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Baby boomer banker dad and son train to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

Five days a week for the past eight months, 58-year-old Keith "Jake" Jacobus has put on a brimmed hat, sunglasses and a long-sleeved shirt, strapped on a 20-pound backpack (well, he started with 10 and worked up) and ignored the stares of strangers as he trudged in soft sand away from the waterline from St. Pete Beach to Pass-a-Grille and back again.

The sand is so deep, he had to empty it out of his sneakers two or three times during each hike. When he stopped to do that, he reapplied sunscreen and took a gulp of the electrolyte water he carried with him.

He didn't rest on the sixth and seventh days, either. The wealth management adviser and vice president with Merrill Lynch used them to squeeze in workouts with a trainer at the gym and 90-minute trudges up and down the stairs of his St. Pete Beach home (wearing the same backpack loaded with 20 pounds of diver weights).

All of this in preparation for a seven-day hike on the other side of the world, a trek up Mount Kilimanjaro, the snow-capped dormant volcano that rises from the East African Plains in Tanzania.

"The training is brutal," Jacobus said. "I'm not scared, but it takes an enormous amount of discipline. It's a trip to experience things I've never done before. Every cell in your body gets tired.

"The summit day is the hardest. We leave at 1 or 2 a.m. and walk in the dark with headlamps so we can be at the crater at sunrise."

Jacobus, who wants to climb all the major mountains of the world, has made other fabled, although less grueling, ascents, including a 2011 hike up the Inca trail to Machu Picchu in Peru.

He said he was inspired to climb Kilimanjaro by an article in the Admiral Farragut Academy magazine about three former students who climbed the mountain in tribute to a female friend and fellow student who died in a helicopter crash during a Navy training mission. They had all planned to climb together one day but they ended up going without their friend. They stopped along the climb to read letters written to her by friends and then, when they reached the top, burned them and spread the ashes.

"I'm doing it because I'm a little crazy. I want to show the kids at school that I can do it," he said. Jacobus, a 35-year resident of the St. Petersburg area, is active at the school that his younger son, Scott, attended and sits on its board of trustees. Scott, 23, who is completing his master's in accounting, will make the climb with his dad. It's more than a father-son bonding experience.

"Jake would like to show him the discipline it takes to be successful in the business world is similar to the discipline in preparing for and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro," said Jacobus' wife, Ingrid. "There are parallels between building a business, running portfolios and climbing mountains."

Father and son sometimes train together for the upcoming 39-mile climb — "It's not a technical climb, just walking," Jacobus said — and figure out ways to ward off the most common ailments of high-altitude climbers: edema, altitude sickness and blisters.

Twelve hikers, a guide and two porters per climber will start their ascent in a jungle and end up on a glacier and then come back down again. The climbers carry most of the items needed ("What to pack," Page 8) but the porters pack and carry the heavy stuff: the climbers' warmest clothing, sleeping bags, mats, food, cooking fuel, emergency oxygen tanks, first-aid kits, satellite phone, tents, a mess tent, a toilet tent, trash and all of their own gear (which, Jacobus said, is not much).

"All of our porters will be part of the Kilimanjaro Porter Assistance Project, which serves to improve pay and working conditions for the porters. I think that is important and one of the reasons why I chose Alpine Ascents to lead the trek," he said.

The climbers will get their water from streams, filter it and then add purification pills. They will also keep up their stamina with energy bars.

So, how much does this all cost? The airfare, clothing, supplies, guide service and the climb itself?

Jacobus gave a puzzled look when asked. He acted as if he didn't want to reveal the amount, but the head-shaking and eye-rolling that accompanied his response said there's a good possibility that he — purposefully — hasn't figured out the exact total cost himself yet.

Well, ballpark, it comes out to . . . a lot. The climb itself is $6,000. Round-trip airfare from Tampa to Tanzania is about $3,000. It's recommended that climbers bring about $500 in cash — U.S. dollars, please — to tip the porters and guides from the local Chagga tribe. And that $9,500 doesn't include the supplies and other incidental expenses that anyone who has ever gone on vacation knows aren't so incidental.

"Let's just say I could buy a small house for what it cost," he said.

After the climb

When Jake and Scott Jacobus get back to the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, their adventure isn't over. Their itinerary concludes with a four-day safari to game reserves of Tanzania, including the Serengeti National Park and visits with the local Masai Tribes.

