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This story is excerpted from "Expedition to the Edge: Stories of Worldwide Adventure",
by Lynn Martel, published by Rocky Mountain Books
1030 Peaks and Counting
by Lynn Martel
In August 2004, Calgary ’s Rick Collier reached the summit of his 1000th mountain -- 3,225-metre Mount Prince Edward. One of the peaks that comprise the Canadian Rockies’ Royal Group, it’s tucked away in a rarely visited range just 10 kilometres west of Alberta’s Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.
But he didn’t stop there, and the following month he reached a milestone no one else has yet come anywhere close to - climbing all 572 of the peaks listed in the 1979 edition of the "Rocky Mountains of Canada - South" guidebook, written and compiled by Glen Boles, Robert Kruszyna and William Putnam.
Along the way, Collier completed a third milestone, when in 1994 he became the second person to climb all fifty-four of the Canadian Rockies peaks above 11,000 feet (3,353 metres), reaching many of the trailheads by vehicle, but many others by skis, bicycle or on foot.
Commenting on his passion, Collier suggested the 1,000 number to be "a bit bogus," since it places mountains such as 2706-metre Grotto Mountain -- a stiff but straightforward hike flanking the town of Canmore, Alberta - in the same category as Canada’s highest and the world’s largest mountain by mass, the Yukon’s Mount Logan, a remote and daunting objective, which he completed with three partners in May 2001. Leaving the mountain’s more commonly tagged west summit for its elusive and less frequently climbed 5,959-metre true summit five kilometres further, their day lasted twenty-two hours.
"It was brewing up for a storm, but we said let’s do it," Collier recalled. "We got to the summit around 11 p.m., the temperatures were down to minus 75. We had a couple of cases of frostbite."
Collier, who taught English composition at Calgary’s Mount Royal College until 1995, when he joined the ranks of the self-employed, grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. At fifteen, he and a friend discovered climbing at quarries on the Mississippi River . Soon afterward, Thomas Hornbein, who, with partner Willi Unsoeld became the first Americans to summit Everest in 1963, took Collier and his friend under his wing.
"It was all uphill from there," Collier joked.
He climbed in Colorado and Wyoming , and while studying in Wisconsin and Minnesota he developed his technical rock climbing skills on the steep and overhanging cliffs of New York ’s famous Shawangunks.
After five decades of climbing, Collier said he is continually engaged by the activity.
"There are always new problems to solve," he said. "It’s a kind of full body problem solving."
As well, he added, climbing incorporates navigational skills, physical exercise and learning to use equipment and skills to solve problems.
"There’s not many problems in the city you can’t solve with money," Collier said. "You have to go into the wilderness to find those."
Over the decades he has explored from the Arctic to the European Alps, as well as New Zealand , South America and the Yukon .
"Every place is the same, every place is different," Collier said. "Climbing peels away all those superficial layers. It’s not religious, but spiritual. If I had to choose I’d have to say I’m an animist -- I believe every stream, every meadow, every creature has its own spiritual force. It’s an odd thing that most churches are in cities -- there’s not much in the way of the spiritual there."
An accomplished marathoner and long distance cyclist who has crossed the U.S. several times, Collier said mountaineering offers the opportunity to explore inside himself.
"I think it’s a certain amount of testing of yourself," he said. "Not the stupid kind of adolescent stuff, but we don’t have many opportunities to see how well we endure, cope under stressful situations. It renews your sense of humanity. There’s lots of symbolism in mountain climbing. You can get up to the summit of a mountain, but you can never stay there. It’s not yours, but you can go back. The experiences are borrowed."
Climbing all of the southern Rockies, which range from Saskatchewan Crossing on Banff National Park ’s Icefield Parkway to Waterton Lakes National Park , which sits on the Alberta/Montana international border, didn’t become an actual project until about 2000.
"I guess it gives you a goal, a way to organize your climbing," Collier said. "And you get to Shanghai your friends into climbing these obscure peaks. It’s a great way of getting into different places. There’s probably not a valley in the southern Rockies I haven’t been in."
Collier credits about twenty-five climbing friends with helping him accomplish his milestone.
"They were with me when I needed them, they know their craft and their lore and they had the skills we needed them," he said. "It’s a kind of teamwork you’ll never find in the city."
Over the years, Collier said he’s made numerous solo trips too, the longest lasting nine days.
"Solo trips are when you get in touch with those little nodes of higher existence," he said. "I overcome my urban generated fears of the outdoors, and realize the wilderness is a really gentle place."
And after encountering at least one or two large, furry four-legged mountain travellers each summer, Collier said he dislikes popular mythology about bears. Most of those encounters were his own fault, he admitted, occurring when he moved through the landscape too quietly and surprised them, as happened in the 2004 summer when he experienced a chance meeting with a grizzly and her cub.
"She charged three times, coming to about twelve feet each time," he said. "She was close enough I could look right into her eyes, and she was terrified. A lot more scared than I was."
Asked to recall his most memorable climbs, Collier replied, "I’m glad you said memorable, rather than fun." Oftentimes, he admitted he and his partners asked themselves "why do we do this?"
"I always answer, it may not be fun, but it sure was memorable," Collier laughed.
Among his most memorable was 3,119-metre Mount Swiderski, the last of the named peaks of the Southern Rockies to sit unclimbed until in 2005, when Collier, with fellow members of their ‘Old Goats Group,’ Martin Taylor and Rick Homes, navigated a route through broken rock towers to the summit, which, devoid of any cairn or evidence of a previous ascent, marked for Collier one of "about eight first ascents."
"Most of those, people have never heard of, they’re in areas people never go into," he admitted.
Directly east of the Kootenay National Park warden station, 2,921-metre Split Peak , his last of the 572, was also quite memorable, with an approach that involved several un-bridged creek crossings.
"It was very difficult. We’re calling it ‘Little Alberta of the South’," Collier said, referring to the notoriously crumbly smaller neighbour of the Rockies’ famously challenging Mount Alberta . It was his third attempt.
"I had a very good crew with me," he said. "We spent seventeen hours on it. There was snow cover, loose rock up to 5.7 -- some interesting stuff."
With his tally sitting at about 1,030 mountains, Collier doesn’t have any intention of slowing down.
"As long as you keep your aerobic fitness, you don’t ever have to quit."

