Tag Archives: Calgary

Curse You Temple

On the ridge of Mount Lady MacDonald (~2600 metres above sea level) with Rick and Paul.
On the ridge of Mount Lady MacDonald (~2600 metres above sea level) with Rick and Paul.

Mother Nature has foiled us again. After much discussion, plotting, and organization, she decided to throw a huge wrench into our Mount Temple conquering plans. With winter conditions and blowing snow, Rick, Paul, and I decided for safety reasons that we should postpone our Temple adventure until next year.


For those of you who don’t know, this marks the third attempt in three years to climb Temple. It has officially become our nemesis. We shake our fists at you Temple. We shake them long time.

Fortunately, being the easy-going lot that we are, a back-up mountain was found. May I introduce you to the splendor and beauty that is Mount Lady MacDonald – a steep 7 hour hike with an elevation gain of 1.2km right next door to the town of Canmore. The peak offers an excellent view of the town and surrounding area, and it also offers an epic knife-edge ridge walk. On one side of the mountain is a near vertical drop to the valley below. On the other side, a very steep drop to rocks and scree below. To put it another way – a straight plummet followed by death if one were to fall away from Canmore, or a long painful fall across mostly flat rock and death should one fall towards Canmore. Exactly what we were looking for!

Me and Paul at the start of the ridge.
Me and Paul at the start of the ridge.

We started the hike at 10am and quickly fell into a good rhythm. Every so often we’d stop for water or snacks, or to catch our breath given our angle of ascent, or to snap photos of the area. The weather varied from sunny and hot, to cold, cloudy, and windy. Extra layers, rain gear, gloves, and toques were added as necessary. Fortunately the snow and wind that had accompanied us part way up the mountain dissipated, leaving blue sky and sunshine as we reached the summit (about 3.5 hours after we started).

The views were breathtaking. We sat for a time at the top of the mountain taking everything in, comfortably resting in the safety of a small plateau. Of course, we didn’t sit too long before we debated the safety of the ridge walk. The photos we snapped only provide a small sense of what we were facing – vertical to near vertical drops on either side, and only a narrow path to follow. Part of the path looked wide enough to walk on, but other parts were quite literally the apex of a triangle. Walking on these areas would demand that we keep our bodies low to the mountain, finding footholds on either side of the peak to secure ourselves. Whatever lay before us, we knew that one misstep would be more than enough to send us over the edge to a rather splendid end.

After a short rest and after snapping several photos, it was agreed – we were doing this.

Leaning over the edge of the ridge of Mount Lady MacDonald.
Leaning over the edge of the ridge of Mount Lady MacDonald.

I took the first steps onto the ridge and realized pretty quickly that this part of the adventure was going to be amazing. I walked upright for most of the first part of the ridge, getting low where necessary. Rick and Paul followed behind. In some spots I was quite literally straddling the mountain – a required move to figure out where next to put my hands or feet. Looking down to the valleys on either side of the ridge was incredible. With every step away from the security of the plateau I found myself feeling more and more blessed at having the opportunity to experience the world in this manner.

We continued on, pushing further and further along the ridge, inching closer and closer to the end of the path. Of course we snapped numerous photos. When we could we walked upright, moving cautiously but confidently from rock to rock, ignoring the potential disorienting effect caused by our peripheral view of the valleys below.

Sadly our adventure was cut short. In the distance I could see another storm coming towards us. We debated the safety of continuing to the end of the path, but ultimately decided we should turn back. This was probably the smartest thing we did all day. As soon as we reached the safety of the plateau we were hit – ice pellets, strong winds, and cold temperatures. Turning back was very much the correct decision. I can’t imagine what the ridge would have been like if we were caught on it during the storm.

Traversing the ridge.
Traversing the ridge.

We quickly made our descent to escape exposure during the storm. Despite the ice pellets and wind, screeing down the mountain was still a blast. By the time we reached the safety of the trees the sun had returned and the temperatures climbed. We rested for a few minutes, lost a few layers of clothing, and began our long descent back to the car.

To be honest, while we’re a bit disappointed in not being able to conquer Temple for the third year in a row, our adventures really have very little to do with any specific mountain. The time I get to spend in the mountains laughing with Rick and Paul is far more important. So thanks nerds for yet another excellent adventure. We’ll get Temple next year.

White Whine Anyone?


Several weeks ago I was chatting with someone about my lack of travel this year. To put this into proper perspective you’ll have to understand that this observation had followed multiple months of 100+ hours of work per week. That is, I made the observation at a point in time where my body, mind, and soul were beyond exhausted. In other words, I was in a heightened state of stupidity, suffering from extreme lack of awareness, and dealing with a giant case of woe-is-me-itis.

