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Atop Kilimanjaro

To the Editor,

I was touched by the numerous e-mails and calls I received from many of your readers in response to the excellent article written by Stuart Becker about my Kilimanjaro Scholarship climb in memory of my son Naren Umashankar ("Reaching the Apex," September 19).

I returned to Tucson on October 8 after successfully reaching Uhuru Peak (19,340 feet) on the morning of Friday, September 27.

We started the summit assault at 11 p.m. Thursday night. The reason they give for the night climb is that you get to see the sun rising over Africa. I think the real reason is that any sane person, if he saw how steep the final climb is in daylight, will decide not to go on!

It was incredibly hard. Thoughts of quitting did enter my mind in some of the steepest slopes. However, our daughter Nita's courageous performance, with a smile hiding her pain, motivated me to go on. On August 14, she tore her left knee, three days before her major dance debut. I could slow down, grimace, cuss and yell. Nita, a UA junior, could do none of these. She had to smile and dance for three hours before an audience of 600. There were doctors in the front row anxiously watching and ready to give her a painkiller shot. Nita refused, saying it would mess up her timing. Nita truly was my inspiration, as well as my commitment to the scholarship in Naren's name.

It's the toughest hike I have ever undertaken. Glad I made it to the top with all your good wishes. I was very fortunate not to have any ill effects due to low oxygen levels. Many climbers were severely affected and quit or had to be taken down with the help of others.

Every morning I was the first to hit the trail because in that vast desolate landscape I wanted time alone with my thoughts. It worked wonders to be standing at 15,000 feet and higher with no human in sight for miles. You take in all that grandeur and soak it in. It's very therapeutic.

Just because Kilimanjaro is a not a technical climb but a high-altitude hike, people take it lightly. Big mistake. You will pay a huge price if you don't train. It was shocking to see people being affected severely by high altitude and evacuated under very dangerous conditions.

On the final summit assault, the trail starts out deceivingly at a moderate gradient. Suddenly in total darkness, except for your headlamp, you encounter these massive boulders you climb, afraid to look back into nothingness. The final summit climb takes mental as well as physical toughness. You are constantly looking for reasons to quit and must find reasons to go on.

Timing is everything. The group that started their trek a week before mine ran into pretty bad weather starting the second day. The trek through the rainforest was horrendous for them and pretty bad for us as well. As they got to higher elevations, they experienced blizzard conditions. On the fourth night three porters froze to death. This news haunted me the whole time. After the climb, I gave away most of my clothing and boots to the porters.

Thanks again to the wonderful readers of Tucson Weekly for their marvelous and warm support.

--Ray Umashankar


Going to the Dogs

To the Editor,

Your feature article ("High Stakes," October 10) and column ("Indian Givers," Danehy, October 10) on Indian gaming contain subliminal "Vote for 202" messages undetectable to regular vision. I have never seen such a blatant endorsement under the guise of journalism for a particular position in all my years of campaigns and politics.

Jim Nintzel's piece, although billed as "handicapping of the gaming propositions," was 100 percent slanted toward 202. The Danehy column was inexcusable. It was written with an anger and vitriolic agenda that is just mind-boggling. I understand that it was an opinion piece, but it should have appeared in the Daily Worker, not the Tucson Weekly.

--W. Kip Keefer
General Manager
Tucson Greyhound Park


Father Figures

To the Editor,

I'm writing in response both to the column by Tom Danehy ("The Bell Tolls," September 19) and the letter defending it by Robert Reynolds (Mailbag, October 3). Both seem to be proud proponents of blaming "lifestyle" for the murder of an innocent. Despicable, no matter how "well written," Mr. Reynolds (although I've yet to read a "well-written" piece by Danehy).

Since Danehy and Reynolds hold that the parents' lifestyle deny them any right to sympathy, and is perhaps even the cause of their daughter's murder, I'll take that to another level. We all know from Mr. Danehy himself that he is a morally superior Christian. Well, the last I heard quite a few parents put their own children in the hands of pedophilic clergy in Danehy's own church. Their "lifestyle choices" directly led to the victimization of those children. I guess neither the parents nor the children warrant any sympathy. After all, I don't put my children in the path of pedophiles in the Christian clergy, so I must have made superior lifestyle choices. Don't I feel smug and self-righteous.

--Kimberly A. Doss-Cortes


"The" Cultures Collide

To the Editor,

What's with all the "the's" in Gene Armstrong's otherwise interesting review of Gogol Bordello ("Cultural Collision," October 10)?

He writes the band "includes immigrants from Russia, the Ukraine, Israel and California." Why not say the Russia, the Israel and the California as well? "His family was evacuated to the rural Ukraine after the 1986 nuclear accident." That's like saying "I live in the rural Arizona rather than "I live in rural Arizona." "Hutz left the Ukraine... moving through refugee camps in Poland, Hungary, Austria and Italy before washing up in New York?" Again, if it's the Ukraine, why not the Poland, the Hungary, the Italy and the New York?

Ukraine is Ukraine-- no "the's" about it. Where are all the good proofreaders when you need them?

--R. Karl Mehl

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