Inspiring Conversations with Dana Wentzel of Kilimanjaro Sunrise

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dana Wentzel.

Dana Wentzel ewith Kilimanajro Sunrise

Hi Dana, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?

First things first, I’m not just some run-of-the-mill outdoor enthusiast. No, I’m a full-blown devotee of the wild. The outdoors isn’t just a hobby; it’s a way of life. From childhood, through the Marine Corps to leading a local hiking group, I’ve tackled the outdoors through a variety of adventures—hiking, backpacking (traditional and ultralight), rock climbing, ice climbing, snowboarding, mountaineering, caving, mountain biking, and snowshoeing. However, one of these pursuits is my absolute favorite: canyoneering.

Canyoneering is a sport that combines hiking, rock hopping, rappelling, swimming, and route finding all in one. In a nutshell, you hike to a canyon, rappel in, and continue “down canyon” until you reach an exit point.

What draws me to it? There’s a magic to it that’s tough to put into words. It could be the bond among fellow canyoneers, a camaraderie akin to what you’d find in the Marines. Amid those rugged canyons, your team becomes your lifeline, watching your back and pushing each other forward. Or maybe it’s the problem-solving—the challenge of finding creative ways to build anchors. It might just be that incredible rush—the sound of carabiners rattling, the sound of the rope as you descend. Or maybe it’s the thrill of venturing where only a handful have ever gone—the untamed wilderness that wraps around you. It’s a mix of all these things that’s kept me hooked for nearly two decades.

As much as I love canyoneering, these days, I’ve found something even more rewarding. It’s guiding newcomers through their very first canyon adventure. There’s something extraordinary about teaching them the ropes (pun intended) and seeing them overcome their doubts and fears.

Alright, let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what challenges have you had to overcome?

No. I have started several outdoor companies, and all of them have failed. They failed partly due to not having my 100% focus and partly due to other circumstances. They say don’t work with friends; I learned that hard truth too often.

I quit a job I loved because I feared getting older and being unemployed. I went and worked for a company operating Kilimanjaro treks, Tanzanian safaris, and Zanzibar excursions. It was exactly what I wanted to do. Then, COVID happened. People stopped traveling, and I ended up exactly where I didn’t want to be—unemployed. So I decided to start my own Kilimanjaro trekking company.

Kilimanjaro Sunrise

Kilimanjaro Sunrise is my trekking and safari company. I named it that because, on summit night, the sun rising lifts your spirits when you are feeling your lowest. It pushes you forward to complete your dream of reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro!

Kilimanjaro Sunrise is as close to my heart as canyoneering. It’s not just about me anymore. I want to share what I’ve learned, spread that feeling of standing tall on Kilimanjaro’s summit, witnessing nature’s most incredible moments during a safari, and celebrating life with the wonderful people of Tanzania.

Climbing Kilimanjaro wasn’t something I’d ever dreamed of. It’s funny how life throws surprises at you. But once I made that climb, once I stood at the summit, I was hooked. For me, it is like the Grand Canyon. I have traveled to every corner of the Grand Canyon, from well-worn, popular trails to rappelling into remote tributary canyons. I’ve camped below the rim and pack rafted down the Colorado River to treacherous exits. Every time I go, I train for months beforehand, but it always manages to humble me. I swear it’s the last time I go. Yet, I find myself returning time and time, captivated by the enigmatic allure the Grand Canyon holds over me. The same can be said of Kilimanjaro. I’ve climbed it several times and couldn’t wait to return each time. Just like in a canyon, pain is temporary. We call it canyoneer’s amnesia—It’s tough while you’re enduring it, but you can’t wait to return. What gives real significance to everything I do are the people, and the Tanzanian people are no exception. Despite the challenging circumstances they have to endure daily, they are always willing to help and do it with a smile.

Let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?

