A Lethbridge man is setting off at the end of March to climb Mount Everest in a highly personal bid to put a stop to family violence in his community.
"As a young boy growing up in my home, there was a lot of domestic violence. And I witnessed so much of it, that I became terrified," said Trevor Stuart.
"It ended when I basically got away — finally."
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Now, the 45-year-old realtor is confronting another great fear — heights — as he uses mountain climbing as a metaphor for conquering domestic violence.
Stuart covers his own expenses for his climbing trips so that all the money he collects through his online pledge drive goes to Harbour House, the YWCA's emergency shelter in Lethbridge.
"Harbour House houses women and children that are fleeing domestic violence... It gets them counselling, it gets them back on their feet," he said.
Last year, Harbour House took in 535 clients — 308 women and 227 children. But another 376 women with 842 children had to be turned away because all the beds were full.
'Real wild ride'
Since taking up mountain climbing to raise money and awareness for family violence, Stuart has raised almost $18,000 for Harbour House, he said.
"I've taken on six big peaks in the world for the YWCA, and this is my finale, Everest. And this is going to be a real wild ride," he said.
In the span of about one year, Stuart transformed himself from a novice climber into a mountaineer who has summited some of the world's most challenging peaks.
"Basically I just had to throw myself at it, wholeheartedly," he said.
"I've had to learn how to climb at the climbing wall, I had to learn how to put a harness on, I had to learn how to attach a rope to a harness properly, I had to take ice-climbing lessons, and glacier safety, and self-arresting on slopes."
Rather than hire a guiding company to help him get up Everest, Stuart is going with just two Sherpas. The team plans to climb the north face, which borders China, partly to avoid the congestion on the more popular south route.
"So we're pretty much going the non-traditional way," he said, adding that the north route is steeper, colder and more exposed.
Stuart said he plans to get to the top by May 22, with May 28 as his cut-off date, when the it starts to get rainy and the snow starts to get more unstable.
"No one has summited Everest for the last two years, so there's a big push on for people going there."