Vail Today: Vail Valley home to one of the oldest and youngest to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro (Video)
August 25, 2017
Even though there is a 79-year age difference between the two, Zach Meltz and Dr. Fred Distelhorst have a lot in common. They are both from Vail, they both have ties to Vail Mountain School and they both climbed Mount Kilimanjaro within days of each other in July.
Zach Meltz will be going into the fourth grade at Vail Mountain School and Dr. Fred Distelhorst is a retired orthodontist who practiced in Vail for many years and his kids and grand kids went to Vail Mountain School. The two met for the first time on a sunny morning in Lionshead and shared their experience of being one of the oldest and youngest people to climb Africa's highest peak.
They embraced like lifelong friends would and you could see the admiration and the awe in their eyes, each being equally impressed with each other's feats. They talked about which routes they followed, how many days it took to ascend and descend, how cold it was and the food they ate.
Because of their ages, word spread to other camps about these two climbers and they were adored by the porters and guides. They called Zach "simba" and would hoist the youngster on their shoulders and dance around. They called Dr. Distelhorst "babu", the Swahili word for grandpa and they would ask if they could take a selfie with him.
Another thing in common was their perceived degree of difficulty of climbing to the top of this dormant volcano in Tanzania, which stands at 19,341 feet. They both said it wasn't as hard as they thought it was going to be. "You take small steps, so it really is just one step at a time," said Distelhorst.
"I think the most obvious thing we have in common is we both love the outdoors," said Meltz.
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Another common thread, they both loved the people. "One of the things that stood out for me the whole trip was how friendly they were," said Distelhorst. Meltz agreed. "Every time they would walk past us, they were always smiling, it was amazing," Meltz said.
When asked if they would do it again, both said the same thing: no. "I think one time is enough," said Meltz. "I don't think I have any desire to do that again, I like biking to the Vail Pass cul-de-sac better," said Distelhorst.