Coasters launch ‘Soames 2 Everest Challenge’

For some, the stairway climb up Soames Hill presents a rewarding opportunity to soak in views of Gibsons’ harbour with minimal exertion. Since June 1, one group has transformed the hike into a gruelling exercise – they’re attempting to make a mountain out of Soames Hill.

About 20 people have been climbing the hill in laps to raise money for a scholarship for School District No. 46 students who have overcome significant adversity to graduate.

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The idea sprouted from what’s called the “Everest Challenge” – which involves people finding local ways to scale the height of Mount Everest in an attempt to raise awareness or money, or to put a dent in the COVID-19 pounds many have gained over months of social distancing and isolation.

On the Sunshine Coast, a group of friends were motivated by long-time rugby and soccer coach Dave Nanson, who is undergoing rehabilitation after suffering from a serious head injury. “I was inspired by his grit, determination, and resiliency. Dave’s resolve to get better drove me to action,” said Mark Sauer, principal of Chatelech Secondary School, who launched the challenge.

According to Sauer, Soames Hill is 123 metres from the post on the water side of the hill. Everest stands at 8,840 metres from sea level. To climb the equivalent, participants would have to summit Soames 72 times.

After Sauer and his wife Dana took up the challenge, they put the word out to a group of their most “twisted, competitive friends on Facebook,” Sauer said.

The group coined the name “Soames 2 Everest Challenge” and took up the challenge of reaching 8,840 metres in the month of June. Others have committed to achieving the Everest equivalent, but in their own time.

“That is the beauty of this challenge – it is a personal and different journey for everyone,” Sauer said.

Over discussions on social media, the idea of donating money to build a scholarship fund began to emerge. The idea was to take the financial pressure off students who “have had to climb their own Everest,” as one participant put it.

Sauer said the donations began to really take off after Sarah Mani, a teacher and “leadership guru” shared the group’s goal publicly on social media. Mani has been summiting between three and four times a day. “We are climbing for those who have their Everest in front of them, and choose to hit it head on,” said Mani in a Facebook post soliciting pledges.

The goal is to raise “as much as we can,” said Sauer. The combination of SD46 staff, mill workers and other participants could raise as much as $4,000. “It’s nice to see. So many kids are in need.”

Fitting 72 laps into one month isn’t for the faint of heart. Some participants meet each morning at 6 a.m. to start their laps, others get their laps in after work, while the truly masochistic – what Sauer calls the “Double Up Crew” – are doing both. Regardless of when they fit in those laps, now “everybody’s talking about elevation,” Sauer said. 

As of June 15, many have just passed Base Camp, or 43 Soames summits, and are on track to achieve their goal.

For those interested in donating, e-transfers can be sent to accountsreceivable@sd46.bc.ca (password Soames if prompted). Mention “Soames” or “Everest” in the description so all funds are properly allocated.

The scholarship will come in effect in 2021. It will be a “school selects” scholarship, which means that a group of teachers and educators will review the applications and determine the worthy recipient(s).

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