Victoria pair organize 12 hour charity hike for July 16
Be it in snow, the dark of night or soaked in rain, on any given day Andy Hughes can be found hiking the steep and scenic slopes of Mount Finlayson.
The hike is his passion – or obsession. Day in and day out without fail, Hughes tromps through the Goldstream park forest and ascends 419 metres over a tough 1.5 kilometres of trail and rock face.
On July 7 it was his 130th day in a row, summing to 228 hikes so far this year. By the time you read this, he’ll have hiked up and down the mountain at least a few more times.
“Crazy is the word for it,” he says joking. “Sometimes it’s two or three times in a day. I think it will be 400 times by the end of the year.
“If is rainy or snowing or whatever, I’ll just go. I’ve gone quite a few times in the dark using a headlamp. If it’s raining or snowing, it takes longer, but you just take extra care.”
During all that time hiking, Hughes started pondering how many times he could make it up and down in one day, and if other obsessive hikers would take on the challenge too.
That quickly morphed into Mount Finlayson Madness, a 12 hour hike for charity – and bragging rights – that will test the legs and lungs of the sturdiest adventurer.
On the honour system, the event challenges people to seek pledges for each roundtrip hike between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on July 16, or to donate a flat amount to be part of the “madness.” Fundraised cash will be split between B.C. Children’s Hospital, the Mustard Seed food bank and the Goldstream Park Enhancement Fund, and if all goes well, the hike will become an annual event.
“Most people are going to do a hike or two,” noted Lisa Odgaard, Mount Finlayson Madness co-organizer and occasional hiker of Mount Finlayson. “People certainly don’t have to go from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. People can come and go as they want.”
Hughes hatched the idea in October and was handed his permit from B.C. Parks last Thursday. As first time organizers of a public event, it took months for Odgaard and Hughes to cobble together a safety and logistics plan to manage 50 to 100 people. Traffic management is a concern, but the trail can hold a lot of hikers, Hughes said.
“There are a few places that narrow, but I’ve been up there with 100 people on the mountain and it’s never been a problem.”
Event volunteers will be stationed at the summit and a base camp and two checkpoints in-between. A number of roving volunteer hikers will keep an eye out for injuries. “The roving hiker component is important, especially with the rocky climb at the top,” Odgaard says.
Hughes, an Englishman who grew up in Wales and moved to Canada in 2004, began his daily hiking odyssey in April 2010. A tough slog at first, the Esquimalt resident and IT professional was determined to shed weight and to get fit before his 40th birthday, which he hit on June 27. It didn’t take long before he dropped 50 pounds and wore through three pairs of hiking boots.
“This guy will go every day after work, but if he’s busy, he’ll get up at 5:30 a.m. to have a hike before work,” Odgaard remarked. “He is crazy.”
During his first few ascents, he stopped often to catch his breath or to take in the view, but these days he is part of a rarefied community of athletes who hike and run the mountain each day, without stopping.
Hughes’s average time to the top is a little more than half an hour – his best time is 28 minutes 28 seconds.
“It was hard to keep going at first. The first time was sheer bloody mindedness,” Hughes says. “The first time it took me 65 minutes to get to the top, but I was determined to get fit. I knew Finlayson was a place I’d keep coming back to. Then after while I just started enjoying it.”
Mount Finlayson Madness is on July 16, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Goldstream Provincial Park. The hike follows the marked trail up the mountain.
Sign up and find a liability waiver at www.finhike.org, or sign up on event day. Volunteer help is also needed and information is on www.finhike.org. On Facebook, search “Mt. Finlayson Madness Charity Hike.”