descent of Mount Kilimanjaro in two days and returned to a hotel in Arusha before embarking on the remainder of his adventure, which allowed him to travel hundreds of miles across Serengeti National Park.

While on safari in Africa, Quinalty camped in the wild that is home to more than 300,000 animals. He snapped dozens of photographs of wildebeests, zebras, lions, hippopotamuses, giraffes, elephants and other animals while his safari group traveled across the Serengeti for over a week.

Quinalty returned home from his African adventure on June 30. After only about a week of relaxation, he departed Barry County once again and traveled to China for over three weeks. In China,

Quinalty spent time teaching and set aside free time to walk the length of the Great Wall of China.

Although he is reluctant to reveal his plans for the future, there is no doubt that Quinalty will add more mountain climbs to his list of achievements.

"The idea of being up that high is awesome," said Quinalty. "You achieve a level of confidence and know that you have opened the boundaries of what you can do. It broadens your view of what you can accomplish.

"Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro has helped my self confidence. It was a mile higher than any other place I have climbed," said Quinalty. "It is almost as high as you can go without using oxygen. That is something that not everybody does."

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