A Beautiful View: Alberta Wilderness Association’s Climb for Wilderness offers a fun way to support conservation in Alberta

“With everything you have going on in your life, do you really want to add climbing a building to the list?”

This is what my partner said to me as I considered signing up for Alberta Wilderness Association’s Climb for Wilderness last year. She had a good point. Climbing 1204 steps seemed like a daunting way to spend a Saturday morning.

I chose instead to volunteer and was joyfully introduced to one of the most beloved events in the city. This year Alberta Wilderness Association will host its 27th Climb for Wilderness on Saturday April 21, 2018 at the BOW Building — the Climb is always on the weekend around Earth Day.

In addition to being a valuable fundraiser for Alberta Wilderness Association, an organization dedicated to the conservation of wilderness and the completion of a protected area network in Alberta, the Climb for Wilderness is also a community builder for participants. “One of the most amazing things about the Climb is seeing people return year after year,” reflects Alberta Wilderness Association executive director Christyann Olson. Indeed, the event attracts Calgarians who have decades-long commitments to the Climb which moved to the BOW Building from the Calgary Tower in 2017.

One of those dedicated climbers is Richard Guy. Guy turns 101 this year and does it in honour of his late wife Louise. Another is Abigail Hadden, who is eight years old and has been doing the Climb with her parents since she was born. This year she’ll be joined by her younger brother who is three.

Seeing centenarian Richard Guy at the top of the BOW Building after his climb last year with a photo of his late wife was not only inspiring, it also really put into perspective how accessible it is to people of different ages and different fitness levels. You don’t have to be an elite athlete to make it to the top, and you also don’t have to do it alone. Over 40 teams and counting have signed up to climb together this year. The teams are made up of friends, co-workers and families like the Overend family who have been participating together for over a decade by Olson’s estimation.

Each year new people join what Olson calls “a community of people who care about the earth.” The Climb piques the curiosity of new participants who connect in different ways with AWA long after they finish climbing the steps, often attending programmed talks about conservation or volunteering for AWA trail hikes. “We are lucky in Alberta to be able to make choices and contribute to decision making about our environment,” says Olson. “Many people don’t know what they can do to help the environment. We can be a resource that builds their confidence to start a conversation.”

After walking the 1204 steps and arriving at the 54th floor of the BOW with stunning views of the city, the foothills and the mountains in the distance, climbers get a chance to meet AWA conservationists, hear some live music and celebrate living in a truly beautiful province. Sounds like a pretty great way to spend a Saturday morning to me. I’ll see you on the stairs!

You can register in advance or at the event. To learn more about Climb for Wilderness: To learn more about Alberta Wilderness Association:

(Photo: The Climb for Wilderness courtesy the AWA.)

Vicki Stroich is a Calgary based theatre artist and arts administrator with a passion for the arts, culture and the environment.