Nicole and Marelise’s Ecuador Challenge

Through the years we’ve been very appreciative in the way the “Homes To Grow” project has attracted support through many different sectors and we’re delighted now to introduce two  intrepid adventurers, Nicole Morse and her partner Marelise Bardenhorst who are on a quest to scale the high mountains in Ecuador.  Their trip is self-funded and they have kindly offered to champion our fundraising efforts in support of the “Homes to Grow” project.

Of all the requirements to ensure the children’s needs are covered,  the cost of their education is the most pressing.   We are aiming to raise R1.25 million through the long term and we have a very long way to go!  The funds being raised through Nicole and Marelise’s endeavours are a promising start to this year’s  target goal of R300,000 which will cover just the school fees.

Their departure is set for February 16 and they will spend their first days in Quito acclimatising to the altitude.  The plan is to ease into the experience by hiking trails on the lesser mountains  – Pasochoa (4200 m) Pichincha (4696 m), IlinazaNorte (5126 m) and then try to summit Cotopaxi (5,897 m).  Prior to this undertaking  they will undergo technical training on the glacier to hone ice-climbing techniques using crampons and ice axes.  If all goes well they will attempt to reach the summit by starting the climb at midnight on the seventh day.  This will give them time to descend before the  sun warms the glacier making it unstable by possibly causing avalanches or ice and rock falls.   Additional challenges for the climbers could be adverse weather and altitude sickness.  Tackling this rugged and austere terrain is not for the feint hearted!

Mt Cotopaxi:  Courtesy of Wikipedia

A steely determination shows through Nicole’s nonchalance  when asked about the motivation for the adventure.  She explains that it’s the challenge of wanting to climb big mountains and to experience glaciers that appeals as well as the quest for pushing oneself to the limit.

After they have achieved these initial goals and if time permits, they may even consider Mt Chimboraso, which is Ecuador’s highest mountain at an altitude of 6268 m.   It has the added allure of being the tallest mountain in the world  – that is not by elevation above sea level, but through its location along the equatorial bulge, making it’s summit the farthest point on the Earth’s surface from the Earth’s center.

The months of preparation and physical training is paying off.  Nicole’s latest dash up Platteklip Gorge (Table Mountain) took an hour and six minutes and a rapid forty-eight minutes to come back down.  While Marelise is presently studying in Amsterdam for a PhD in exercise science her training has involved a lot of gym work.

Their goals and aspirations are an inspiration to our young children and we’ll be eagerly following their experiences.  What a way to learn about the geography of the lofty mountains of the Andes, right there on the equator clad in snow and juxtaposed between glaciers and volcanoes!