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The #SummitsAfrica Challenge team are on their way up Mt. Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the first of 7 mountains they’ll climb in 7 weeks to raise awareness of 7 crucial causes.

The team (from left – back row): Thommo Hart, Ake Lindstrom, Gabriele Brown, Sibusiso Vilane, Jacques van Tonder, Jessica Flint, (front) Sally Grierson, Carel Verhoef and Patrick Thomas.

But what motivates a team of people to dedicate 7 weeks of their lives (and several hundred blisters) to climb 7 mountains back to back? We asked 7 members of the team what’s driving them up those mountains:


Carel Verhoef

7 Summits Africa concept creator & director of title sponsor Great Migration Camps:

“I’m a strong advocate of conservation through tourism, which is why I want to showcase East Africa to the world through the 7 Summits Africa Challenge. The further you go into Africa the fewer tourist numbers there are, and the interior parts (rainforest areas) of the continent are the hardest and most expensive parks to look after. Unless we bring tourists to these areas and create a reason for the people around these parks and reserves to protect the biodiversity and habitat, in 20 years time we will have lost a huge part of our rainforest parks and reserves.

This is the overarching reason why we came up with the 7 Summits Africa Challenge – to showcase these parts of Africa to the world and, hopefully, encourage others to follow in our footsteps. Conservation through tourism is the only way to go.”

Sibusiso Vilane

South African adventurer and motivational speaker, author of the book ‘To the Top from Nowhere’ and one of a handful of African members of ‘The 7 Summits Club’ – the elite mountaineers who have climbed the highest peaks on each of the continents.

“On a personal level, it means so much for me as a proud African to be able to explore and promote parts of my continent. We have a continent that is rich in nature, wildlife and people. It is our duty and responsibility to experience and tell the world about our African pride and heritage.”

Gabriele Brown

East African Destination Specialist and 8-time Kilimanjaro veteran.

“In 2012 I summited Mt. Kilimanjaro for the first time to leave my late husband’s ashes on top of Uhuru Peak. Since that time Kili holds a very special place in my heart. Kilimanjaro is a place of adventure, of freedom, of strength and of beauty – a place where everything is removed and one comes to know oneself without any masks of pretences. It’s a real opportunity to evaluate one’s character and resilience.

But during my first Kili climb, I saw first-hand what the porters go through to get people like me up the mountain, to give us these life-changing experiences. It’s not easy and they’re hugely under appreciated. So my cause is an obvious one: assisting the porters on Kilimanjaro (via cause partner Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project – KPAP).”


Jessica Flint

New York based editor and writer, who will be co-authoring a book about the #7SummitsAfrica Challenge with Patrick Thomas.

“As a journalist, I am drawn to great stories. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to chronicle this world-first expedition that aims to good in Africa by highlighting the continent’s under-promoted adventure tourism opportunities while promoting various Africa-centric conservation efforts, including saving the black rhino and the mountain gorillas.”


Ake Lindstrom

East Africa’s most experienced mountaineer and high altitude adventure addict.

“For me the most poignant moment of this trip (so far) was at home, as I held my 7-month-old son. In 20 years time will I be able to show him gorillas in the DRC? It is only through the massive efforts of organisations in each region and tourism and governments in multiple countries that a species such as the gorilla has any hope of survival.

And so why am I doing this? Because it is an adventure. Because I believe our network of friends and family will love this adventure and will share the message. Because our partners are the stakeholders in the region believe tourism can answer many problems and are committed to building a positive future. And, finally, because I want my son to see what I have seen in 20 years time.”


Patrick Thomas

US-based editor and writer, who will be co-authoring a book about the #7SummitsAfrica Challenge with Jessica Flint.

“I’m fascinated and encouraged by the potential for how ecotourism in general and mountaineering specifically can help save wild places, strengthen local communities and create world-class adventure travel opportunities. And to be completely honest, I love adventure and travelling to places sure to surprise and delight me.”


Sally Grierson

Hiker and lover of mountains – retired physiotherapist. Part of the team that successfully summited Kilimanjaro with the first female quadriplegic, Chaeli Mycroft.

“I have grown more enthralled and enamoured by the magnificence and wildness of Africa, particularly my current home in East Africa. On the flip side, it becomes more obvious every day what a precarious position these amazing places find themselves in.

It may be naive and perhaps we are foolish, but I do believe we can create awareness of an incredible adventure that will bring visitors to this corner of the globe. And they, in turn, will bring much needed revenue to the communities, parks, habitats and species.”