CLIMBING TERRY FOX MOUNTAIN
Patricia told us her dream of having
a statue of Terry Fox
erected where the telegraph tower now stands.
That way it could be seen from the highway,
giving Mount Terry Fox a peak people could focus on.
In an article written last spring I explained my plan to climb Mount Terry Fox this summer and asked readers to stay tuned for updates. See LOOKING 4 TERRY FOX MOUNTAIN
I'm pleased to announce that the mission was accomplished and it's now a pleasure to share the photos and story with ORWELL TODAY readers.
Two friends who originally wanted to do the Terry Fox Climb had to back out for reasons beyond their control. So it was looking like it would just be me and Carol (Terry Fox's best friend's sister) and even she might not be able to make it if the knee she'd injured skiing, and then wiping-out on her bicycle, didn't heal.
I was lamenting this fact at a nordic-walking hike I attended in June when a lady named "June" stepped up to the plate and said she'd be interested in doing the Terry Fox Climb - especially since it wasn't a good idea for me to do it alone. I told her I had zero experience climbing hills, let alone mountains, and wasn't sure if I'd be able to do it - having heard, from all reports, that Mount Terry Fox is quite the challenge. She assured me there'd be no problem because it was just a matter of "putting one foot in front of the other" - like what she'd done when she climbed the Grand Canyon - nine miles down and nine miles up! Wow, I was pretty impressed, especially since June is 71 years of age (not that that's old, myself having hit the BIG SIX-OH last birthday).
Fired up with renewed enthusiasm I phoned Carol (who lives in a town three hours away) to work on nailing down a date. We set it for early September when it wouldn't be too hot at the bottom or too cold at the top of the mountain. That would also give us plenty of time to get our lungs and legs (and her knee) into shape for the mile-high climb over 17 switchbacks, as described in the Valemount map I'd picked up at the Tourist Office last time passing through:
#8 - MOUNT TERRY FOX TRAIL
Elevation Gain: 1,740-meters (5,700-feet)
Length: 9-kms one-way (5.6-miles); total 18-kms (11-miles)
From Valemount travel north on Hwy 5 for 6kms to the Terry Fox rest area on your left. There you'll see a beautiful hand painted sign that gives you a good idea of the trail details from a bird's eye view. To access the trailhead from the rest area, turn right onto Hwy 5 and go a short distance to Stone Road on your left. Then immediately turn left onto Tinsley Road which crosses the railway tracks. After the tracks go past one right branch and then turn right onto a small rough road for 400metres to a small parking area at the trailhead. From there the trail switchbacks and climbs steadily to the tree line, after the tree line watch for cairns marking the way over a rocky knoll from where you'll see the radio tower on the ridge above and once on this ridge you will get a great view of Mt Robson and the table top mountain where the monument is located. (Note: To go to the monument it's recommended that you're a strong hiker with mountaineering skills). Also from the tower ridge you will see a couple of false peaks and a little bit of the actual peak poking it's nose out at the end of these humps. While it's not a technical approach to the summit, it is recommended that you do have some bouldering experience. For those not wanting to do the full hike the viewpoints along the way or the tower ridge make for a very pleasant day out. Note: No water until a small alpine lake just below the summit. As you cannot gain much elevation by vehicle this is one of the longest hikes in the valley. But a fitting challenge indeed to honour a truly amazing young man who set out to run across Canada with an artificial leg in hopes of raising money for cancer research. Although his run was cut short by the return of his cancer he did run a marathon (26miles/42kms) a day for 143 days and to date the Terry Fox Foundation has raised over 400million dollars for the cause.
As September approached we discovered that a group in Valemount climbed Mount Terry Fox every year in conjunction with the annual Terry Fox Run that is held all over Canada (and much of the world) on the second weekend after Labour Day, and we decided to join their climb on Saturday, September 18th, 2010.
We three, with husbands playing the role of drivers and ground-crew (as Doug Alward had done for Terry) booked three motel rooms in Valemount for the night before and the night following the Terry Fox Climb.
On the way to Valemount on Friday we stopped at Wells Grey Park to hike to Helmcken Falls as a warm-up for the climb on Saturday. June would have joined us but she was in a nearby town visiting family.
Later that evening in Valemount, after meeting up with June, we went out for dinner at the "Caribou Grill" restaurant which is owned by the lady who would be leading the Mount Terry Fox climb the next day. We introduced ourselves to Patricia and confirmed we'd be at the Terry Fox Pull-out next morning at 7:30. The food was delicious!
