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Alexandria man climbs Mount Kilimanjaro

In August, Marvin Jensen (right) and his daughgter, Marsha, climbed to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa.

ALEXANDRIA -- Marvin Jensen can cross off at least one thing from his bucket list. This past August, he climbed a mountain.

"This is one thing I wanted to accomplish before old age creeps up on me," said the 68-year-old Kensington resident.

About a year ago, Jensen finally decided if he was going to do it, it better be soon. But he didn't pick just any mountain. With no mountain climbing experience whatsoever, he chose to hike to the highest point in Africa - Mount Kilimanjaro - which, at its summit, reaches 19,341 feet.

The reason he chose Kilimanjaro? Because he's lazy - so he says.

"I wanted to climb a mountain where I didn't have to hang from a strap clenched in my teeth, dangling over a 2,000-foot cliff, while I try to pound a spike into the cliff," he said, explaining that no rope work is needed on the mountain. Also, the temperatures aren't quite as bone-chilling on Kilimanjaro as they are on other mountains.

Last February, one of his three grown children, Marsha, agreed to accompany her father on his adventure and the duo began to prepare for the strenuous climb.

The former Army man and jack of many trades (he's a farmer, assessor, a co-op board member, and he dabbles in financial consulting) started training by strapping a 45-pound pack on his back and climbing up and down the stairs of his 34-foot high grain bin. By July he was spending about six hours a day making the climb 120 times.

In August, Marvin and his daughter and his wife, Marlys, left for an 18-day stay in Africa. While father and daughter left for their climb, Marlys stayed back and volunteered at an orphanage.

Armed with 18-pound packs, the duo set off with a group of about 60 people - 12 trekkers and the rest porters and guides. Jensen was the eldest of the group.

It took seven days to climb up the mountain. Each day started at 6:30 a.m. and included eight straight hours of climbing.

"It's really a gut buster. It's very strenuous," Jensen said. "When you are halfway up there, you wonder why in the world you are doing it. I said to my daughter, 'Remind me why I thought this was going to be fun.' "

Regardless of the physical and mental challenges he faced, including the difficulty breathing caused by the altitude, dehydration and exhaustion, Jensen persevered.

"I never felt like I wanted to quit," he insisted. "I had four 'wipe-outs,' but I never passed out, I just had to catch my breath before continuing the trek."

The seventh day of the climb was summit day. The crew got up at 4:30 a.m. and started the climb at 6 a.m. - in time to see the sun rise above them as they watched with wonder at the clouds below them.

At 2:30 p.m., Jensen could officially cross off "climb a mountain" from his bucket list, as he and his daughter successfully made it to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

"Wow! We did it!" he recalled of his reaction to finally reaching the top. "It was a combination of relief and exhaustion and feeling proud, I suppose."

The climbers were able to stay at the summit for about an hour and a half to revel in their success before turning around and heading downhill. After a precarious two-day jaunt, they made it to the bottom.

"We were happy of course, but exhausted," he said, contemplating how he was able to complete the strenuous climb. "Maybe it was determination, I don't know. I had in my mind I was going to keep going whether I was tired or not."

Looking back, Jensen doesn't regret his gutsy adventure, and doesn't hesitate for a second when asked if he would ever do it again.

"Oh, sure!" he said.

In fact, Jensen is already contemplating climbing Mount Kilimanjaro again - this time in an effort to set a world record.

"I'm trying to find out the oldest person who has climbed it and beat the record. Wouldn't it be fun to set a world record?" he pondered.

And with a determined glint in his eyes, Jensen, in crossing "climb a mountain" off his bucket list, simply added another - "climb a mountain when I'm old."

"Why not?" he concluded. "I think I could do it."

Not too bad for a lazy bum.