While my friends Beth and Rick were in town over the Christmas holidays, we spent some time chatting about travel (as we are wont to do). Both Beth and Rick have been on some pretty fantastic adventures over the past year (for example, read about their awesome but separate trips to Ireland here, and here1), and it’s always great to hear about travel related shenanigans.
One of the interesting things to come out of the conversation wasn’t exactly expected. We were chatting about off-continent trips, and I began to wonder when last I launched myself through the air in a people-filled lawn dart3. For someone who loves travel as I do, I was actually shocked by the realization. My last trip off-continent was back in the old-time-y days of 2011 when Rick and I adventured our asses off in Hawaii4, 5. The year before that also saw me in Europe twice – once for Christmas with my brother, and once to celebrate the successful completion of my PhD.
Clearly this close-minded North Amerocentric travel practice can not be permitted to continue. It’s just not right. Think of all of the cultures that I’m not learning about. Think of all of the shenanigans I’m not getting up to. Think of all the adventures that aren’t being adventured. It’s a travesty I say.
Fortunately I have a few plans up my sleeve. One involves Asia, the other involves a return to Europe. Both could occur sometime during the summer. In the former case I’m looking at a potential exchange program that would allow me to bookend a two-week teaching/researching adventure with shenanigan filled adventuring. In the latter case I’m looking at several conferences that are separated by a few weeks.
In any case, it’s very clear that I haven’t been living up to my wanderlusting potential. This is something that I must correct in 2014.
1 Also, why haven’t I been to Ireland yet2?
2 Honestly, 2013 seemed to be the year that everyone I knew when to Ireland or Scotland. I may or may not be jealous.
3 Also known as an airplane.
4 While Hawaii is politically part of the United States, it’s actually in the region known as Oceania.
5 Which means that the three year anniversary of that particular trip is only a few weeks away. I should figure out a way to celebrate said adventure-filled vacation.
Because I love challenges, and because my list of things to do is apparently not long enough, I decided to begin a 90 day fitness challenge on January 6th. I blame this entirely on my friend Rick, because he’s the one who first introduced the idea to me (click here to view his post describing the challenge in detail).
The concept is simple: set a fitness challenge that works for you, and stick to it for 90 days. The challenge can be anything, so long as it is exactly that – a challenge. For example, if you are someone who already has a history of working out 3 times per week, a challenge might be to up that to 4 times per week. If on the other hand you don’t work out at all, setting a goal of two 30 minute sessions of activity per week might be challenge enough. Point is – you have to pick something that makes sense for you, and pushes you beyond your current routine.
For those of you who don’t know, Rick goes by the handle of @InspirationRick on the Twitter. Having seen the number of people he’s just inspired to take part in this 90 day challenge, I can tell you he’s earning that moniker. Well done sir. My hat is off to you1.
So what have I decided to do for my challenge? I have committed to 6 days of activity per week3. If I follow my training program for the upcoming Toronto GoodLife Marathon and the 50k Niagara Ultra Marathon, 6 days shouldn’t be a problem – although it’ll definitely be a challenge.
For the sake of my 90 day challenge, all of the training runs, yoga/stretching sessions, and visits to the gym will qualify as acceptable forms of activity. My walks to and from the office will not qualify as they are part of my regular routine.
From a nutritional/healthy eating point of view, I’m going to also strive to drink more water (1 big glass before bed and as soon as I wake up), and eat out less. To accomplish the latter goal, I’m going to focus on short-term objectives first; making lunches instead of buying them on campus every day during the month of January. If that works well, then I’ll see what other changes I can make.
Here’s to a kick ass 90 days.
1 Mainly because you’ve done an awesome job, and deserve the nod. But also because I want to hand you a hat so that you can cover up your face. Cuz it’s ugly2. ZING!
2 For those who are new to this blog, Rick is not actually ugly. I guess.
3 Which I will be tracking weekly with the rest of my Quest to 1000 km statistics.
When I was young I was rather fortunate in that I was exposed to computers early. I remember my brother and I creating short programs on the Commodore 64 that Canadian Tire had on display when it was first introduced, and thinking we were some sort of computer geniuses.
10 Print “Hello world”
20 Goto 10
Oh those were some wild and crazy times.
