‘Above the clouds’

Published 10:45 am Thursday, November 3, 2011

Dave Carlin (facing camera from right), Ed Amdahl and Sam Amdahl approach Uhuru (Freedom in Swahili) Peak, the highest point on Kilimanjaro. Note how the snow transitions to clouds at the horizon. - Photo provided

Ex-Austin residents climb to top of Mount Kilimanjaro

Like something from a TV commercial, three Austin alumni took their celebratory swigs of Mountain Dew as they looked down at the clouds from 19,340 feet. Brothers Ed and Sam Amdahl, along with their friend Dave Carlin, reached the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Though an ascent is exhilarating to them, they live for the moment when they reach the top.

Dave Carlin (from left) , Ed Amdahl and Sam Amdahl celebrate on the roof of Africa with their childhood beverage of choice – Mountain Dew. - Photo provided

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“Certainly, getting to the peak is an adrenaline-filled moment,” Sam said. “You get a sense of accomplishment you can’t get in everyday life. … It’s hard to find that.”

After a six-day trek through changing climates, a slow, steady walk and only glimpses of seeing Africa’s flatlands far below, the former Austinites reached the peak on Oct. 7. It’s hardly a beginning to trekking or mountain climbing for the men.

The men began hiking and enjoying outdoors through Boy Scouts. Today, they’ve gone their separate ways, but they still come together for the same reason: adventure.

Dave, a 1989 AHS graduate, now lives in Lanesboro. He and Ed, a 1995 graduate and active-duty Marine who lives in North Carolina, have a passion for serious hikes and climbs. In 2008, the two men reached the top of Aconcagua in Argentina at 22,840 feet — the tallest mountain outside of Asia and one of the Seven Summits. Among other Seven Summits peaks, Ed and Carlin have conquered Mount Elbrus in Russia and have their sights set on Denali in Alaska.

Though Ed and Carlin someday hope to tackle all seven, their trip to Africa was undoubtedly unique. Sam, a 1991 AHS graduate, joined his first Seven Summits climb with Ed, Ed’s wife, Carlin, and four others.

“It was perfect,” Sam said. “If you asked any other people that participated in it what could have been done differently, the answer would be ‘nothing.’”

Sam, who now lives in Illinois as an engineer, is still an adventurer and hiker at heart. Though he has been on serious hikes, Sam said it had been 15 years since he had done ‘serious backpacking.’ Though the Kilimanjaro climb took six days and caused some headaches and shortness of breath, nobody complained. Sam recalled hiking at 4 a.m. on the final day of ascent in cold, snowy conditions, above 15,000 when he heard someone say, “How cool is that? It’s snowing on Kilimanjaro.”

The trip started in rain forest climate and quickly offered views of the surrounding savanna, Sam said. However, it didn’t take long to reach the sky.

“We essentially spent the next six days above the clouds,” he said.

When the group reached the top, it was like every time before. Even for those who have scaled higher peaks, Sam explained the feeling: “You can’t take another step higher; you’ve done it. Having that culminating moment is incredibly satisfying.”

The trip wasn’t just another conquered peak for Ed and Carlin, either. The group went on a Safari, which Sam said set a completely different tempo than the hike.

“The safari is the exact opposite,” he said. “On the safari, you don’t care about where you’re going or even when you get there. The only thing that matters is what you experience along the way.”

On the safari, the group saw cape buffalo, rhinos, lions, cheetahs and numerous other animals, something many only dream of.

“I think everybody has a fascination with going to Africa at some point,” Sam said.

Sam is writing a book, “A Walk Above the Clouds,” to detail the group’s experience. More than anything, he said, it’s so everyone can recall “the magic that everyone felt.”

The individuals within the group have accomplished a lot in their careers and only look to have more adventures, too.

“I wish they would consider coming to Minnesota more exciting,” the Amdahls’ mother, Chris Henricks, said with a chuckle.

But she, like the group, knows there will inevitably be more adventures. One trip may be a horseback riding tour through Mongolia. But in the meantime, Ed and Carlin have their sights set on Denali — and checking off one more peak on their way to seven.