Kilimanjaro Sunrise is a Kilimanjaro Trekking and Tanzanian Safari Company. After working with the former company and trekking Kilimanjaro, I saw so many areas of improvement that could be made. My goal has always been to start my own trekking company. Not necessarily on Kilimanjaro, but, like I said earlier, once I went, I was hooked.

What sets my company apart from the other operators on Kilimanjaro? There are several areas:

The food

We serve only hot meals on the mountain. The first time I climbed Kilimanjaro, they had several dry, tasteless box lunches. They were terrible. You had nothing to look forward to. The dinners were okay, but nothing to write home about. The same goes for breakfast. It was boring and didn’t give you the fuel to sustain yourself throughout the day.

Our Mountain Chefs undergo annual training to improve the meals they provide while on Kilimanjaro. For example, the soups the chef makes are the best you’ll ever have. They don’t even sound that good—cucumber, pumpkin, or carrot to name a few. But wow, they are so creamy and delicious. I couldn’t wait to get to camp and enjoy whatever magic was created that day.

The equipment

We use the best mountaineering equipment we can. The company we use is Kailas. The same company that made the equipment for Nirmal Purja for the documentary 14 Peaks. Kailas make both the client’s sleeping tents and the dining tent. Our dining tents are so nice that climbers with other companies thought we were famous or VIPs and wanted to look inside.

The sleeping bags we used are made specifically for Kilimanjaro. They are 800 fill down. Clients have told me they are the best and most comfortable sleeping bags they have ever used.

The sleeping pads are foam. Our team sews them into pillowcase-like covers to keep the dust and moisture out. They are then placed inside a leather sleeve. Our facility has a brand new piece of foam. When the pads come off the mountain, we measure them up to the new piece. If they have lost more than 1 centimeter, we shred them and make them into pillows.

Our crew

Our Mountain Crews comprise some of the most experienced guides on Kilimanjaro. Some have been to the summit over 300 times.

They are all Wilderness First Responder Certified and have seen everything the mountain can throw at you. Plus, they are great people; this is only sometimes true on Kilimanjaro.

Our porters are also the best on the mountain. Our Operations Manager and guides hand-pick our porters, train them, and pair them up with a team. These teams always work the mountain together, so they know how each other works. We don’t hire freelance/contract porters.

Our guide-to-client ratio is 1 to 2. You’ll always have one of our crew members with you. You will never be alone on the mountain. I have personally witnessed people delirious and stumbling down from the summit. They were alone with no one close by.

One large trekking company even lost one of their clients, and our guide went out in the middle of the night and found her. Talk about scary.


We are a member of the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP). They monitor the welfare of the porters. Porter abuse is a problem in Kilimanjaro.

We follow Leave No Trace guidelines as well. If we find rock cairns on the mountain we topple them.

We aren’t a large company or even well-known, but I am very proud of our service level. Unfortunately, people only climb Kilimanjaro once, so they see the difference we offer once they are on the mountain, and by then, it is too late.

On safari, our vehicles are the best out there. They have all had major overhauls with upgraded suspension, comfortable interiors, and large pop-up roofs for close-up animal viewing.

We have a fleet of vehicles, and our own mechanics working on them. The roads are rough. Sometimes the vehicles get damaged. We take those damaged parts, rebuild them, and sell them to the community.

Our clients stay in spacious tented camps to give them an authentic safari experience.

Are there any apps, books, podcasts, blogs, or other resources you think our readers should check?

I only have a little time to stay updated on apps or podcasts. I listen to comedy on long road trips. For apps; Instagram to post photos and reels of my canyoneering and other adventures. As far as reading goes, I may read one book a year. Once I had to start wearing readers, I didn’t find it enjoyable anymore. I prefer hiking as my method of unwinding. The outdoors is my therapy.


  • Kilimanjaro Group Climb range from $2,490-$3,490 pp
  • Private Climbs depend on the number of people and route but range from $2,290 to $4,399 pp
  • Mount Meru climb: $1,499-$2,019 pp
  • Safaris also vary based on number of people and number of days: $350 to $3,999 pp

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