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Formidable fighters for burn survivors off to Everest Base Camp

A lot has been said and written about Remy Kloos – and for a good reason: she’s an exceptional human being whose vocabulary does not include the word “impossible”. In February Remy completed a seven-year quest of climbing the tallest peak on every continent and she’s off, yet again. This time, the Capetonian is joining the Avela Foundation for their second trek in six years to Everest Base Camp (EBC) to raise funds for and awareness of children with serious burn injuries.  

Cami Palomo, Avela Foundation founder, says having Remy not only join but lead their second EBC expedition will add tremendous value. “Remy is one of the Best of the Best and apart from her super mountaineering skills we will also benefit from her incredible spirit and attitude towards life.”

 

For Cami, Avela has become her life’s work. The foundation, founded in Cape Town in 2016, has over the years raised substantial funds for medical equipment and treatment. Her Umatter program is however very close to her heart. “Through this we provide not only physical support to children with serious burn injuries but also try and heal the emotional trauma that these children and their families experience. It’s for this reason that we need to expand the program to include more hospitals and training – something that cannot be done without funds.” 

According to stats more than 1.6 million South Africans sustain serious burn injuries annually. Of them, at least 350,000 are children.

Cami says undertaking mountaineering expeditions is quite the challenge as it just airlifts you out of your comfort zone. “It’s for that reason that we believe it’s a great way of honouring the courage, determination and resilience of young burn survivors.” 

On the 10th of May Cami and Remy will be joined by a group of five business people, including one American, who all have in the past strapped on their hiking boots to help raise funds for Avela on donations crowdfunding platform, BackaBuddy. 

Remy, having reached her seventh and final summit in February – Mount Kosciuszko in Australia, is excited to be part of the group: “The Avela Foundation is doing such incredible work, empowering and supporting children who survive serious burn injuries. Cami and her team help transform their lives by assisting them in dealing with their physical and emotional scars. I’m so touched by the work that the foundation does and am honoured to play a small role in helping.”

Remy herself is no stranger to the darker side of life. Battling serious depression and anxiety in 2016 and in desperate need of some perspective, she turned to the mountains for “help”. “I was standing on Mount Kilimanjaro, the Roof of Africa, fuelled with an electric surge of energy. In that moment I knew I had found meaning through a deep and soulful connection with the mountain and with every climb thereafter my confidence just grew and I knew I could make an impact!” 

Six years later Remy become the first person from Africa to do the Everest-Lhoste combination-climb in 24 hours and achieving that also made her the first woman from the continent to summit the Lhotse peak in Asia. She does however not only leave her mark in history books – Remy is not surprisingly also in demand as a mountain guide and motivational speaker. 

Cami shares Remy’s love and reverence for mountains and is tremendously excited to share in the world-class climber’s experiences during their upcoming trek. “Having Remy as part of the Avela trek to EBC and hear her stories will enrich our journey and ignite an even deeper appreciation for the spiritual essence of the Himalayas and the transformative power of mountains.”  

“Yes,” says Remy: “The mountains teach us about our own mortality.  They show us how fragile we are and provide perspective in so far as that our daily frustrations are actually quite menial, all things considered.” 

And Remy knows only too well what risks high-altitude mountaineering pose. “I have experienced minus-40 degrees Celsius carrying 50kg loads, have had frostbite numerous times, battled against 130km/h winds, not to mention cyclones where a single misstep could be fatal. I have been on many an exposed ridgeline and in extreme altitudes where no living organism is meant to survive for extended periods of time. Movements are extremely slow and it requires immense energy just to try to eat and drink. Every decision is extremely calculated, there is no room for error. One simple mistake like dropping a glove could have dire repercussions.” 

Although the Avela team won’t be summiting Everest, Remy says she goes into every climb the same mental and physical preparation and attitude: “One must have a deep respect for the mountains and the surrounding lands and people for we are simply very lucky to be able to be there. This is their home and the invitation to explore, climb and trek is one that must be received and executed with kindness and humility.”

She echoes Cami’s hope that the trek will raise more awareness about the work that the Avela Foundation does and that this fundraising campaign will bring in much needed donations to support their work. “As a team I know we can collectively make a difference and I want everyone on the trek to experience the magic of the grand Himalaya and be fuelled by her beauty and wisdom. I want them to be touched by the stories of the Nepalese people and to feel their warmth. With each step on such ancient lands I hope the group will experience something magical and return home with a newfound sense of gratitude and humility. So, we will not only be exploring together but hopefully raise much needed funds for a charity that is changing the lives of so many people.”

And Remy’s trademark sunflower will again be peaking out of her rucksack: “Where I go, the sunflower goes as for me it’s a gentle reminder of grace in our lives, representing our humanity and highlighting the importance of gratitude and positivity. “You know, at the end of the day, the summit is for the ego, but the journey, the journey – is for the soul.”

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