These days I spend my time coding far more interesting things. And when I get tired of coding, I spend my time figuring out how to make certain things on my computer work with other things on my computer. It’s what nerds do, I guess.
As an example, let me direct your attention to those shiny charts to the right that summarize my progress towards my Quest To 1000 km. While beautiful and information rich I can’t take credit for them. Sure, I’m the guy who’s updating a spreadsheet of data with each and every run, and I’m also the guy who spent some time filling that spreadsheet with formulas to aggregate and summarize those data, and I’m also the guy who selected a particular chart over another to visualize those aggregated and summarized results. But those shiny charts are really the result of the all-powerful and all-knowing Google.
The reason I tell you this is because several people have asked me how I created them. So for them, here’s the secret. First, I’m going to assume you’ve already created a spreadsheet of data using Google Docs. Select the data you wish to magically chartify. Google Docs will provide you with a selection of chart-tastic options. Pick one you find to be the swankiest, and for ease – create the chart in its own sheet.
To embed the chart in your blog, begin by clicking the Publish Chart button. You may receive a warning that states “Publishing this chart will require all sheets to be published.” Select OK, unless your data are so precious that you want to keep them hidden from the world.
You’ll next see a pop up that contains a bunch of computer-geek-speak. Depending on your blog type, you may be able to copy paste the Interactive Chart computer-geek-speak, or, as is the case for my blog, you may have to select the Image computer-geek-speak (using the available drop down list).
In either case, copy the appropriate computer-geek-speak. Mine looked something like this:
To finish embedding this in my blog, I simply created a Text Widget and placed it in the appropriate column. I then pasted the above computer-geek-speak into that widget1, hit save, and presto voila, a fancy pants shiny chart2.
A few days ago I was describing my need to write more blog posts to help keep myself on track. Setting goals and creating lists is a bit of a thing for me, but I find that if I don’t take the time to sit down and reflect on those I’ve met or those that still elude me, I lose sight of what is important to me. It’s not that I’m not achieving goals or pushing myself when I’m not writing, it’s just that I fail to take the time to really appreciate what I have accomplished, the people around me who have helped me get to wherever it is I happen to be, and how lucky I am to have the opportunities that have been afforded me.
Clearly this is something that I’ve decided must change (and hence the reason I’ve started posting more frequently).
Of course having spent the better part of yesterday with my friend Rick, I was forced to challenge some of my own misconceptions about where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going. That is, being a bit of an adventuring overachiever and goal-minded individual, Rick asked just the right questions.
While driving to Toronto I was reminded that I am my own worst enemy. I have no idea why, but every now and then I shift my focus to those things I haven’t accomplished. Most of the time this acts as a great motivator – pushing me beyond my comfort zone and into new territory. But, as has been the case over the past several months, this focus has become more of an unhealthy obsession. It’s an energy sink, it’s unproductive, and it’s very self-defeating.
Since the second week of June I’ve not been able to run the longer runs that I love to do. Instead of recognizing that this was a necessary break from running to allow my ankle to properly heal, I’ve focused on the fact that I’ve felt gross and sluggish and not myself. I’ve ignored the fact that I’ve run almost 700 km this year, focusing instead on the failure to reach my 1000 km goal. But when I actually sit down and think about it, 700 km is a huge accomplishment, especially since the bulk of those kilometres were completed by June. If not for my injury I would have surely passed 1000 km. So I need to focus on what I did accomplish and realize that the new year means a new beginning. I will crush my 1000 km goal, and I’m going to smile through as many of those kilometres as I possibly can.
Point is, I have to remember that I’m human and sometimes I’m not going to make the goals that I set for myself. Instead of getting down about that, I have to focus on what I have accomplished, figure out what – if anything – went wrong, and reset my targets.
So take this as a warning 2014 – I’m reviewing 2013 and prepping myself for what’s to come. Be prepared. Things are about to get crazy.
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.
Enjoying the views at the top of Mount Sparrowhawk
Laughing at the top of Sparrowhawk
1 Which really means organizing myself.
2 Such as snuggling with Elliot.
3 Apologies to Julie who had to hear a mild rant today.
Yesterday we conquered Mount Sparrowhawk and it was – in a word – amazing.
