Christie Lake Climb for Kids – Linking People, Adventure and a Great Cause

It is really great when a project comes together.

A year ago we came up with the idea for Climb for Kids. The idea was to raise money for a program in Ottawa that is transforming the lives of low-income children throughout the year through recreation and leadership programs – Christie Lake Kids.

A venture like this works really well when you have lots of great community partners. First, we based our model on the wonderful initiative of Shawn Dawson’s – Dream Mountains. For eight years, Shawn led trekking trips to Africa, Nepal and Peru and in the process raised over $1 million for local charities. I had the wonderful privilege to take part in one of these climbs to Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2017. This was truly a transformative event that showed me how you can link adventure up with support for community agencies.

These projects are all about partnership and mutual support. Shawn continues to help us by offering his restaurant Fat Boys as a location for our group fundraisers. He has also helped us with training and is definitely part of our support community.

We also work with a group of travel agencies and businesses including Merit Travel and Exodus Travels along with Great Escape Outfitters and Sail. Merit was our go to travel support who were with us all the way, especially when the group ran into some significant troubles getting to airports in Peru. GEO provided jackets for the group and Sail gave the group discounts on equipment for the trip. Investors Group acted as a corporate sponsor who really helped us with some of our equipment costs.

We also had the wonderful assistance of a group trainer – Shaun Kehoe. Shaun started working with some of the group in February and we continued training with him right up until the beginning of August. His work with us certainly made us stronger for a very tough trek.

On a different level, there were countless sponsors and individual contributors who helped our group raise over $25,000 for CLK. This was $10,000 more than we expected in the first year of this project. A huge success for the first year of Climb for Kids!

Group members preparing for the trek in Peru

The best social enterprises are those with broad community support. Much of our success depends on the social capital we have raised over the past year. Our group of 17 trekkers were supported by hundreds of other people and businesses. We were united in the belief that it is really important to support transformative recreation for low-income kids in Ottawa. This is what binds us all together.

The real success for Climb for Kids lies in developing a legacy of fundraising. Our first year was a great success so now we need to begin work on year 2. We have a trip planned out, again with the assistance of Merit and Exodus. We will  announce the new trip soon and we will start looking for recruits for the second venture to take place in July 2019.

We want to continue to link adventure, fundraising and community into a dynamic social enterprise. As I have written, this is all about people. Our 17 trekkers were so well supported throughout the past year. We will continue developing with wonderful community into year 2. Ultimately, we are supporting kids and that is what makes this all so worthwhile.

We will grow our support, recruit new climbers and sponsors and we will trek again in less than a year. We are empowered by a terrific community.

Now is the time to recognize and thank this wonderful community. We are so grateful and we have gained so much and most importantly, we did all this together!

Getting underway – Vamos!

 

Trekking Hand in Hand with Christie Lake Climb for Kids

Sometimes it is hard to sort out what to write after taking part in a monumental challenge. That is what the 5-day Ausangate trek was – a truly inspiring, challenging adventure that tested the physical and emotional limits of the 17 trekkers who took part in the journey.

The Ausangate region is cold in the Peruvian winter. We stayed at beautiful lodges where the temperatures plummeted when the sun went down. One lodge was at 4300m, the other three were above 4750m. We lived above 4700m for four days – that is higher than the summit camp for Mt. Kilimanjaro. We reached an altitude of 5150m – 200m short of Everest Base Camp.

The highest lodge in the world

So, there is lots to write about, a huge amount to absorb.

What comes to mind first is the people. Seventeen Canadians made the choice to trek for five days in this remote part of the Andes. Apart from our guides, cooks and shepherds, we seldom saw anyone else on the route. The high altitude, cold and tricky trekking conditions took a toll on everyone. Living continually at extreme high altitude was a new challenge for all of us.

Then there were our guides, Holgar, Mathias and Eric. These three guided us every day and in one case, into the night. They taught us about the mountains and told us stories about the apu, the mountain gods.

The cooks and cleaners travelled with us. The shepherds guided 20 llamas and horses with all our gear over the same steep mountain passes that we trekked. They reached our campsites well before us and set up the lodges for meals and restorative nights.

