I have two missions with my climbing expeditions: to inspire myself to climb to new heights (figuratively, metaphorically, and literally) and to inspire others to do the same. Especially kids. Young ones. Students. Children. Young humans. Or as my friend Al S. says young hu-per-children (the genderless version of human)…or heck really, anyone who wants to be inspired. Since I started this climbing mission a decade ago, I have made over 100 school visits and have presented my message of Big Dreams, Big Goals to over 70,000 youth. It’s been so gratifying and enriching to visit so many schools, teachers, and students and of course, the students inspire me right back with their enthusiasm, their questions, and their cards/greeting cards.
Last week, I visited one of my favourite schools, Bishop Abraham Elementary, to talk about my climb on Ama Dablam. I had already visited the Grade Four classes there in the fall as part of their Grade Four Social Studies curriculum in which they learn all about explorers and exploring.
One of the classes was able to follow along very closely on the climb and sent in many questions via text to my satellite phone. After calling in an update one day about a yak who got into some trouble by raiding the barrels outside the kitchen tent, the Grade Four students named it, “Pringles,” after our favourite base camp snack.
Because of a one-off circumstance, I was allowed to fly three bags home from Nepal. I decided to bring back some special gifts for the Grade Fours at Bishop Abraham. I chose to bring katas (ceremonial blessing scarf that we receive as part of our climbing puja) for the one class and yak wool hats for the other. I thought since winter would soon be coming on it would be great to provide a practical gift that also had a connection to the expedition. After I showed pictures and told stories from the climb, I presented each student with a hat or scarf (teachers too!).
The students presented me with three gifts at the end of our time together. One gift bag had two canisters of Pringles and the other had a monogrammed towel for me to enjoy when I finally get to shower after a climb. They also delivered mountains of thanks.
I know on the hard training days or on the days where I feel overwhelmed by all the tasks I have to manage, I’ll pull out these mountains and remember why it is I do this climbing thing…remembering always to have my expeditions be more than than mountains… more than just standing on a certain piece of topography…
When I got back from my speaking engagement this weekend in Kingston, I received a note from the teacher of the “hat class” and I can’t get the smile off my face.