Edmonton adventurer tackles world's tallest peaks

Chris Dare will, quite literally, travel to ends of the earth to achieve his dream of scaling the world’s tallest mountains.
On his most recent expedition in July 2013, Chris Dare reached the summit of the Carstensz Pyramid, the highest point in Oceania at 4,884 metres. (Dare Seven Summits )

Chris Dare will, quite literally, travel to ends of the earth to achieve his dream of scaling the world's tallest mountains.

Dare will brave white-out conditions, blistering cold and vertigo-inducing climbs as he scales the glacial surface of Mount Vinson, the tallest mountain in the Antarctic. 

But this Edmonton adventurer is no stranger to suffering.

Dare has now scaled the tallest peaks on five of the seven continents, including Mount Elbrus in Russia in 2010, and the Carstensz Pyramid of ​Indonesia in 2013.

"Whenever you do these mountains, there's always inherent risks," Dare said during an interview with CBC Edmonton's Radio Active.

"I've almost fallen off a cliff before  … I've had some rough slides. I've experienced severe frostbite, where I couldn't feel my hands for a couple weeks. That's kind of disconcerting.

"But I'm here today and I'm willing to take on that risk and do what I can to motivate others."

'I really wanted to elevate myself'

Dare's obsession with adventure began six years ago, as he sat his bunk on a military base in Afghanistan.

Ten months into a Canadian Forces deployment, he took some time away from the stress of service to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's tallest mountain.

"That was great experience, but when I came back I was thinking about life and having a big contemplation about everything because in Afghanistan it was really tough. There was a lot of tragedy going on — a lot of sadness and sorrow."

"And I just decided that I really wanted to elevate myself and become an inspiration for others. And that was to climb the highest mountains on each continent."

And so Dare's personal mission, Dare Seven Summits, was born.  It`s a dream that fewer than 10 Canadians and 300 worldwide have achieved but he's made staggering progress.

After Vinson,  the only challenge left is Everest, which he plans to summit in 2016 after finishing dental school. That would make for seven peaks in less than seven years.

Pushing past the pain 

His most difficult climb to date was Mount Denali which towers 6,168 metres over the Alaskan tundra.. During that climb, he endured a sleepless 36-hour ascent with two strangers he found on the Internet.

Dare believes he'll face similar hardships on his December expedition in the Antarctic.

"It's very similar, because you're on snow and ice and you have the same challenges. You have deep crevasses — which are deep fissures and pits in the ice — which you can fall into," Dare said.

"You have to trust your teammates because you're roped together and have to depend on each other for safety, really, and the weather is the same, negative 40 degree temperatures and white-out conditions."

Dare says he relies on his military training to get past the pain.

"The military taught me a lot about that. You get to know what it's like to deal with people in close environments very intimately. How to separate yourself when you get frustrated, and how to stay mentally strong when you're feeling  weak."

'You're wanting to give up at every step.'

"That really helps with these climbs because half of it is mental, and the other half is physical, because for sure, you're wanting to give up at every step."

In preparation for  Mount Vinson, Dare has been working out daily, weightlifting and running with a gas mask to prepare for the high altitudes. He's also taken out a personal loan to pay for the $60,000 expedition to the South Pole. 

"I believe that there's never really a good time for anything so you might as well just get out there and don't put your mind to it, and figure everything else out after."

In spite of his frostbitten fingers, a few brushes with death and a big dent in his bank account, Dare says the lure of the summit is stronger than all of that.

"Oh wow. It's hard to explain.You've been with the same guys for three weeks, and to finally reach that summit, you just kind of look around and there's just hugs and  smiles everywhere, " Dare said. 

"You've all suffered to get to that point — counting your breaths, counting your steps — and to be able to get there and look around at all those other mountain peaks in that area and realize you're above them all, it's just amazing.

"It makes everything totally worth it."

Dare scaled the summit of Aconcagua in South America in December 2012. (Dare Seven Summits )


Wallis Snowdon is a journalist with CBC Edmonton focused on bringing stories to the website and the airwaves. She loves helping people tell their stories on issues ranging from health care to the courts. Originally from New Brunswick, Wallis has reported in communities across Canada, from Halifax to Fort McMurray. She previously worked as a digital and current affairs producer with CBC Radio in Edmonton. Wallis has a bachelor of journalism (honours) from the University of King's College in Halifax, N.S. Share your stories with Wallis at wallis.snowdon@cbc.ca.