Please Enter a Search Term

News Releases

REF NO.: 362

SUBJECT: Memorial professor successfully climbs North America’s highest mountain
DATE: July 8, 2005

A Memorial University professor is back in Newfoundlandafter reaching the summit of North American’s highest mountain – a feat accomplished by only a select few climbers in the world. Dr. T.A. Loeffler, an associate professor in the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, reached the peak of Mount McKinley in Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve on June 26, 2005.

McKinley is 20,320 feet (6,194 metres) above sea level and has a vertical rise greater than Mount Everest, making it the steepest mountain in the world. “To put that into perspective, it’s equivalent in height to about 40 Signal Hills stacked on top of one another,” says Dr. Loeffler. Signal Hill is roughly 530 feet above sea level.

Dr. Loeffler was part of an 11-member team which took part in the 32-day expedition, which began June 1. Three instructors from the US-based organization the National Outdoor Leadership School led them up the mountain. “Standing on the summit was very emotional. I probably could have sobbed up there for hours if I wasn’t worried about contacting frostbite from the tears and if I could have caught my breath enough to cry,” says Dr. Loeffler, an avid outdoor adventurer and filmmaker who has climbed peaks in the Himalayas, Mexico and the Canadian Rockies.

Only 50 per cent of the roughly 1,200 mountaineers who will attempt to scale Mount McKinley this year will actually reach the highest summit.

That’s because of the harsh climate conditions in that part of the world. Mount McKinley is considered by experts to be the coldest mountain in the world. Temperatures dipped from 30 celsius at some points during the day to minus 36 celsius at night and frigid winds whipped up snow to create blinding conditions. “The terrain is also so steep in places that if you fell it would catastrophic,” says Dr. Loeffler. “There is no room for error when you are traversing certain areas. You have to watch for falling ice or rocks.”

Dr. Loeffler joined the expedition after visiting Alaskalast year and seeing the huge mountain for the first time. “I wanted to challenge myself both physically and mentally,” she says. “Denali looked impossible when I first saw her. I’ve always wanted to be an athlete and train hard for something. I would have loved to be an Olympian if I’d had the talent. Instead, Denali is my Olympics because I do have mountaineering talent; because I wanted to see what happens when I push myself to and beyond all of my preconceived limits.”

Dr. Loeffler began training for the arduous trip last August, following an intense physical and mental program. She worked out 20-25 hours per week, completing strength and cardio exercises, yoga and step aerobics with a “60-pound backpack that was at least half my weight.”

Dr. Loeffler says her team only stopped and rested five days during the 32-day adventure.

Despite the hard work, she says the trip was more exhilarating than exhausting. “One morning we were up at 2 a.m. because we needed to move our gear. The sun was rising at that point, because at this time of the year in Alaskait never gets dark. It was just magical. It was crisp and clear. We were up so high. I was amazed with the scenery.”

Dr. Loeffler says her immediate plans include returning to teaching but admits it won’t be long before she tackles another adventure. “Maybe scaling Mount Everestor mountains in South America or circumnavigating the province in a sea kayak,” she says with a wide smile. “Getting to the peak of Denali was just an amazing experience and I’ll never forget it. For now I’m just coming down off the high – literally!”

Dr. Loeffler’s trip cost $10,000. She received some sponsorship from AppleCore Interactive of St. John’s.

- 30 -