In the outdoor world, many women are first introduced to climbing, camping, and wilderness exploration through the influence of their fathers. So in advance of Father’s Day, we are retelling the story of Peter Whittaker’s climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro with his daughter Gabriella, which they tackled last fall in Tanzania. It was a strong father-daughter bonding experience for Peter, who introduced another Whittaker to the excitement and challenge of climbing one of the Seven Summits on the adventure travel trip.
For Peter Whittaker, who has climbed Mt. Rainier more than 240 times, none of those summits compared to introducing his 14-year-old daughter Gabriella to the experience of high elevation climbing on the Kilimanjaro Family Climb. Whittaker, owner of Whittaker Mountaineering and co-owner of RMI, America’s largest commercial guiding service, spearheaded the father-daughter climb as a way to create a shared high-altitude trekking experience on Africa’s highest peak and the most accessible of the world’s Seven Summits.
The team of father-daughter climbers tackled the Tanzanian peak, gradually working their way up the Machame route from the 5,900-foot gate to the Machame (9,800′), Shira (12,300′) and Barranco (13,030′) camps to acclimatize to the elevation over the course of three days. On day four, they surmounted the Barranco Wall, then continued to the Karanga (13,160′) and Barafu (15,200′) camps before all three father-daughter pairs, including former Backpacker editor-in-chief and current SVP of content at Active Interest Media, Jon Dorn, and his daughter, successfully reached the 19,348-foot Uhuru summit on the sixth day.
For Eddie Bauer guide Peter Whittaker, it was his 14th trip up Mt. Kilimanjaro, but the first spent guiding his daughter in the high-altitude realm. Yet the climb, which included cultural immersion and wildlife safaris in one of Africa’s poorest countries, was less about the summit and more about the experience. “Gabriella and I had two weeks completely off the grid with no phones, no Facebook and no email,” summarizes Whittaker. “It was absolutely the best two weeks I’ve spent with my daughter.”—LYA Editor
Images and Captions by Jon Mancuso
Top: 12,570 feet. Sunset on the Shira Plateau overlooking the Great Rift Valley. Above: 19,340 feet. The team standing on the summit of Kilimanjaro, Uhuru Peak.
L to R: 1. 5,900 feet. And it begins. The first day of the climb: left the Machame Gate and ascended nearly 4,000 feet through dense jungle. 2. 13,500 feet . Traversing the mountain underneath the Arrow Glacier and Western Breach Wall. Along the way, we passed through vegetation that is unique to the high altitudes of East Africa. 4. 13,030 feet. Starry night at Barranco Camp. In the distance, Kilimanjaro looms.
Above: 13,200 feet. Leaving Karanga Camp en route to Barafu, in preparation for our summit bid.
L to R: 1. 15,200 feet. With our summit bid only a few hours away, the girls find some time for bonding. 2. 15,200 feet. 2. Seth Waterfall watches the sun set on high camp and in a few hours we will be going for the “Roof of Africa”. 3. 18,000 feet. After an early alpine start, the sun rises over Mwenze, Kilimanjaro’s sister peak.
Above: 18,900 feet. Making our way to Uhuru Peak, with the southern ice fields standing high above us.
L to R: 1. 19,200 feet. Mwenze wearing her “pretty cloud cap” with climbers at Stella Point. 2. Post-climb game viewing in Tarangire National Park. 3. The sun sets on our successful African adventure.
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