This 11-year-old Parkite climbed Kilimanjaro for charity | ParkRecord.com

This 11-year-old Parkite climbed Kilimanjaro for charity

Decatur Bolund wasn't sure who his homeroom teacher would be at Ecker Hill Middle School as he entered seventh grade on Aug. 22.

"I think it's Mr. Marshall," he said.

But, at 11 years old, he did know what sunrise on Mt. Kilimanjaro looks like.

Bolund and his father, Daniel, climbed the highest peak in Africa and raised more than $7,000 for a local wildlife sanctuary in the process through Decatur's newly-formed nonprofit, Summit 4 A Cause.

Bolund and Daniel decided to hike Kilimanjaro last summer, while spending a day outdoors hiking around Park City. Daniel said Bolund has always been charitable, so the plan quickly developed to also do the climb for a cause.

To ensure success, they hired Noel Hanna an experienced guide who climbs in the Himalayas, and local guide Babuu Nanyaro, who Bolund said became "his cornerstone" during the hike.

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After spending nine months hiking and running around the Park City area in preparation for bagging the 19,341-foot peak, Bolund and Daniel left for Tanzania on Aug. 4.

The four-person team then ascended the mountain over six days via the Marangu route, which leaves from an eponymous village in Tanzania and climbs out of the grassland and montane forests from an elevation of 4,658 feet above sea level.

On the first day, the team hiked from Marangu out of the forest to the first of three huts on the route, called the Mandara hut, which sits at an elevation of 8,907 feet.

The next day, they climbed into the alpine desert, reaching the Harambo hut after a seven-mile leg, and another 3,000 feet of elevation. The team spent the next day acclimatizing by hiking up the mountain another four miles, and returning to sleep at the Harambo hut, which sits at an altitude above 12,100 feet. There, Bolund said the temperature dropped precipitously, and his view of the surroundings expanded.

"The sun would come up and the clouds would be just below you," he said.

By then, he had surpassed the height of his biggest bag so far – Mt. Timpanogos, which tops out at 11,572 feet – which he and Daniel had climbed as a training day two weeks before departing for Africa.

On the fourth day, the party hiked another six miles to reach the highest hut on the mountain, the Kibu hut, at 15,518 feet, where the team shed some of their equipment and rested through the afternoon and evening. They rose again at midnight for their summit hike.

Daniel said the temperatures were frigid, hovering around 0 degrees Fahrenheit with gusts of wind up to 40 miles per hour.

Nanyaro and Hanna helped Bolund, who weighs 85 pounds, making his way against the stiff gusts, and eventually the four of them reached the summit.

"It was a little hard to get started," Bolund said. "I was really tired, but we started going and we made it to the top, and we were really happy about it."

The team stayed just long enough to get a few photos, then left the frozen summit for their two-day descent.

Summit 4 A Cause raised an estimated $7,500 with more money expected to come in, Daniel said, which he said will be donated to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust near Nairobi, Kenya.

The trust acts as a sanctuary for several large animals – a giraffe and a blind black rhinoceros named Maxwell – as well as an orphanage for 19 baby elephants.

"I really love elephants, so I thought it would be really cool to do this," Bolund said. "I think their trunks are really cute; they have big tusks on the older ones, which is really cool, and I think they feel really, really, cool when you touch one."

Daniel said the cost of caring for one of the elephants ranges between $10,000 and $12,500 annually.

"It's good to know that we are over two thirds of the way to supporting one of those elephants for a year," he said.

Though Bolund, Daniel, and Summit 4 A Cause haven't officially selected their next challenge, Bolund said Hanna had recently climbed Mt. Elbrus in the Caucasus and said it might be a good option.

At 18,100 feet, the mountain, located in southern Russia, is the tallest in Europe and has the 10th greatest elevation change from base to peak in the world.

But for now, it's back to class, and life in Park City, for the Bolunds.