Sparrowhawk stands 3121m (10239ft) above sea level, and requires 1350m (4429ft) of elevation gain from the trailhead to reach the summit.
The hike began at 10:40am and ended about 8.5 hours later (including several stops for snacks, and about an hour relaxing on the summit). The first part of the trek was steep; winding through beautiful forest, and offering views of Spray Lake below, and a seemingly endless line of mountains all around. Despite losing the trail (thanks to my wonderful vision) we eventually found ourselves above the tree line. It was around this time that we were passed by a woman – probably in her 40s, possibly 50s – who ran by us.
“Just training for a marathon” she called to us as she ran by.
Just training for a marathon I thought. Amazing.
We carried on, tackling scree and talus, and making our way to the summit which slowly crept closer. Trail marker after trail marker were eventually passed. The lake below shrunk, the sky seemed to grow larger, and more and more mountains became visible in the distance. The terrain was rough, but in spite of its harshness, moss and lichen were abundant. We also heard the unique chirp of pikas which called the mountain home.
After about 4.5 hours of hiking, we made the summit. And holy hell, it was absolutely breathtaking. The weather afforded us views that were seemingly endless. I have no idea how many photos we ended up snapping, but everywhere we looked was deemed worthy of a picture. I wish I could describe just how amazing it felt.
We stayed atop the mountain for about an hour before making our descent. The trek down was faster as parts of the mountain side were covered in scree; permitting us to ski down.
The hike ended at Spray Lake – and even though the water was icy cold, it was the perfect spot to cool our feet after such an epic hike. We didn’t rest long, however, as hunger called. Fortunately, the town of Canmore was nearby so we stopped at the Grizzly Paw for beer and burgers.
Today this leg of the adventure comes to an end as I have to board my flight home in a few short hours. I’m going to miss the mountains, and I’m going to miss Rick. Fortunately I know that this will not be our final adventure together, nor will it be my last day in the mountains.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
When I arrived home this eve I found the new Portico magazine in my mailbox. For those not in the know, the Portico magazine is the University of Guelph’s alumni magazine. It details the current research and goings-on on campus, while also highlighting the successes of former students. It’s actually a really cool read if you’re into nerdy things, cutting edge science, and holy hell I can’t believe someone did something so awesome stories.
The first thing I did – once I poured my Friday night scotch and settled in with the wee fuzzball – was to peruse the pages of the magazine. While I normally recognize a face or two within the pages, I was happy to see several faculty and students – who are working on some very cool science-y type things – highlighted for the awesome work they are doing. In fact, with every turn of the page I found myself recognizing someone who was being recognized for the work they were doing. I couldn’t help but smile, because each are doing great work to improve the lives of students, help build better communication pathways, and improve our understanding of the world around us. Cool stuff indeed.
And then I flipped the page again.
I won’t lie – I was a bit surprised to see a picture of Rick and me at the top of a mountain. Clearly, an image of the two of us at the top of a mountain wasn’t surprising. Flipping the page to find myself staring at my own face – that was. In some ways, our Big Mountain Challenge feels like a lifetime ago. In some ways it feels like yesterday. Regardless, the story took me by surprise – in a good way.
I was reminded of our trip, of the things we got to see and experience. I was reminded of how tired we were (at times) and how awesome it was to summit so many mountains in spite of fatigue. I remembered the cold and the snow and the wind. I remembered the awesome hotels and spa days. I remembered the laughter and conversations as we hiked for hours. I remembered the fun. I remembered somehow raising a bunch of money for a really great charity. I remember feeling inspired and lucky and awed that I was able to take part in such an awesome adventure. Most of all, I remembered spending a week with an amazing friend.
So with that, I once again want to offer a huge thanks to Rick. I guess you’re alright.
Tonight’s post will be quick because I just finished a half marathon as part of Goofy training. To say that my body is a wee bit tired is an understatement. I probably should have eaten more prior to running. Live and learn. I’m just hoping that the Running Elves repair my body overnight so that I can get in my last long run (I think) of 2012 tomorrow. Running Elves are a thing, right?
Today the nerds1 descended on Baker Street Station to enjoy some delicious food, some nerdly discussions2, and a lot of laughs3. While we aren’t always able to get together as often as we’d like due to some rather major life changes in the group – children, marriages, new jobs, new homes – I’m always appreciative of days like today when calendars align and nerd-caucus can be called to order.
