The Capital of Annapolis

SHERWOOD FOREST, Md. (AP) — Everyone knows that losing weight can be an uphill battle.
But perhaps no one has embraced this concept more literally than Sherwood Forest resident Julie Caverly.

On the spur of the moment last fall, Julie, 52, decided to drop excess pounds by preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. The suggestion came over coffee with friends, and rather than laugh and shrug it off, she ran with it, so to speak.

“I knew that if I lost weight, I'd feel better,” said Julie, who estimated she'd put on about 50 pounds since her college days. “I know the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. And I've done diets. You name it, I tried it.”

What she hadn't tried was mountain climbing — ever. So, within 24 hours the accountant had booked a trip to Tanzania and hooked up with a travel group that helps people reach the 19,000-foot-high African summit. She used the money she'd been saving to remodel her bathroom to pay for the trip, and when she found out the group was open to people of all ages, she decided to take her 16-year-old daughter, Erin, along with her.

“I thought it was awesome,” said family friend Randi Altschuler of Annapolis. “Julie's a no-nonsense kind of person. She just gets an idea and she doesn't second-guess herself.”

Erin, a sophomore at The Key School in Annapolis, said she first thought her mother was crazy, then became enthusiastic about the idea.

Julie's other child, Anne, 18, was away at college, and the mountain climb also served as a way to break her out of a funk about her firstborn leaving the nest.

Julie shed about 30 pounds before heading to Africa for the epic adventure during Erin's February school break, but it still proved to be a stern test. Even though Kilimanjaro isn't supposed to be killer climb and porters guided the group, toting supplies, each participant (there were 11 climbers in all) still had to do all the leg work. And that could last up to eight to 10 hours a day through foul weather and up rock walls.

By the time the group stopped each day, Julie and Erin usually only mustered enough energy for a quick dinner before heading straight to bed.

“I knew it wasn't going to be a walk in the park,” Julie said with a smile. “I thought (it'd be like) an uphill hike. It was a little more intense. … I wasn't prepared for the mud, the snow and the rain. There was absolute fatigue; mindless fatigue.”

They reached the summit in seven days, then took two more to get back down. The hardest part for Julie came the night before they reached the top. She couldn't sleep and thinks she had a panic attack. She got out of her tent, spent three hours looking at the breathtaking scenery, and vowed to continue.

“I learned that I can really reach down and dig down deep when I really didn't think I had it in me,” Julie said.

The ascent to the summit was difficult because of the thin air, but the mother-daughter duo made it.

“There was no air, You're panting with the slightest movement,” Julie said. Then, after a moment's pause, she grinned and added, “It was great.”

“It was hell,” Erin said. “But it was the greatest thing I've ever done. It taught me a lot about myself.

Once you set a goal, you can't go back on it. You've got to keep (moving) forward.”

Randi's daughter Elise, 16, who also attends Key, said she always knew her friend was tough.

“I didn't know how tough,” Elise said.
The new normal

The Caverlys returned from their trip a few weeks ago, the day before Erin had to head back to Key.

Both of their lives have returned almost to normal, though Julie is still nursing sore feet after the toenails on her big toes had to be removed because of injuries caused by all the climbing.

Mother and daughter, who have an even stronger bond now, posted photographs of their excursion on Facebook, and the bathroom that was supposed to be remodeled now instead has a few new pictures hanging on the wall. Erin also got a Maasai spear as a souvenir.

“In the pictures (the mountain) isn't as massive; it's not as impressive,” Erin said.

Friends, though, continue to be inspired by their effort, and maybe none more than Nancy Kriebel of Annapolis. In her backpack, Julie kept a plastic baggie containing the ashes of Kriebel's mother, who died in 2004 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. She scattered the ashes at the summit.

“I'm so proud of her and grateful to her,” Kriebel said. “I feel so blessed she's such a dear friend and she would do something like that for me and for my mother.”

Julie, meanwhile, is gathering supplies to send to one of the porters she befriended on the trip. She saw the poverty he lived in, and is trying to help, also sending money for the school tuition of his three youngest children.

Since she's been back, she's vowed to stay fit and it looks like she'll stay that way at least for another couple months. She's arranged a Grand Canyon hiking trip with another Kilimanjaro climber in May.

“After that, I may just get fat again,”­ she said.