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Alberta Centennial Mountain Expedition

Reach for the top
Five years ago, Chad and Cory Gardeski attempted to scale Banff National Park’s Cirque Peak with their father Larry, who had never climbed a mountain. Foul weather prevented them from reaching the top, but they promised to return. Three years later, Larry was diagnosed with cancer. He died in early 2005.

“The project was created for just that kind of experience,” says Angus Taylor, 33, a recreational mountaineer and head of the Alberta Centennial Mountain Expedition, a multi-faceted campaign of which the 100-summit climb is one component.

“My goal for this project has always been to get people to express how important the mountains are to them,” says Taylor. “When you have a physical connection to land, you are further motivated to protect and conserve it.”

For Taylor and four friends, the expedition, sponsored in part by The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, also included a three-month, 1,200-kilometre ski traverse from the Alberta- Montana border past the northern reaches of Jasper National Park. But unseasonably warm weather in January and April reduced the Rockies’ snowpack, and the route was truncated to 600 kilometres.

Yet for Taylor, a significant part of the project is its educational focus, a perfect fit for someone working on a master’s degree in distance learning from Royal Roads University in Victoria. Taylor and his colleagues are producing a documentary and online multimedia learning tools to be used in conjunction with Alberta’s grade-four social studies curriculum.

Taylor has also helped guide schoolchildren to the summits of two nearby peaks, which stretch to almost 2,500 metres. The reward for Taylor is the children’s response: “There’s a real genuineness in their expressions.”

Climbers were asked to record their experiences online. The Gardeski brothers’ entry illustrates that mountaineering often proves an apt paragon for life: “Today, Cory and I carried an urn containing a small amount of Dad’s ashes to the summit of Cirque Peak. You finally made it, Dad.”

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- Michael Vlessides

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