Kilimanjaro: Climb for a Cause 2023

Sheep Dog Impact Assistance (SDIA) is honored to be part of Sam’s Furniture‘s Kilimanjaro Climb for a Cause.

The “Kili Climb for a Cause” climbing team, sponsored by Sam’s Furniture in Springdale, Arkansas, includes owner and veteran Joe Donaldson, and ten fellow Veterans – two of which are Purple Heart recipients.

The Marangu route, also known as the “Coca-Cola” route, is the oldest, most well established route on Kilimanjaro. Many favor Marangu because it is considered to be the easiest path on the mountain, given its gradual slope and direct path. However the short time frame of the route makes altitude acclimatization fairly difficult. The route approaches Mount Kilimanjaro from the southeast. 

The morning of July 27 the Kili Climb team stepped off on the Marangu Route and five days later summited!

Day One: The Sheep Dog Climbers completed their first day of climbing and staged at their first camp – Mandara Hut. The group departed Moshi for Marangu Gate for the necessary formalities before beginning their trek. The hiking trail began by ascending a beautiful, tropical rain forest. At the upper edge of the forest line, they may have seen blue monkeys! The trail then widened to expose beautiful hillsides until they reached Mandara Hut. They hiked 5 hours, about 5 miles, and settled for the night at 8,858 ft in elevation.

Day Two: The Sheep Dog Climbers made it Horombo Hut! They hiked for 7 miles and roughly 8 hours and will sleep at about 12,200 feet elevation. The group started the day continuing through the rain forest until the trail opened up into high moorland. They got their first views of Kibo and Mawenzi peaks – two of the three volcanic peaks that make up the summit of Kilimanjaro.

Day Three was for acclimatization for our Sheep Dog Climbers and was spent hiking on Mawenzi Ridge and up to Zebra Rock. The unique landscape offered motivating views of Kibo and Mawenzi. After spending some time exploring the area they headed back to Horombo Hut for the night.

Day Four was a gradual climb for our Sheep Dog Climbers where they crossed the lunar desert of the “Saddle” between Mawenzi and Kibo. Their final camp before summit, Kibo Hut, sits at the bottom of the Kibo crater wall. The climbers had an early dinner and then rested before they stepped off in the early hours for the most grueling and exhilarating day of their trek to the summit.

Day Five-Summit Day started very early in the morning (around midnight). This was by far the most mentally and physically challenging portion of the trek. The wind and cold at this elevation and time of day can be extreme. They ascended in the darkness for several hours while taking frequent, but short, breaks. At Gilman’s Point (18,600 ft), they were rewarded with the most magnificent sunrise coming over Mawenzi Peak. Finally, they arrived at Uhuru Peak – the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro and the continent of Africa. After spending a few moments taking in the plains of Africa and their accomplishment, they descended to Horombo Hut. To get some rest before they go on safari.

On Day Six, our Sheep Dog Climbers continued the descent to Mweka Gate. At lower elevations, it can be wet and muddy. From the gate, they continued another hour to Mweka Village where a vehicle met them to take them back to the hotel in Moshi.

Be sure to check out the Kili Climb for a Cause Facebook Album to see more photos of their trek.

Next up: Safari!

We’ll take Lance’s word for it…safari is another bucket-list adventure!

“The beauty of the African wilderness, and the animals that roam the land, is something that will quite literally take your breath away. While in Tanzania, we had a chance to spend two days on Safari, with the Ngorongoro (N-goron-goro) Conservation Area being the highlight of our tour. The beauty of this place can never be properly captured through pictures, you MUST visit in person.” –Lance Nutt

Thank you, Sam’s Furniture!

None of this would have been possible without the very generous support of Joe & Larra Donaldson at Sam’s Furniture in Springdale. Thank you for bringing this incredible opportunity to SDIA and our nation’s heroes!

SDIA wants to keep amazing opportunities like this coming for our nation’s heroes. While major adventures are typically only scheduled once per year, we have all sorts of other Outdoor Adventures for our Sheep Dogs to be part of that also foster much-needed camaraderie, healing and a sense of belonging. Please consider giving a tax-deductible donation to allow us to keep providing adventures so our veterans and first responders stay off the couch.

If you’re a veteran or first responder interested in getting involved, please check out the Sheep Dog website!

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