After I made the bold proclamation that I haven’t really travelled that much this year, my friend looked at me as if I were on some sort of Rob Ford bender. How could I make such a claim knowing full well that the facts of the case would clearly destroy it?

It was at this point that I felt obliged to justify my statement.

It’s true. I haven’t really travelled that much this year. Ugh. 

The ugh was delivered with probably more drama than warranted. It was at this point that I started listing where my travels had taken me, fully confident that my statement would easily be verified. Inside I felt a pre-victory party brewing, because by the end of my list I knew that I would stand point-proven and triumphant.

True story. In January I was in Florida for the Goofy Race.

February I was in New York, because, well, New York.

In March I headed to Vegas for my friends’ wedding.

It was at this point that I realized how much of an ass I sounded. Three major trips in three months. And somehow I had forgotten them. They seemed a lifetime ago.

Early in the summer I was in Newfoundland for a conference.

I trailed off. How, I thought, could I have travelled this much and still not feel like I’ve travelled at all this year. Seriously – could I be any more spoiled? I stood there smirking awkwardly because inside I realized how much of a whiney little shit I sounded.

Truth be told I’ve travelled a lot this year. My trips to Florida, New York, Nevada, and Newfoundland & Labrador were followed by trips to Ottawa, Calgary, and New York City. I’ve also been fortunate to travel for work – giving talks at Western University, and in Toronto. In essence, the year has been filled with adventures wrapped in shenanigans and deep fried in awesomeness.

And yet somehow I had forgotten.

Talk about feeling like a giant ungrateful ass.

Fortunately this is the time of year when I often look back at the things I’ve accomplished to make sure I don’t take where I’ve been and where I am for granted. I’m a lucky SOB because I am able to travel like I do, and even though I always want to travel more, I’m very grateful for this crazy life I have. Not everyone is as fortunate as I am, and it’s irresponsible for me to take that for granted.

Here’s hoping that I don’t soon forget this.

I Miss The Mountains

We came. We saw. We conquered.
Me, Rick, and Aidan at the top of Sparrowhawk

On Tuesday afternoon I made my way back home to Guelph, having spent the prior week visiting Rick in Calgary. The adventure was amazing – but that really wasn’t a difficult bar to pass given that the trip involved mountains, hiking, meeting up with friends, good food, a drink known as Better Than Folgers, more mountains, Banff, hanging with both Rick and my brother, and basically celebrating the anniversary of the grandest of adventures known as the Big Mountain Challenge.

Since I returned I’ve been running around a little crazy – doing last-minute and final prep for the course that I’m teaching this semester, organizing my undergrad and grad students1, organizing several projects, organizing the Farm To Fork launch party, trying to come up with a prioritized list of things to do, and basically doing whatever I can to make sure the next several weeks/months aren’t too stressful2.

Easier said than done, obviously.

Despite all of this (and the occasional build up of anxiety3) I’m feeling good. I think my trip has a lot to do with that. There’s something special about mountain air that does my body good – providing me with better focus, more energy, and the drive to crush whatever obstacle might be in my way. And I’m going to need that this semester, because my list of projects and papers and grants and talks and posters and events could be overwhelming. I just have to remember to take the time – especially when the anxiety and stress start building – to stop and reflect on my mountain-top adventures. Because nothing destroys my stress quite like the mountains.

And I think that’s why I miss them so much.

I’ve uploaded a bunch of pictures and a video below – some of these are new, some you’ve likely seen before, and some are courtesy of Rick. Enjoy.

Adventurers (at Mount Indefatigable)
Adventurers (at Mount Indefatigable)
Climbing Sparrowhawk
Climbing Sparrowhawk
Not the summit of Sparrowhawk, but still pretty impressive.
Not the summit of Sparrowhawk, but still pretty impressive.
Sunset following our Sparrowhawk climb
Sunset following our Sparrowhawk climb
Climbing Mount Indefatigable
Climbing Mount Indefatigable
At the top of Indefatigable. Epic scramble. Epic ridge walk.
At the top of Indefatigable. Epic scramble. Epic ridge walk.
More of Indefatigable
More of Indefatigable

1 Which really means organizing myself.

2 Such as snuggling with Elliot.

3 Apologies to Julie who had to hear a mild rant today.


Falling To My Death? Not Today Indefatigable. Not Today.

