Calgarians to climb mountain peaks to highlight plight of 'stressed' bees

Two Calgarians hope to create a buzz around the plight of bees by bagging four mountain peaks in 24 hours — with the added of challenge of wearing beekeeper suits and carrying 40 kilograms of honey.

Pair will climb nearly 11,000 metres in a day to help spread their message

This is the outfit Spencer Madden will wear on Monday when he scrambles the four peaks of the Canmore Quad to raise funds and awareness about the declining bee population. (Spencer Madden/Eco Not Ego International)

Two Calgarians hope to create a buzz around the plight of bees by bagging four mountain peaks in a day — with the added of challenge of wearing beekeeper suits and carrying 40 kilograms of honey.

Spencer Madden, co-founder of Eco Not Ego Internationalsays the goal of their "crazy outdoor challenge" is simple: to save the bees, he told the Calgary Eyeopener on Friday.

Madden and his business partner, Josie Ganos, started the Bee Aware AB campaignto raise funds and increase awareness about the threat to honey and wild bees around the world. 

Beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Ganos and Madden will begin their ambitious quest to complete what is known as the Canmore Quad.

The quartet of peaks they'll climb over 24 hours includes Grotto Mountain, Lady McDonald, the east end of Rundle peak and the Ha Ling peak. There's a total elevation gain of about 11,000 metres.

The route Spencer Madden and Josie Ganos will take in their 24-hour quest to scramble the four peak of the Canmore Quad. (@canmoremd,

"The purpose is to simulate some of the conditions bees are under and stresses that they are receiving in this current environment," says Madden. 

Though the weather looks favourable, the trek is not without some dangers — especially while wearing the unorthodox gear. Madden says they'll remove their beekeeper head coverings as they cross the "knife's edge," a narrow spine along Lady McDonald peak. It's a deadly drop of about 700 metres on the north side and a chute of about 1,000 metres of nasty terrain on the south side.

The pair hopes to raise $2,000 and all the proceeds will go to free educational programs for school children and giving people the chance to  interact with bees at Madden's apiaries.

Negative synergies for bees

Madden's fascination with bees began in childhood, but after learning more about their rapidly declining numbers he was moved to do something.

"There's just something about those fuzzy little creatures that warms my heart, and as you get older you realize the reality is that they are under stresses, and it just snowballed from there."

The aim of Eco Not Ego International's Double Bee project is to help double the bee population to pre-industrial levels, according to its website. (Eco Not Ego International)

Many scientists have speculated on the reasons for the decline in bees, says Madden.

"Some of the biggest factors are pesticide and herbicide use, which affects the bee's ability to find their way back to the hives."

Other theories include climate changes, as well as the way agricultural industry works with the need for high yield and turnover, plus the clear-cutting of trees.  

"All these things create a horrible synergy for the bees and have really made their populations take a nosedive."

Einstein's words of warning

"The day the last bee dies, humanity has about four years to live," said Madden quoting Enstein's ominous words. 

"One third of our food supply is pollinated by bees and imagine going into your grocery store ...  and there's just no food if the bee population is allowed to continue to collapse."

Josie Ganos sits amid her bee hives. She'll join Madden on the 24-hour, four-peak trek on Monday. (Eco Not Ego International)

Madden is the proud owner of apiaries, but he's quick to point out that "(the bees) own you."

But it's helped him understand how bee colonies work and that people could take some lessons from the fuzzy insects.

"You can  draw a lot of parallels with how society and how we could be working as well, harmonizing and everyone having a role in trying to do something for the better."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener