“I decided to climb the mountain to challenge myself rather than sit on a beach for two weeks. I wanted to see in person the only place in the world where you can find glaciers on the equator. I wanted a graduation trip I would always remember, and climbing to the Roof of Africa was definitely memorable,” David Lipton said.
Lipton returned from that memorable graduation trip a month ago, and was willing to tell us about it.
He recently finished his bachelor’s at UGA and will be pursuing a Masters in Public Administration at Tech in the spring; his companion Jarkko Simonen received a bachelors degree from Auburn.
So why did a UGA grad and an Auburn grad have a Tech flag on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro?
“I was raised on Georgia Tech football and my dad and I have had football season tickets for 18 straight years. I was at the 1985 All-American Bowl when we beat Michigan State, I was there in 1990 when we beat Nebraska and too many other games to mention. I eat, sleep and breathe Tech football, but when it came time to choose my school, UGA had my major and Tech didn’t. But despite being an UGA alumnus I am a ramblin, gamblin’ helluva engineer,” Lipton said.
One of David’s professors is from the area near Mt. Kilimanjaro and assisted in planning their expedition; then his teacher’s brother [a grad student at UGA] was there to meet David and house him for a few days, while he found a tour guide with a guy who lived in the next village over.
“The only problems associated with climbing the mountain were lack of sleep due to high winds pounding the tent all night, very cold hands and feet, no shower for seven days, the fatigue of hiking up hill with forty pounds on your back for eight hours, and the thin air when you get above 12,000 feet. The summit is 19,400 feet,” Lipton said.
Of course, the entire trip wasn’t drudgery.
“When the snow ended the ground was all loose rock and dirt. When you took a step you would slide for two to three feet every time. We figured when we reached Uhuru Peak, the summit, it was all down hill from there.
“Well, it was a constant struggle to keep from sliding over 2,000 feet to base camp. After a few hours of slipping and sliding we decided to try and ski the loose rocks in our boots rather than continue to struggle to get footing. “It worked for a minute but I slipped and started to fall down the mountain and was saved by our guide who caught me before I ended up in little pieces,” Lipton said.
The journey didn’t end there. They also went on a wildlife safari to Arusha National Park, and stayed at what Lipton calls “the island paradise” of Zanzibar.
“We got a cottage on the [Zanzibar] beach for $25 U.S. a night. The last night we were there my buddy picked up a British girl and left with her to go to a club on the other side of the island.
“I went to a bar on the beach with some locals we met. Around 4 a.m. I finally realized my buddy was nowhere to be found and the taxi would pick us up in one hour to head to the airport.
“Somehow, my buddy also remembered he had to leave so as I was getting in the cab, he showed up. We got to the Zanzibar Airport at 6:30 a.m. for our 8 a.m. flight.
“The flight was really at 10 a.m. but we were in no condition to remember such details. So we slept on a bench at the airport until it left for Dar Salaam then onto Kilimanjaro.
“Once in Kilimanjaro we took a cab one hour back to the town of Moshi to pick up our luggage.On the flight home we were trying to piece together the night before and trying to recall what had all transpired,” Lipton said.
So if you really set out to celebrate graduation, remember that it is possible to include sliding down a rocky cliff, picking up British girls in Zanzabar, partying on an island paradise, and and an African safari all in one whirlwind trip. Oh yeah, and seeing the highest point in Africa and displaying a Tech flag on it.
At least Lipton managed to do so, which is why we’ll welcome this new Tech student and loyal sports fan to our ranks come spring.