The Mount Indefatigable trail - hitting both north and south peaks.
The Mount Indefatigable trail – hitting both north and south peaks. Image via: http://www.soistheman.com

Yesterday Rick, Aidan, and I jumped into the car and headed to Kananaskis country to face the challenge of climbing Mount Indefatigable (stopping first at Starbucks and Safeway for necessities like go-go juice, snacks, and lunch).

Approximately 1.5 hours from Calgary, Indefatigable actually represents two peaks and a ridge connecting the two. The southern peak is approximately 2556m (8386ft) above sea level, while the northern peak is slightly higher. According to this website, the peak reaches 2678m (8786ft) above sea level. Not the highest peak that Rick and I have ever done, but still a solid adventure.

Rick, getting close to the southern peak of Mount Indefatigable
Rick, getting close to the southern peak of Mount Indefatigable

The first half hour included a rather steep incline, and amazing views of the lakes surrounding the region. The weather was perfect – not too hot, not too cold – and the company was fantastic. The hike included a lot of laughter and chatting, and every few steps hooting and hollering. Why? Well, it turns out that we were hiking a decommissioned trail; decommissioned because it is home to several generations of grizzlies. The hoots and hollers were to warn them of our presence, and hopefully scare them off. The last thing we needed was to be eviscerated by a hungry grizzly.

Once we passed the tree line, we were greeted by the ridge that defined the Indefatigable trail. According to the experts, the trail from north to south would be tough, but we were determined to conquer it. There were a few sketchy areas that gave all of us pause – partially to figure out our footing and grip, partially to breathe, gather our thoughts, and quell the voices in our head that might have been screaming to turn around because holy shit why would we put ourselves into such a crazy situation? To put the climb into perspective, there were sections where, while not quite vertical, we were forced to hug the mountain for fear that the slightest slip would send us falling several hundred metres to the valley below. In fact, the major hazard described for this climb: falling to your death. 

Rick pretending to be Icarus on the sketchy part of the climb.
Rick pretending to be Icarus on the sketchy part of the climb.

Talk about a rush.

Fortunately none of us fell to our death. And despite a few breath caught in our throat moments, we reached the north peak with only a few scratches and scrapes. Our reward – absolutely spectacular scenery. Honestly, the views were probably some of the best that I’ve ever seen from a mountain top.

After resting for a bit, we began our venture along the ridge from the north peak to the south peak. Walking at times on a path about a foot and a half wide, with very steep drops on either side was amazing. Strangely, we all felt quite comfortable traversing the ridge.

A nerdtacular shot at the top of the north peak.
A nerdtacular shot at the top of the north peak.

We reached the southern peak around 5:00pm. Tired, but still energized, we took some more photos, soaked in the scenery, and then began our descent. The trail here was steep at points, but well-defined and quite easy to hike. Along the way we ran in to some mountain goats who seemed to be enjoying the views of the valley from high above.

The entire trail took us about 8 hours, including several stops for snacks, lunch, and about 10 thousand photos.

Honestly, yesterday could have only been better if our friend Paul was able to join us.

Helloooooo Mountains

At the edge of Ha Ling
At the edge of Ha Ling.

Just over a year ago Rick and I began the Big Mountain Challenge to raise money for the Kidney Foundation of Canada. The adventure required that we hike several mountains, canoe Lake Louise, raise oodles of money, and spend a large portion of our time being spoiled rotten by the awesome folks at Chateau Lake Louise, the Banff Springs Hotel, and Banff Lake Louise Tourism. It’s a rough life, but someone has to do it.

To say that the adventure was one of the greatest experiences of my life would be an understatement.

On Wednesday night I flew into Calgary to meet up with Rick once again – this time with my brother Aidan in tow – to celebrate the anniversary of the Big Mountain Challenge.

Our adventure started yesterday. While Rick was at work, Aidan and I ventured to MEC (for some necessary equipment), and then to the Calgary Farmers’ Market (for some necessary donuts and other foodstuffs). After sufficiently stuffing our gullets, we picked up Rick and made our way towards the mountains. Specifically, we made our way towards Ha Ling Peak.

The hike was short, full of steep inclines, mixed with sunshine, cool breezes, and later on, a bit of rain. We started around 5:30pm and finished four hours later. As per usual, we were greeted with amazing views during the entire hike, and breathtaking views once we reached the top (a few shots of which are provided below for your viewing entertainment).

As with most of my hikes I learned a thing or two on the mountain. First, dehydration, exhaustion, heat, funky airline food, and Aidan do not mix. Second, I challenge anyone to differentiate between the remnants of a bear attack and red Gatorade mixed with prosciutto and white bread. Third, I prefer climbing up a mountain in the dark vs. climbing down a mountain in the dark. Fourth, rocks and roots are extra slippery on the way down. Fifth, and most importantly, I love the mountains.

Today is our rest day. Tomorrow we tackle Mount Indefatigable. Later, Mount Sparrowhalk.

Yup. The Big Mountain Challenge Anniversary is shaping up to be a pretty epic adventure, and I couldn’t be happier.

1 Ha

At the top of Ha Ling
At the top of Ha Ling
Hiking up Ha Ling
Hiking up Ha Ling
NERDS! I'm being followed by nerds.
NERDS! I’m being followed by nerds.
The beast known as Ha Ling
The beast known as Ha Ling.

Shenanigans Are Nigh

Rick and me near Sentinel Pass
Rick and me near Sentinel Pass, during the Big Mountain Challenge (Sept. 2nd, 2012)

Okay, maybe it’s not exactly the time for shenanigans, but shenanigans are nigh – so very, very nigh.

For those not in the know, I’m about to take a real vacation. What do I mean by real vacation? Only that I’m about to board a plane (requisite number 1), travel afar (requisite number 2), and do something crazy (requisite number 3) with someone almost as crazy as me (requisite number 4).

In this particular case, I’ll be boarding my flight to Calgary on Wednesday eve. You can rest assured knowing that my flight will more than likely include a scotch or two – because, well, VACATION!

On the other end of my flight will be fellow partner in adventuring shenaniganery, Mr. Rick. You may remember Rick from last year’s Big Mountain Challenge. You may also remember that last year’s Big Mountain Challenge happened at approximately this time last year – which makes this trip our Big Mountain Challenge-versary. While having a “versary” isn’t a requisite for any of my travels, it does up the awesomeness that is this trip.

What crazy things are we going to be doing? Well, in true “versary” style, we shall be celebrating the Big Mountain Challenge-versary by climbing several mountains. This may or may not include (but most likely will include) jump shots, yoga, high-fives, and seemingly death-defying photos that aren’t really in any way death-defying. Okay, maybe the death-defying photos involve things that most people would find crazy and such, but never fear – Rick is the voice of reason and has the power of veto should any of my ideas push the envelope of good taste or safety. Actually, he’s only ever vetoed things that push the safety envelope, because let’s face it, good taste is not really in our vocabulary. Ha!

So far I’m only aware of two adventures that we’ll be doing. The first – retake Mount Yamnuska. Apparently the first time Rick and I did this, we actually didn’t hit the peak. Clearly this is a mark on my otherwise spotless (Ha!) record, and it must be rectified. The second – conquer Mount Bourgeau.

I can’t freaking wait.

Of course, I still have a bunch of work to do before all of this happens. Which means I need to focus. Easier said than done. My brain is full of outdoors-y thoughts, mountains, fresh air, adventures, shenanigans, laughing, chatting and spending time with someone I don’t get to spend nearly enough time with.

Sigh. Only 52 more hours until my flight leaves. But who’s counting?

The Year That Was

I also have conquered Cascade Mountain. It's also what I do.
One of the most amazing things I did this year? The Big Mountain Challenge.

Remember back in the old time-y days of 2012? Those were good times.

Anyway, now that it’s the future I figured I should take a few moments to look back on the year that was 2012 to remember what I’ve accomplished, and identify those challenges that have eluded me for one reason or another. Perhaps the challenges were a bit too grand, perhaps I didn’t try hard enough, perhaps I realized the challenge wasn’t worth my time because something more important fell into my lap, or perhaps life just got in the way. Whatever the reason, I’ll use the things I did and the things I didn’t do in 2012 as a baseline for the things I’ll want to accomplish in 2013.

So, without further ado, I present to you dear readers my list of successes and failures from 2012:

  1. I ran 2 marathons in a 3 week period, plus 15 half-marathons in 2012 – 5 in December alone. While I hoped to run 3 marathons in 2012, the Goofy race should allow me to cross run 3 marathons in a year from my list. I also ran in 8 official races although my goal was 12. One of the eight races included my first Around The Bay 30 km, my fastest 10 km time, and my first sub 4 hour marathon. In total I ran 944.3 km despite having a goal of 1000 km. While I missed my running mileage target, I’m still excessively proud of what I managed to do over 366 days.
  2. I biked 582.2 km, although I had aimed to bike 2200 km. This is probably my biggest failure of the year, and something I’ll need to work on in 2013. Regardless, I posted my very first 80+ km bike ride in 2012.
  3. I walked over 1500 km successfully crossing another item off of my list. This challenge seemed almost too easy though, as I walk to and from the office almost every day. As such, I’ve upped my walking mileage goal significantly for 2013.
  4. I helped Rick raise over $25000 for the Kidney Foundation of Canada by climbing 5 mountains in 7 days.
  5. I went zip lining again, edge walking twice, sky diving again, bob sledding, and ice climbing.
  6. I blogged every day for an entire year.
  7. I significantly reduced my debt, and increased my net worth. W00t!
  8. I managed to reduce my original 30 year mortgage to 14 years by negotiating a lower interest rate, and increasing each payment by 15%. This year I’ll once again increase my biweekly payment to reduce the length of my remaining mortgage even further.
  9. I learned to cook dairy free treats (such as pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and Irish cream). I’m definitely going to keep exploring this in 2013.
  10. I travelled to Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise, and Ottawa. Sadly, I didn’t make it to New York City in 2012. I also didn’t travel outside of the country. Clearly my wanderlusting ways won’t allow this to become the status quo. Regardless, my trip to Banff and Lake Louise to compete in the Big Mountain Challenge with Rick was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It was so much more than a vacation, and something that I won’t ever forget.

Overall I managed to cross off 33 things from my Not-So-Bucket-List list. While this is fantastic, my original goal was to cross off 42. Even still, I can’t complain. I was busy the entire year with challenges, work, and fun. I spent a great deal of time with people I love. I travelled. I experienced new things. I pushed myself further. I laughed. I laughed a lot.

To say that 2012 was fantastic for me would be an understatement. It’s not that there weren’t set backs and challenges outside of my lists – because there were. But I know it was fantastic because when I think back on all of the things that happened in the past 366 days, I can’t help but smile. Friends, family, adventures, successes, failures – all have brought me to where I am today.

Truly, looking back on the year that was reminds me of how lucky I really am.

Here’s to an amazing 2013. Happy New Year everyone.

Wanderlusting Version 2013

Oh the places I’ll go…

I have a wee confession to make; despite my attempt to travel as often as I can – what with my insatiable wanderlust – I have realized that there is no way that I’m going to be able to use up all of my vacation days this year. Not even close.

Despite my failure to use up all of my allotted vacation time, I have still managed several trips this year, including Ottawa, Niagara Falls, Quebec, and Calgary. And that doesn’t even include that epic adventure with Rick known as the Big Mountain Challenge. While the trips weren’t necessarily as frequent1 as in previous years, they were fantastic, and filled with adventure filled shenanigans. I have absolutely zero complaints about any of them.

Of course, having written that, and with the knowledge that I won’t be using up all of my allotted vacation time this year, I think I need to set myself a task. Specifically, I need to ensure that next year I use up all of my vacation time and I do so by travelling as much as I can.

So, dear readers, I present to you my newest challenge. In 2013 I need to travel to at least 12 different cities outside of Ontario2,3. I think this is completely within the realm of possibility because I already have some trips in mind4 for various reasons:

  1. January – Orlando, Florida (Goofy Race).
  2. March – Las Vegas, Nevada (wedding).
  3. May – Edmonton, Alberta (Annual Meeting of the SSC).
  4. June – Corner Brook, Newfoundland & Labrador (CUExpo 2013).
  5. June – Banff, Alberta (Banff marathon).
  6. July – Calgary, Alberta (Gran Fondo race with Mel).
  7. August – Calgary, Alberta (visit Rick and hopefully climb Mount Temple).
  8. September – New York City, New York (vacation).
  9. October – Victoria & Vancouver, British Columbia (Victoria marathon & visit Beth).

Of course, I’m also hoping to cross the pond at some point, and I’d like to visit my friends Ben & Erin in Chicago, Arlene in New Jersey, and Amanda in the Great White North.

Whether or not I manage these trips specifically, or replace them with other trips, the goal is the same: twelve different cities outside of Ontario in twelve months.

I’ve totally got this.

1 Or international.

2 The further the better.

3 This does not have to be a monthly activity, although that would be awesome.

3 All of these are completely tentative and will depend both on budget and whether or not certain friends are available.

Goals For 2013

This list is null and void if the predicted Mayan apocalypse turns out to be true.

Being a man who likes lists, it should probably come as no surprise that I’ve decided to set up a list of things1 I’d like to accomplish in 2013.

Some of the goals are on the list because I didn’t quite meet them in 2012.

Some of the goals are exactly the same as other goals I set in 20122.

Some of the goals extend my successes from previous years.

And some of the goals – well – some of the goals are just crazy new adventures that my brain put together and now I want need to attempt.

