Bruno Cas­tonguay’s Kil­i­man­jaro climb

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier Stanstead

Ear­lierin Oc­to­ber, Stanstead’s Bruno Cas­tonguay, along with fif­teen other ad­ven­tur­ous Town­ship­pers, re­turned from a trek up to the top of Mount Kil­i­man­jaro to raise funds for the Fon­da­tion Claude Durocher. “I re­ally en­joyed the trip a lot. The climb went well for me but it was hard on some of us; three of us had to be car­ried down. It’s a re­ally hard climb and when we were go­ing up we saw peo­ple be­ing car­ried down who didn’t make it to the top. But we were all able to make it to the top, ex­cept for our guide,” com­mented Mr. Cas­tonguay who raised more than $4000 be­fore head­ing off on the ad­ven­ture, much of it from the gran­ite in­dus­try.

“Phys­i­cally, I was strong enough for the climb; we of­ten walked and climbed twelve hours a day. But get­ting used to the al­ti­tude was hard. I would get headaches while I was sleep­ing,” said Bruno about the hike that took six days to go up, two to come down. Three mem­bers of the group be­came se­ri­ously ill, de­vel­op­ing cere­bral edema from the al­ti­tude, the rea­son they had to be car­ried down.

“It’s strange what hap­pens to the brain from the lack of oxy­gen. You want to sleep a lot and we seemed to be dream­ing while we were awake. We had to keep talk­ing to each other and we were all fol­low­ing each other as we climbed,” he ex­plained.

It wasn’t easy get­ting used to the cli­mate of Africa’s high­est moun­tain. “It was warm dur­ing the day but as soon as the sun goes down the tem­per­a­ture drops twenty de­grees in about twenty min­utes. You can never warm up at night.”

The most chal­leng­ing day was “Sum­mit Day”. “We got up at 4:00 in the morn­ing and left at 5:30. It was an eight hour walk to reach the top. We spent only about forty-five min­utes at the top cel­e­brat­ing, but it’s hard to es­ti­mate the time be­cause by then your brain is re­ally in sleep mode. Com­ing down is very hard too be­cause you’re us­ing dif­fer­ent mus­cles.”

Mr. Cas­tonguay, an as­tron­omy en­thu­si­ast who oc­ca­sion­ally writes as­tron­omy ar­ti­cles for this news­pa­per, was not able to bring a tele­scope up to the top of the moun­tain, but he did do some star-gaz­ing. “When we were up near the top the moon was full so we didn’t see that many stars. The sky is very dif­fer­ent there and I saw a lot of con­stel­la­tions that I had never seen be­fore. I gave some as­tron­omy lessons and I learnt a lot, too. We used binoc­u­lars; I couldn’t bring the tele­scope up be­cause, af­ter 4000 me­tres, ev­ery ex­tra pound is re­ally heavy.”

Al­though this par­tic­u­lar ‘hike’ up and down Mount Kil­i­man­jaro is about 100 kilo­me­tres long, Bruno’s trip was ac­tu­ally longer since he made a movie along the way. “I had to climb up, place the cam­era, then come back down a bit and climb up again. It started to get harder to do as we got higher and I wasn’t sure that I would be able to film all the way. But I did and I made an amaz­ing movie. At about 20,000 feet, it looks like shots taken from a plane.” Bruno had to sleep with his cam­era bat­ter­ies in his sleep­ing bag to stop them from be­ing drained by the cold.

Mr. Cas­tonguay was re­ally amazed by a lot of what he saw in Africa, even be­fore his climb. “On a sa­fari we saw lions, ele­phants, hip­pos, ze­bras, gi­raffes; it’s amaz­ing how many an­i­mals are there.” The whole group was shocked by the num­ber of or­phan­ages they saw, prompt­ing them to do­nate food to one. “The poor­est peo­ple I’ve ever seen in the world were there,” said Bruno, de­scrib­ing a city of one mil­lion that had no in­fra­struc­ture and only two traf­fic lights. “But the peo­ple don’t com­plain. I asked our driver, who said he only had a job two or three months a year, if he

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