Millcreek locals summit Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro and braves an African safariMar 29, 2022 10:06PM ● By Carl Fauver
Taylorsville Global Information Systems Planner Karyn Kerdolff and her husband Brian recently made their way to Africa, and to the top of one of the tallest mountains in the world. (Courtesy Karyn Kerdolff)
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
“We saw thousands of zebras, water buffalo, wildebeests; animals as far as the eye could see – to the horizon.”
And to think, that spectacular view is not even the one Millcreek residents Karyn and Brian Kerdolff recently travelled nearly 10,000 miles to see in Tanzania. At least it wasn’t their “top priority” view.
First and foremost, the Taylorsville City Global Information Systems Planner and her husband spent 38 hours in transit – flying up and over the North Pole – to take in the view atop Africa’s highest point (19,341 feet) – Mount Kilimanjaro.
While you and I were stocking up on Super Bowl party snacks – the day before the big game, Feb. 12 –Karyn and Brian were boarding a plane bound for San Francisco. From there they flew up over the pole, to Doha, Qatar… laid over for eight hours… and then flew to Kilimanjaro Airport, about 65 miles from the peak.
“We’re both age 31, have no children yet and figured this was the kind of dream vacation we ought to take while we can,” Karyn explained. “We are more long-distance backpackers than mountain climbers. But climbing Mount Kilimanjaro does not require any technical gear. So, we were confident we could do it.”
The Kerdolffs moved to Utah from Cincinnati, Ohio just four years ago. Karyn says one of the biggest reasons they moved west was to be closer to adventurous outdoor recreational opportunities.
“We’ve hiked to the top of Kings Peak (Utah’s highest summit, at 13,528 feet),” she added. “We’ve also hiked the Washington State peninsula and the Teton Crest Trail (about 40 miles).”
That Teton Crest Trail – southwest of Grand Teton National Park – is actually 5 miles longer than the hike the Kerdolffs took to summit Kilimanjaro.
“We hiked 35 miles in seven days, Feb. 15 to 21, led by guides and, honestly, going slower than we would have on our own,” Karyn explained. “The guides slow the pace because you are spending that time acclimating to the altitude. They had oxygen available. But you don’t need it, if you acclimate to the thin air properly.”
All that walking was done by natural light – from dawn to well before dusk – until “summit day.”
“On summit day, we started from the basecamp at about midnight, all wearing headlamps (for the first time on the journey),” Kerdolff said. “We were nearly to the summit as the sun came up. It was so cold. I was wearing all the layering I had – and wishing I’d brought my snow pants also.”
But in the next breath Karyn adds, the view was worth the discomfort.
“The air is thin and you are exhausted, but then you get to look down into the center of the (Mt. Kilimanjaro dormant volcano) crater,” she said. “You can also see permanent glaciers. And, off in the distance, Mount Meru.”
Mt. Meru is another dormant volcano – the fifth-highest peak in Africa – about 45 miles west of Kilimanjaro.
Even before the Kerdolff's Feb. 27 return to Utah, Karyn’s “boss” – Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Overson – and her co-workers got to see the climb had been a success.
“As her Taylorsville family, we were so excited to see Karyn’s picture before she returned,” Overson said. “I’m not sure whether she emailed it to someone – or posted it somewhere online – but it was fun to see. I know she was planning the trip for a long time, and did a lot of walking to train for it. We were happy for her and her husband.”
Once the mountain climb was behind them, Karyn and Brian turned their attention to lions, wildebeests, zebras, water buffaloes, giraffes, and the like.
“We were above the timberline for most of our Mt. Kilimanjaro hike, so about the only animals we saw were during the first few days: blue monkeys (named for the bluish tint of their face) and (black and white) colobus monkeys – oh, and ravens,” Karyn added. “But we knew we would see plenty of animals during our 4-day safari after the hike – and we did.”
The Kerdolffs got to rest their legs as they visited Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Serengeti National Park.
“We were around a lot of big animals and you never saw anyone outside their vehicle, except to go to the restroom,” Karyn explained. “We stopped to eat lunch in our vehicle one day, and had huge elephants just 15 feet away. We also saw lions, baboons, antelope, mongooses and off in the distance, a single rhino.”
The Kerdolffs also witnessed something even their guide described as rare to see.
“As we were leaving Serengeti National Park, we stopped to watch a cheetah stalking and hunting an antelope,” Karyn said. “The cheetah didn’t get the antelope that time. But we saw it running at full speed.”
Kerdolff also added, their time spent on safari was anything but “roughing it.” In fact, she invoked the hybrid word for “glamorous camping.”
“We slept in tents most of the nights – but they were equipped with running water and showers,” she said. “This was real glamping – particularly compared to the way we normally backpack and camp. We also had guides walk us back to our tents each night. They weren’t so worried about big animals like lions attacking. They were watching out more for hyenas, who like to take off with your boots or other things.”
Karyn says she and Brian never would have spent the time and money to go to Tanzania just for the safari portion of their trip. But, she considered it a great way to end their time on the African continent.
“The (Mt. Kilimanjaro) hike was definitely the main thing – the biggest part of our trip – and it was such a relief once we finished that,” she concluded. “We knew we had accomplished what we set out to do. But the safari was such a fun, contrasting activity. It was a lot of sitting and riding. But seeing the wildlife was incredible. They were just two totally different things. I can’t really say one was more ‘fun’ than the other – but finishing the climb was definitely more personally satisfying.”
After hiring on with Taylorsville City in August 2019, Karyn is now back at her planning department desk – undoubtedly with a few of the African adventure pictures somewhere in sight. She and husband Brian say it will be a while before their next world travelling adventure. But they’re already pondering it.
“I think next on our list are the Dolomite Mountains in Italy or the Patagonia region at the southern tip of South America (shared by Argentina and Chile),” she said. “But I would also definitely return to Tanzania. The people were so friendly and personable – very kind to us.”