After several hours of chatting and eating, we eventually had to call the meeting to a close. Being the holidays, everyone had places to be and other people to see. Hugs and high-fives were handed out, as well as talk of future meetings. It was a little bittersweet to be honest, but I know we’ll get together again soon. Nerds are nothing if not organized.
Following the meeting I chatted with Rick as we headed over to our friend Manon’s place for a quick visit. We agreed that one of the best things about nerd-caucus is that no matter how far apart we are, how much our lives have changed, we always pick up where we left off. We take the time to catch up on the life that has happened between visits, but then we spend most of our time laughing and carrying on as we always did when we were in school together.
I really am fortunate to have such an amazing group of people in my life. Being surrounded by people that are not only intelligent, but caring, thoughtful and well-rounded is inspiring. Thanks nerds for making today amazing. I can’t wait to see you all again.
1 Listing clockwise from where I sat: Rob, Rick, Jenn, Warren, Kian (Jenn and Warren’s baby boy – who is surely going to be a nerd given the nerdly nature of his parents), Steph, Jasper, Lorna, and me.
2 About math pedagogy no less.
3 Which are very nicely documented by Jasper in the video embedded below.
Last night I had the pleasure of seeing my friends Lorna and Rick – correction, Dr. Lorna1 and Dr. Rick – become Dr. Lorna and Dr. Rick, married couple. While both of them looked absolutely fantastic – she stunningly breathtakingly beautiful, he tall and handsome – the best part would have to have been the way they both lit up when they looked at each other.
The ceremony was short, included some tears, but was filled mostly with laughter and fun. Kudos to the couple for dropping an awesome high-five when the vows were completed.
The reception was held at Hernder Estate Winery, and it was absolutely beautiful; great atmosphere, fantastic food, and of course some delicious wines to sample. Thirty different types to be exact. And sample we did. I particularly enjoyed the Riesling, but there were some reds that seemed to be popular at our table as well.
Given all of the liquid courage, the party went late into the eve. The dance floor was full, the music was fantastic; at some point glow sticks made their way onto the dance floor. The party was definitely worthy of a wedding celebration.
And then I woke up this morning. Blargh. While I wasn’t terribly hungover, I was definitely feeling the effects of drinking too much. I was sluggish, my stomach was doing a most unfortunate dance, and my muscles were rather sore. Oh, and then there was the dehydration. I couldn’t drink enough water this morning.
Fortunately the weather was amazing, so after lazing in bed for an hour or so hoping my hangover away, I got up, had a really hot shower, and then got ready for my day. My mission – head into Toronto before coming home to Guelph2. The purpose of my mission – there was none. I was just going to store my bags at the bus station and wander about. And that, dear readers, is what I did.
I arrived in Toronto shortly before 2pm, ate some food, drank some more water, then got myself a walking coffee. A walking coffee, for those not in the know, is any coffee that you get to go, for the purposes of strolling a city on a beautiful day such as today. And today was a walking coffee kind of day.
I had no particular goal in mind, no particular thing I wanted to see. I simply wanted to wander and people watch3 and perhaps just breathe in as much of the beautiful autumn air as I could. To be honest, with every breath in I started feeling more and more human and less and less like the hungover zombie I was. Every exhale seemed to remove a tiny bit of the poisons I’d pumped into my system the night before.
It truly was a fantastic day to wander around Toronto.
And now I’m home and relaxing with the wee fuzzball – thinking how full my weekend was. I really am a lucky bastard.
2 As there is no direct bus route from St. Catharine‘s to Guelph. Unless you call driving to Toronto first direct.
3 People such as the preachers and prophets preaching about Jesus or Islam or any number of other religious views. I believe on one corner there were three separate groups for Jesus, and I’m not quite sure they were all preaching the same thing. When asked if I wanted a pamphlet about Christ – which I turned down – I was promptly told that I was going to burn in hell. I simply smiled – chuckled actually – and carried on my way.
