News / Ottawa

Riverview Park resident reaching for new heights with Mount Kilimanjaro trek

Leah Nord's trip could be the first of many challenges ahead.

With her backpack and trusty pair of hiking boots, Riverview Park resident Leah Nord has already spent months training for her first major hiking and camping expedition that will take her to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, Africa, in January 2017.

Erin McCracken / Metroland Media

With her backpack and trusty pair of hiking boots, Riverview Park resident Leah Nord has already spent months training for her first major hiking and camping expedition that will take her to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, Africa, in January 2017.

Leah Nord isn’t one for bucket lists, nor is she an adrenaline junkie.

But when she sets out in January 2017 from the base of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro for a five-day hike up more than 5,800 metres to the summit, she will be embarking on a life-long goal.

“It’s always been a dream of mine,” said the Riverview Park resident, adding that she’s had this dream for so long – since she was a young child – she can’t even recall where the idea came from to scale the world’s highest freestanding mountain.

But she has a lot of confidence.

“It’s doable,” Nord said. “It’s not impossible. This is a challenge and it’s manageable.”

Nord is no stranger to adventure or travelling abroad, having worked for many years in the international development field, as well as for the Red Cross’s international programs. Nord’s career took her to post-war former Yugoslavia for three years, and over the years she has been to Russia, Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Sierra Leone.

Today, she works for the not-for-profit Canadian Bureau for International Education, and continues to volunteer for a Red Cross program, monitoring the well-being of people after they are detained at the border.

“I’m not a thrill seeker,” said Nord, 43. “I’ve spent my life helping people who are vulnerable around the world. Maybe this is my giving back.”

OUTWARD BOUND CONNECTION

Her upcoming adventure won’t just be about the hike itself or accomplishing a major challenge. Nord has chosen to go on the journey with Outward Bound Canada, and plans to raise $4,000 for the organization that provides charitable programs and courses for military veterans, women and youth.

“The ‘think global, act local’ – this is doing something globally with the local connection,” she said of her reason, in part, for choosing Outward Bound’s expedition package. “It’s about raising awareness about a great organization too.”

Nord will be part of an eight-member group of Canadians. Supported by a guide and a team of workers who will help carry supplies, they will spend five days camping and hiking up to the top, and it will take two days to come down.

They plan to stagger their ascent to help them adjust to the altitude, and Nord’s packing list includes altitude sickness pills. Her backpack will also include plenty of warm clothes as temperatures could dip as low as -20C.

Mount Kilimanjaro does not involve a technical climb, but it will offer a satisfying challenge for Nord, who is not a prolific hiker or camper. She began training for the journey in May, and now regularly hikes the Gatineau hills and exercises daily with yoga, swimming and walking.

Her upcoming adventure is more about the journey, rather than reaching the summit.

“It’s important for the kids to know that you have a goal,” said the mother of two children, ages 12 and eight.

Once she fulfills her dream of scaling Mount Kilimanjaro, what happens after that remains an unknown, though another adventure is likely in store.

“We’ll see what happens after this,” Nord said. “Maybe I shouldn’t have started with this, maybe I should have ended with this.”

There’s always the 840-kilometre Bruce Trail, which begins in the Niagara region and continues north to Tobermory, Ont., as well as other hiking options throughout North America. Nord may even have her eye next on hiking sections of the Pyrenees mountain range, which spans France and Spain.

“I don’t want to draw too straight of a line,” she said. “There’s a whole other world out there.”

Check out Nord’s fundraising page at bit.ly/2cFvdUp. For more about her hiking adventure with Outward Bound, visit bit.ly/2cJq93s.

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