New Castle News

January 14, 2013

On top of the world: City native celebrates 60th birthday by scaling Mount Kilimanjaro

David Burcham
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Leave it to New Castle native Oliver Livermore to reach new heights on his 60th birthday.

As a teenager in the 1960s, Livermore was part of a Boy Scout troop that camped out on Kennedy Square in the thick of winter.

More than four decades later, the New Castle native continues to challenge his body — as in climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa.

Although Kilimanjaro doesn’t have the highest elevation, it is the tallest freestanding mountain rise (19,341 feet from its base) in the world.

That’s the equivillent of stacking Pittsburgh’s tallest building — the 64-story U.S. Steel Tower — 27 times.

Kilimanjaro contains an example of virtually every ecosystem on earth — glacier, snowfields, deserts, alpine moorland, savannah and tropical jungle, all of which are found on the mountain. Livermore experienced it all.

Livermore calls himself an outdoorsman who likes excitement. “You only live once,” he said.

Bobbi Acres of New Castle remembers her friend from Ben Franklin Junior High. In 1982, Livermore moved to Cincinnati, where he works as an IT specialist for computer systems. However, the two re-connected on the Internet a few years ago and have been corresponding since.

“He was always an outgoing and fun-loving person,” she said.

Make that prepared, too.



GEARING UP

Livermore begin training for his task in in a gym in Cincinnati nine months before the climb. It was three days a week most of the year, but he kicked it up to five days during the final month.

Livermore’s biggest fear was altitude sickness, which occurs when you cannot get enough oxygen from the air at high altitudes. This causes symptoms such as a headache, loss of appetite and trouble sleeping. It happens most often when people who are not used to high altitudes go from lower altitudes to 8,000 feet or higher.

So three weeks before the climb, he traveled to Pike’s Peak to test himself. “I wanted to get 15,000 feet and see what it would do to me.”

“Your body has to acclimate to changes in altitude,” he said. “You have to know if your body is ready.”



GOING UP

Climbing Kilimanjaro before turning 60 was on Livermore’s bucket list.  

He made it, reaching the summit on Nov. 29 — the date of his birth in 1952.

At the end of the six-day climb, he was literally walking in the clouds.

He ascended 4,000 feet in six hours in the dark. “It was a hard, arduous climb,” he said. “Very cold.”

Livermore knew the tempterature was below zero. His gloves were covered with ice. He drank hot ginger tea to keep his insides warm.

“Every day it was a different view and a great view,” said Livermore.

“It was emotional at the top,” he went on.  “They sang ‘Happy Birthday’ and threw me a party when we got back down.”

His group included a trio from Australia, one from Italy, a Russan woman and a man from Texas. Livermore was the oldest. Accompanied by two dozen porters, cooks and guides, each climber carried a backpack and used trekking poles.

“I did something that only a small percentage of the world gets to do,” said Livermore, who walked in volcanic dirt around the west rim of the crater of a dormant volcano.

Camps were set up every evening and torn down each morning as the group proceeded to its next destination point.

Meals of eggs, sausage and fruit were prepared using propane gas.



GROWING UP

Livermore is a son of the late Oliver Claude and Frieda Livermore. His sister, Gladys Wingert, lives in New Castle.

As a teen, Livermore fished at the lake at Cascade Park. At 16, he bagged his first deer in Cook Forest.

He was a member of the Order of the Arrow, an elite Scout group that spent many a day at Camp Agawam.

He attended New Castle schools and graduated in 1970 from what is now the Lawrence County Career and Technical Center. After high school, Livermore joined the Navy.

“I consider myself a Ne-Ca-Hi grad,” said Livermore, who attended the class’ 40-year reunion in 2010.

Livermore plans to continue mountaineering next summer by climbing Mount Rainier in Washington State. No plans yet for how he’ll celebrate birthday No. 61.

(Email: d_burcham@ncnewsonline.com)