A Calgary man with a thirst for adventure is preparing for yet another epic expedition, this time to Antarctica, and all alone.
If Laval St. Germain can complete his planned climb up Mount Vinson, he’ll have reached the summit on the tallest peak on each continent in the world, he says.
He made it to the top of Mount Everest — and to his knowledge, as the only Canadian to do so without oxygen support. He’s also paddled across the Atlantic Ocean, in part as a testament to his son, who died in a canoeing accident in northern Canada.
This months-long solo journey will be different, he told the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday.
“I’ve always done these trips and it’s been a bit selfish. I come back with great stories, I come back with scars, and I come back with great video and photos,” said St. Germain, who’s a pilot by trade.
“But I didn’t give back. I didn’t think I was giving back to anybody and making a difference.”
He’s trying to raise money for the Alberta Cancer Foundation in honour of close family members, friends and colleagues who’ve either died from or been diagnosed with the illness. He tried to raise $200,000 for the charity during his 2016 Halifax-Europe ocean paddle but came up short.
“I like to say I reached my goal of France but I failed miserably at my goal of raising money for cancer,” St. Germain said. “I only raised $60,000, so I’m calling this trip ‘unfinished business.'”
This trip will involve pulling about 110 kilograms of gear on a sled over rough ice and terrain for roughly 1,300 kilometres during an expected 45 days — before climbing the mountain’s 4,852-metre peak.
He’ll start in November, when it’s technically “summer” in Antarctica, meaning temperatures may reach a warm –28 C. Typically, he said, he’ll see –45 C.
“And it’s one of the windiest places on Earth. So you combine that with the windchill, it’ll be cold,” St. Germain said.
Antarctica is quite different from the landscape of the north, with which many Canadians are familiar, he pointed out. The climate of the Arctic is moderated by the ocean — “unfortunately, not frozen all the time nowadays,” while much of Antarctica sits well above sea level on land and ice. That makes the southern climate very cold and dry, he said.
He also plans to do the journey completely alone and will bring all the food he’ll need. There will be a Calgary company he can call should he need rescue, he said, but he expects to make it the whole way regardless.
Until he takes off in November, he’ll be physically preparing.
“You’ve got to have good cardiovascular fitness but as well you have to have the musculature to pull a heavy, heavy sled like that,” he said. “It’s something I do all year round. I stay in shape.”
The journey is part of St. Germain’s goal to complete the so-called explorers’ grand slam, which means completing all seven of the highest mountain peaks on each continent, as well as full-length expeditions to both the North and South Poles.
When he returns from the Antarctica trip, St. Germain plans to spend time with his 16-year-old son, Eric, his one child who still lives at home. He also expects that in his post-trip time, he may end up pursuing yet another adventure.
“There’s a list of wild places in the world — wild, empty, tough places — that I want to go to, so it’s never-ending.”
Hear more about St. Germain’s plans to hike Antarctica:
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.
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Sherwood Park is a large hamlet in Alberta, Canada within Strathcona County that is recognized as an urban service area. It is located adjacent to the City of Edmonton’s eastern boundary, generally south of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Trail), west of Highway 21 and north of Highway 630 (Wye Road). Other portions of Sherwood Park extend beyond Yellowhead Trail and Wye Road, while Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) separates Refinery Row to the west from the balance of the hamlet to the east.
Sherwood Park was established in 1955 on farmland of the Smeltzer family, east of Edmonton. With a population of 70,618 in 2016, Sherwood Park has enough people to be Alberta’s seventh largest city, but technically retains the status of a hamlet. The Government of Alberta recognizes the Sherwood Park Urban Service Area as equivalent to a city.
Sherwood Park, originally named Campbelltown, was founded by John Hook Campbell and John Mitchell in 1953 when the Municipal District of Strathcona No. 83 approved their proposed development of a bedroom community east of Edmonton. The first homes within the community were marketed to the public in 1955. Canada Post intervened on the name of Campbelltown due to the existence of several other communities in Canada within the same name, so the community’s name was changed to Sherwood Park in 1956.
The Sherwood Park Urban Service Area is located in the Edmonton Capital Region along the western edge of central Strathcona County adjacent to the City of Edmonton. The majority of the community is bound by Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) to the north, Highway 21 to the east, Highway 630 (Wye Road) to the south, and Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) to the west. The Refinery Row portion of Sherwood Park is located across Anthony Henday Drive to the west, between Sherwood Park Freeway and Highway 16. Numerous developments fronting the south side of Wye Road, including Wye Gardens, Wye Crossing, Salisbury Village and the Estates of Sherwood Park, are also within the community. Lands north of Highway 16 and south of Township Road 534/Oldman Creek between Range Road 232 (Sherwood Drive) to the west and Highway 21 to the east are also within the Sherwood Park urban service area.