In our motel room that night, before I fell asleep, I glanced at my Terry Fox T-shirt hanging in the closet - while visions of sugar-plums danced in my head.
The clock was set early, to be out the door by 6:15, because we wanted to be at the Terry Fox Pull-out in time to see the sun rise over Mount Terry Fox and have a tailgate breakfast at the picnic table there.
A ritual we were planning, for the top of the mountain, was to bury a box full of loonies to symbolically represent the goal of "a dollar from every Canadian" that Terry had aspired to (and which he achieved by raising 24-million of them by run's end on August 31, 1980).
In the photo on the left, June is signing her name to the little white box containing our loonies (and loonies we'd collected from friends and family). In the middle photo, Carol's signing the box while I eat the energy drink she'd made containing yoghurt with fruit and leftover chocolate coconut cookies mixed in. In the photo on the right we're showing the backs of our Terry Fox T-shirts (June wore hers backwards to show Terry's face while walking). We're modelling this year's 30th Anniversary edition and Carol's modelling the one her brother Doug gave her for the 25th anniversary of the annual Terry Fox Run.
Just as Carol's brother had been an Olympic torchbearer (see TERRY'S FRIEND DOUG CARRIES TORCH) so too was June an Olympic torchbearer, and she'd brought hers with her.
We symbolically carried the torch for Terry by posing with it in front of the beautiful Terry Fox sign.
By this time Patricia had arrived and while we were waiting for the other climbers she told us a bit about the mountain.
Patricia would have preferred a different mountain be named after Terry Fox because this one isn't particularly spectacular to look at because its peak can't be seen from the highway - except the tiny piece of it on the far right. To really see the peak a person has to climb the mountain's slopes to the top of minor peaks above the top of the tree line (and we only made it to the top of the tree line this time so didn't see the peak).
By 7:30 the three other climbers had arrived and we got into our cars and drove to the parking area at the bottom of the trail. The sign there says: MT. TERRY FOX RECREATION TRAIL, B.C. FOREST SERVICE, 2005 - YOUR LEGACY LIVES ON TERRY.
There wasn't alot of time for standing around taking pictures because the climb takes eleven hours in total (going up and coming down) and has to be accomplished before dark. No sooner had we put on our backpacks and adjusted the straps than we were literally putting one foot in front of the other on a trail that starts off tough and keeps getting tougher. But we were inspired by the thought of Terry Fox and talking about him gave us the will to carry on.
I couldn't help but notice, in the photo above, that Terry seems to be emerging from the trail with us - which he definitely was, in spirit, all day long.
Patricia, Peggy, Tom, Greg, June, Carol and me made up the 7-person expedition - in that order - although as the morning progressed we latter three took turns falling behind and pulling up the rear. The other four speeded on ahead but they'd kindly stop and wait for us at every other switchback offering words of encouragement and promising it was 'just a little further' to the first viewpoint rest area.
When we FINALLY got there we took off our packs and had our second little picnic of the day marvelling at the view. But time was a-wasting and before long we packed up and got back on the trail - occasionally asking how many more switchbacks we still had to do (none of us having the energy to count as we knocked them off). Tom says there's a plan to number them on trees starting with #17 at the bottom and decreasing to #1 as a person gets higher. Good idea, we all agreed.
At one point - with Carol and June having lagged behind due to taking off layers of clothing and tightening their bootlaces - I caught up with the faster four just as they were discussing the biggest train wreck in Canadian history. It had happened in Valemount 60 years ago and there'd been a special ceremony in remembrance of it the previous week. Patricia was remarking on how amazing it was that the head-on collision had happened on the stretch of track in front of the mountain she'd picked to be named after Diefenbaker, unaware at the time that he was the lawyer (many years before he became Prime Minister) who'd defended the switchman who CN blamed for causing the crash. Diefenbaker won the case by proving it wasn't the switchman's fault - he hadn't been asleep at the switch - but a technical problem with the telegraph wires. When I asked what happened they explained that one of the trains was carrying hundreds of Canadian soldiers on their way to the Korean War and many of them had been killed and wounded. This, to me, was a godcident because just that previous week I'd put an article on ORWELL TODAY from the brother of one of the POWS (prisoners of war) who America abandoned in North Korea 60 years ago.
Carol and June emerged from the tall trees a few minutes later and I filled them in on details while they took a breather (talk about a captured audience).
A few switchbacks later - urged on by promises of another rest spot - we reached a bit of a clearing and another viewpoint - this one of the peaks looming closer in front of us.
Here is where Patricia - standing on the left beside Peggy in the photo above - pointed out the features of Terry Fox Mountain pictured behind them. On top of the third and highest centre mounds (the other two are discernible by slight difference in colour) on which can be seen a bit of snow and a dark ridge at its peak, there's a telegraph tower (it can be seen with the naked eye - a miniscule little stick - but not in the photo). That's a summit many people reach. Beyond that, and to the right, is the summit with the monument on it and beyond that is the peak - part of which can be seen behind the trees on the right (I think).
Patricia said not everyone gets that far and we probably wouldn't be reaching those higher summits today - having taken our time with stops and rests and chatting along the way. She wasn't admonishing us at all, understanding completely that the journey is half the experience and this isn't a race and there's always "next time" to make the next summit. Afterall, she herself has been on the TF Climb eight times - this time being her ninth - and she doesn't always make it all the way to the highest summit. Some people do - like Peggy and Tom, who make it look easy with their sprightly jogs as though out on a Sunday run. Shortly after this photo was taken, they took off and left us behind, and we didn't see them again until they lapped us coming down - at around this same spot several hours later. Before she left, Patricia told us that Peggy was the artist who had painted the sign at the Terry Fox Pull-out. We couldn't believe our ears (or our eyes) and were flabbergasted to meet her. The painting is hauntingly beautiful, as everyone who's seen it can attest. Wow, what an artist she is - and actually, it turns out she's a teacher and teaching art is her specialty. I said I'd like to take a photo of her in front of the painting, but she'd be down off the mountain so far ahead of us, it would have to wait for another time.
Patricia told us that the destination we were aiming for was the rocky knoll (the first mound in the centre of the photo) where the finger of green is pointing to its ridge. That's the end of the treeline, and would probably be our peak for the day. We had a steep climb ahead of us, climbing up through all those trees to reach that rocky knoll.
As we were walking along toward it, Patricia told us her dream of having a statue of Terry Fox erected where the telegraph tower now stands. That way it could be seen from the highway, giving Mount Terry Fox a peak people could focus on. She said it needn't be elaborate - just a kind of stick-man, something like the image on the front of the T-shirts - raised on a pedestal high enough so that the shoes of the artificial and real legs - and the infamous foot that pounded the pavement for 143 days and 3,339 miles - could be seen.
I told her there was something similar in England - a statue called THE ANGEL OF THE NORTH - that I'd seen in Newcastle on my way to visit Orwell's house in Scotland. It didn't look as though it would be too difficult to make - just a one-dimensional cut-out really. I offered the services of my eldest son - a welder who can weld anything and whose son - my grandson - was born on Terry Fox's 50th birthday, July 28, 2008 - and suggested it could be a grassroots project for all Canadians to get involved in. I envisioned the metal being donated by the copper or oilsands industry; someone else would draw up the design and the blueprint; others would donate their labour and equipment to build it; trucking and helicopter companies could offer to transport it to the peak and erect it. Wow, what an occassion that would be. Canada would have its OWN angel of the north - as in North of the 49th parallel.
It seems we all have our own dreams of monuments to Terry. My personal dream is to have a statue of Terry Fox in Stanley Park, Vancouver, at the place where he was planning to dip his foot into the Pacific Ocean at the end of his run. It was seeing the hideous statues of Communist China's and Russia's tyrants, and other disgusting anti-Canadian statues, scattered all around Vancouver during the Olympics that had initially inspired my present Terry Fox journey. See HONOUR TERRY FOX NOT LENIN-MAO & CANADA BLOODY SEVERED-HEAD STATUES & MY TERRY FOX MEMORIES & TERRY FOX MONUMENTAL PERSON
I know that the biggest obstacle standing in the way of building massive monuments to Terry Fox (similar in size and expense of the aforementioned Communist atrocities) is "money". But why, in the richest first-world country on the planet - in regard to resources - is money an obstacle? The 8,000-pound chrome statue of Lenin and Mao must have cost untold thousands to build and ship to Vancouver from China, as well as the massive statues of laughing Chinese at English Bay. And those bloody decapitated heads under the Vancouver sky-train - sculpted by a Mexican artist - apparently cost 1.5 MILLION dollars. So let's get real, it's not really about money, it's about political correctness. It's easy in Canada to erect monuments to other nation's heroes, but not our own. It's time for that to change. Come on Canada!!!!! Let's "just do it" for TERRY FOX!!!!!!
Talking about plans for Terry Fox monuments passed the time so quickly that before we knew it, there we were, at another viewpoint - this one breathtakingly beautiful.
