Andie Stuber

Meredith’s Stuber: Christmas on Rooftop of Africa

  • Name: Andie Stuber
  • Age: 26
  • Organization: Meredith College, Lacrosse

Author: Patrick Kinas, creator.

(Photo: The Stuber family at Uhuru Peak. Summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Courtesy: Andie Stuber.)

The word “adventure” can be spelled with every letter of her name. Except the “v”. While not quite an anagram, Meredith lacrosse player Andie Stuber and her family take the word adventure to an entirely new level. Whitewater rafting, cruising nearly all 50 states, getaways to Japan, Australia and Europe – those are just some of the escapades defining the Stuber experience. And last Christmas, while most were going downstairs to see what lay under the Christmas tree, the Stubers were going up – climbing the tallest free-standing mountain in Africa.

The Kilimanjaro Plan

Maybe it was the high altitude at which she was born that cultivated her passion for heights. Perhaps it was her brother’s will to seize every moment. Or maybe it was her dad’s unquenchable pursuit of making the unreachable, reachable. Or it was possibly her mother’s constant support and always making sure Andie knew she could do anything she put her mind to. But for Andie, born in the Mile High City, the family Stuber’s grandest accomplishment would be attained more than 3 ½ times higher and nearly 9,000 miles away.

“My family traveled a lot growing up,” Stuber recalled. “But this was a little crazy even by our standards.”

The idea was hatched by Andie’s older brother Alex. A burgeoning career in with NASA as an aerospace engineer in California, this NC State grad lived for the Stuber adventure. After trips to nearly every continent, Alex came up with the notion of spending Christmas atop the world’s largest mountain.

“He had just graduated and landed a job with NASA out in California, and the trip was to celebrate him,” Andie said. “My brother really wanted to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. We all said ‘Why not?!’”

In the summer of 2012, six months prior to the ascent, Andie and her father flew out to be with Alex during one of his co-op terms and headed to the tallest mountain in the contiguous U.S. – the Golden State’s Mt. Whitney.

Standing over 14,500 feet, the Stuber’s attempted this ambitious training climb in one day. After reaching the 12,000 foot campground, and without the two-day permit needed to spend the night on the mountain, the Stuber’s returned to the base after their air-thinning training session.

Finally after more months of more traditional strength training and heavier cardio exercises, Andie and her family were ready. Ready to conquer Kilimanjaro.

Path To Kilimanjaro

After Stuber’s December exams, the expedition began. Three of the Stubers, Alex, Andie, and their father Chuck, made their way on the 14-hour flight to eastern Africa while her mother, Janet, and her paternal grandparents sent their support and waited anxiously at the bottom Kilimanjaro to celebrate their accomplishments.

Arriving in Moshi, a city of nearly 200,000 people located on the lower slopes of Kilimanjaro. The Stuber’s met up with their two guides – one American, one African – who would join them on the trip.

The Stuber family would also have an unexpected bit of assistance.

“During this climb, we had local porters carry up our stuff,” Stuber said. “It was a luxurious setup. We’d be huffing up the mountain, and the porters would pass us carrying our bags. We’d arrive at the campsites and they would have our tents ready.”

Day 1: The Quest Begins

We hiked about six hours and made the first camp. There were about three or four different routes up the mountain. The first day was one of our longest days. It rained. Parts of the climb was steep, but for the most part, it was a gradual slope. There were plenty of rock steps, and it actually was a very commercialized part of the mountain.

We got to watch the sunset.

Day 2: Christmas Eve

It was Christmas Eve, and we were up very early. It was a very hard day and the mountain was steep. It had rained overnight, which made the trail muddy and we slipped more than a few times. Pretty quickly, we were all covered in mud.

Every day it rained from mid-day until the afternoon. It was their rainy season.

Our porters had passed us to get our tents ready again, and when we arrived at our camp spot, we had a great view of Mount Meru before us.

Dad then handed out Christmas cards to all of us.

Day 3: Christmas

We knew this was going to be one of our higher days. To acclimate our bodies, we would climb to a higher elevation, then go back down to re-climatize and then go back up again.

This was one of our harder days as well, so getting to camp made the feeling even sweeter. I had to convince myself that I could do this.

