Bar News - August 16, 2017
Practitioner Profile: Climbing Kilimanjaro for a Cause
By: William Robidoux
Attorney Howard Roever and his yellow lab, Phin, atop Mount Moosilauke on Easter 2017. Roever is preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro later this year.
Howard Roever is an avid mountain-climber. Along with his energetic yellow lab, Phin, Roever has discovered, through climbing, a world that’s about as far removed from his everyday life as an attorney as one might imagine.
Climbing has taught Roever some valuable life lessons – not the least of which is the peaceful solitude of a lonely mountain. It’s become his time to connect with nature and ponder life as he makes his way from mountaintop to mountaintop; just a man, his dog, and a great view.
Roever has also learned that those things in life that challenge him most are also the most rewarding, and that’s why he’s about to take on the climb of his life: A 10-day trek up Mount Kilimanjaro, the fourth-most-prominent peak in the world, which sits at 19,340 feet above sea level in the belly of Africa.
Tackling Kilimanjaro is not such a random target – it’s every dedicated climber’s dream to reach the summit of this storied peak. But Roever’s trip is also a fundraising climb – he’s doing it in conjunction with Florida-based Project Change, a charity that seeks to build schools, shelters, and sustainable communities for women and children in the heart of Africa whose lives have been disrupted by war, violence and poverty.
Although Roever never dreamed he’d be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with strangers, that’s what’s about to happen. On Nov. 3, Roever and a group of nine altruistic adventurers will summit Mount Kilimanjaro together.
He originally planned to make the monumental climb with a group of his childhood friends, an idea they came up with while chatting about reconnecting in a more interesting way than the typical reunion. In the end, they all “bailed,” one after the other, and Roever is the only one still committed to the climb.
“When I said ‘bailed’ I was totally joking,” Roever says. “As it turns out, only one other guy in the group is athletic, and he couldn’t figure out the dates. But the idea got stuck in my head, and I thought to myself, I’m not getting any younger, if I’m gonna do it, now is the time. I finally committed to it three and a half weeks ago. And now I’m climbing with strangers, which might be the best thing.”
It takes an enormous amount of preparation and mental discipline to coordinate such a climb, which is why he doesn’t mind adjusting his original plans. He wasn’t willing to let go of this particular goal once it manifested.
Roever, 57, a Long Island native, says he landed in New Hampshire due to family connections. His grandmother lived in Gilmanton, and Roever fondly remembered visiting her when he was a kid.
As an adult, he made his way to New Hampshire with his now ex-wife, and established his Concord private practice as a criminal, family, and personal injury lawyer in 1995. Although his marriage didn’t last, he’s never regretted the move – or the unexpected joy of rediscovering his long-lost hobby of hiking, along with his best friend, Phin.
Roever considers Phin the catalyst for what he describes as a “rebirth” in his hiking, an experience that has elevated their bond beyond the typical human-pet daily routine. Together, they have finished all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4,000-footers, the final five of which had eluded him for years. Those climbs have been an essential part of his training for Kilimanjaro.
“This will be by far my toughest climb,” he says. “The White Mountains are rugged, and I’ve got that as an advantage. That being said, they’re not 19,000 feet above sea level.”
Before the climb, Roever will switch to an iron-rich diet, which will help him prepare to breathe at high altitude. “I’m doing everything I can to make it through up there,” he says.
He’s also no stranger to charitable exercise.
“I’ve done, in the past, a lot of charity with bike rides,” Roever says. “I did an AIDs charity ride across Montana in 2001, and a few of the hills there were the most intense thing, athletically, in my life; crazy hill hikes climbing half an hour up switchbacks, maybe 6,000-8,000 feet up. I think this will be close to that.”
Roever has no reservations when it comes to testing his limits – it fact, he welcomes the challenge and the chance to make a difference, a concept that has taken on a broader meaning since he connected with Project Change. In getting to know Project Change Vice President Anne Reinstein, he learned that it doesn’t take a lot of money to make a difference in the lives of people in need.
“Project Change tries to create projects that help people to be self-sufficient,” says Roever. “They’re trying to create communities where they can help people to be sustainable, starting with farming and livestock, and from there schools and classrooms.”
“I feel best when I’m giving back, and I feel this is a challenging way to give back,” Roever continues. “The more I hear about it, the more inspired I get to make a difference by helping kids who wouldn’t get a chance otherwise... You don’t normally think about these things, and the more you read about them, the more they’re on your mind.”
Reinstein has been on the Kilimanjaro climb before and assured Roever that the hiking guide is well skilled and qualified. Safety is a top priority, and there are strict safety guidelines to evacuate any climber whose health is in danger. Roever realizes many people don’t make it to the top. His view is that some people just aren’t made for a climb this difficult, but he doesn’t count himself among those people.
After all, he’s got iron in his veins and a decade’s worth of trodden granite under his feet.
Roever’s already thinking ahead to his next adventure, after the climb. He’s considering staying in Tanzania for a time afterward. “I traveled to Europe when I was in my 20s,” Roever says, “and I haven’t been out of the country besides Canada and Mexico since then. I’m excited to travel, and I might even stay after the hike to see what it’s like living there.”
If there’s such a thing as a mountain-climbing evangelist, Roever comes close – he revels in getting lost in the solitude of the climb, or lingering at the summit where the view of the world is so different, it’s actually life-changing.
“To me, it’s probably the most peaceful thing on the planet… It’s always sad when you have to go back down, because it’s breathtaking, quiet, calming. If you’re lucky, you camp up there.”
Roever has been pleasantly surprised by the outpouring of support so far for his fundraising cause. The first person to donate was an old friend he hadn’t seen in years, someone he reconnected with through Facebook. Roever says the idea of charity just resonates with some people, and everyone has their own reason for giving.
In the spirit of dreaming big and making a difference, Roever advises his colleagues in the bar to take a giant step in a new direction – get out there, get a dog, take a hike, make a difference – or even just give a few bucks to a guy who’s climbing the tallest mountain in Africa for a worthy cause.
Anyone interested in supporting Roever’s climb can visit his fundraising site.
William Robidoux is a freelance writer based in Manchester, NH.