1030 Peaks and Counting

This story is excerpted from:

"Expedition to the Edge: Stories of Worldwide Adventure",

by Lynn Martel, published by Rocky Mountain Books

 

In August 2004, Calgary ’s Rick Collier reached the summit of his 1000th mountain -- 3,225-metre Mount Prince Edward. One of the peaks that comprise the Canadian Rockies’ Royal Group, it’s tucked away in a rarely visited range just 10 kilometres west of Alberta’s Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.

But he didn’t stop there, and the following month he reached a milestone no one else has yet come anywhere close to - climbing all 572 of the peaks listed in the 1979 edition of the "Rocky Mountains of Canada - South" guidebook, written and compiled by Glen Boles, Robert Kruszyna and William Putnam.

Along the way, Collier completed a third milestone, when in 1994 he became the second person to climb all fifty-four of the Canadian Rockies peaks above 11,000 feet (3,353 metres), reaching many of the trailheads by vehicle, but many others by skis, bicycle or on foot.

Commenting on his passion, Collier suggested the 1,000 number to be "a bit bogus," since it places mountains such as 2706-metre Grotto Mountain -- a stiff but straightforward hike flanking the town of Canmore, Alberta - in the same category as Canada’s highest and the world’s largest mountain by mass, the Yukon’s Mount Logan, a remote and daunting objective, which he completed with three partners in May 2001. Leaving the mountain’s more commonly tagged west summit for its elusive and less frequently climbed 5,959-metre true summit five kilometres further, their day lasted twenty-two hours.

"It was brewing up for a storm, but we said let’s do it," Collier recalled. "We got to the summit around 11 p.m., the temperatures were down to minus 75. We had a couple of cases of frostbite."

Collier, who taught English composition at Calgary’s Mount Royal College until 1995, when he joined the ranks of the self-employed, grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. At fifteen, he and a friend discovered climbing at quarries on the Mississippi River . Soon afterward, Thomas Hornbein, who, with partner Willi Unsoeld became the first Americans to summit Everest in 1963, took Collier and his friend under his wing.

"It was all uphill from there," Collier joked.