So, without further ado, I present to you my glorious list of crazy adventures, goals, and other such action items for 2013:

  • Run 1610 km (1000 miles)
  • Walk 1610 km (1000 miles)
  • Bike 1610 km (1000 miles)
  • Enter and run 12 races
  • Run at least 12 half marathons (or greater)
  • Run at least 3 marathons
  • Visit New York City at least once
  • Publish 1 post per week on my professor blog
  • Compete in the Tough Mudder
  • Submit at least 5 papers to peer reviewed journals
  • Continue to build my scotch collection (with at least 6 new bottles in 2013)
  • Install hardwood flooring in my bedrooms
  • Paint the bedrooms and bathroom
  • Cook or bake at least 12 new things
  • Run at least 1 marathon in a province (or territory) other than Ontario
  • Drink more water
  • Stretch more
  • Conquer Temple Mountain
  • Do the CN Tower climb – sub 16 minutes
  • Do the CN Tower Edge Walk again
  • Skydive again
  • Travel to Ottawa to visit Matt
  • Travel to Calgary to visit Rick
  • Travel to Vancouver to visit Beth
  • Go Bungee jumping
  • Get more sleep (> 5 hrs 36 mins per night – my current average)
  • Epic bike ride with Mel

Of course, this list is a draft and clearly open to additions – so feel free to suggest any and all crazy adventures you can think of that you think I’d be interested in.

And a note to 2013: you’re going to be awesome.

1 Note: these are goals, not resolutions. I don’t make resolutions because I will almost always break my resolutions. It’s a thing I do.

2 Because why do something once when you can do it twice?

Anything But Regular

The adventure begins with a trip to the top of Cascade Mountain.

Wow. If you recall, it was Monday August 27th when I flew to Calgary to meet Rick and then be zipped by Brewster Travel to Banff so that we could begin our Big Mountain Challenge. Just over a week later I am exhausted physically, but completely energized at the same time. This challenge was exactly what I needed: the perfect mix of activity, adventure, and relaxation.

Thanks Banff and Lake Louise!

For those keeping score, The Big Mountain Challenge was to include three major hikes: Cascade Mountain, Mount Temple, and Sulphur Mountain. Sadly, because of bears and then because of the weather, Mount Temple was not to be. Did we fret about this? Hells no. Instead, we climbed three other mountains, added a teahouse challenge, went canoeing, and pretty much worked ourselves to the point of physical exhaustion. Because that’s what Rick and I do.

Simply put – the challenge was AWESOME.

The official list of hikes and other activities are as follows:

This means we managed to hike/paddle almost 70 km while successfully climbing 5 different mountains and collecting a two-piece Teahouse Challenge magnet. Not too bad for a week’s work. And definitely not too bad considering we were pampered by the Fairmont Banff Springs and Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotels.

On top of Mount Eiffel – with Mount Temple in the background.

I can honestly say that waking up this morning – back in my own bed – knowing that I’d have to make my own breakfast, make my own bed, pour my own coffee, and pretty much do everything for myself (like a sucker) made getting out of bed difficult. Very difficult.

I know, I know – whoa is me.

But seriously – we were treated so well by Fairmont that now my regular life seems, well, regular.

I think what I need to do is begin planning another adventure. Because nothing cures wanderlust like a new adventure. It also doesn’t hurt to look back at the photos and relive the experience while it’s so fresh in my memory. So that is what I’m going to do – plan some new adventures (more to come on that), and review my photos.

And because I can, I’m going to share my favourite photos with you (in no particular order).


Big Mountain Challenge – Complete!

Congrats Rick! Job very well done.

Yesterday Rick and I awoke relatively early so that we could head downstairs to grab breakfast1; needed fuel for our last official day of the Big Mountain Challenge.

First up post breakfast – Rick was interviewed by Jayme Doll of GlobalTV Calgary2. From there, we were whisked to the base of Sulphur Mountain3 to begin the last of the hikes required to complete the Big Mountain Challenge. At the base we were met by friends who had come in to join Rick and I on our last leg – very welcome moral support. We were also joined by Jeff of Real Banff, and Paul – our Interpretation Officer4 from Parks Canada.

By 10:30 am the hike was underway. While not as gruelling as our previous climbs (the hike takes about 1.5 hours), the hike was just as beautiful – affording us some fantastic views of Banff and the surrounding areas.

Rick receives a massive cheque for The Kidney Foundation of Canada

At the end of the hike we were greeted by cheers and applause from the friends who had joined us, as well as members of the press, the various sponsors, and The Kidney Foundation of Canada who were waiting for us at the top of the mountain. We were also greeted by the mayor of Banff. It was honestly a little overwhelming.

