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Five locals set sights on climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

Sunday 19 February 2012


From US publication Democrat and Chronicle:


Mt. Kilimanjaro
Mt. Kilimanjaro

Five locals set sights on climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

Written by

Staff writer
1:13 AM, Feb. 13, 2012

When she first saw Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa 22 years ago, Lisa Moretto knew that someday she would climb it.

Then she developed chronic fatigue syndrome and was in a wheelchair for four years. As she fought pain, exhaustion and the stigma of a little-understood disorder during her long recovery, she put her dream of climbing Africa’s highest mountain on the back burner.

But on Feb. 20, almost 20 years to the day since she was first diagnosed, Moretto hopes to be standing atop the 19,341-foot-tall snow-capped summit of Kilimanjaro, redeeming her dream and, at the same time, raising money for a foundation that raises awareness of chronic fatigue syndrome.

Moretto, 47, of Brighton, is expecting to savor the moment.

“I know I’m in recovery, but it (chronic fatigue syndrome) is still a black-shadowed time of my life,” she said. “Most of my friends don’t even know what happened to me 20 years ago. I’m not that person anymore.”

Moretto and four other people from the Rochester area left Saturday [11 February] on a 12-day expedition to climb Kilimanjaro, in the nation of Tanzania.

The trip was put together by Pack, Paddle, Ski, an outdoor outfitter from Lima, Livingston County, that has organized adventure travel for more than 5,000 clients in 20 countries since 1983 and specializes in fund-raising trips it calls “Journeys of Inspiration.”

All of the climbers are using the trip to raise money for charities. Diana Singer, 52, of Penfield is making the climb for the Pluta Cancer Center. The American Cancer Society will benefit from pledges collected by Marcia Campbell, 51, of Conesus, Livingston County; Bob Ames, 65, of Fairport; and Paul Hoffman, 63, of Dansville, Livingston County.

Although all are on the climb for the challenge, they’ve all overcome adversity, or have friends or loved ones who have.

Singer, who traveled in 2010 to a base camp that was set up for an assault on Mount Everest, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2004.

“It really freaked me out,” said Singer, who operates a day-care business. “I thought, ‘Where I am going to be in a few years? Am I going to be in a wheelchair?’ ”

She has taken medical therapy to slow the disorder’s progression and also has been an active climber and hiker.

“The better shape you can stay in, the stronger you can keep your muscles, the longer you’re going to last,” she said. “It’s like cancer. It’s so unpredictable.”

Through a friend and fellow climber, she chose Pluta Cancer Center as a donor for money she is raising.

It’ll go to help patients with special needs not covered by insurance.

“When I went there (to Pluta), I was kind of blown away,” she said. “They’re a special group of people.”

Campbell, whose husband, Rick French, is co-owner of Paddle, Pack, and Ski, is recovering from a degenerative disc disorder in her back.

“Because I’m a veterinarian, I need my back badly,” she said. “But couldn’t walk and I was sore.”

Surgery in 2011 eliminated most of that problem. “It worked well,” she said. “I still have some pain, but overall, it’s good.”

During her rehabilitation, “walking and hiking were all I could do for a while,” she said. Drawn to Kilimanjaro by her husband’s friendship with a guide from Tanzania, she asked, “Do you think I could go to Kili?”

Ames, who has volunteered to guide local trips for Pack, Paddle, Ski, chose the American Cancer Society as the recipient of his donations because he has friends and family members with cancer.

He decided on going to Kilimanjaro almost by accident when he showed the guide from Tanzania around Rochester.

“He said, ‘When are you coming to my country?’ I said, ‘Never.’ But the seed was planted. Someone said, ‘Even if you don’t make it to the top, it’s an amazing trip. It’s the journey, not the destination.’ ”

Moretto, who is president of RGI Learning, a provider of professional development courses, believes she’ll make it to the top.

“It’s going to be really emotional, physical, mental, the whole bit,” she said. “But I know I can do it. The group that we have is very supportive.”

For inspiration, she draws on one of her favorite photos, taken in 1994, two years after she was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. It shows her with her arms raised in triumph as she stands next to a breathtaking vista in the Canadian Rockies in Alberta.

What the photo doesn’t show is the wheelchair that a friend used to push her close to the overlook, or the pile of rocks she spent 45 minutes climbing before she posed.

“These kids were walking by me, older people were walking by me,” she said. “It was just a little walk, but I was hell-bent on getting there. That picture was my Christmas card that year.”


The above originally appeared here.



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