We passed the time by listening to some music through some solar powered speakers. We did have a satellite phone so we could radio back to company to let them know everything was going fine. One of our porters got malaria and had to be taken down.

We were almost 13,000 feet up to Lava Tower, which is a huge rock formation that provides a stunning view of Kilimanjaro. As we were at the campground taking in the view, the rains came back, then turned to hail. Pretty soon, it turned to snow. It was amazing.

We had a white Christmas in Africa.

Day 4: Build-up to Summit

We hadn’t been able to see the top of Kilimanjaro yet, but as we started the fourth day, the weather had cleared up and we could finally see the top.

“We went scrambling over rocks, and got up over 15,000 feet. This day was the most technical part of the climb. All of our previous days was climbing by trails. We had to be much more careful, but we knew we were getting close.

All of the other camps would set up on flat areas, but this one had rocks and the patrol checking your permits. The next day was the big one.

Summit Day.

Day 5: Summit Day

Reality hits the night before Summit Day.

You get camp set up, have dinner and sleep until about 11pm. You need to be ready to go at midnight. At that point, you’re trying not to think about Summitting. There’s a rollercoaster of emotions.

You start at midnight. If you didn’t have your permit, you were sent back. It was snowing. It was really cold. You felt like you were an ant in a line.

You try to summit when the sun is rising. We had to stay hydrated. When we’d stop, it was so cold. We had to prepare for altitude sickness. When I climbed Mt. Whitney, reaching about 12,000 feet, I felt like I was about to pass out then. The high altitude can affect vision and your balance.

We’re pushing. Pushing. I’m thinking to myself that I can’t keep going. Our guide – Simon – kept telling us “Be Strong Like Simba.”

We then reached Stella Point, which is on the crater of Kilimanjaro about an hour from the summit. We caught out breath, had some hot water and just took it in. It was a surreal experience. We were so elated, but we weren’t there yet.

On the other side of the crater, you could see the full moon. On the other side, the sun was rising. It made for incredible pictures.

As we saw a sign for Uhuru Peak saying we were 30 minutes away, we said to each other ‘Let’s Do This!’

Uhuru Peak – Rooftop of Africa

We reached the summit on December 27, 2012. I was so proud of myself and my family. This is something no one can take away.

We were passing groups coming down from the summit. People were cheering and saying ‘Congratulations!’

We made it to the sign that is the sign for all of the climbers saying ‘Congratulations! You are now at Uhuru Peak. 5,895m. Africa’s Highest Point.

Alex was a little bit behind us, so we all waited at the sign. I made a snow angel on a patch of snow and we took sight of the glaciers up there. We then stood in line to take our picture with our Kilimanjaro family.

After a days-long climb, the Stubers only spent a mere 30 minutes inhaling the peak before beginning their descent, which lasted just 1 ½ days.

The memories would last a lifetime.

The Stuber Legacy

Alex Stuber followed in his father’s adventurous footsteps. He never wanted to be constrained. Future… space… those vast unknowns would provide his limitless mind to explore.

The Kilimanjaro idea was his. After the Stuber family returned home, Alex devised another new adventure for his family, taking a cruise to Antarctica over the upcoming holidays this December.

This past summer, Alex was driving with one of his friends through a construction zone in Lancaster, California. He quickly came upon a car in front of him, swerved to avoid hitting it, but lost control of the vehicle. His car skidded through gravel before slamming into a cinder block wall, then flipped over. His friend miraculously survived.

Alex did not.

“Alex never wasted an opportunity,” Andie said. “He lived life to the fullest. He’s 3 ½ years older than me, and we didn’t always get along growing up, but he definitely became a big role model for me.”

At the tender age of just 25, his gracious, adventurous soul was forever silenced .

However, Alex’s giving did not end.

“He was able to donate his heart, kidneys, pancreas and liver,” Andie beamed. “We’ve already heard from one of kidney recipients. He was a perfect match for this young woman. She’s now off of dialysis – all thanks to Alex.”

Alex’s adventures with his family, however, do continue.

“We spread his ashes go wherever we go,” said Andie, 22, who will graduate in interior design from Meredith this December.

The Stuber’s are still taking that Antarctic cruise this Christmas to celebrate. They’re celebrating Andie’s graduation.

Most of all, they’re celebrating Alex.

His life.

His spirit.

And the life he’s brought to others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *