When TA Loeffler was three years old she woke up before her parents, made herself a butter and sugar sandwich and set out to explore the world. She was found four kilometres from home.
That curiosity and wanderlust has taken the university professor to far away lands and most recently landed her on the list of Canada’s greatest modern female explorers as collected by Canadian Geographic.
“I just stood there stunned,” Loeffler says when she first saw the list.
The women explorers were highlighted from a bigger list of 100 explorers of both genders published before Christmas that Loeffler was on. She generally refers to herself as an adventurer but it’s the spirit of the great explorers that burns in her.
“Exploration is a state of mind. It’s a way of being in the world,” she says.
“Sometimes I think we think everything about the world has been explored so there isn’t any exploration left but I think there’s plenty.”
Loeffler has spent a lifetime exploring the globe. She’s stood atop six of the world’s seven highest peaks. Only Everest — the highest of all — remains on her list. This past Christmas she and her partner hiked nine volcanoes in El
Salvador. Most of her accomplishments, of course, have been previously conquered by others.
“It definitely refers to some of the things I’ve done more specifically than others,” she says of the title of “explorer.”
The greatest example of a new exploration that she’s done she says was in 2012 when she helped open a new route along a piece of Greenland that hadn’t been skied before.
“That was pretty amazing and moving for me to know that I was skiing where no one had ever skied before and seeing views from the ground that no one had seen.”
She and her group were using air photographs to navigate that were 40 years old and taken during a different season.
“Our map said things could be displaced by up to six nautical miles, which is basically almost a day’s ski for us,” says Loeffler.
“That was in some ways a different kind of quality then let’s say climbing a mountain where it’s been climbed before.”
But regardless if she’s taking on a trail that has been walked thousands of times by others before, it’s that sense of wonder that keeps Loeffler globetrotting. Exploring is not always about breaking new ground for humanity but breaking new ground for oneself. As a child in Alberta she says her family would go to the library every Thursday.
“I remember just going up and down the stacks and finding whatever calls to that sense of curiosity in exploration.”
When she speaks to elementary school children she encourages them to explore their own backyard. If they’re hooked they’ll take those steps out of their yard and down the street and then further down that forever road.
“I've spoken to approximately 85,000 students (here) about exploring, adventuring, the importance of curiosity, etc .. .so I think being named to the list of 100 modern explorers represents both my exploration accomplishments as well as my community engagement with those accomplishments,” says Loeffler.
She has done plenty of exploring in this province, as well, having run such remote rivers as the Notakwanon and Kanairito in Labrador. This summer she’s headed to northern Labrador to sea kayak to two coastal mountains that will then be scaled.
“In many ways we are standing on the shoulders of the explorers that went before us,” says Loeffler.
This spring she’ll take her third run at Mount Everest.