Given the wind and the chill, Stewart Hart (Director, Sales & Marketing of Banff Lake Louise Tourism) immediately began the official closing ceremony of the Big Mountain Challenge once we arrived. The ceremony included a thank you to all of the sponsors, a welcome to the Mayor of Banff, and the presentation of a huge cheque to Rick for presentation to The Kidney Foundation of Canada.

All smiles at the end of the Big Mountain Challenge.

After all of the hiking, I have to say that it was rather emotional to see Rick standing there with a massive cheque for The Kidney Foundation of Canada. A cheque that was only possible thanks to all of the support of those who helped us with votes, helped us spread the word about kidney disease, and supported us as we climbed Cascade Mountain, Mount Fairview, Saddleback Mountain, Sentinel Pass, Mount Eiffel, and Sulphur Mountain. This wouldn’t have happened without you.

And so, dear friends, today ended a most incredible experience – the Big Mountain Challenge5. It has been like no other experience in my life. I’m beyond fortunate to have been able to climb so many mountains and see so much of Canada’s natural beauty. I’m overwhelmed by the fact that I was able to help bring $26762 to The Kidney Foundation of Canada. And I’m so thankful that I was able to join Rick on this epic adventure.

1 Once again at the Bow Valley Grill in the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel. And once again I stuffed my gullet with their tasty maple bison sausage. Mmmmmm. I’m going to miss those so much.

2 You can see the interview by clicking here.

3 Thanks again to the awesome Fairmont Banff Springs hotel for providing transportation.

4 Basically this means that Paul spent much of the hike teaching us about the flora and fauna of the area.

5 Note: Since the Big Mountain Challenge was such a big event, I still have a few other posts to write in the next few days.

The Word Of The Day Is Spoiled

Pffft. Cascade Mountain – you ain’t so big.

Despite sleeping through my alarm this morning, I managed to make my way successfully to Calgary where I met Rick who was patiently awaiting my arrival. We spent an hour or so in the airport; chatting, feasting on some Timmies sandwiches, and catching up, before we boarded our bus to Banff.

The 1.5 hour drive felt quick – likely because I was captivated by the scenery, and also because Rick and I had a lot of catching up to do. In all seriousness, I love the mountains. I feel at home here, and could imagine myself living in this area at some point in the future.

But I digress.

Our room comes with a fancy antlered mirror.

We arrived at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel around 3:00 pm and were assigned our room – correction – we were assigned our upgraded room. You know – the room with a view.

Let me just take a moment and say holy crapshite this hotel is amazing. The room is absolutely spectacular, consisting of a bedroom with two queen size beds, an enormous bathroom, and a living room with fireplace and an amazing view of the mountains. How spoiled are we? Very is a bit of an understatement.

Sunset, Banff style. I approve.

The mountain views continued as we headed downtown for dinner. Everywhere we looked there was something amazing to see. From the clouds over the mountains, to the rays of the setting sun transforming the peaks into amazing shades of blue and purple – I felt completely overwhelmed by the beauty of it all.

Following dinner and return to our room, we were surprised to learn that the hotel had further spoiled us with a basket of fresh fruit and a note from the Regional Vice-President and General Manager of the hotel. I won’t lie, I feel a little like a rock star. I think that I could get used to this.

Anyway, our hike starts tomorrow at 6am. Which means I should get my tired but very hyper and spoiled self to bed.

Night all y’all.

Counting Down The Hours

I tell time in the language of nerds.

In just over 12 hours I’ll be jumping into a Red Car taxi to head to the airport. In just over 15 hours I’ll be safely on board my WestJet flight to Calgary with seatbelt buckled, tray & chair both in their upright position, and all electronic devices securely stowed beneath me or in the overhead compartment above. In fact, in just over 15 hours I’ll probably be listening to the flight attendants as they give me the rundown of the safety features of the aircraft.

Sadly, I’m so excited about my trip I’m pretty sure I won’t hear a word they say.

Fortunately this is not my first flight and I’m rather confident that if I need to respond to a serious emergency, I’ll do so with an appropriate sense of style, decorum, and logic1, 2.

Photos like this are a given. What other pics are you hoping to see?

This means that I have only a few hours left in which to finish packing all of the various things that I need for my 9 day mountain climbing adventure, and only a few hours to wrap up several work-related loose-ends. Most of those loose-ends are related to the course that I’ll be teaching this semester3. Fortunately they aren’t very taxing so I plan to make quick work of them before I head to bed.

But work-related things are not the point of this post, especially given the fact that I technically started vacation the minute I left the office on Friday.

