DELMAR: Reaching new heights

Fortunately for Mark, Jeff had his sights set on the same mountain.

"It's been my life's goal (to climb Kilimanjaro)," said Jeff.

Not long after that, Jeff Bryant contacted Markert to see if he was interested in making the trip.

"We were just talking, and when we first mentioned it, it was sort of to gain a reaction from each other," said Markert. "We're sort of adventurers, so we were both into the idea."

Markert sent out e-mails to people he thought would be interested. Fashouer was on that list.

"I knew Tom from skiing," said Fashouer. "So very early on in the process, he sent out some e-mails about it, and that's when I jumped on it. It was a trip of a lifetime " it was too good to pass up."

Fashouer then told Brennan about the trip, and the 66-year-old Brennan asked to be included.

"I think I roped them into taking me with them," said Brennan. "But anybody who knows me knows I'm an athletic person."

Once the group was established, everyone started collecting information about Kilimanjaro and learned that it possessed only one physical challenge " its height, estimated at more than 19,300 feet.

"It's not a technical climb," said Brennan. "You don't have to climb any (rock) walls or use any crimp-ons or hand picks to traverse any ice."

"Over the last four or five years, Kilimanjaro has taken over as an everyman's Everest," said Markert.

Everyone trained over two years to prepare for the ascent, but it was what their guide, John Hauf, taught them on the first day of the hike that proved to be the most valuable training regimen for them.

"He had us walking very slowly from the outset, and they had you so focused on walking slowly that it was easy until the last day " that's when they cram everything," said Mark Bryant.

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