To the top and beyond

Nancy Kelly
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Local climber reaches summit No. 4

TA Loeffler is over halfway to her goal - and it's a lofty one. Loeffler hopes to reach the top of seven summits - the highest peak on each continent - by next spring, and she's just home from climbing No. 4. Mount Elbrus is the tallest peak in Europe, located on the border of Russia and Georgia. It's a huge, long-dormant volcano - so big, it generates its own weather, which means Loeffler and her team had a tough climb.

"When we summitted on July 13th, the weather was just beginning to turn," she said.

"It was very windy, and when we got to the top, we couldn't see a thing. It was blowing and grey. We could have been almost anywhere in the world except for the summit marker to let us know we had made it."

TA Loeffler is just home from climbing Mount Elbrus the tallest peak in Europe. Photo courtesy of TA Loeffler

TA Loeffler is over halfway to her goal - and it's a lofty one. Loeffler hopes to reach the top of seven summits - the highest peak on each continent - by next spring, and she's just home from climbing No. 4. Mount Elbrus is the tallest peak in Europe, located on the border of Russia and Georgia. It's a huge, long-dormant volcano - so big, it generates its own weather, which means Loeffler and her team had a tough climb.

"When we summitted on July 13th, the weather was just beginning to turn," she said.

"It was very windy, and when we got to the top, we couldn't see a thing. It was blowing and grey. We could have been almost anywhere in the world except for the summit marker to let us know we had made it."

Of her three weeks on the mountain, around 11 days were spent climbing, but the preparation itself took five months. To add to her challenge, she'd suffered a high-ankle sprain in a hockey game in March.

"Just like Sidney Crosby," she quipped.

"I was quite nervous going into the climb," she admitted. "I knew I hadn't been able to train nearly as hard as I usually do. I wasn't able to run a step before I left, but I was able to hike and do some elevation training, treadmill, weights, things like that."

She was pleased that she could still handle the rigours of the climb.

"We don't often see how strong we are until we are on the mountain."

Loeffler said she gets a rush of adrenaline when she summits a peak, as well as a sense of magic. She said it doesn't matter how high the mountain is, even if it's Signal Hill - it just feels great to know she has reached the top and can climb no higher.

This climb was especially poignant for two reasons. First, it was her second attempt at Mount Elbrus. She had to abandon her first try in 2006 within 150 metres of the summit because of bad weather.

Second, she dedicated the climb to her father, who is battling prostate cancer.

When he found out that his daughter was dedicating the climb to him, he cried, surprising even Loeffler's mother, who said he never sheds a tear.

"To go to the top and honour him in that way was wonderful," Loeffler told The Telegram.

Mount Elbrus has a huge traverse running through it, meaning hikers have to climb in one direction for hours. Loeffler said her lower leg burned during this section.

"At one point I questioned if my leg was going to hang in, and I thought, you know, my dad's been through so much, I bet he had that sense of burning in his veins from the chemotherapy. If he could do it, I can do it."

Loeffler said the most rewarding part of the path she's chosen is having folks follow her progress. She said she draws a lot of strength from having a community that follows behind and climbs with her in spirit.

Her next three summits will be Kosciuszko in Australia, Vinson Massif in Antarctica and Mount Everest in Asia.

telegram@thetelegram.com

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Europe, Russia, Georgia Signal Hill Australia Antarctica Mount Everest Asia

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