A Waldheim, Sask., mother of three is getting ready for the challenge of a lifetime — climbing to the top of a mountain in Nepalese Himalayas.
For months, Denise Heppner has been training while wearing a weighted backpack, trudging up a steep toboggan hill near her farm north of Saskatoon.
She is a relative newcomer to hiking and climbing, and the training hasn't always been a breeze.
"It's getting easier, thank goodness," she said with a laugh.
Heppner plans to take on a mountain peak named Kalaphatar, with an elevation of 5,545 metres, to raise awareness and money to stop human trafficking.
Her focus is on helping women and children in developing countries who are sold into the sex trade or into forced labour.
She said she was deeply affected by hearing cases of children who were made to take drugs, getting pregnant as early as age 10, and forced to go through abortions.
"I couldn't stop thinking about it," she said.
Heppner is more than half way to her goal of raising $15,000 before she starts her trek. The money will support safe houses and job training — a way out for victims.
The plan is that she and 43 other women will climb to a Mt. Everest base camp before proceeding to Kalaphatar.
Heppner, whose three children are ages seven, five and two, will be the only Canadian among the group taking part in The Freedom Climb 2013 from April 9-25.
"I've never climbed a mountain before," she said. "I'm not an athlete, I'm not an experienced hiker. I am just a mom who decided to make a difference and do this."