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Neil DuboffBy MYRON LOVE Last August, to celebrate their 60th birthdays, Neil and Carol Duboff and their children travelled to East Africa to go on safari. And while they were in the neighbourhood, Neil decided that he might as well climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, too.


“It was a good challenge,” the long-time Winnipeg lawyer and community leader says of climbing Africa’s highest mountain. “I wanted to prove that I could do it, that I was still strong and healthy at 60.”
Mt. Kilimanjaro, located in northeastern Tanzania, is probably best known through its association with the Hemingway novel, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” (which, Duboff notes, actually had very little to do with the plot of the novel itself). He reports that there are still snow and glaciers at the top of the mountain.
So how does one prepare to go mountain climbing for the first time? Well, the frequent marathon runner did his best to prepare through continuing his daily morning running and lifting weights.
“There is no way to prepare for the lack of oxygen four miles up,” he notes. “Climbing mountains is not for everyone. A lot of it is psychological. You have to believe you can make it. We encountered a lot of people on the climb who had to turn back. We met a lady from Bavaria who had to turn back. She was very upset.”
Duboff notes that the climb and the safari were eight months in the planning. “There were nine of us on the safari,” he says. “It was really important that our children (sons Michael and Jonathan and daughter, Rachel) were with us.”
They were also accompanied by Michael’s wife and in-laws. Michael and his father-in-law, Dr. Shefin Laliji, accompanied Duboff up Kilimanjaro.
The group left Winnipeg on August 3. “The scale of it all was a spiritual experience,” Duboff says.
He and his climbing companions began their six-day climb on the first Saturday after arrival.
“The lack of snow on the lower levels made the initial phases easier,” he says of the climb.
He notes that you climb through four different climate zones – from tropical rain forest near the bottom, up through marsh and then desert conditions, to the alpine level, which is the hardest to go through.
“You need to take a lot of water with you, especially for the higher levels,” he says. “You need to drink four to five litres a day.”
Meals consisted largely of porridge, toast and tea. Porters carry the climbers’ supplies.
Sleeping accommodations were provided by wooden lean-tos along the route. “We slept on wooden floors in our sleeping bags,” Duboff notes.
The base camp for the last couple of thousand feet was at the 17,000-18,000 foot level. “We started out at midnight for the six-hour climb to the summit,” Duboff recounts. “We were walking in darkness. Each step up there is difficult because of the lack of oxygen. But, as you get closer and closer to the top, you realize that this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And greeting the sunrise with my son, Michael, at the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro made it even more special.
The safari took two weeks. “We passed through three national parks, as well as spending a few days on the island of Zanzibar,” Duboff says.
(Zanzibar is a storied island on the east coast of Africa. It used to be noted as a centre of the Arab slave trade. In the early 1960s, the island merged with the newly independent country of Tranganyika to form the present day Tanzania.)
Duboff was impressed with Tanzania and its capital city, Dar Es Salaam. The country appeared to be quite prosperous – especially as compared to Ethiopia, which Duboff and Teddy Lyons visited on a mission to help bring Falash Mura people from Ethiopia to Israel. (The Falash Mura were formerly Ethiopian Jews who had been pressured to convert to Christianity.)
Duboff has also previously visited Cairo with other members of Winnipeg’s Arab-Jewish Dialogue group.
Duboff’s scaling of Mt. Kilimanjaro is a reflection of how he has chosen to live his life. “You have to believe in yourself,” he says. “You can achieve your goals if you work hard, push yourself and believe that you can do it.”

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