Meanwhile, Jake's wife, Ingrid, whose arthritis and knee problems will keep her from the Kilimanjaro climb, will also be on safari. She and the couple's older son, Sean, who is 27 and lives in New York City, will fly to Kenya for a 12-day safari. They plan to meet Jake and Scott afterward and fly home together.


Day 1

6 miles

6 hours

3,900 feet

Meet porters from Chagga tribe on edge of rainforest to begin ascent.

Day 2

5 miles

4-6 hours

2,600 feet

Cross a small valley and begin ascent. The environment changes from the sparse and stunted trees of a heath forest to moorland grasses. Halfway up the trail is a river gorge. Ascend across the Shira Plateau.

Day 3

6 miles

6-9 hours

400 feet (up 2,100 feet, down 1,700)

This is the day for getting acclimated to the altitude. See ancient glacier ice of the Breach Wall, the largest ice and rock face in Africa.

Day 4

3 miles

4-5 hours

300 feet (up 1,300, down 1,000)

Climb up and over the Great Barranco in second day of altitude acclimatization. It can be 80 degrees in the daytime and below freezing at night.

Day 5

3 miles

5 hours

2,300 feet

As soon as arrive at Kosovo camp, it's time to start packing and preparing for the 2 a.m. departure

for the summit.


Ascent: 4 miles

8-10 hours

3,726 feet

Awake at midnight and prepare gear for the ascent. Climb wearing headlamps until the predawn light is reflected off the African plains. Following a distinct ridge, approach the crater's rim, then traverse northwest along the rim to the main summit, Uhuru Peak at 19,340 feet. From here is a view of the Bismarck Towers, rock pinnacles along the rim, hanging Rebman Glaciers, Mount Kenya, the sprawling plains of Tanzania and East Africa and Mowenzi Peak.

Descent: 8 miles

6-9 hours

3,000 feet down

After enjoying the view from the top, descend to Barafu, pack camp, and begin traverse down the Mweka route on the southern side of the mountain.

Day 7

4 miles

4-5 hours

6,000 feet down

Descend through lush green landscape into the thickest jungle yet encountered. The environment becomes primordial, with 20-foot-tall fern trees creating a prehistoric atmosphere. Celebratory dinner upon reaching the bottom.

Source: Alpine Ascents International


Climbing equipment

Headlamp (spare bulb and batteries)

Adjustable 3 section ski/trekking poles


1 pair sturdy, waterproof hiking boots or trekking shoes

1 pair gaiters

3 pairs heavyweight socks to be worn over the liner socks

3 pairs thin liner socks to be worn next to the skin to reduce the incidence of blisters and hot-spots

1 pair running or tennis shoes

Technical clothing

2-3 pairs of non-cotton underwear

2 pairs non-cotton long underwear

2 pairs trekking pants

Zip mid-weight jacket

Zip waterproof jacket

Waterproof pants with full-length side zippers

Insulated down jacket with hood

Insulated synthetic pants


Wool/synthetic hat that covers ears


Baseball or other hat


Glacier sunglasses (with side covers or wrap around)


1 pair liner gloves

1 pair shell/ski mitts with insulated removable liner

Personal equipment

Backpack big enough to carry water bottles, camera, lunch and extra clothing

Sleeping bag (goose down)

Self-inflating pad

Closed-cell foam pad

Sunscreen (SPF 40)

Lipscreen (SPF 30)

Pee bottle

Pee funnel (for women)

2-3 water bottles

Sports drink mix

Water purification tablets

Toiletry bag (toilet paper, soap, wet wipes, toothbrush, towel, hand sanitizer, foot powder, dust mask, ear plugs, etc.)


Energy bars or snacks

Trash compactor bags (to line stuff sacks and pack)

First-aid kit with antibiotic ointment, moleskin, molefoam, waterproof first-aid tape, athletic tape, Band-Aids, personal prescriptions

Drugs: Pepto Bismol, Ciprofloxacin for diarrhea and urinary tract infections, Azithromycin tablets for non-gastrointestinal infections, Acetazolamide for altitude sickness, ibuprofen for altitude headaches, sprains, aches; Excedrin for headaches. Tylenol for stomach sensitivity.

Source: Alpine Ascents International

Baby boomer banker dad and son train to climb Mount Kilimanjaro 06/25/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 11:36am]
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