It is all about the people and this is where the true story lies. There were countless acts of generosity and kindness over the 5 days. You can’t trek through these mountains unless everyone works together and supports one another.

One incident, captured on video. One the longest day – 10 hours of trekking all above 4800m, we climbed the last hill to get a view of the Rainbow Mountain. It was later in the day and we had already summited one pass at 5000m. People were cold and tired.

The last hill was very steep and it fell off dramatically on all sides. Eric, one of our guides took the climbing poles of one of the trekkers and pulled her up the last hill. Several others were cold, tired out and gasping for air in the thin atmosphere.

We put one trekker ahead of the others and instructed the others to follow the same slow step pattern. The climbers ascended the hill in unison.

Take a look at the opening video for this piece. If you look closely, you can see the climbers following each other. You can see our guide Eric leading us up the hill. You can hear the laboured breathing and the wind whipping by.

This is people assuming a challenge and succeeding. This is what it looks like to trek in the Ausangate.

In Cusco, the Navel of the Inca World

Our first day of acclimatization started yesterday. We made it to 3800m which is really good for the first full day in the Andes. I think the more important acclimatization, however, was our introduction to the deep spirituality of the mountains and the lands of the Inca.

Really, when you are traveling to a great mountain I think it is really important to be introduced to the story and the spirituality of the mountain before you ascend. This is what we are in the process of doing now. We visited Saqsaywaman, Puka Pukara, and Tambomachay – all spiritual centers for the Inca overlooking Cusco which is known as the navel of the Incan empire that once stretched from Columbia down to the tip of Argentina. Cusco was the heart of the Incan world.

looking into Cusco from Tambomachy

Off in the distance, we could barely see Apu Ausangate the place we will be heading on Monday. The Inka religion uses the term Apu to refer to a mountain that has a spirit that is alive. The mountain is certainly sacred and is truly connected to the Incan world as a place of great significance as a giver of water from its glaciers. Farmers around Cusco still take a yearly pilgrimage to the mountain, barefoot to collect a piece from the glacier. They then return to sprinkle the water over their fields.

The walls of Saqsaywaman

This is a really important way to travel. Learn about the significance of the place where your feet will tread before starting on that part of the journey. When you do this, the trek will have so much more significance. It will bring about meaning that we could not have imagined before the trek.

This is a good link to what we are doing. This is not just a holiday trek. We worked hard raising money for Christie Lake Kids before we left. Our actions in the months before the trip will have meaning to people we do not know back in Ottawa.

It seems appropriate then that we are learning about the Inca symbols, the spirituality of water, the apu and the mountain. Learning brings on respect and greater respect leads to powerful experiences.

Today we continue our acclimatization by traveling to the Sacred Valley and Pisaq. Another much more famous traveler, Ernesto Che Guevara traveled there in 1952. He wrote:

After trekking for two hours along a rough path we reached the peak of Pisac; also arriving there, though long before us, were the swords of the Spanish soldiers, destroying Pisac’s defenders, defenses, and even its temple.

The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey. Ernesto Che Guevara

Part of our learning is not only about the Incas but also the destruction of this great culture and civilization by the Spanish. All stories here come back to tales of the conquest. It is also the story of reawakening. It certainly was for Che Guevara as he traveled through Peru in 1952 and it is for us.

The trekking and the learning continues apace.

Inkakorset, Chakana, betydningen af | Inka-Design

The Inka Cross or Chakana is a strong symbol of the old cultures of the Andes and is considered the most complete, holy, geometric design of the Inkas. This symbol is often found in old places and holy centers in the Andes in Peru and in Bolivia. The Chakana has had, and still has, a considerable meaning to the Inkas and it also represents many meanings in its design.

A: At the top to the left

Future
Present
Past

B: At the top to the right

Hana Pacha – Heaven
The upper world, light sophisticated energy. The stars, divine creatures, and gods.

Kay Pacha –The earth
This world, light and heavy energy, here and now, Mother Earth. People’s lives.

Uqha Pacha –The Underworld
Heavier energy, but not Hell, may be lucky, beautiful things. Death.

C: At the bottom to the left

Peace
War
Intelligence

D: At the bottom to the right

The holy animals:
Condor/eagle: represents the upper world in the sky
Cougar: represents powerful land animals
Snake: represents the lower world

Top

Wiracocha / God

Bottom

Pachamama / Mother Earth

Christie Lake Climb for Kids is in Cusco!

