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Uphill not over the hill - seniors to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for Alzheimer's 0

By Tyler Orton, 24 Hours Vancouver

Local seniors Martin and Esther Kafer are set to climb Mount Kilimanjaro Sept. 24 to raise money for the fight against Alzheimer's disease. (CARMINE MARINELLI/24 HOURS)

Local seniors Martin and Esther Kafer are set to climb Mount Kilimanjaro Sept. 24 to raise money for the fight against Alzheimer's disease. (CARMINE MARINELLI/24 HOURS)

A pair of Vancouver seniors won't let advanced age, aching bones or the threat of altitude sickness stop them from attempting a record-setting climb up Africa's tallest mountain.

Martin and Esther Kafer - 85 and 84-years-old respectively - begin their ascent up Mount Kilimanjaro on Sept. 24 in a bid to raise money and awareness for the fight against Alzheimer's disease.

The Kafers will break the Guinness world record for oldest man and woman to conquer the peak if they complete their journey Sept. 30.

The Vancouver couple, who have climbed more than 500 mountains since they began hiking together 62 years ago, were on Grouse Mountain Thursday challenging British Columbians to march up the Grind in support of the cause.

Martin and Esther have raised $20,000 for Alzheimer's research and urged locals to create teams of seven to climb the famous North Vancouver hiking trail the same day they're set to conquer Kilimanjaro. The combined distance covered by seven hikers up the Grind equals the elevation the Kafers will climb up the Tanzanian mountain.

Martin beamed as he told reporters he'd completed the Grouse Grind nearly 500 times since doctors worked on his hip 11 years ago.

"Our connection to Grouse is very strong. Our connection to Alzheimer's is more recent," Martin said.

The retired electrical engineer was inspired to raise money for research into the degenerative disorder after his sister, a former McGill University professor, was diagnosed with dementia.

"She doesn't even remember her own name," he said. "It's a very sad thing to see."

The couple targeted Kilimanjaro because of Martin's own history of climbing peaks on that continent.

An ascent up Mount Kenya ended prematurely when he suffered altitude sickness from climbing too quickly with too much heavy gear.

"You might say (I have) a bit of a grudge with African mountains," Martin said, adding he's confident the team accompanying him and Esther will get them up Kilimanjaro.

"Now we're going to do it the right way."

For more information on the Kafers' cause go to ascentbc.ca.


Email: tyler.orton@sunmedia.ca


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