This was also the point where Carol realized that her knee was giving out and made the decision to turn around and begin a slow descent. Greg, who was nursing a bit of a sore knee himself, chivalrously offered to accompany her down. It had always been part of the plan that each of us would only go as far as we individually could, and there would be no pressure to push someone (over the cliff, ha, ha) beyond where they instinctively knew they shouldn't go. Only fools rush in where angels fear to tread (as the old saying goes).
After waving goodbye to Greg and Carol, and seeing them safely maneuver down the slope they'd moments before climbed up, me and June made it up one of the trickiest hills so far - and Patricia took a photo of us standing in front of her favourite tree on the trail.
We continued to climb into thinning trees, with slanting rocks and some gravelly sections, and I was using my poles alot to dig into the dirt and hold me upright while I found the next place to put my foot. At one point - with June and Patricia kind of out of sight - I made the wrong decision on where to step to and when I got there, there was sheer rock above, with nothing to dig into or no place to put my pole. Looking down wasn't much better, with just the jagged gravel I'd almost slipped on getting here. Instinctively, all I wanted to do was sit down, and so that's exactly what I did, with my poles propped in front of me into the gravel, holding me from tumbling forward toward an abyss.
That's where I was when Patricia and June emerged a couple minutes later and asked how I was doing. I told them just fine, but that I was taking a bit of a rest while I figured out my next move. Patricia said I should have stepped right instead of left and that all I needed to do was stand up and go back down a ways and then come up on the other side. That would have been fine and dandy except that deep down I have a fear of heights, and the thought of standing up - and looking down at the slippery slope that would be my destiny if I made one false move, caused me to rather stay put, right where I was, and figure out some other plan.
Patricia scrambled up onto the ridge above me and offered to stretch out her pole and pull me. I didn't think that was a very good idea because if I went down, I'd be pulling her with me (unless, of course, she let go of the pole!!!). Then she said she had a rope in her backpack and we could tie it around the little tree that was jutting out from between the rocks. It looked pretty sturdy - the tree - and that made me feel much better. Yes, give me something to hold on to.
While Patricia was rumaging around in her pack, an orange butterfly with black-striped wings fluttered toward my face and actually brushed my cheek before flying off. I said to June and Pat "I've just been touched by a butterfly" and we all thought that was pretty neat. In my mind I was wondering what the visit from the butterfly portended? Who or what did it symbolize? What did it mean? What message was it sending? I didn't know (and I feared to know) but by that time Patricia had the rope double-tied around the tree - with knots at the end for me to hold on to and, thus secure, I stood up and used it to help me step down and to the side where I should have gone in the first place.
Phew, it sure was a big relief to scramble up to the next ridge and out of that danger zone. Now all I had to fear was maneuvering that same stretch on the way down. The thought of calling a helicopter to pick us up flashed through my mind. But it seemed the worst was over and after resting for a bit I started on again while Patricia helped June who was having stomach cramps - something she'd never had before. Patricia said she had something in her pack that would alleviate cramps and this encouraged June to push on to the top and take the treatment there.
Not too long later I made it to the rocky knoll, above the tree line, just in time to snap a photo of June emerging at the top after me. I was dazzled by the 360-degree panorama stretching out all around us.
The view is of Valemount on the far left and the Premier Mountain Range in the distance, one of which is Mount Trudeau and another Mount Diefenbaker and other Prime Ministers of Canada. Patricia pointed each of them out but I can't remember which one is which (the air is thinner up there, you know, and less oxygen to the brain).
The rocky hill I'm facing in the panorama above is the first mound we saw in the distance when standing below talking about the mountain and its various peaks. This was the area above where the little finger of green jutted out indicating the end of tree growth.
We sat here for about half an hour, eating lunch, drinking water, and discussing the climb. The charcoal-like substance Patricia gave June for her stomachache worked really fast - and she was feeling better in no time. It was the first time, in all her years of carrying her first-aid kit and rope, that she'd ever had to use it, said Patricia. We were glad to be the beneficiaries of her preparadness.
It was about 2:30 and not enough time to climb to the top of the rocky hill and then up the next hill (which can't be seen from here) to the telegraph tower (which also can't be seen) and from there to the next hill which is the one where the Terry Fox Monument is located. It consists of a plaque on a large white quartz rock. The monument, Patricia says, isn't at the true peak, but at a nearby one where helicopters could more easily land and dignitaries could stand for the official unveiling of the monument on September 22, 1981, when the mountain was dedicated to Terry Fox. That was 29 years ago, almost to the day.
