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Summits of Canada Expedition 2006

Photo: James Coleridge

Climb every mountain
Fierce winds and deep snow on Yukon’s Mount Logan in June were thwarting James Coleridge’s attempt to reach the peak, part of his quest to climb the highest point in every Canadian province and territory. Coleridge, of White Rock, B.C., was tired and sore after having to store batteries and equipment in his sleeping bag each night to keep them from freezing. And despite those efforts, his satellite phone would cut off every six or seven minutes in his hour-long “Live from Logan” chats with schools across the country.

But during one such conversation, a student asked Coleridge a question that made him forget all his troubles. "We’re getting beat up by the weather,” he recalls, “we’re not keeping to our schedule, we’re getting stressed out because things aren’t going according to plan, and this student asks, ‘How do you go pee?’” Coleridge laughs. “And you start to chuckle, realizing that the world is much simpler than the complex situations you create on a trip this big.”

Coleridge and his 13-person team’s ultimately unsuccessful bid to summit Canada’s highest mountain was part of a plan hatched while he was waiting out a storm in August 2003 on the slope of Mount Elbrus in Russia's Caucasus Mountains. Trapped in a tent with a group of Ukrainian climbers, Coleridge found himself fielding questions about Canadian geography. “I was a little obsessed with the quest for the seven summits,” he says, “but they just wanted me to talk about Canada.”

His Summits of Canada Expedition, funded in part by The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, has taken him to the top of Alberta’s Mount Columbia, Ontario’s Ishpatina Ridge, in Temagami, and will soon see him summit an unnamed peak in the Northwest Territories, which he is hoping to formally name with the help of First Nations and the territorial government.

For Coleridge, the expedition is more than a mountaineering exercise — it is a broad-ranging experiment in education. Although he has no actual teaching experience (he has a degree in international business, has worked as a baker, an art dealer and a producer of the Bugs Bunny Film Festival and has served as a city councillor in White Rock for more than 20 years), he has now reached out to tens of thousands of students in Canada and around the world. “I think in many ways we are all educators, but not in a traditional way,” he says. “By taking our ability to converse or to share or to tell, we become a tool for formal educators.”

The Logan trip was a lesson in determination, and Coleridge and his crew plan to make a second attempt next spring. As for how to pee while mountain climbing, he advises keeping a clearly marked water bottle close at hand and timing things so that you never have to venture outside during a storm.

— Patricia D’Souza

For information on the expedition and when and where they will be in your province go to the website:

More about the Summits of Canada expeditions:
Summits of Canada Expedition 2009 - British Columbia’s Fairweather Mountain
Summits of Canada Expedition 2007 - Conquering Logan’s fury


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