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Coquitlam mom tackles top peaks

Coquitlam resident Dora Vanourek reached the summit of Aconcagua, part of the Andes mountain range in Argentina, last month. - SUBMITTED PHOTO
Coquitlam resident Dora Vanourek reached the summit of Aconcagua, part of the Andes mountain range in Argentina, last month.
— image credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO

Like many new mothers, Dora Vanourek was looking for a way to lose some of the baby weight after the birth of her daughter two years ago.

Unlike most new mothers, however, Vanourek skipped the traditional spin classes in favour of something a little more challenging — she climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. Rising nearly 6,000 metres above sea level in Tanzania, it's the highest peak in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world.

So it's fair to say it was a bit of a hike, and one she was inspired to tackle while on a somewhat less strenuous trek closer to home.

"It just so happened I had friends doing the Chief in Squamish one day, and I wanted to do more," Vanourek said. Exactly two months from when she enjoyed a well-deserved lunch with friends at the top of the Chief, Vanourek was climbing Kilimanjaro.

But rather than satisfying her thirst for adventure, the successful climb only spurred Vanourek to look at more possibilities.

After a full year of training the Coquitlam woman reached the top of Aconcagua — part of the Andes range in Argentina — on Jan. 18. The mountain is close to 7,000 metres high, making it the highest in the Americas and the highest in the southern and western hemispheres.

"I'm quite a goal-oriented person, and climbing is one of the ways I can put some of the goals I would like to achieve into reality," Vanourek said. "It's a process of looking at what has to happen to achieve that goal, a lot of research on who to go with, how to travel, what's required, what kind of training.

"I really enjoy the process and focusing on that goal."

But how does the mother of a busy toddler find time to train for such a feat?

Vanourek is able to work from home as a senior manager for a large IT company and says the time she saves not commuting allows her to train. She's up by 6 a.m. to get her exercise in, and often puts in another session in the evening.

And she says she couldn't do it without the tremendous support of her spouse.

"My husband has been really good at supporting me along the way," looking after their daughter solo while Vanourek is away on training hikes. "I'm really lucky."

The climb itself was a long one in a remote area, where Vanourek was unable to contact her family for nearly three weeks. And while Aconcagua is somewhat "easier" than Kilimanjaro — more trekking than technical, Vanourek said — the elevation means hikers are more prone to altitude sickness and there is a greater chance of the weather foiling plans to reach the summit.

"I actually enjoyed Aconcagua more," she said. "I felt more in the mountain, there's a lot of snow around you and just the remoteness."

Vanourek said her next goal may have to wait, however. She's interested in tackling Denali in Alaska, the highest summit in North America, but said her family has to come first.

"I have to always think about my family, and the dangers inherent in that kind of climb."


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