OUT OF LEFT FIELD
Is His Middle Name
An elephant grazes on the plains below Mt. Kilimanjaro,
which Bill Doerner scaled at age 68.
A Man Who Hiked Up
Mt. Kilimanjaro at 68
By STAN ISAACS
The certificate reads: This is to Certify that Mr. Bill Doerner has successfully climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest in Africa, up to Gilmans Point-5,685 meters on the fifth of September, 1988. And it notes that Bill Doerner was 68 at the time.
Doerner, now 92, easily fits into the category of Most Unforgettable Characters. Aside from the Mt. Kilimanjaro episode, one is impressed by a long list of travels he reels off nonchalantly--as if everybody does such things. Some highlights:
# He went from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Portland, Oregon on a motor bike.
# He canoed the New York lake country and lakes in Maine.
# He visited Isle Royale National Park, an island in the middle of Lake Superior in Minnesota.
# He has canoed on many rivers, among them the Potomac and the Shenandoah.
# He solo-backpacked 1,100 miles on the Appalachian Trail.
# He traveled in Pakistan from Islamabad to Gilgit near the Chinese border.
# Also in Pakistan, he traveled to the foot of Nana Parbat (the ninth highest mountain in the world) and Baltit Fort in Hunza, the area which inspired Shangri La of the book and movie, Lost Horizon, and is surrounded by 20,000-foot mountains.
# He has visited 20 National Parks and lived one summer at Crater Lake and another summer at Bryce Canyon.
He was born in Pullman, Washington, and grew up in Multinomah Village, Oregon, outside of Portland. He was graduated from Oregon State in chemical engineering. After four years in the navy, once going from Newport. RI to the other end of the world--Perth, Australia--he got an MS degree in math and a PhD in Chemical Engineering at the U. of Michigan. His working career consisted of 35 years of research for the DuPont Company in Wilmington, Del.
He hiked the Appalachian Trail alone. I found that I really enjoyed hiking by myself. Of course it was nice to meet someone after being alone a few days. I started on the trail at 140 pounds and ended up at 125.
Doerner is a wiry, five-foot four (from five-foot seven, he says). One of the first things he says about Kilimanjaro is, I didnt climb the mountain. I walked it. I am a walking mountain climber. I dont get involved with ropes or pitons or things.
After safaris in Tanzania and Kenya with his wife, who he promptly dispatched home, he met his son Brian for the Kilimanjaro adventure.
I was lucky, he said. The hotel arranged for guides and five or six porters who did the cooking. (stews and simple things; because of the altitude I didnt particularly care for the food). They carried our sleeping gear. We had an old timer as a guide who knew things. He insisted that we move slowly, take a few deep breaths every few steps.
They saw monkeys. We didnt see tigers or lions, anything glamorous like that, he said.
Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is listed as 19,340 feet, the highest in the world that can be walked up. It took five days going up, about three going down, he said. He estimated the whole expedition of porters and guides and equipment cost less than $1,000.
He said Kilimanjaro is one huge mountain of old lava with 300 square miles above the tree line, It includes three volcanoes. two of which are extinct. The Marengo Route we took involved staying each night in a tiny hut, one of a group. At 12,000 feet we spent an extra night to get better adjusted to the elevation.
Because his son suffered from hypoglycemia and his supply of snack food ran out, he could not negotiate the final reach to the top. Doerner said, Some time during the night my guide woke me up. He lit a kerosene lamp and off we went. About half way up I sat down on a rock to rest and threw up. I did not have a headache so I knew I did not have altitude sickness. We reached Gilmans Point in time to see the sunrise. It was a beautiful sight. One can see the greatest area of the earths surface from the top of Kilimanjaro.
I tried to talk my guide into hiking over to Uhuru Point (Uhuru means freedom) It is the highest point, 200 meters higher than Gilmans Point. The guide refused because he wanted to get my son to a lower elevation as soon as possible."
Mountain climbing is such an in-thing these days, The New York Times sports section has devoted more than a few features to it. The kingpin mountain, Mt. Everest, is 29,035 feet. It is so popular, some 4,000 climbers have reached the top, with more than 300 deaths in a recent count.
Doerner says, You almost need a traffic light on Everest now.
At 92 Doerner has slowed up a bit. He merely works out in the gym for an hour three times a week at a senior community in Haverford, Pa. . His most recent trips were to Alaska and Iceland. As a tourist.
©2012 by Stan Isaacs. The Stan Isaacs caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel. This column first posted June 25, 2012.
TO ACCESS STAN ISAACS' ARCHIVE OF COLUMNS ON THIS SITE, CLICK HERE: ISAACS ARCHIVE
You can comment on this column online via our TALKBACK page. Please address your e-mail message to either "The Editors" or Stan Isaacs at Syndpack @ aol.com.
HOME About Us Index To
Talkback Contact Us