By: Jennifer Britt
The Parsons Advocate
From reading a book by Ernest Hemingway called “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” in college to dreaming of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for one Parsons resident is no longer a dream but a reality of a dream come true. Karen Goff is a 60-year-old emergency room nurse manager who accomplished in three months of training what most would have to train a year to complete. Goff summitted Mount Kilimanjaro on the Lemocho Trail!
With the loving support of her husband, Dave, and family Goff took the trip after seeing on Facebook that the National Leukemia Foundation was hosting the hike of her dreams. Joined by her niece, Meredith, they embarked on a seven-day adventure to honor Goff’s mother, Linda B. Hockman, who is battling leukemia and her father, whom she lost in December, Jack Hockman, who was a Korean War veteran and the youngest sheriff for Tucker County.
Mount Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano in Tanzania. It has three volcanic cones: Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. It is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest single free-standing mountain above sea level in the world at 19,341 feet above sea level and about 16,100 feet above its plateau base. It is the highest volcano in Africa and the Eastern Hemisphere.
When Goff was asked what the feeling was like boarding a plane knowing she was headed to Africa to climb a mountain Goff said, “I was so excited. I was like a little child at Christmas. I really did not know what to expect. We went to Tanzania, then to the town of Moshi. After a layover in Ethiopia, you could see the mountain when we came into the Kilimanjaro airport which is similar in size to Clarksburg. And although it looked close to us because it was so big, it was another hour and half drive to the mountain.”
Goff said, “The best part of the trip was seeing all the stars at night and hearing nothing. We took off at 11:30 at night and climbed in the dark. My husband let me use his miner’s light and we summitted around 7 a.m. and the sun was coming up. I have never seen a purple sky like that before.”
Goff explained, “It was a seven-day hike. It was like 48 miles. You hiked anywhere from four to six to eight hours a day. It took that long because they made you go slow so you can acclimate to the altitude. The people that do it over four or five days have a less success rate. The people that do it over six, seven, or eight, there is 99 to 100 percent success rate. That’s why I choose that route.”
Goff explained the toughest part of the summit was coming down the mountain. After sitting for just 10 minutes once getting to the top, the air is so thin Goff began to feel dizzy and light headed. Goff and a couple of the other travelers were helped down the mountain in a rush before they could begin to experience severe symptoms of altitude sickness.
Goff said, “The porters (the ones that toted all the equipment and supplies up the mountain) were dragging me down the mountain and there was all this loose dirt and gravel. I just told them to let me down I could not do it and they said no Karen you are going to get sick. I was nauseated and I drank to keep hydrated. I never got any going up. It was coming down that was rough. Even five days later my equilibrium was off.”
After summitting Goff explained they hiked down in four hours what took eight going up to reach the camp. They rested for an hour and hiked down another four hours up and down steep hills to the next camp. Unfortunately, some of her fellow hikers did not fair as well as she did. A few including her niece experienced altitude sickness coming down off the mountain and one 24-year-old, the youngest of the group, never made it to the top because of dehydration and low blood oxygen.
In Hemingway’s book the story opens with a paragraph about Mount Kilimanjaro whose western summit is called in Masai the “House of God”, and Goff was asked what her personal feelings she experienced she said, “The nature itself and the clouds and just the euphoria. The day we took off I got really emotional, and I said God please help me get through this. I know it is going to be rough and it was really rough. Probably the hardest thing in my life I have ever done.”
With tears swelling her eyes, Goff explained what she felt when she finally summitted to the top and said, “I thought of mom and dad.” And continued by saying, “I cried the morning we went to summit. You know you want it, and you work for it. (For training) I put on a backpack every weekend and walked from my house in Blackman Flats, down through town, and out where they are doing the construction by Holly Meadows. I did eight miles of hiking and go out to the top of quality hill to see my mother and then back through town to my home.”
The hiking adventure ended in a small village with the porters and cooks dancing in celebration for all the hikers that completed the journey of a lifetime. The hikers were presented with certificates of completion for reaching the summit.