With June—high season for climbingAlpine and Himalayan peaks—upon us, mountaineers have begun strapping on their harnesses, ready to scale the world’s most challenging elevations. Trekking up mountains like Africa’s Kilimanjaro humbles the most seasoned climbers, yet people with HIV are proving that the virus needn’t hamper one’s ascent.

Take Evelina Tshabalala of South Africa, who has climbed Kilimanjaro and most recently Argentina’s Aconcagua, the highest peak outside Asia. By the end of the year, the positive grandmother and marathon runner hopes to be the first person with HIV to reach the frosty heights of Everest.

HIV-positive climbers aren’t slouching stateside, either. Mark Tatro, positive since 1986, climbed Kilimanjaro last July. While he keeps himself busy pushing toward such smaller summits as Kennesaw Mountain in Georgia, Tatro looks forward to returning to Africa. To him, it’s the journey—and the self-empowerment he gets along the way—that counts. “It was challenging and very spiritual,” says Tatro. For him, climbing is a higher love.