Kilimanjaro challenge: Retired Kirkcaldy police sergeant scales Africa's highest peak for Maggie's Fife
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So far, Don Sutherland has collected an amazing £4104 by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro – and he is still hoping to reach his fundraising target of £5000 which is going to Maggie’s Fife.
The charity’s support proved invaluable to Don following the loss of his sister, Fiona, to pancreatic cancer in March 2011 and then tragically, his wife Valerie, who died just ten months later in January 2012 of cervical cancer.
He has since taken part in various challenges to raise money for our cancer care centre.
The 61-year-old flew from Edinburgh to Heathrow on January 18, and from there onto Addis Ababa before landing at Kilimanjaro International Airport – 15 hours flying time but a total of over 24 hours in transit. He then had a three-hour van journey to the San Salerno Hotel in Moshi.
It took his group a total of eight days to complete the feat – climbing to the top of Kilimanjaro at a height of 19,500 feet, with around six to eight hours trekking each day.
Don explained how his adventure unfolded.
“We spent one night in the hotel, received advice and equipment checks and headed off at 8.00am the following morning.
"Thereafter we camped on Kilimanjaro and got back to the hotel on January 26. We spent one night in the hotel and then departed on January 27.
“We arrived at Kilimanjaro National Park at around midday on January 20, “ he said.
"We met the porters who would be setting up our campsites and the guides who would ensure we got up and down safely.
"There were eight of us altogether – myself and an American chap were the only solo trekkers and we were bunked together.
"We all bonded well from the very start and supported each other through thick and thin. All of us had a fair level of fitness, but no experience of climbing volcanoes!
"The trek started about 2.00pm on January 20. It was very hot but we were warned that, as we got higher and the oxygen became rarer, the weather would change very quickly and that was the case.
"We needed high factor sun cream, T-shirts and shorts - and layers of clothing to protect against ice cold wind and rain in equal measure for the whole trip!
“We summited at about 6.15am on Tuesday, January 25 - effectively five days and one night trekking.”
Don said the final push to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro started at midnight so they were in total darkness, using head torches to light the way.
He continued: “It was about 5,000 ft – not much more than Ben Nevis - but there is no protection from the elements at that height, and it was much steeper than anything I have ever attempted.
"The wind was quite brutal and our clothes were covered in ice when we reached the summit. One of the team felt overcome at one point and couldn’t walk any more. We had to stop for a while until she recovered.
"Your body temperature drops very quickly and it can be dangerous, but she rallied and we all reached the summit safely together.”
Don revealed what the best moment of the climb was.
“Without a doubt it was watching the sun rise as we approached the summit, looking over the plains of Africa and being able to unfurl the Maggie’s flag with the team around me.
"There were tough moments for sure but I never doubted myself physically,” he said.
"The fear was altitude sickness and it is just your bad luck if it affected you - physical fitness is not a factor. Four of the team suffered from it at various times but apart from a mild headache, I was spared.”
Don said they reached the summit in six days and it took another two days to get down to the base camp.
The retired sergeant said he would encourage others to follow in his footsteps: “I would definitely recommend the experience, but I would add that anyone wanting to do it would do well to thoroughly research the trip in advance.
"There are multiple routes with varying degrees of difficulty to choose from. It is not for the faint hearted.
“I would also thoroughly recommend 360 Expeditions as a company to travel with. The staff are very knowledgeable and very helpful.”
But will this be Don’s swansong?
“I would like to say this is the last challenge - I really don’t know what could top it? But I will continue to advocate for Maggie’s and will make myself available to support them in any way I can. Every little helps as they say!”
Adam Kent, fundraising manager at Maggie’s Fife, said: “On behalf of everyone at Maggie’s Fife, I want to say a massive congratulations to Don for completing this incredible challenge!
"I think it’s fair to say that he had more than his share of setbacks on the way, but as is typical of Don, his sheer determination has seen him through. It’s been an absolute pleasure to support Don along the way and we’re truly in awe of this latest achievement.
"We’re incredibly grateful to all those who have sponsored Don, helping him raise such an amazing amount for the centre.
"The funds Don has raised really will make an enormous difference to those living with cancer, and their loved ones, in our community”.
It’s not too late to support Don with a donation to help him reach his fundraising target.
To make a donation, please visit his JustGiving page here.
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