Having been home for a few days, I’ve had a little time to sit back and reflect on the 9 days that I just spent with Rick in Banff and Lake Louise as we took on the Big Mountain Challenge to raise almost $27000 for The Kidney Foundation of Canada. To say that those 9 days were a whirlwind would be an understatement. Without a doubt, the Big Mountain Challenge was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
Now that I’ve had a few days to reflect, I really need to say thank you again to so many people. Sadly, thank you just doesn’t seem to express the gratitude that I’m feeling.
Brewster Canada - Brewster Canada was in charge of getting Rick and me safely from wherever we were to wherever we needed to be. Simply put – if not for them, we’d have missed out on all of this. Thank you!
Parks Canada - Parks Canada joined Rick and me as we hiked Cascade Mountain (thanks Nathalie) and Sulphur Mountain (thanks Paul). Both of our Parks Canada Interpreters were highly knowledgable, highly entertaining, and just awesome people all around. It was amazing to hike the mountains that we hiked, but it was even better because you were there with us.
Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse - This particular component of the adventure was far more educational and entertaining than I had thought it might be. Suzanne – the owner of the teahouse – is an amazing woman. I’ve never seen anyone juggle so many things at once, while taking the time out of her exceptionally busy afternoon to chat with Rick and me. Thank you so much for chatting with us, sharing your family history, and feeding us. If you didn’t know before, the fastest way to my heart is through my belly.
Yamnuska- Our guides Jason and Joe were provided courtesy of Yamnuska. Without them we wouldn’t have been able to officially finish the challenge. Of course, just because they had to be there for the contest does not mean they weren’t amazing. Jason, thank you for putting up with Rick and me – especially when we had to make all those videos. Thank you for keeping us safe. And thank you for giving us the time to take in everything around us. Joe, also known as MountainGuide.com, thank you for leading us safely up Mount Eiffel. Thank you for your humour. Thank you for teaching us about proper footwear. You are both fantastic guides and will forever be an integral part of this adventure.
Fairmont Banff Springs & Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise- I know I’ve said this before, but it needs to be said a million times. Fairmont spoiled us thoroughly. From platters of fruit, to cheese and crackers, VIP treatment, breakfasts, lunches – you name it – the Fairmont hotels went above and beyond to treat Rick and me like we were some sort of royalty. I will never be able to visit another hotel again without comparing it to Fairmont. A huge thank you to James for getting us into the spa after our final hike – a massive feat when you consider that he did this on Labour Day weekend. I don’t know what strings you had to pull, but you did, and we are so grateful.
Banff Lake Louise Tourism - The group responsible for pulling this adventure together. Thank you for the opportunity to do this challenge. Thank you for taking care of Rick and me. Thank you for arranging a second attempt to summit Mount Temple. I’m sure this wasn’t an easy feat – especially given that it was the Labour Day weekend – but you did it and we are so thankful. I was stoked by the fact that I was going to get to climb three mountains. To end up climbing five is some sort of awesome-icing on the awesomest cake in the history of awesome cakes. Stu and Jeff – you guys are amazing. Thank you for everything.
The Kidney Foundation of Canada - Diane Kashuba, thank you for your tireless work to fight such a good fight. While I knew that this challenge was going to allow us to raise money for the Kidney Foundation, I never knew how much it would affect me. I’ve raised money for charity before, but this was so much different. I think it’s a combination of hearing personal stories (via Rick) about families and individuals who have dealt with or are still fighting kidney disease, and the incredible sense of doing something right that overwhelmed me at the top of Sulphur Mountain when Rick and Stu were able to present you with a cheque for over $25000. I’m not an overly emotional person, but I almost cried joy-filled tears when the cheque was handed over. The work that you, and the Kidney Foundation do are amazing. Please don’t ever stop the fight.
Our Support System - Of course, none of this adventure would have happened without the support of friends and family who spent so much time voting for Rick, and then donating to such a worthy cause. Thank you for everything. A special thanks to Sony & Gary, and Robbie for joining us during our final hike – having you there was a huge boost. And a huge thank you to Vanessa & Paul (& Charlie) – without you Rick and I wouldn’t have been able to make our second attempt at Mount Temple. You two are amazing and I miss you already.
