Sophie Rosa slaloms into another fundraising adventure

by: Gregg Chamberlain

Rockland | Now that she’s back down at last, both physically and mentally, from her spiritual climb to the top of the highest mountain in Africa, Sophie Rosa is setting her sights again on another mountain experience a little closer to home. And once again it’s all for the benefit of children.

Rosa is part of the SensFoundation/RogersHouse team on the slopes of Mont Tremblant in Québec for the Annual Sens Foundation 24 Hours of Tremblant ski-a-thon to help children in need for sports, recreation, health care and eductation. In this case, it is also a chance for her to return to her family’s sports roots and see if she still has her “ski legs” or not since she was in her 20s.

“I haven’t touched skis since then,” Rosa said, laughing. “So it should be an adventure.”

At 41, the five-foot-three Rockland woman has kept her athletic trim through a combination of good nutrition and a lot of fast walking everywhere she can, both on her rounds as a health and lifestyles consultant and as the mother of a 12-year-old competitive soccer player.

“I walk, a good brisk walk, every day,” she said, smiling.

The Sens Foundation’s 24HrTremblant is an all-day, all-night ski relay that has become a popular kickoff for the non-profit group’s winter fundraising schedule. Rosa is collecting as many pledges as she can before the start of the Dec. 7 weekend event. Her online pledge link is at http://donation.24htremblant.com/Pages/Participants/Participant.aspx?participant=6178

Rosa’s invitation to join this year’s event came in mid-November, not too long after she returned to Canada with the rest of her fellow trekkers in the SkyHigh for Roger’s House Expedition to Kilimanjaro.

“I just had to do it,” Rosa said, regarding the Mont Tremblant ski-a-thon. “I’ve always heard that the 24-hour Tremblant is a great weekend family party.”

Besides helping raise money for children, the event is a chance for her and her son, Philippe, to enjoy the slopes together, though his preference is for snowboarding.

The question for Rosa is how well she will do “back on the sticks” since the days when she and her brother, Pier, used to tear up the slopes of every ski hill in Québec’s Eastern Townships as teenagers.

“We were very competitive,” she said, “but it was always a family activity. It was very important for my mother and father to do family sports with us.”

Family is important to Rosa. Family was the reason why she went to Kilimanjaro this year, though it was always part of her “bucket list” of things to do.

“It’s Africa and I’ve always dreamed of going to Africa,” she said. “Kilimanjaro is the Everyman’s Everest. It’s just walking and rock-climbing, not a technical climb.”

Climbing Kilimanjaro became a way to honour the memory of her youngest son, Simon, who died in a drowning accident. She and Angelo Garcia, whom she met through Roger’s House, proposed the SkyHigh climb in October as a way to give back to Roger’s House for all the help the non-profit agency and its staff had given them and other grieving parents.
When she first faced Kilimajaro, looking up at the summit from the foot of the mountain, Rosa admitted to some trepidation.

“It was incredibly scary,” she said, recalling her thoughts at the time. “Because 50 per cent (of climbers) never make it up.”
That half-and-half success rate is not because the mountain is dangerous but because many would-be “Kili trekkers” either overestimate their own physical skills or underestimate the mountain’s reputation for climbing.

“My fear was always that I would be the one trailing behind,” Rosa said. “But our guides always kept the slowest ones at the front.”

The memory that stands out most in Rosa’s mind about Kilimanjaro is when she took out two small stones that she had carried with her from Canada and buried them on the mountain’s summit. One was for Roger’s House and one came from her beloved Simon’s own rock collection.

“It was very emotional up there,” she said. “The guides were very touched. All of them have children. It was a very emotional time for them too, they really enjoyed our group.”

Nearby another member of the SkyHigh expedition assembled a little inukshuk in memory of his daughter. Rosa recalled that the human-shaped inukshuks – which in Inuit culture mean “so they will know we were here” – were a common sight around the top of Kilimanjaro and along the trail to the summit.

“Everywhere you had rocks, you had inukshuks.”