Former Brandonite Heff Doiron, seen here climbing Mount Temple recently, plans to climb 54 of the highest peaks in the Canadian Rockies over the next five years.
Over the next five years, a former Brandonite has high hopes of standing atop all of the highest peaks of Canadian Rockies.
Heff Doiron, 28, has already taken the first steps to reaching 54 of the highest peaks in the Rockies, ranging in height from 11,000 feet to almost 13,000 feet.
For those keeping count, the total climbing distance is almost the same between Brandon and Winnipeg — Only vertical. On snow and ice. With a bag sometimes as heavy as 50 pounds strapped to their backs.
Since Aug. 14, Doiron and his friend Jon Goulet of Alberta have already climbed to the top of five of the so-called "11,000ers": Mount Edith Cavell (11,033 feet), Mount Temple (11,624 feet), Mount Woolley (11,171 feet), Diadem Peak (11,060 feet) and Mount Snow Dome (11, 322 feet).
In coming weeks, the pair have Mount Fryatt in their sights, standing at a daunting 11,027 feet.
While many have stood atop all of the over-11,000-feet peaks, no duo has ever completed them all together.
"We’re aiming to do it in five years, but that’s a side goal, whether or not we achieve that, it relies heavily on mountain conditions and the weather," Doiron said from his home in Jasper, who left Brandon at age 19.
The avid skier and snowboarder from the Prairie plains of Brandon said he has always been drawn to Canada’s mountains. It was only two years ago when he got his first taste of climbing through a Jasper adventure club and ever since, he has been addicted.
However, due to a recent accident, that addiction was left unfulfilled for months leading up to the decision to take on this uphill battle.
During a January hockey game, Doiron slid skate-first into the boards, smashing his left tibia and fibula after he caught an edge. As a result, seven screws and a plate were put into his leg and he was confined to a wheelchair and couldn’t walk for almost four months.
"I had to relearn how to walk, it was gnarly," he said with a chuckle now. "I’m still dealing with the stiffness. In the mornings, my left leg is seized up and I have to work it out before I can do anything.
"This whole thing has been about overcoming adversity and being focused and having a goal."
Avalanches, whiteouts, bears and mosquitoes are some of mountain’s keepers, though Doiron said fighting flared tempers between him and his climbing partner can be just as detrimental to reaching their goal.
"It’s not always sunshine and lollipops, you’re not holding hands and skipping together," he said. "But that’s just something to have to overcome and mentally prepare for, because at the end of the day, the goal is much larger than a simple little fight or disagreement."
And like so many other climbers, the answer to why he loves climbing so much is a familiar one.
"The feeling when you get to the top is amazing. The sense of accomplishment about what you just achieved," he said.
But its fleeting feeling because the top is only the halfway point. They have to get back down to the car, which he said is when many inexperienced climbers let their guard down.
"A lot of mountaineering accidents happen on the decent, a lot of people are tired, you might start to get nonchalant and that’s when they get hurt."
The tallest peak in the Rockies, Mount Robson, reigning over the region at 12,247 feet, has a very low first-attempt success rate according to Doiron, and even the most hardened of adventurers take as many as five times to reach the top.
"A lot of it is mental. You’re moving for 12-, 14-, 15-hour days, with heavy packs in some not-so-pleasant situations and whiteouts is a big concern if you’re on the ice fields," he said. "You have to shut your mind off as much as you can, your body aches everywhere. You just got to keep moving. If you take a break, that’s when you start to seize up."
Doiron and Goulet have been documenting the beginning of their years-long journey with plenty of videos and photos, which have already been used at a Kamloops elementary school to teach goal-setting in the classroom.
"I just want to promote climbing and mountaineering, and promote the Canadian Rockies and their beauty."
Their Facebook page, "11000ers: 54 Peaks to seek" has regular updates on their journey.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 9, 2013