Hiking the Himalayas in honour of dads

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In April, a group of women set off on a Himalayan trek in memory of two fathers.

Creemore area resident Wendy Cooper and her sister Heather lost their father, Garvin, a few years ago. Cooper’s longtime friend Alena Grunwald also lost her father to the same type of cancer. Cooper said both their dads were diagnosed within a couple of years of each other but luckily they both lived on for more than four years. 

It was Grunwald’s father Pete, who like his daughter, was an adventurer at heart. 

“Alena’s dad was the original inspiration,” said Cooper. “He always wanted to go to the Himalayas but he never made it.”

Cooper said her father was not at all the type of person who would want to hike up a mountain, but it was a nice way to honour him.

They set an initial fundraising goal of $5,380, a dollar value to match the height of South Base Camp in Nepal. When they exceeded that amount, they set a goal of $8,848 to match the height of Everest. In the end, donations totalled $12,650, to go to Pancreatic Cancer Canada. 

During the 11-day hike, beginning April 3, they stayed at teahouses – simple hotels along the way – where they were fed and played cards in the evenings.

The highest point for them was Kala Patthar at 5,545 metres. The terrain was difficult and rocky and the landscape went from treed, to brush and then little vegetation. 

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said Cooper. 

She said there are many people doing the trek – people of all ages and fitness levels. Some people struggle with altitude sickness and have trouble acclimatizing. Cooper said she felt lethargic, had headaches, had trouble sleeping and little appetite but she was able to continue the climb. 

Their guide Hari led them on their trek, avoiding the actual base camp where serious mountain climbers were spending the month acclimatizing. 

“For a lot of people it’s a pilgrimage,” said Cooper. “It’s a goal, a bucket list thing.”

That wasn’t her motivation but, she said, it feels like a very spiritual place and they did hang some prayer flags for their fathers along the way. Others bring along some ashes and leave them in rock cairns there.

“The scenery is otherworldly and the people are so nice and welcoming,” said Cooper. “Nepal is an incredible country from a cultural perspective.”

For more information about pancreatic cancer and Pancreatic Cancer Canada, visit www.pancreaticcancercanada.ca.

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