Reaching new heights

These days Bernard Goosen (Bernie) is not just a familiar face to Rolling Inspiration readers, but to millions of South Africans. Two years ago readers were introduced to Bernie after he pushed himself to the highest point in Africa, Uhuru Point, Kilimanjaro. More recently Bernie was on Carte Blanche, which broadcast his latest attempt to summit Killies.

Since his first inspiration to climb a “big mountain” Bernie has come very far. His first climb was an emotional one as he dedicated it to his father. This time round he was doing it for others.

Bernie had organised an expedition of four, all with a disability, to Killies. Unfortunately only one member of the team was to reach the summit - and that person was not Bernie. Bernie, who was born with cerebral palsy and is a classified quadriplegic, believes it’s ironic that this year’s trip has made him far more profiled than when he actually reached the summit in 2003.

Part of that is the huge role the exposure from Carte Blanche has played. “People responded very well to the programme and part of that was because I didn’t make it. I think it touched a nerve.”

Bernie made it up to Gilman’s point 200 vertical metres short of the summit. He says that this time round the ascent was very different, and much more difficult than his first summit.

“The weather was much colder, at least a difference of 10 to 15 degrees. In fact someone died on the mountain the day we arrived.”

Another factor was a lack of training. “I got caught up in the planning, organising and securing sponsorships and neglected my training. My guide, the same one from the 2003 trip, told me when I arrived I was fat. I guess I really did not prepare enough.”

Whatever it was that Bernie invoked in the viewers, it feels to him as if everyone in the country now knows who Bernard Goosen is. “I was at the The Star Getaway show a while ago and people just kept coming up to me and greeting and chatting to me.”

Despite his new profile Bernie is most happy that the trip and publicity have allowed him to do what he has always wanted to do: raise awareness around disability.

This already began on Killies, when Frank, the only surviving member of the original four man team, reached the summit. “The change in Frank, who is a foot amputee, during the trip and when he reached the summit was incredible. I could not believe the confidence the trip gave him. He actually did some break dancing when he reached the summit.”

This inspiration has continued and, in fact snowballed, since Bernie returned. The airing of the Carte Blanche programme has propelled his passion to help previously disadvantaged persons with disabilities to the point where he is pursuing it though his own company.

“I had hoped Killies would be a catalyst to this the first time round. This time it has happened and a big part of it has been due to Carte Blanche. We need to thank them for the role they have played in creating awareness about disability in this country.”

Bernie’s motivational company offers talks, workshops and adventures all centred around disability. One of the adventures is, of course, a trip up Killies. He concentrates mainly on corporate social responsibility, and consults with companies on projects and then runs these for them.

Will he be going up Killies again soon? “I will be doing another adventure, but no more Killies. I am hanging up that hat. No, next year I am, together with my trusty team from Killies, are paddling across Lake Malawi.”

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