Rick - Last but not least, I need to thank Rick. You sir are a large slice of kick-ass, wrapped in awesome, and deep-fried in amazing. I can’t begin to express how much I look up to you and admire you. Thank you for bringing me along on this crazy adventure. Thank you for working your ass off to raise almost $27000 for The Kidney Foundation of Canada. Thank you for truly being an inspiration to me and all those who have the pleasure and good fortune of knowing you. I have no idea what I did to deserve a friend like you, but I am thankful for your friendship every single day. Sentiments.
Truly – this was far more than a vacation. This was an experience that I won’t ever forget. Thank you to everyone who made this possible. Thank you to everyone for supporting us. Thank you to friends who cheered us on. And thank you to Rick for being such an inspiring and amazing man.
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 GlobalTVCalgary2. 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.
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.
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.
As I mentioned Sunday, Rick and I headed out bright and early in the morning to make a second attempt to summit Mount Temple. We had tried to do this on Friday only to be told that our group of three was not enough. Bears prefer snacks of three hikers or less, and so having a group of four would all but guarantee us safe passageway through the park and up the mountain.
Yesterday’s attempt started well, although there was some unease given a storm that had blown in the day before. Snow was expected on the mountain. This of course was not something that bothered us, but we knew if it there were too much, or the weather were still bad, chances of climbing Mount Temple would dwindle to almost zero pretty quickly.
We1 arrived at Moraine Lake and began our hike shortly after 6 am. It was dark and vision was pretty limited, but the air was crisp and clean, and we were all stoked to be heading out on the first leg to get to the top of Mount Temple.
In short time we found ourselves in Larch Valley and then beneath Sentinel Pass. The sun was beginning to kiss the mountains and we were greeted with some pretty spectacular views of Eiffel Peak, Pinnacle Mountain, and Mount Temple. It was also clear, however, that Mount Temple’s peak was shrouded in cloud. As we approached Sentinel, we could tell that the wind was going to be a challenge.
About half way up to Sentinel Pass the gusting wind really picked up. There were several times that each of Rick, Paul, and myself were almost blown off the mountain. We trucked on, making it to Sentinel and the views of the valley below that it afforded. We still could not see the summit of Mount Temple. The wind was still strong. Snow was falling above.
After some discussion, the group decided that it was too dangerous to continue. The winds below were gusting quite strong and those would only be more intense as we rose and had to travel across large distances that were unprotected by the elements.
It was a tough decision, especially given how much we wanted to see the world from the top of Mount Temple, but it was absolutely the correct decision.
Fortunately we were not completely thwarted as our fearless guide Joe offered us an alternative. We descended from Sentinel and made our way through Larch Valley to the base of Mount Eiffel – a 3084 metre (10118 foot) chunk of rock.
The climb started simple enough – cutting through some Larch trees, then making our way up a hill littered with rocks and what I assume was shale2. Eventually we were scrambling over rocks and boulders, through large snow drifts and snow-covered slopes of rock. At times the snow was hip deep. It was slippery, cold, and windy, and we loved every second of it.
For much of the hike I spent my time carefully stepping where Joe had stepped. Retracing his footprints through the snow as we slowly ascended the mountain. Every now and then I would stop to look up – partly to judge our progress, but mainly to see the beauty of the Rockies, the lakes, and the trees below me. Every view was breathtaking and awe-inspiring. I can’t begin to describe how amazing it was.
After much hard work, several snack breaks, some cold fingers and toes, we reached the summit. We were a little tired, but mainly exhilarated – we had reached another peak, and the beauty that lay before us was remarkable. It may have been exhaustion or dehydration, but I’m pretty sure that I was a little overwhelmed by it all.
We spent about an hour on the mountain – snapping pictures, enjoying the scenery, and laughing – a lot. Eventually, however, we had to make our way down. While much faster going down the mountain than going up, the way was slightly more treacherous given the melting snow and mud that had appeared. Ignoring a few slips and spills, we all made it out unscathed – and I think, better climbers because of our guide.
Thanks to Joe for keeping us safe. Thanks to Banff Lake Louise Tourism for setting us up on another hike. And thanks to Rick and Paul for such an awesome day. It wouldn’t have been the same without you.
1 Where we included Rick, myself, our friend Paul, Stu and Bethany from Banff Lake Louise Tourism, and our guide Joe from MountainGuide.com.
2 It may have been some other type of rock, but it looked like shale to me.