Dr. Rod Leighton provided inspiration for 80 competitors in the Extreme Everest Challenge on Hudson Bay Mountain last weekend.
The challenge has morphed from an event that originally saw competitors ride the Skyline chairlift up the hill and ski down 18 times, roughly the vertical equivalent of Mt. Everest.
In 2010, Dr. Leighton approached Valhalla Pure Outfitter’s owner Dave Walter to see if he wanted to organize something more challenging, skinning up the ski hill and skiing down 18 times, achieving the vertical distance of 8,848 metres.
Dr. Leighton expected it would take him about 24 hours.
“No only did he do it, he rode his bike from where he lived at Lake Kathlyn to the bottom of the ski out, skinned up the ski out, did 18 runs, had a beer with everybody up on the hill, skiied back to town to his bike and pedalled home,” Walter remembered in awe.
That summer, Dr. Leighton was seriously injured in a mountain bike accident in Whistler.
Technically a quadripelegic, he’s made incredible strides in his recovery over the last few years and on Saturday, Dr. Leighton skinned up the course and skiied down Ptarmigan, in about four hours.
“He’s exceeding everybody’s expectations,” Walter said.
“There was a huge buzz about what he was doing.
“It was overwhelming how much admiration everyone has for him.”
The action was not limited to what was taking place on the slopes of Hudson Bay Mountain.
A party atmosphere, that lasted throughout the night, was created near the start line, with music, a bonfire and food and beverage sales.
“It was a super cool vibe,” Walter said.
“We had people who weren’t even participating come up the hill to hang out.”
This year’s challenge featured teams of two, three and eight solo entries.
Last year, Lisa Perry was the lone solo participant but this time around, Dr. Leighton, Justin Bain, Natalie Sawyer, Eric Dufresne, Al Gamble, Ross Mailoux, Julian Stoddart and Corey Biagi all competed alone.
While finish times were not the focus, various awards were handed out after the event was over, from Best Dance Moves to Best Costume to Best Attitude.
Eric Dufresne was crowned King of the Mountain and the two-woman team of Laura Bakermans and Katie Von Gaza were named Women of the Mountain.
“There are bragging rights involved but it’s not a race, it’s not a competition, it’s a challenge,” Walter said.
All money raised during the Extreme Everest Challenge is being donated to the Rick Hansen Foundation and the Live it! Love it! Foundation.
Fundraising totals were not available at press time.