A fair climb
Waiting out a storm in a tent on the face of Russia’s Mount Elbrus, James Coleridge found himself surrounded
by Ukrainian mountain climbers who hardly spoke a word of English. It was 2003, and since starting
his high-altitude climbing career one year earlier, Coleridge had already ascended the highest
summits of Africa and North and South America. “But the Ukrainians didn’t ask me
a single question about any of them,” he says. “All they cared about was Canada. I started thinking
about how often we look outside of our country to find the beauty that is within.”
James Coleridge’s climbing
partner, Len Vanderstar, descends from the summit of Fairweather Mountain, B.C.
Photo: James Coleridge
Back home in White Rock, B.C., Coleridge launched the Summits of Canada Expedition, a
Royal Canadian Geographical Society-sponsored effort to reach the highest peak of
every province and territory — a feat that has never before been accomplished.
In June, Coleridge ascended British Columbia’s Fairweather Mountain, on the border with
Alaska. The scenery surrounding the six-day climb, he says, was perhaps the most jawdropping
in the world. “You can actually stand at the top of the mountain and watch the
surf break on the shore below.”
This marks Coleridge’s fifth successful climb since 2006 in his Summits of Canada
bid, having reached the highest points in Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba and the Yukon. Still
facing him and his team are the climbing and logistical challenges of Nunavut’s
Barbeau Peak — just reaching its foot on Ellesmere Island could be dangerous enough.
“But it’s all part of what makes this the most challenging geographic quest in the
world,” says Coleridge.
— Dan Ray
More about the Summits of Canada expeditions:
Summits of Canada Expedition 2007 - Conquering Logan’s fury
Summits of Canada Expedition 2006 - Climb every mountain