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Women climb to fight human trafficking

On the second day of The Freedom Climb, five women hiked Mt. Elbert. - Submitted photo
On the second day of The Freedom Climb, five women hiked Mt. Elbert.
— image credit: Submitted photo

Submitted by Mary Shier

Five women, seven summits, four days. That was the goal as five Fernie women headed off to Breckenridge, Colorado to be part of The Freedom Climb.

In all, 72 women joined from six different countries to climb mountains over 14,000 feet high, fondly called “14ers.” Mary Shier, Kristy Schmidt, Maureen Thrun, Kim Hopkins and Ramona Gliege formed Team B.C. and were one of two Canadians teams to be part of the 2014 Freedom Climb to help enslaved and trafficked women and children.

The climb is merely a symbolic gesture of the struggle women and children around the world face every day. It symbolizes their arduous climb to freedom.

All five Fernie women successfully summited the seven peaks. In fact, they even did an extra one, a 14er which was along the way of getting from one peak to another.

The task was daunting, the days were long, the weather was challenging and the effects of altitude were a constant factor.

Each day started by getting up at 3:30 a.m.,  followed by breakfast at 4 a.m., and then loading into the vans to head off to the trailhead.

The goal was to summit as early as possible each day so that the groups were heading down the mountains and were low enough by early afternoon to reduce the dangers of lightning storms which are prevalent throughout the summers there.

This became a very real threat as two Colorado hikers were killed and five injured by lightning the same week on a nearby mountain range.

The Fernie women ended up hiking through sun, cold, rain, hail, 40 mile per hour winds, and thunder and lightning.

Even though it was mid-summer, the women were often hiking in hats, gloves, layers of merino wool, down vests and Gortex jackets.

Day one was full on, as the climbers summited four mountains: Mt. Democrat, Mt. Cameron, Mt Lincoln and Mt. Bross, and then had a steep, challenging descent.

Day two was hiking Mt. Elbert, the highest of the Colorado 14ers at 14,440 ft (4401 m) which is the highest peak of the Rocky Mountains in North America.

Day three was climbing Torreys and Grays Peaks.

Day four was Mt. Quandary, the shortest of the hiking days.

The women were thrilled to make it, but even more thrilled to have been able to be a voice for an amazing cause, a voice for the voiceless who cannot speak for themselves.

Raising money and awareness for Operation Mobilization, a Christian humanitarian charity, was the goal.

The Fernie women raised over $21,000 for the organization through fundraising. They put on an Eat Drink Paint ladies night with a silent auction and had a community benefit concert to raise funds along with all the personal donations from friends and family.

The Freedom Climb team would like to gratefully thank the community for all their support.

While hiking by day was physically challenging, listening to the speakers in the evening was emotionally challenging.

They heard from those who are working in the rescue and rehabilitation projects in India, Moldova, South Africa and Brazil.

Seeing the faces of those who had been rescued, hearing the personal stories and the needs all over the world was heart breaking and motivating.

We are so fortunate to have the freedoms that we do.

Women and children who are tricked into and forced to live a life of sex-trafficking seems unbelievable to us who can choose our education and careers, who can choose our spouses, and who can choose what to do with our leisure time.

“Freedom!” What a beautiful thing! It was bellowed from the mountain tops many times during the climbs.

The Fernie climbers were honoured and humbled to be able to support such worthy projects.

“Even though our efforts may make a small difference in the whole scope of things in the world, the impact is enormous and life-changing for the ones that are helped,” said Mary Shier, of the Fernie team.

The money raised goes directly to projects around the world that are helping women gain freedom and become independent. The projects support prevention, rescue , rehabilitation and development.

They vary from providing education, counselling for women coming out of slavery and trafficking, skills training for women starting their own small businesses to support their families, and much more.

For more information or if you’re interested in participating in future Freedom Climbs, see their website at thefreedomclimb.net

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