Naperville’s Russell Fletcher Plans To Summit Mount Kilimanjaro

photo of Russell Fletcher and a woman with mountains in the background
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Naperville native Russell Fletcher will spend the next week trekking up Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Chance for Adventure

The 66-year-old spent most of his career as a chairperson of the Planning Commission for the Village of Bolingbrook. For the past six years, he’s called Naperville home. But he’s excited for his upcoming change of scenery.

“As I got closer to retirement, I decided that I wanted to prove to myself that retirement doesn’t necessarily have to mean sitting in a rocking chair or waiting to go into a nursing home,” said Fletcher.

Lemosho Route Up Kilimanjaro

Fletcher will hike the Lemosho Route to Kibo’s Uhuru Peak, which stands 19,341 feet above sea level. Kilimanjaro has three separate volcanic cones: Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira. The summit of Kibo is the highest point in Africa. 

Hiking the Lemosho Route of Kilimanjaro does not require the traveler to be a professional climber. 

“It does not require technical training,” said Fletcher. “Just about anyone in good condition can do this hike. You don’t have to use ropes and you’re not crossing the ice crevasses or anything like would on (Mount) Everest, K2, or any of the larger mountains in Asia.”

Group Effort

Despite its availability to the general public, hiking Mount Kilimanjaro is no small undertaking. Fletcher will be joined by 12 different hikers from around the United States, as well as 55 porters from a hiking company, who carry kitchen equipment, bags, tents and other supplies.

“Basically all we have to do is carry a backpack with what we need for the day such as water, snacks and so forth,” said Fletcher. “The company that I’m going with chooses to take a bit slower route to get to the summit, which allows your body to acclimate to the high altitude more slowly.”

On The Trail On Kilimanjaro

While hiking Mount Kilimanjaro, Fletcher and the other travelers will pass through many different climate zones. 

“The beginning of the hike is spent in Moshi, which is a very lush jungle and tropical environment,” said Fletcher. “As you get up a little bit higher, you’re above the tree line and it starts to open up quite a bit.”

After months of preparation and six days on the trail, the average time spent at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro is only five to 10 minutes. The extreme weather conditions at the peak are cause for a quick turnaround.

“Hikers attempt the summit shortly after dawn, and that’s because it is when there is the least amount of wind,” said Fletcher. “The summit can be anywhere from about 15 to 20 degrees below zero, with 40 to 50 mile-per-hour winds.”

The Final Stretch

The final day of the Lemosho Route is spent traveling all downhill. Fletcher and the rest of the hikers will descend over 6,000 feet during the day before returning to base camp.

“As I explored the concept of doing this hike, I asked myself, ‘How many people do I know that have hiked Mount Kilimanjaro?’ said Fletcher. What attracted me was the fact that it was something that very few Americans get the chance to do.”

Naperville News 17’s Will Payne reports.

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