Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro: How Franklin Chancey took on the highest mountain in Africa
by Bettie Marlowe
Oct 23, 2013 | 1797 views | 0 0 comments | 74 74 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The law of the jungle
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Franklin Chancey, above, pauses in his climb of Mount Kilimanjaro just below the summit.
When local attorney Franklin Chancey turned 50, he took a look at his “Bucket List,” and decided “it was time to get off my rear end and do something about it.”

A native of Cleveland, Chancey graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1981 — his law partner Scott Kanavos graduated from BCHS the same year — and they have been together since 1994. Bill Bates, a teacher, urged him to consider law. “(You’re) cut out for that sort of work,” Bates told him. The law firm is Chancey, Kanavos, Love and Painter.

At the top of his bucket list was mountain climbing. Ten years ago, Chancey saw a documentary on PBS about mountain climbers in Africa, and “it stuck in my mind,” he said. Now he was ready to go for the adventure.

First of all, research had to be done about what is involved in mountain climbing — especially Mount Kilimanjaro. With its three volcanic cones, Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira, Mount Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcanic mountain in Kilimanjaro National Park, Kilimanjaro Region, Tanzania. To climb Mount Kilimanjaro, a person has to work with a climbing service and hire licensed guides. His group employed a native Tanzanian and an American.

But getting ready was going to take time, Chancey said, and he realized he would have to be more fit for mountain climbing. He began a six-month program, exercising five or six days a week. He practiced carrying a 30-to-35-pound pack, also, and hiking in Big Frog Mountain.

The pack he would be carrying up Mount Kilimanjaro included a change of clothing and shoes, food, a 3-gallon water supply (typically) and rain gear.

His daughter, 13, wanted to go along, but they decided “that would have to be for another time.” She helped with his training and followed his progress online as cybercasts were posted every day by the guide service.

The climb up the 19,344-foot Tanzanian mountain took 5 1/2 days going up and 1 1/2 days coming down. “It was harder,” Chancey observed, “going up.” Located on the equator, the mountain offers five different climate zones — from rain forest at an 85 degree temperature to glaciers on moon-like surfaces and desert land.

There were 11 in the group, but four didn’t complete the climb. The guide service refreshed their water every day. It was taken from streams and, being unsafe to drink, the climbers had to sterilize it, using a strong UV light to kill germs.

The biggest challenge, Chancey said, was air. At the top, oxygen was just half and you would fatigue faster. The temperature was also a challenge. On their last day, at midnight, the temperature was 10 degrees below freezing.

Chancey said on the first night, he had a moment when he wondered “can I actually do this?” But when he reached the summit, he said he felt a tremendous sense of relief and elation. “I had put so much effort into it,” he said as he explained his fear of not making it and not wanting to disappoint anyone.

They reached the summit on Sept. 11 and carried a flag with them to commemorate the day. They were 30 minutes on top of the mountain. The air was thin, cold and windy, but the view of the beautiful sun across the plains of Africa, Chancey said, “was worth it.”

But, he concluded, “once is enough.”

When they came back down Mount Kilimanjaro, it was a celebratory occasion. The native guides dance, sing and have feasts to celebrate. Then they go home for a day or two and start over with another group. Their pay is $8 a day plus tips for the hard job, Chancey said. “When you start to get tired carrying packs, you have to remember they had to carry three times as much on their heads.”

“It gave a sense as to what soldiers go through carrying loads for weeks and months on end,” Chancey said. “(You) have to have admiration for what they’re experiencing.”

Unemployment in the Tanzania region is 80 percent. And even the hardest jobs are a treasure for locals. “It’s impressive how hard they work for a small amount,” he added.

After conquering Mount Kilimanjaro, Chancey had the opportunity to go on a safari, which he said, “was worth the trip all by itself.”

He said he made new friends in the group from all over the country, which added to his experience, and was glad to get to know people who had the same goals.

“I haven’t decided on the next ‘Bucket List,’” Chancey said. “I hope it will be more relaxing.”