National Lutheran News

Climbers have heads in clouds, feet on (Chilean) ground

Jordan Dale, left, his wife, Heather, and Steve Scheraldi head for high country.

Jordan Dale, left, his wife, Heather, and Steve Scheraldi head for high country.

Three young adults are climbing a mountain to bring hope to shantytown residents.

He loves climbing moun-tains. Now Jordan Dale, a Twin Citian with a commitment to seeing healthier conditions created for ordinary people living in Chile’s low country, is trying to help them by climbing their tallest peak.

Dale, 24, along with his wife, Heather, a St. Cloud native, friend Steve Scheraldi, and a few other companions, have decided to climb Mount Aconcagua, the highest elevation in the western hemisphere. They’ll tackle the 22,841-foot summit, on the Chile-Argentina border, between December 2-19, as a way to raise funds for a nonprofit health education program.

EPES (Educacion Popular En Salud, “Popular Educa-tion for Health”) was founded by Jordan’s aunt, Karen Anderson. The Owatonna, Minnesota, native and graduate of St. Olaf College served for 20 years as an ELCA missionary. During that time she became aware of the desperate need for basic health education in the shantytowns of Chile’s largest cities.

Anderson decided to organize EPES in order to facilitate the training of Health promoters. The idea is akin to the “barefoot doctors” program successfully developed in China, a concept that puts information into the hands of the native population instead of making them dependent on outside experts.

EPES has already proven its effectiveness. When its leaders became aware that children were being bitten by rats, they went looking for the source. It turned out to be a nearby urban trash dump. Pressure on the government resulted in removal of the dump.

Currently EPES wants to fund a second health center in the city of Concepcion. A goal of $50,000 has been set, and Karen Anderson’s nephew and spouse (and their friends) are going to do their best to secure the needed funds by climbing a mountain.

A flyer, available for download at www.expeditionepes.com, lists seven categories (and an open-ended eighth) from which financial supporters may choose. The planners creatively assigned dollar figures to elevations the climbers hope to reach.

For example, someone willing to sponsor a hiker to the 8,924 foot level would promise to contribute $25; at 14,409, already higher than Colorado’s Pikes Peak, the donation amounts to $100; for $500 you can sponsor a hiker all the way to “Berlin Camp” (the 18,963 foot level), and $1,000 sends a hiker — and a sponsor’s good wishes — all the way to the 22,841 foot summit.

Jordan Dale is not a member of the EPES organization, but he’s heard about it, through his aunt and from his own family since childhood. And, because he loves the outdoors, and was fortunate enough to marry a young woman who shares his enthusiasm, he — and she — are ready to head for the clouds in the early part of December.

A flyer circulated by EPES explains that only 30-40% of those who attempt the climb of Mount Aconcagua actually get to the top. Jordan’s mother, Roberta, told Metro Lutheran that, while there could be a risk trying to go that high, “They have a guide, someone who’s done this climb for the past ten years.”

According to Roberta Dale, it’s not a technical climb. Hikers follow trails. There’s no need for grappling gear. Still, they’ll have to stop several times on the way up, to acclimate to increasingly thinner air.

And, they’ll each carry around 50 pounds of gear with them.

Jordan’s father is on the pastoral team at Incarnation Lutheran Church, Shoreview, Minnesota. His mother is on the staff of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Circle Pines, Minnesota.
Roberta Dale says her son wanted to make the climb because he believes in the work EPES is doing and “because he has a good heart.”

Individuals who wish to follow the progress of the climbers during December can get daily updates at www.expeditionepes.com.

Tax-deductible contributions may be sent to EPES/Prince of Peace Church, 4 Northcrest Drive, Clifton Park, NY 12065.