Local hikers face Kilimanjaro for Adaptive Sports

Helen and Mark Jones on a training hike at Sun Peaks. Photo-submitted.
Helen and Mark Jones on a training hike at Sun Peaks. Photo-submitted.

Update Oct. 4 2016: In the morning of Monday Oct. 4 Mark and Helen Jones reached their goal of summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro. In an email Tiffany Watson, Climb Kili program manager, wrote that the Joneses and their group left Barfu Camp at midnight to complete the most challenging leg of the trip and then made their way back down Mweka Camp to rest. The last section of the hike takes seven to eight hours to complete.

In 2010 when Mark and Helen Jones moved from Calgary to Sun Peaks they never expected to be preparing to climb the tallest mountain in Africa.  Now six years later, on Sept. 25 they will set off to conquer Mt. Kilimanjaro and at the same time raise funds for Adaptive Sports at Sun Peaks (ASSP).

Helen said fundraising for ASSP will help them push through some of the hardest days.

“It gives you another reason to keep training and keep pushing. You don’t want to let anyone down,” she said.With limited hiking experience, the Joneses began to train by hiking all of Sun Peaks’ trails as well as many others in the area.

“We summited Tod Mountain many times, we’ve done just about every hike at Sun Peaks,” said Mark.

For Helen the biggest challenge in preparing for the 46 kilometre hike has been increasing the strength in her legs.

“Every day I try to do at least five kilometres,” she said. “But most of it will be mental, even the last bit of Tod is a mental challenge more than physical.”

Their training routine also involved completing the hikes while carrying heavily weighted packs and pushing themselves to beat their previous times.

But no matter how much they prepare with the high altitude comes the possibility of failure. The summit sits at 5,895 metres above sea level and they have chosen route that is considered the most difficult.

“We are excited but apprehensive,” Mark said. “There is always the possibility of failure because you don’t know how your body will react to the altitude until you are there.”

Mark said he believes the challenge will be worth it, as it’s also considered the most scenic and quietest route.

Adaptive Sports Festival
Attendees of a previous Sun Peaks CAD festival. Photo-submitted.

The couple said they’re happy to use something they have always wanted to do to help the community. ASSP will use all money raised to sponsor students to attend the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing (CADS) festival hosted in Sun Peaks in March 2017. It will be the fourth time Sun Peaks has hosted the national event attracting students and instructors from across Canada.

“Adaptive Sports does really phenomenal work and watching them is amazing,” said Mark. “The money will help students go to the CADS festival but also helps the resort as a whole to get more people up there.”

The sponsorships help students purchase lift passes, take lessons and participate in a banquet.

“It really helps to build camaraderie and friendship,” said Sharon Tremblay, vice president of ASSP. “It has a life-changing impact on our students.”

Participants of a past Sun Peaks CADS festival. The event brings together disabled athletes and instructors from across the country. Photo-submitted.
Participants of a past Sun Peaks CADS festival. The event brings together disabled athletes and instructors from across the country. Photo-submitted.

ASSP is always accepting on and off-hill volunteers. Contactadaptivesportssunpeaks@gmail.com or 250-572-0616 for more information.

To donate to the Joneses’ campaign click here.

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