A long-distance runner, Pully and his long-time friends Dale Abrahamson of York County and Ed Elmore of Gloucester have been running trails together for years. But one day, while hiking the trails at the base of Mt. Rainier in Washington with a friend, Pully had an epiphany. The two had lost the trail and were sitting on the side of a snow bank when the clouds opened up, the sun shone on the snow-covered peak, and Pully was enthralled.
"We both said, ‘we’ve got to do that,’" said Pully.
In no time, he was back, climbing Mt. Rainier, learning how to deal with ropes and crampons and an ice axe, and falling off a cliff. From there, it was on to Mt. Hood in Oregon, Mt. Elbert in Canada, and Mt. Orizabe in Mexico.
For years, Pully talked about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, but he kept putting it off. Then about a year ago he decided to commit to the trip because the glaciers at the top of the mountain are melting and are expected to be completely gone by 2020.
Once in Tanzania, Pully, Abrahamson and Elmore stayed in the small town of Moshe, where traffic is chaotic, with mopeds, taxis, three-wheeled motorcycles, bicycles and hand-pushed carts vying for space with trucks and cars. In the countryside on the way to the mountains, they passed villages with stalls along the side of the road, women carrying bunches of bananas on their heads, and goats and cattle casually strolling in the roads.
The three men decided to climb the shorter Mt. Meru in order to become acclimated to the heights. At 4,566 meters, Meru is a good practice climb for the 5,895-meter Kilimanjaro. It doesn’t pose as many risks and the housing is good—a hut with a separate dining hall.