Taking on Everest for charity

Helen and Mark Jones at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in 2016. Photo Submitted

It will be three years, almost to the day, since Helen and Mark Jones set off on their climb of Mount Kilimanjaro when they begin their ascent to Mount Everest Base Camp in October.
The pair was planning a trip to Africa in 2016 when they decided to hike Kilimanjaro to check it off Mark’s bucket list and wanted to use the opportunity to fundraise for the local Adaptive Sports program in Sun Peaks.

“We just thought it would be nice to actually do this and raise some money because lots of people do it for charity and I went ‘maybe we should do that’,” said Mark. “You see them (Adaptive Sports Sun Peaks) out there every winter doing their thing, and it’s just amazing to see what those guys achieve. It felt nice to give back.”

Following their hike Mark said he knew Mount Everest had to be their next trek. While Helen was initially reluctant she got on board with Mark’s plan and the duo will again raise money for their favourite local organization.

“It does help with the motivation of finishing because you’re like ‘think of the kids, think of the kids, you’ve got to keep going, don’t stop.’ It does push you on a bit more,” explained Helen.

ASSP program manager Jenny Hawes said their board, membership, and families will be following Helen and Mark’s journey and look forward to seeing their flag mounted at basecamp. She added they’re grateful the couple have decided to campaign for their program again.

“This excursion presents a great opportunity to not only fundraise, but create an awareness about the benefits of our program—making the mountain experience accessible to all…whether that is to be a student or volunteer instructor, the experience is a skill and confidence builder all around,” said Hawes.

Having Mt. Kilimanjaro under their belts, the couple said they feel more than able to take on the 130 kilometre climb to Base Camp, a distance over double what they climbed in 2016. Both suffered from mild altitude sickness, a condition which is caused by the body not getting enough oxygen from the air at high altitude, but aren’t too concerned about being affected by the condition at Everest.

“With some respects, it’s an easier climb because you have entire climatization days. Whereas with Kilimanjaro we didn’t have that, but you’re staying up there for longer. If your body’s not dealing with it you’re potentially in even more trouble,” said Mark.

To prepare for this year’s climb, the couple will walk and hike as much as possible and eventually add weight to their backpacks.

“My plan is to hike up (the mountain) after work to get the lift down at 7 p.m.. It means I’ve got to get up there for 7 p.m. because I don’t want to walk down,” said Helen, adding her goal is to walk or hike at least 10 km a day in preparation. She plans to head out on the trails before work, on her lunch break and after work, as well as doing longer hikes up Tod Mountain and in Wells Grey Provincial Park on days off.

The couple took advice from other locals who’ve hiked to Base Camp to reassure them they shouldn’t have an issue completing the hike physically. Recalling advice from a friend they met during their 2016 trip, Helen said the mental challenge faced on climatization days will be the real test of their strength.

“The hardest thing is when you’re on your rest days trying to keep warm because it’s so cold and you have so many hours. He said that’s where the mental torture is because you want to keep moving,” she said.

The Joneses plan to hold a fundraiser in the community as well as create a GoFundMe page (launching early July) to raise funds for ASSP before they leave for their trip.

The pair is encouraging the community to keep an eye on their Instagram @thejonesdobc2019 for updates and to join them on their training hikes throughout the summer.

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