Moving Mountains

Jeff Ploen (left) has been training Gavin Monsour (right) for over a year in preparation for Gavin’s climb of Mount Kilimanjaro in June.

Jeff Ploen (left) has been training Gavin Monsour (right) for over a year in preparation for Gavin’s climb of Mount Kilimanjaro in June.


For 10-year-old Gavin Monsour, this summer will be one of epic proportions. He will be the youngest Canadian to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

On June 21, 2015, Gavin will be climbing the mountain in an effort to raise money for Camp Oochigeas. Camp Ooch gives children affected by cancer a chance to have a summer camp experience.

Gavin’s father Kevin, mother Karen and Ploen will be going with Gavin for the climb. Inspired by the Geronimo Stilton’s “Might Mount Kilimanjaro”, a then 7-year-old Gavin decided he wanted to climb the mountain, just like the book’s main character.

“This is three years in the making,” said Kevin.

Jeff Ploen, 28, has been training Gavin in preparation for the massive climb and is confident that his young client will succeed. He would like to document Gavin’s journey up Kilimanjaro and submit the short film to the Banff Mountain Film Festival.


“Gavin has been very dedicated for the past 14 months while we’ve been training. [He] will persevere,” said the Hazel Mccallion Campus entrepreneur student and personal trainer. “Gavin has put a lot of time and effort into this.”

Gavin has already raised $450 for Camp Ooch. Ploen wants Gavin to have an experience of a lifetime and also raise interest in mountain climbing.

Ploen is asking any Sheridan media or film students interested in accompanying them to film the climb, to follow him on Instagram at @Surftosummit for more information.

At 19,341 ft. tall, Mount Kilimajaro is the highest mountain located in the east African country of Tanzania and is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world.

The biggest issue faced by climbers is altitude sickness, according to the African resource travel guide. Other dangers include falling rocks and hyperthermia.

After their weekly workout Gavin and Ploen discussed the risks with climbing the African mountain.

“What’s the most common way of dying [on Kilimanjaro]?” asked Ploen.

“Falling off the cliff,” replied the fifth-grader.

The Monsour family understands the risks and Gavin is preparing physically and mentally for the trek.

“In the winter we would go outside in our tank tops and shorts and we would stay out there for five minutes,” said Gavin. “That’s training for when we climb higher on the mountain. We’re going to start feeling colder and we’re just going to have to deal with it.”

The 10-year-old said at first his parents were scared but after doing more research and meeting Ploen last year, they became more comfortable. Originally the plan was when he turned 16, his parents and younger sister would join him.

But he couldn’t wait until then.

Ploen met the Monsours while doing a presentation about mountain climbing at Lifetime Fitness in Erin Mills where he worked. He was trying to generate more interest about mountain climbing in the GTA with his group the Summit Club. The family asked if he would be willing to train their son and he said yes.

Gavin has had experience climbing mountains. Last year the Monsour family climbed Mount Elbert in Colorado, the second tallest mountain in the US. It is 14,400 ft high, slightly smaller than Kilimanjaro.

Gavin and Ploen train every Wednesday – snowshoeing and trekking through a forest near the Monsour home in Mississauga. He also does taekwondo and plays hockey.

“It’s unusual because most kids don’t have the drive and perseverance to try and achieve something like this,” Ploen said

“It’s probably the hardest thing anyone will ever do in their life, but no one ever gets to the top of a mountain and says, Gee this really sucks,” said Ploen.

For more informatio visit Camp Ooch.