Things looking up

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:29 AM ET

One of Canada's top curlers will spend most of this spring seeking her own shangri-la in the Himalayan Mountains.

Jill Officer, who just helped Manitoba's Jennifer Jones win the World Curling Tour's inaugural Women's Players' Championship on Sunday, plans to trade in her curling shoes and brush for hiking boots and a backpack. Officer, you see, plans to hike to the Mount Everest Base Camp next month.

"I'm really excited about it," Officer said recently. "It should be an awesome experience."

Trouble is, the second for Jones has never climbed or even hiked before.

"It is a bit of a trek," Officer admitted. "It's 21 days up to the base camp and seven to come down."

ACCLIMATIZE

It takes so long to get up to 19,000 feet above sea level because hikers must acclimatize themselves as they work their way up to avoid altitude sickness.

"There's no actual mountain climbing with ropes and picks and it's not dangerous like going up to the summit," said Officer, 30. "It's more challenging than anything -- a mental and physical challenge."

Toward that end, Officer asked the personal trainer she uses for curling to revamp her program to prepare her for the poor man's Sir Edmund Hillary-type ascent.

"I've been on an intense weight-training program," she said.

Officer has been spending all her spare time hiking up and down the bridges of Brandon, where she lives.

"I've been climbing up and down the 18th Street Bridge lately, adding more weights to my backpack all the time," she said.

In that backpack will be a sleeping bag, a therma rest (mattress) and clothes for both hot and cold weather.

Officer will make the trek with her older brother, Rob, and his girlfriend. They will hire a sherpa guide once there and will sleep in tea lodges in the small villages they pass on the way up and down the mountain.

"I had dinner with my brother last fall and he was planning this trip then," said Officer, the communications manager for the City of Brandon. "I thought, 'Wow! That sounds adventurous,' and asked him if I could tag along.

"I can afford it and I can afford to take the time off."

The flight to Katmandu will cost about $2,000 with the rest of trip, including the guide and gear, another $3,000-$4,000 because she is also going to Thailand with Rob's girlfriend. Officer hopes to swim with elephants in Thailand.

"I'll be seeing different cultures and scenery," she said. "I've never done anything like this before so it should be an interesting experience."

Since her threesome will be in Nepal, not Tibet, Officer will not see the famous Dalai Lama.

"We're close, though," she joked. "We might be able to wave to him when we get up there (base camp)."

BITERS: Although Jones earned $30,000 when she won the Players' Championship, it was not the biggest women's payout. Four other teams had bigger paydays at previous Canada Cups ... As the Sun first reported, the MCA will officially confirm Morris as the site for next year's women's provincial championship today.


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