Student to climb 3 peaks in 3 weeks

By Ariel Serafin
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, December 5, 2005

Although she considers herself an amateur climber, Laura Hartstone has bigger things to worry about than climbing Africa's 19,335-foot-high Mount Kilimanjaro next year. She has to help raise $270,000 for African relief.

Hartstone, an international studies senior, is one of 12 women in the world who will participate in the "3 Peaks 3 Weeks Challenge," an international fundraiser that aims to raise funds and awareness for three issues affecting Africa today: education, environment, and HIV and AIDS.

The women aim to become the first all-female climbing party to summit three of Africa's tallest mountains, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Kenya and Mt. Meru, in less than three weeks.

Hartstone is the only person from the UA and one of only two women from the U.S. participating in the challenge.

The climb, which is set to occur in January of 2007, aims to raise $270,000 that will fully fund three separate projects benefiting African education, environment, and HIV and AIDS treatment and testing.

Hartstone said she isn't nervous about the climb itself, but worries about raising the funds, which are only at about $15,000 right now.

"I can't wait for the actual climb," Hartstone said. "The hardest part is right now."

The first official kick-off event in the U.S. took place last night at Hartstone's "An Evening in East Africa"-themed formal dinner.

The event, which was attended by about 70 of Hartstone's friends, family and community members, offered guests an insight into Hartstone's motivations and plans for the challenge.

Hartstone traveled to Africa for about 11 months in the past two years, spending much of her time as an HIV/AIDS educator and program coordinator. At dinner, Hartstone told guests about one particular experience she had that helped her realize the necessity and power of fundraising for the country.

Hartstone followed a grandmother back to her home, where the woman showed Hartstone her 8-year-old grandson. The child wore a hooded jacket, despite the 90-degree weather, in order to hide a fungal infection on his head that was too expensive for the family to treat.

The woman begged Hartstone to buy the medication for the boy, so Hartstone collected about $25 from her own cash, got donations from friends and went to the pharmacy.

The pharmacist handed Hartstone the medication and asked Hartstone to pay. The price: 70 cents.

Recognizing the desperate need for funding and awareness, Hartstone and an Australian friend came up with the idea for the 3 Peaks 3 Weeks challenge, and e-mailed women from all around the world asking them to participate.

The final roster of participants includes 10 Australian women and two Americans, most of whom have never met each other before.

Hartstone said she hopes the challenge will not only raise funds, but also inspire people to make a difference in the world.

"We are all ordinary women just trying to do extraordinary things," Hartstone said.

Students who would like to get involved in the challenge or make a donation can contact Hartstone at or log on to