A good mountain companion of mine has undertaken to climb all the highest peaks in each country in Africa, of which there are 53.
Known by many as "Noeksie", Karen Hauptfleisch is someone that I admire for her guts and determination. This is one tough cookie! She will leave many guys in the dust in the mountains, and seldom looses her cool and her sense of humour, no matter how tired and cold we are, how bad the weather is, or whatever other obstacles the mountains are throwing at us.
She also founded SOAPKidz, an a non-profit organisation aiming to create environmental awareness, promote nature conservation, teach life skills, while doing fun activities amongst the underprivileged, abused and neglected children. Weekend after weekend, she is always busy with some event or taking a group of kids to go pick up litter somewhere. I have never seen someone take it so personally when coming across litter in the Drakensberg! It is not unusual to see her pack with rubbish bags strapped to it, as she cleans up along the way.
She has climbed the highest peaks of several southern African countries already, as well as that of Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. In April this year she set off on a 3 month trip to cover several west African countries.
In her own words:
"In June 2002, a passion arose inside me for Africa, it’s beauty, it’s mountains, it’s natural riches and it’s abused and orphaned children… And then God spoke to me and gave me a mission. Having had no previous climbing experience, I set off on a path that would change my life forever, demanding a whole lot of guts and determination. ... my mission is: To Summit each of the 53 highest peaks in all of the countries in Africa. To be the first South African in doing so. To be the first woman in doing so. To clean up the mountain areas that are accessible in doing so. To start laying ground work for the SOAPkidz organization (South Africa) to spread out to the rest of Africa, and touch the lives of abused and orphaned children in Africa by showing them the magic of nature as well as their own inner potential."
We have heard news from her on her current travels, though internet access does at times seem to be a challenge. I will be posting more updates soon.