Saturday, October 04, 2008

A visually impaired woman goes mountain climbing

THE idea of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro would seem daunting to anyone, but spare a thought for Toowoomba woman Janet Etchells she's been blind her whole life.

Ms Etchells and her friend Janet Wilson are hoping to conquer Africa's highest peak in March next year as part of the High Sight Expedition in which 14 visually impaired people will climb the mountain, each with a sighted companion.

They will be the only all-woman team attempting the climb which will be filmed for an international documentary.

Ms Etchells, who is 99 per cent blind, applied for the adventure and was chosen as one of seven visually impaired people from Australia to make the journey with another seven coming from South Africa.

She asked her friend Janet Wilson, whom she met just 12 months ago at a Toowoomba gym, to be her sighted guide and that was when this remarkable partnership began.

The Toowoomba team, or "Partners in Climb" as Ms Etchells described them, have already started their training.

They successfully climbed Tabletop Mountain just last week.

"I like to try to challenge myself as often as I can," Ms Etchells said.

"And with this trip I want to show other visually impaired people that they really can do what they want."

The trip is a 100 kilometre trek each way, taking five days to go up and then another two to come back down.

"We're very determined. We're going to do this together and get to the top," Ms Wilson said.
However, before they attempt to conquer Mt Kilimanjaro they have to overcome the first hurdle they must each raise $9000.

The money will go directly to the Prevent Blindness Foundation to further research while also covering the team's costs.

"We've really got nothing yet. We've certainly got the enthusiasm, now we just need the funds to get the gear," Ms Wilson said.

If anyone is able to help, Janet Etchells can be reached on 0407 784 835, or donations can also be made at


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