It was now time to bury the Terry Fox treasure-trove of loonies. Patricia signed her name on the back of the box, which is dedicatd to TERRY FOX, SEPTEMBER 18, 2010. All of the signatories, and the donors of the loonies, have family members or friends who've been touched by cancer, and the loonies are in remembrance of them, and in remembrance of Terry Fox.
We chose a place marked by a tiny little evergreen tree which is the last tree in the tree-belt - the one at the highest level. Inside the box there are Olympic Inukshuk loonies and, best of all, there are Terry Fox loonies, a treasure for our treasured Canadian hero. If future climbers visit, they can search for the treasure, and if they find it, they can add to the loonies there, and then replace it back into its burial chamber. Or they can dedicate their own memorial and perform their own ritual.
We drank a toast of special Terry Fox vodka from Newfoundland (where Terry started his run and dipped his foot into the Atlantic Ocean on April 12, 1980) that we'd carried up in a stainless steel flask. I slugged mine back in one gulp - in one of the paper cups brought for the occasion. But June and Patricia didn't want to take the chance of having it go to their head and so, instead, spilled theirs over the burial spot, symbolically consecrating it as purified ground.
The Terry Fox ceremony over, we put on our backpacks and started down.
Just then we were surprised to see four backpackers approaching on their way up. They were biology students looking for mammals and were checking out Mount Terry Fox. They were planning to stay the night on the mountain and had everything they needed - except enough water - for the duration. Patricia told them about the lake and the stream below the telegraph tower which they were happy to hear about - then we went our separate ways.
I was a little anxious anticipating getting by the area where I'd had the butterfly experience - both figuratively and literally - but it turned out to be no problem at all.
The last photo I snapped that day was of June with our rocky-knoll peak in the background.
The descent took about three hours. We told Patricia not to worry about waiting for us but to go ahead at her own pace. She had a wedding to go to that evening and so after leading us safely to the beginning of the seventeen switchbacks, she hurried on her way. When we got to the bottom around 6:15pm, the pedometer on my cellphone - which I'd been carrying in my back pocket - said I'd taken 23,881 steps for the equivalent of 18.1 kilometers or 11.2 miles.
Wow, and again Wow, a word I've been using alot lately. ~ Jackie Jura
...to be continued with TERRY FOX NEWFIE VODKA & CANADA'S KOREAN-WAR TRAIN WRECK & TERRY FOX NOT INUKSHUK. Stay tuned.
Where are our priorities Canada?, Letter-Editor, CoastReporter, Oct 1, 2010
The Terry Fox Run took 30 years to amass $500 million. In Toronto, our federal government spent $2 billion on security for a showcase for Canada. The police must have been thrilled to receive overtime and great new toys to control a non-problem. Vancouver’s Olympic party cost more than $1 billion for security, and even if a problem arose, the cost to repair would probably be far less costly. We have spent $2 billion and counting to make law-abiding people register long guns, presumably to keep them out of criminal hands. Never was a problem. Anyone wanting a long gun can still own one if he or she has no criminal record. Are we stupid enough to think criminals will register? Long guns are not the choice of criminals, hand guns are, and they are very tightly controlled in Canada, but not registered by criminals. My point in all of this is that it is easy to spend other people’s money, as more can be generated by higher taxes. Wake up Canada, and stop being afraid. See OLYMPIAN SECURITY ORWELLIAN GAMES
"Into the Wind" honours Terry Fox (new documentary on Canada's hero), ESPN/3030/UTube, Sep 29, 2010
Terry Fox incredible story being told again (his face hiding pain/his voice disguising sacrifice) & Basketball star making new Terry Fox movie (INTO THE WIND at Toronto Film Festival), HollywoodNews/GlobeMail, Aug 18, 2010
Terry Fox memorial to be taken down (make room for massive casino complex) & Vancouver new casino entertainment epicentre (100,000 square/ft gambling in Terry Fox Plaza), News/CBC, Aug 18, 2010
TERRY FOX ATLANTIC WATER JUG
INUKSHUK & TERRY FOX STATUES
FOX FRIEND ALWARD CHANGED CANADA
CANADA'S KOREAN WAR TRAIN WRECK
TERRY FOX NEWFIE VODKA
CLIMBING TERRY FOX MOUNTAIN
TERRY FOX MONUMENTAL PERSON
LOOKING 4 TERRY FOX MOUNTAIN
MY TERRY FOX MEMORIES
TERRY'S FRIEND DOUG CARRIES TORCH
HONOUR TERRY FOX NOT LENIN-MAO
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~