He climbed in Colorado and Wyoming , and while studying in Wisconsin and Minnesota he developed his technical rock climbing skills on the steep and overhanging cliffs of New York ’s famous Shawangunks.

After five decades of climbing, Collier said he is continually engaged by the activity.

"There are always new problems to solve," he said. "It’s a kind of full body problem solving."

As well, he added, climbing incorporates navigational skills, physical exercise and learning to use equipment and skills to solve problems.

"There’s not many problems in the city you can’t solve with money," Collier said. "You have to go into the wilderness to find those."

Over the decades he has explored from the Arctic to the European Alps, as well as New Zealand , South America and the Yukon .

"Every place is the same, every place is different," Collier said. "Climbing peels away all those superficial layers. It’s not religious, but spiritual. If I had to choose I’d have to say I’m an animist -- I believe every stream, every meadow, every creature has its own spiritual force. It’s an odd thing that most churches are in cities -- there’s not much in the way of the spiritual there."

An accomplished marathoner and long distance cyclist who has crossed the U.S. several times, Collier said mountaineering offers the opportunity to explore inside himself.

"I think it’s a certain amount of testing of yourself," he said. "Not the stupid kind of adolescent stuff, but we don’t have many opportunities to see how well we endure, cope under stressful situations. It renews your sense of humanity. There’s lots of symbolism in mountain climbing. You can get up to the summit of a mountain, but you can never stay there. It’s not yours, but you can go back. The experiences are borrowed."

Climbing all of the southern Rockies, which range from Saskatchewan Crossing on Banff National Park ’s Icefield Parkway to Waterton Lakes National Park , which sits on the Alberta/Montana international border, didn’t become an actual project until about 2000.

"I guess it gives you a goal, a way to organize your climbing," Collier said. "And you get to Shanghai your friends into climbing these obscure peaks. It’s a great way of getting into different places. There’s probably not a valley in the southern Rockies I haven’t been in."

Collier credits about twenty-five climbing friends with helping him accomplish his milestone.

"They were with me when I needed them, they know their craft and their lore and they had the skills when we needed them," he said. "It’s a kind of teamwork you’ll never find in the city."

Over the years, Collier said he’s made numerous solo trips too, the longest lasting nine days.

"Solo trips are when you get in touch with those little nodes of higher existence," he said. "I overcome my urban generated fears of the outdoors, and realize the wilderness is a really gentle place."

And after encountering at least one or two large, furry four-legged mountain travellers each summer, Collier said he dislikes popular mythology about bears. Most of those encounters were his own fault, he admitted, occurring when he moved through the landscape too quietly and surprised them, as happened in the 2004 summer when he experienced a chance meeting with a grizzly and her cub.

"She charged three times, coming to about twelve feet each time," he said. "She was close enough I could look right into her eyes, and she was terrified. A lot more scared than I was."

Asked to recall his most memorable climbs, Collier replied, "I’m glad you said memorable, rather than fun." Oftentimes, he admitted he and his partners asked themselves "why do we do this?"

"I always answer, it may not be fun, but it sure was memorable," Collier laughed.

Among his most memorable was 3,119-metre Mount Swiderski, the last of the named peaks of the Southern Rockies to sit unclimbed until in 2005, when Collier, with fellow members of their ‘Old Goats Group,’ Martin Taylor and Rick Homes, navigated a route through broken rock towers to the summit, which, devoid of any cairn or evidence of a previous ascent, marked for Collier one of "about eight first ascents."

"Most of those, people have never heard of, they’re in areas people never go into," he admitted.

Directly east of the Kootenay National Park warden station, 2,921-metre Split Peak , his last of the 572, was also quite memorable, with an approach that involved several un-bridged creek crossings.

"It was very difficult. We’re calling it ‘Little Alberta of the South’," Collier said, referring to the notoriously crumbly smaller neighbour of the Rockies’ famously challenging Mount Alberta . It was his third attempt.

"I had a very good crew with me," he said. "We spent seventeen hours on it. There was snow cover, loose rock up to 5.7 -- some interesting stuff."

With his tally sitting at about 1,030 mountains, Collier doesn’t have any intention of slowing down.

"As long as you keep your aerobic fitness, you don’t ever have to quit."


Note: Sadly, Rick Collier was killed climbing Mount Geikie in August, 2012. He was an inspiration.