Instead, this preamble is all a rather long and winding build up to the point of this post. As you all know, Rick and I will be climbing three epic mountains. We’ll also be hiking around Banff and Lake Louise on our non-mountain-climbing and non-massage-getting days. And of course we’ll be taking many photos because the mountains are just too damn amazing not to photograph. There will be jump shots, and pictures of us overlooking vast expanses of nature. There will probably be silly and ridiculous photos. There may even be some cl-ass-y photos5.

But, dear readers, what photos do you want to see? What shenanigannery should we get up to? We’re looking for any ideas. Serious, thought-provoking, hilarious, dangerous-looking but not really dangerous6, cl-ass-y.

I can’t promise that we’ll do everything that you might suggest, but we’ll give it our best.

1 In other words, I’m likely to piss myself and cry like a baby.

2 As an aside, some people have asked me in the past whether or not I label myself as Dr. when I purchase a flight. In short – no. In the event of a medical emergency, I don’t want anyone wasting time coming to me to say “Doctor, Doctor, someone’s bleeding from their left phalange4. Please help us.”

3 A third year Computer Science course titled Systems Design and Analysis in Application.

4 I assume this is a medical emergency. I really have no idea. I’m a Doctor of Statistics dammit, I’m not an expert on phalanges.

5 There may even be – Pffft. You know these are going to happen.

6 Because my mom would be most upset if I did anything dangerous.

More Stoked Than Stoked

Banff Avenue - Cascade Mountain
Cascade Mountain – We’re coming for you. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve spent the bulk of my day thinking about, planning, and pulling things together for my big adventure.

I still can’t believe I leave on Monday. From the moment Rick notified me of his win, to the last day of the fundraiser, and yes even up until this very moment – just over 36 hours before I board the plane for Calgary1 – it still seems like a giant dream2.

What I find even harder to believe is the fact that Rick and I will be climbing the first mountain – Cascade Mountain – on Tuesday. For those curious, the trek is estimated to take 10 to 12 hours, and the summit is at 9836 ft above sea level.

Based on my previous mountain climbing experiences, 9000 ft is usually where one starts to feel the effect of altitude. I know for me that’s the case. Fortunately, both Rick and I have been in high altitude situations before, so I know we’ll be able to manage.

Ice axes! W00t!

Anyway, as I said, I’ve spent the day getting some things organized for the adventure. Rick has done the same – making a trip to Mountain Equipment Co-op to pick up some necessary equipment as outlined in our trip package materials. This includes a new backpack, water bladder, and headlamp for me.

Fortunately we don’t need to buy everything as it would get slightly expensive. Banff Lake Louise Tourism has told us that they will provide us with the following (should we need them): crampons, ice axes, and a sit harness.

All of these things make me smile like an idiot. Crampons? Ice axes? Sit harnesses? Sweet baby Jesus these climbs are going to be amazing.

I am freaking stoked. So stoked, that the word stoked doesn’t really fully explain in any adequate way how stoked I truly am.


1 Not that I’m counting or anything.

2 If it is, I hope I don’t wake up until the adventure is over because it’s going to be awesome.

I Couldn’t Say No

Why? Because my life isn’t full of enough crazy adventuring.

Alright, I realize that I have an epic adventure starting in a few short days – you know, that little thing where I fly out to Calgary to meet up with Rick and then climb a few mountains, all the while raising money and awareness for The Kidney Foundation of Canada – but I have just signed up for something because I absolutely couldn’t say no.

What have you gotten yourself into now, Gillis? you might be asking yourself.

Well, I have just finished registering myself for the Easter Seals Drop Zone.

What the hell is the Easter Seals Drop Zone? you might now be wondering.

I’m glad you asked.

The Easter Seals Drop Zone is an event that occurs in many cities across Canada. The idea – raise $1500 for Easter Seals, and then get the opportunity to rappel down the side of a large building.

So let me summarize: if I raise money for a worthwhile charity that helps children with disabilities, I get to rappel myself down the side of a building?

How can I possibly say no to that? I’m so in.

This is me rappelling into Rats Nest cave last October. Drop Zone will be longer, and in the light of day. W00t!

Since my local Drop Zone event is happening in Kitchener (October 1 for those interested in watching me temp the Fates), I’ll be launching myself off of the Marsland Centre building. For those curious, it’s 13 stories high (which is approximately 150 feet tall according to the interwebs).

Of course I still have to raise $1500. And so, if you are interested in helping me out once again, please go to my donation page (by clicking here, or by clicking on the Drop Zone logo over there to the right) and contribute whatever you can. And if you aren’t able to donate, please spread the word. And perhaps come and watch me dangle my butt over the side of a 13 storey building.