Skip to main content

Esther Kafer, 84, and Martin Kafer, 85, make their way up the Grouse Grind in North Vancouver on Sept. 6, 2012. They’re planning to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

The Donor: Esther and Martin Kafer

The Gift: Raising $21,000 and climbing

The Cause: Alzheimer Society of British Columbia

Story continues below advertisement

Esther and Martin Kafer grew up in Switzerland and have been climbing mountains for more than 70 years. They met on a mountain top and spent their honeymoon in 1953 scaling the Matterhorn.

The couple, now both in their 80s, moved to Canada in 1954, first settling in Kitimat, B.C, and later in Vancouver. It was supposed to be a temporary stop, just long enough for Mr. Kafer to gain some international experience for his job as an electrical engineer with a Swiss company.

But the couple never left. "The mountains were the big attraction that kept us here," said Mr. Kafer, who is 85. The Kafers have kept up their mountaineering, taking regular hikes up Vancouver's Grouse Mountain and skiing every winter at Whistler.

Now they are putting their love of the mountains to work for a cause.

They are heading to Kenya this month to climb Mount Kilimanjaro as part of a fundraiser for Alzheimer Society of British Columbia.

They have raised $21,000 so far and hope to raise another $9,000. If they make it, the couple will also be the oldest to climb the mountain.

The cause has particular resonance for Mr. Kafer. His sister Etta Kafer-Boothroyd, a scientist and former university professor who lives in the Vancouver area, has suffered a rapid decline because of Alzheimer's.

Story continues below advertisement

In five years years she has gone from working on genetic research to not remembering her name.

"It's kind of a sad story," said Mr. Kafer. "I just thought that helping the Alzheimer Society with what little we can do would be a good thing."

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author
European Correspondent

Paul Waldie has been an award-winning journalist with The Globe and Mail for more than 10 years. He has won three National Newspaper Awards for business coverage and been nominated for a Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism. He has also won a Sports Media Canada award for sports writing and authored a best-selling biography of the McCain family. More


The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Please note that our commenting partner Civil Comments is closing down. As such we will be implementing a new commenting partner in the coming weeks. As of December 20th, 2017 we will be shutting down commenting on all article pages across our site while we do the maintenance and updates. We understand that commenting is important to our audience and hope to have a technical solution in place January 2018.

Discussion loading… ✨