The Security Of My Inner Child

Growing up in Georgetown, Ontario with two very hardworking parents I spent the majority of my primary years with my globe trotting grandparents. They owned the most gorgeous property with a stunning house that they built themselves and that meant I had the absolute privilege of having 50 acres of protected Niagara Escarpment as my personal playground. A facility for exploration and imagination that was so stimulating I didn’t even have to make up friends, that world was abundant company. I have the most vivid memories of knowing that property like the back of my hand, running at top speed knowing where fallen trees, dips and sharp turns were on the trails. Abandoned limestone quarries that bordered into dense forest that had hidden caves that directed you to vast tall grassed orchards. If I could savour one sensation in every moment of my present life – as I go to work, train at the gym or walk my dog Tobi at High Park – it would be that navigator-child that I was.

So so much of this project demands that I am constantly re-evaluating my balance of fun and planning and ensuring I’m sharing enough of this amazing journey. Its a reality for anyone who makes work out of their passions and hobbies. On one hand, I can shamelessly say that this adventure may be one of my most selfish endeavours. On the other hand, I really believe that this project can be a positive contribution that enriches the world. The feedback and excitement from park staff and people who approach me and the team are all graciously tallied as little success. Each time someone reacts positively as we share our journey means, to me, that we are doing something right.

I actively strive to be somebody that I would be stoked to meet along the path. That wandering, trouble-making child of my past is my inspiration. Being outdoors, swatting bugs, splashing in lakes, getting lost are all such important elements of my being and to this day some of the most consistent activities. Planning these adventures with my friends ignites my curiosity and always holds so many unknowns, but amazingly is one of the few things that I can actually find security in, as if the fabric of the night sky is some sort of secruity-blanket that I haven’t been able to stop toting around.

I’m really excited for what’s approaching and genuinely can’t wait to share it with you and the rest of the world!


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Reminding Myself the Big Picture is Worth the Small Struggles

Photo by Rob Nelson

Travelling is so daunting in so many ways for people, myself included. My stresses leading up to any adventure project include (but are not limited to): money, food, resources, safety, enjoyment, compatibility of the team… Unfortunately, every one of those is rooted in money and resources. It’s unavoidable. The entirety of what we’re doing takes an immense amount of planning, each peak is a step towards the BIG picture and we all know that there’s only one way to eat a massive steak (or tofurkey in Brian and Andrea’s case), and that’s one bite at a time.

Being consumed with our laundry list of gear and bank roll for gas, food, and more can sometimes feel like a huge distraction – a struggle – from our mission. Thankfully, being a Peakbagger means we belong to a community where our mission is bigger than these troubles. What we love most about the North star is that, looking at the beautiful star trail photo (above) by my friend Rob Nelson, you can clearly see how bright the North star is and how every other star in the sky revolves around it. It’s as if the sky is a cyclone sending energy towards the astro-beacon!

We are employing the North star’s ingenuity and resourcefulness; we are so humbled and inspired by the daily support from people who write to us, like our posts, and come up to us just to say, “Hi!” With that humility I am putting out a call for your help: whether it’s advice, stories, a big gear sale we should know about, guidance, support… maybe you know someone who has experience to share with us! I welcome you to write us at hello@thepeakbaggers.com.

Our appreciation for the Canadian outdoors, the community and having the privilege to do these adventures and tell the story is WHO we are. Every person that has taken the smallest bit of time to share their insight has undoubtedly helped us grow. Sometimes I try an imagine the person I’ll be at the end of this, the people I’ll have had the privilege to meet… It’s almost brought me to tears just having the opportunity to contemplate on such a huge scale.

All photos for this post by Rob Nelson. For more of Rob’s amazing work check out on his website, here.


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Embracing That Feeling of Intimidation

It’s scary and kind of funny to be intimidated. Everyone can relate to that feeling of intimidation that seems to come from nowhere. I’m intimidated by lots of things and it comes in many different forms. Whether it’s fear, respect, mindfullness, being afraid and intimidated is a reality.

Recently I was getting annoyed with myself for not joining a local running group, Parkdale Road Runners. I was holding back because I thought they were super cool, athletic and I probably wouldn’t fit in. On Tuesday night that all changed. I took the first step and decided to go. When I walked through the door of Community 54  (a great shop in Parkdale) I was greeted by some of the friendliest smiles and greetings that immediately dissolved all the feelings of trepidation that I had built up over the last few months. What I learned is that the running crew is full of talented athletes, is nothing short of a positive contribution to the community, and my fears of being unwelcome were completely unfounded.

I thought about why I was intimidatd in the first place and where else in my life is this happening. I used to be intimidated by even talking about crazy ideas like summiting the highest peaks in each Canadian province. Feelings of failure, rejection, being made fun of for not being a professional are all part of an ongoing list of reasons to just keep ideas like this project or joining a run crew locked up in my head.

On our way to reach Ontario’s highest summit, Ispatina Ridge we met Gerry, a local trapper who ended up becoming a HUGE help to us. When we interviewed him after the trip we asked him why he helped us. Gerry told us that he saw the adventurous spirit in us. He said he knew from the radio interview on CBC that we all worked hard to plan this, that we know there’s a lot to learn and still we were following through on an dream. He said that we inspired him! My heart exploded when Gerry shared this with us. All we had to do is just face fears head on with the respect they deserved and be vulnerable to our environment and the universe provided us with what we needed. I really believe that – that by putting yourself out there you get what you need. I’m proof of that. We, the Peakbaggers are proof of that!

So whether it’s joining an amazing running community, climbing a mountain, or just trying anything at all that makes you feel small, uncomfortable or shy, DO IT!!

I’ve found in my experiences that these initial feelings are simply there because what you face may actually mean a lot to you… And ya, thats scary. Cool!


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Why Not To Bring Fresh Food Winter Camping

The backpacks are filling up fast. A spare set of base layer, socks, headlamp, maps, GPS, first aid, food… One thing that you inevitably have to do in your day to day (especially when in challenging circumstances) is to eat.

Fuelling the machine means more endurance, reduced fatigue, and a happy body. We made the decision to bring 4 bags, each with 3 servings. Two bags contain cooked pasta in tomato sauce with green pepper for a dose of carbs, vit C and calories. The other 2 with a quinoa blend reserved for soft shell taco filler. The flavour, impeccable. The footprint in our packs, manageable. The weight, unnecessary.

In comparison to the freeze dried food we are also bringing it’s at least 5 times the weight, and much more fragile in regards to being crushed in storage. Every gram becomes ounces, ounces become pounds and pounds becoming exhausting. Because we’re going to be trudging through snow that will vary between 1-4 feet, we don’t want to make our snowshoes or our legs do anymore work than they’re already doing. We are learning that after a long day in the cold, the simplicity and cleanliness of just pouring hot water into a bag of freeze dried food is MUCH more appealing than babysitting a pot that will end up very dirty.

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To add to that, doing the dishes out in the back country doesn’t seem to get rid of the oil that’s left in the pot, meaning all melted snow that we use for drinking water will taste like dinner… Not exactly what you call refreshing when hydrating the next day for an alpine start.

These adventures will bring many more lessons I’m sure, but one thing I’m quickly discovering is that comfort goes a long way when your pushing your limits.


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Mentors Are Everywhere and They’re Extraordinary

We’ve been rallying the troops. Our first ascent is less than than 2 weeks away and right now there is nothing more valuable than the support and guidance of friends and mentors. We have had an outpouring of advice from our friends on social media and our community.

Recently we sat down with an amazing human being who decided to take a week off from being a Crossfit trainer and masseuse to trek for 7 days through the Winnipeg wilderness. Erin Mccutcheon, like us became sick of being curious ” I just wanted to see it” she stated matter of factly when I asked her wy she decided to venture into a vacation of discomfort and challenge. As she peeled back the layers of her trip, her feelings surrounding adventure, Canada and what she wants from life now that she has experienced something so defining; I couldn’t help but feel privileged to to have guidance and mentorship sitting right across the table from me. Omens are everywhere, its up to you to listen. This mindful way of approaching everyday life seems to be such a powerful value for mountaineering and appears to be how some of my heroes have earned so much success in their pursuits.

As our expeditions become increasingly challenging and require more mental and physical skill, it excites me to think of the caliber of humans that will enter our realm and offer their teachings to us. There is so much we don’t know, it’s like we have all these empty vessels I front of us, some have a tiny bit of knowledge, some have a good amount of experience, but there’s a lot of vessels with NOTHING and what a treat that is! One of my sailing heros Mike Sanderson gave me an amazing piece of advice in Newport before we raced to Bermuda that applies to alpinism as well “yacht racing is funny in the sense that talent is meaningless, you have to experience it to have any value to a team”. Each peak no matter how small will inevitably reward us with experience and character that will prepare us for whatever lesson the next ascent will offer us. We’re listening.


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Climbing With My Producer and New Friend at Joe Rockheads

Finding a climbing partner is probably just as daunting and organic as finding a life partner. There’s an element of love, trust and compatibility at-first-sight. When I approached Brian about climbing the tallest Canadian mountains, I was nervous, feared rejection but also knew it was a step in the right direction to my dreams. Through that experience I was introduced to his partner in love, business and soap, Andrea.

Today was a blessing in the sense that Brian was busy with one of his many great projects so Andrea and I harnessed up and spent some super quality time together playing at Joe Rockheads, our newest favourite hang out in Toronto. We took turns climbing and belaying each other while we talked about goals, adventure, life and everything in between. The bonus being that, with my girlfriend Krista studying and travelling overseas in India for 2 months, it was awesome to spend an afternoon with a cool woman to break up the abundance of “bro time” I seem to be getting lately!

Andrea is totally green to climbing and it’s so nurturing to be around. In some ways I get to go back to basics and learn from her and on the other hand I have some experience that I can share with her. Spending time with her really raised my confidence in the project and in her as the show’s Producer; her desire to really get a sense of the communities involved, the physical challenges, and her quest for constant improvement are going to be a huge asset to the team. I had to take a minute to reflect on my bike ride home; this whole quest to see the most remote parts of my country is at the same time forging some really important relationships that will surely contribute to my growth as much as the mountains will.


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