Towering over the Alaska Range at 6,190 metres above sea level is North America’s highest peak, Mount Denali.
Patrick Swadden didn’t get the satisfaction of a view, but he did get to tower – the 31-year-old Elphinstone Secondary School graduate climbed the equivalent distance in the stairwell of his high-rise apartment building March 20 to raise money for Partners in Health Canada as they respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
“I’m not going to lie, it was an incredibly difficult day,” Swadden told Coast Reporter.
The athlete, who competed at the provincial cross country championships while at Elphinstone Secondary and who has since run seven marathons, called the climb the hardest athletic challenge of his life. “Towards the end, I had to take a lot more breaks,” he said. “I really started to doubt whether I would actually finish.”
He did finish, climbing 42 storeys 55 times from approximately 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Virtual supporters used social media to root him on through the gruelling challenge.
They also challenged him to sing while doing it.
Residents may have heard renditions of Magical Mr. Mistoffelees from the musical Cats and Baby Got Back by rapper Sir Mix-a-lot wafting through the stairway that day. “I am an absolutely awful singer and probably the whitest person you know so me rapping probably doesn’t sound great at all,” said Swadden, “[but] if it’s for charity, I’m willing to debase myself.”
The idea to climb the equivalent height of Mount Denali came during COVID-19 disruptions to Swadden’s journalism graduate program at Ryerson University. He knew people wanted to contribute, and the athlete was also looking for a safe place to exercise. “The original idea was to do Everest in a weekend,” he said, but he settled on the more achievable goal of Mount Denali, equalling 69,878 steps. He chose his apartment building’s stairwell because most people use the elevator.
After completing the challenge, Swadden made the obligatory victory lap – wiping all railings and surfaces with disinfectant.
While the 20-hour climb is a feat, Swadden will need to make another attempt if he wants to break a record – in 2019, Ecuadorian-Swiss climber Karl Egloff summited and descended the real peak in 11 hours and 44 minutes.
But the greater goal was reached. As of March 24, supporters have donated $3,860. Partners in Health is using the funds to produce COVID-19 rapid testing kits, which cost $7 each.
Swadden said he was “blown away” by the donations. “Partners in Health Canada, they’re extraordinary human beings, they’re doing a lot of great work, and I know that all the contributions people have made are going to very positively affect the work they’re able to do.”
Partners in Health are still accepting donations through Swadden’s Canada Helps Page: bit.ly/3aau7h5