A pair of local women will tackle Africa's highest peak this fall in an effort to raise money for research into multiple sclerosis. And they're turning to local businesses to lend a helping hand.
Friends since high school, Angela Rankin and Eunice Bueno will take on Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro this October. Their climb is part of a five-year effort to raise $1 million for research into multiple sclerosis (MS).
The project, MS Climb, is the brainchild of Toronto resident Ralph Cochrane.
Cochrane, whose mother suffers from MS, says the idea came out of some sage advice.
"I wanted to do something substantial," Cochrane said. "Somebody said 'Do something you love,' and I love to travel."
Last year, the project took climbers to Peru's Machu Picchu.
This year will add a second trip, to Kilimanjaro, with future expeditions taking adventurous Canadians to the Great Wall of China, the base camp of Mount Everest and the Yukon's Chilkoot Trail.
For Rankin, this year's trip will fulfill a long-standing dream. She has seen Kilimanjaro, but only at a distance during a three-month fieldwork sojourn in Kenya a few years ago.
She says that, ever since, she's dreamed of going back to Africa, and back to that snow-topped volcano.
Rankin also has a personal stake in the fundraising efforts. Her mother was diagnosed with MS while Rankin was teaching English in Korea several years ago.
Rankin figures her mother had gone undiagnosed for years.
When the diagnosis did come in, Rankin says it was her mom who helped her get through the shock.
"Her attitude was so positive," Rankin said. "She was just, 'This is how it is and this is what we're going to do about it.'"
So, when Bueno heard through a friend about MS Climb, she knew Rankin would be on board. Bueno's friend had been on the Machu Picchu trip.
"He told me about their great experience. He showed me the video. I was really touched," she said.
"I always wanted to do something adventurous, and something to help people too."
The pair aren't unmoved by the enormous physical task ahead of them either.
Rankin said she's heard of climbers half a kilometre from Kilimanjaro's peak stopped in their tracks by altitude sickness.
At almost six kilometres above sea level, the air is so thin, some climbers simply cannot will their feet to take the next step.
Long before the pair take on that challenge, though, they're left with a more gruelling, if less perilous task.
"Right now, the challenge is fundraising," Bueno said.
With a stated goal of $10,000 each, Bueno and Rankin have a long way to go. Toward that end, they're looking for local sponsors who are willing to put up a thousand dollars to have their logo splayed on the T-shirts Bueno and Rankin will wear on their assent.
Already, Elite Printing has donated their services in producing pamphlets. Smaller contributions can also be made online, or at a series of events the pair are planning over the summer. For information, visit msclimb.ca.