• Lofty goal: Vt. native to climb Kilimanjaro
    By Eric Blaisdell
     | December 30,2012
    Mark Collier / Staff Photo

    Austin Whipple runs in Barre to keep in shape.

    PLAINFIELD — A native of Central Vermont will climb Mount Kilimanjaro in February to raise money for the treatment of those with cerebral palsy.

    Austin Whipple of Plainfield got the idea when he was at a rock climbing wall with a friend and saw a poster advertising a different charity climb. He said the two decided they could start their own initiative.

    The friend is Phil Berenz from Connecticut and he has a mild case of the disease, Whipple said. The two work together at Boston University.

    Whipple said the goal is to raise $30,000, and as of Friday, they had raised about $9,500. He said if they do not reach their goal by February, the trip will go on and they will come back from Africa and keep fundraising.

    All of the money donated to the climb will go to the charity United Cerebral Palsy of Metro Boston. Whipple said the charity helps out with both treatment and therapy to get folks back and functioning.

    “Their motto is that everyone deserves to live life without limits and that’s kind of what we’re exemplifying with this hike, is that anybody can do this kind of stuff. In (Berenz’s) case, it really shows anyone can do anything they set their mind to,” Whipple said.

    The plan is for Whipple, Berenz and two other friends to leave on Feb. 6 and start the climb in Tanzania on Feb. 9. Whipple said the climb is expected to take five days up and two down.

    Cerebral palsy is caused by a lack of oxygen, or hypoxia, to the fetus’ brain in the womb, and Whipple said climbing the 18,000-plus-foot mountain will recreate that situation with the lack of oxygen at high altitudes making the feat that much more special for Berenz to accomplish. For Berenz, Whipple said the disease affects the motor function for the right side of his body and can cause his right leg to cramp up easily. He said they will be climbing with a doctor to make sure everything goes smoothly.

    Whipple has experience climbing the White and Green Mountains in New England, but he said Kilimanjaro is special because it’s the world’s highest free-standing mountain, not part of a range.

    Whipple said he has been training for the charity climb for the past six months by running and climbing. He said the climbers went to Colorado in September to climb a 14,000-foot mountain to make sure they could handle the altitudes.

    The group are paying for the trip out of their own pockets. Whipple said he expects it to cost about $4,000 including travel and equipment.

    After Kilimanjaro, Whipple has not ruled out tackling Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, next.

    “We’ll see how this one goes,” he said.



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