We have made it to the ancient Incan capital of Cusco! After 17 hours of traveling, we have arrived and are starting to acclimate to the high altitude here. We are at 3400 m and at this height, your body quickly starts to act in strange ways. A flight of stairs is a feat, repacking your bag is a challenge, walking up a beautiful street can leave you panting with a racing heart.

street scene in Cusco

This is a beautiful place. Cusco is nestled in the Andes, the people are welcoming and the streets are bustling with energy and life. Our group is excited and ready to go and now after a good rest, is in great spirits and adjusting to the altitude challenge.

Acclimatization is an interesting process. The first day is a bit of a shock, there are a lot of breathless moments. Tomorrow will be better so we will have our first short hike of 3 kilometers in the morning. The key will be to walk slow, slower than you would ever walk on a downtown street in Ottawa. The next day will be even better, then we start trekking in the Andes at over 4300 m for five days. We can see the mountains now and we know this will be a great challenge.

The bustle at the end of a Cusco day

While we still have wifi, I will continue to write. This is a very positive group and we are raising money for a great cause. The physical and mental work ahead is daunting, but I am sure that we are all up to it.

Christie Lake Kids Goes to Peru

In a few days, we leave for the mountains of Peru. We are 17 climbers all raising money for Christie Lake Kids – transformative recreation for low-income children here in Ottawa.

A year ago we started putting this experience together. Our small team recruited hikers, planned fundraisers and over the space of eight months raised over $25,000.

This is the big idea. Come up with an exciting experience then recruit fellow adventurers who are willing to raise money for kids and work together to train for a demanding physical experience.

Climbing in the Peruvian Andes is an arduous experience. We will trek for 5 days and 4 nights reaching as high as 5200m (Mt. Everest is 8,848 m). Over the five days, we will never go below 4300m which means we will be living in a high altitude environment for an extended period of time, more than most of the group has attempted before.

We are a new group, we didn’t all know each other before this whole thing started. We have trained together and have held really fun fundraisers together, but the first time the entire group will be together will be in Cusco, Peru. We are united in our love of adventure and the willingness to support a truly wonderful organization that is changing the lives of children every day.

We are supported by Christie Lake staff, three different travel agencies, a wonderful local artist (who just happens to be one of our daughters), two outdoor gear stores which have sponsored us and given us equipment discounts, two physical trainers, various corporate sponsors (whose logos we will take to 5200m) and a tremendous number of individual stores and donors who have supplied silent auction items and venues for our group fundraisers. We also have so many contributors who have helped us surpass our original funding goal by $10,000. We now stand somewhere over $25,000!

just some of our sponsors from our first group fundraiser

So, with such a large community of supporters, I think it will be important to let people know how we progress through the mountains.

To do this, we will be using a great tool first suggested to me by Ottawa adventurer, Elia Saikaly. We will be using the InReach satellite tracker. Once activated, the tracker will send out a waypoint every ten minutes.

The InReach track I created on the way up Kilimanjaro last year. You may notice, there is no track down the mountain. For some unknown reason, I turned the InReach off once we reached the summit!

The link you can use to follow our progress is here: – https://share.garmin.com/climbforkids

I will also be able to use the InReach to post messages on Twitter and Facebook. We have some preset messages ready to go and I am able to send other messages during our trek. Here’s the tag #climbforkids.

We have also tried to catalogue most of the events that have taken place over the past year. For this, we are using an Esri Story Map, a great communication tool that allows you to tell a story using maps, video, audio recordings and pictures.

One of our Esri Story map pages highlighting an earlier fundraising achievement by the group.

I have a bunch of cameras that I will use to document the trip. The most important part of this will be to get the stories of the individual group members – why are they doing this, what are the challenges they see ahead, how did it feel to put yourself out there as a fundraiser?

The training is over and so is most of the fundraising (we are still happy to take donations here!) The story gets really interesting now as we pack our bags and get ready for a gruelling 11-flight from Ottawa to Cusco. We have a great group and we are raising money for a wonderful organization.

We all hope you follow us up the mountain!