STEPS Board Member Cheryl Howard climbs mountains for clubfoot awareness

Cheryl Howard, a chartered accountant and STEPS board member not only advises on financial matters, she climbs mountains for clubfoot awareness.

Cheryl says: “It was through my friendship with Karen Mara Moss and seeing her son’s successful treatment that I became involved with STEPS. More recently a past employee’s little boy has been assisted via the STEPS programme and watching a video of him walking has reaffirmed STEPS and the immense value it brings to those that it supports.

Climbing mountains has been a natural evolution from my love of the outdoors. Spending time camping in the Drakensberg as a kid and now with my kids, paddling the Orange River or camping on the roof of a Landy in the middle of the Kalahari.

It’s about stepping out of my comfort zone and meeting the challenge that I have set for myself head on. That and some good Russian Vodka!”

Cheryl climbed Mount Elbrus – the highest mountain in Russia – in July 2014 to raise funds and awareness for Steps.

Cheryl’s Mount Elbrus Journey:

Mount Elberus is in the Caucasus mountain range which stretches between the Black and Caspian Seas and borders Europe and Asia. Some believe the range tops the Alps as the finest mountain range in Europe, with Elberus as one of the world’s most beautiful volcanoes.

The adventures started with a journey of 24 hours from OR Tambo, via Doha. With an overnight stay in Moscow, they went on to Elbrus village at the foot of Mount Elbrus in the Baksan Valley. The first three days were used for acclimatising between Mount Cheget, the Priyut ruins and the Pastukhov Rocks. Spending the nights at a lower altitude, in a barrel. The ascent of the western summit of Mount Elbrus started at midnight post the acclimatisation. All ice and snow at 5 642 meters.

Cheryl has also climbed Kilimanjaro with her son, and in June 2015 she climbed the Rwenzori Mountains to raise funds and awareness for STEPS.

Cheryl’s Rwenzori Mountains Journey

The Rwenzori Mountains, also known as the “Mountains of the Moon”, are believed to be the ones described by second century AD Geographer, Ptolemy, to be the source of the Nile.

On the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the range is approximately 100km long and 50km wide, the highest point being Margherita Peak, which stands at 5 111 metres.

Her trek started from Nyakelengija-Ibanda, following the Mubuku River, through forest areas where she stayed overnight at Nyabitaba Hut at an elevation of 2 650 metres.

Over the next five days, Cheryl and her team climbed steadily through areas with wonderful names like Nyamileju Hut, “Place of Beards”, Bujuku River, Groundsel Gulley, before facing Margherita Peak.

The climb toward the summit on the final day took approximately five to seven hours, depending on the weather conditions and the pace of the group. The challenging walk was over three glaciers, slippery rock, ice and some exposed areas.

It took them three days to descend back down to Nyabitaba, which entailed more climbing, crossing icy rivers, having exquisite views of the Congo and Mount Stanley and ending with a well-deserved celebratory dinner with the team!

Cheryl on the summit of Mount Elbrus in 2014

Cheryl’s dream is to climb the seven summits and to one day stand on top of the world – Mount Everest.

What message would you like people to take away from the climbs?

Step out of your comfort zone, test yourself and you will be surprised at what you are capable of doing.

STEPS is a great initiative and if, by climbing, I can help increase awareness and raise funds for the work they do, all the better.