I’ve been a Boilermaker since I was 18. It supplied me with a good living, ability to take care of my family and I’m proud to be one—especially at Local 13.
Dave Gototweski is no stranger to the mountains. As an avid hiker and traveler, he’s spent many years climbing mountains across the United States. After losing his wife of 33 years last April, he hiked nonstop. And then knew he was ready for a new challenge. Motivated to take his mountaineering to the next level, he and his son flew 17 hours to Tanzania, Africa, to ascend Mount Kilimanjaro.
Mount Kilimanjaro, a large dormant stratovolcano, sits in Kilimanjaro National Park and is the world’s highest free-standing mountain in Africa and the Eastern Hemisphere. Gototweski’s goal was to make it to the highest point, Uhuru peak: a snowcapped peak with a 19,340-foot summit. The average climbs he had completed were around 14,000 feet, so training for Kilimanjaro was important.
“I did more StairMaster to prepare,” Gototweski says. “It’s as much mental as it is physical. Mindfulness is so important. You feel crappy if you don’t get your mind right and take it one day at a time. The climb is pretty hard.”
Being a Boilermaker also aided Gototweski.
“As a Boilermaker there is a lot of lack of sleep. Our whole lifetime is between days and nights, and then, boom, you’re off driving another way and living on fumes.”
Getting to Kilimanjaro also required obtaining an “outfitter” from the area to plan the climb. An outfitter leads hikers to the top of the mountain. Once Gototweski and his son secured their guide, up next was getting the right gear for the trek.
“You must have a sleeping bag with a really good liner, because it gets cold,” Gototweski says. “You need good hiking boots and pants, hiking poles to help with balance, cold weather gear, gloves, a good knapsack, sunglasses and sunscreen.”
When it came to the actual climb, Gototweski and his son stayed well and ahead of schedule. Their guide reassessed and they were able to complete their climb in five days, instead of the calculated seven.
“The last day and 3,000 feet were the most difficult. It was 25 below Celsius and my son got altitude sickness,” Gototweski says. “Your stomach is constantly upset about 14,000 feet, and helicopters were going up to pick people up off the mountain.”
Reaching the top was worth the struggle. The view over the mountain was remarkable, with clouds that resembled cotton. And even at the top of one of the highest mountains in the world, Gototweski had his union in mind. Posing with the congratulatory completion sign on Uhuru Peak, he took out his Boilermakers Local 13 (Philadelphia) flag.
“I’ve been a Boilermaker since I was 18,” he says. “It supplied me with a good living, ability to take care of my family and I’m proud to be one—especially at L-13.”
Gototweski and his son remained at the top for an hour before making their descent.
But before they left Tanzania, they had one more adventure to enjoy: a safari.
“We did a local park. We saw a lot of zebras and giraffes, water buffalo, baboons and monkeys and different species of deer,” Gototweski says. “I would like to go back for more safaris.”
Gototweski already looks forward to his next adventure: a trip to Norway in May. He’s also considering another mountainous challenge after his retirement in November, when he hopes to climb the highest mountain in North America, Alaska’s Denali.