The Montreal Gazette – At 65, he’s climbed…

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MONTREAL – “It is not the size of the mountain, it is the size of the dream.”
That is the quote at the end of emails sent by Ted Fairhurst.

And it very aptly describes the 65-year-old artist, mountain-climber and world traveller.

And in his case, both the mountains and the dreams are big.

Fairhurst is a big believer in setting goals and achieving them. But his goals are far from the norm. Take, for example his goal, which he called the 7 Summits Challenge: to climb the highest mountain on every continent.

So far he’s done:

1) Aconcagua, January 2006; in Argentina

2) Denali, May 2007; in Alaska

3) Vinson, January 2009; Antarctica

4) Everest, May 2010; Asia

5) Kilimanjaro, January 2012; Africa

And the sixth will be Mount Elbrus in Russia, (Europe) for which he is training and will be leaving on Aug. 3. Immediately after that, he will head to Lenin Peak, on the border of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in the Pamirs (just north of Afghanistan)

For Fairhurst, the most challenging of all was Mount Everest: Gruelling and long; it took 50 days.

Was he ever terrified? No, he said. But he’s been very nervous and on edge, and for him that is the moment you must step back and collect your thoughts. “Fear is what can get you into serious trouble. You have to remain calm and gather yourself and move on.”

He readily admits he does all this to push himself, “to see how far I can go. Isn’t that what life is really about?”

His best words of advice, in pretty much in all aspects of your life: “Always follow your gut. It’s never wrong.”

Very impressive for a self proclaimed “hippie/beatnik,” who quit university to travel around the world. That’s when his world really began to take shape.

He says he always knew he would be a wanderer — and that he had a knack for it.

When he was eight, he went on a berry-picking excursion with his mother and aunt. They got lost, and the women “panicked a bit, but I said follow me: I remember how to get us out of here.”

After hitchhiking around Europe, first in Scotland, then in England he hitched a ride with an American all the way to Kandahar, Afghanistan.

He eventually ended up in Kathmandu, Nepal, where he met a climber from New Zealand who had just returned from hiking to the base of Everest. That got his attention. He was inspired to try himself, despite never having ever attempted anything like it.

He went for it, and when he got there Fairhurst says he took one long look around and knew “within 30 seconds” that he would one day go back and climb to the top.

The bug for hiking had bitten. But it would be another 40 years before he made it back to make good on that goal.

He did though, climbing to the summit on his stepson David’s 18th birthday, May 23rd, 2010.

Ted came back to Montreal in 1976 and began to paint. It was the beginning, the “ explosion of the tech age” and he was passionate about painting his vision of where the world was going.

His interpretations of “man’s relationship to science and technology” painted on Plexiglas was a body of work that he is still very proud of. He had exhibitions here, in the U.S. and in Europe.

Fairhurst has also been successful in real estate, which has given him the means to pursue his passion for hiking and windsurfing,

He’s a firm believer in not letting life pass you by.

“You have to go for things; you have to try different things to help you figure out who you are, what your passions are.”

“I like to push myself to the edge, to test my own limits. That’s how you get good at things.”

He likens it to riding a bike. “You’re not good at it at first, but you keep at it, eventually you get better, you cycle a little faster, and then you may start doing tricks, always testing the limits a little bit further each time. That’s how we get better.”

He also believes nothing comes easy in life. “But that’s the beauty of it … you get out of life what you are willing to put into it.”

And he continues to put in a great deal.

Which is why he takes great pleasure in speaking to children. He’s fascinated by their inquisitive minds, by their questions (“Where do you go to the bathroom?” That is the one most often asked by younger kids.). And he’s so touched by those who call him inspiring.

“I just want children to know they can follow their dreams, they can get out there and do things and experience life.”

That’s not done sitting in front of a television playing video games day in and day out.

He says failure is natural, and can be a good thing. “It means you are trying something new. We need it at times to learn and go forward.”

When it comes to his diet, Fairhurst will never, ever eat processed food of any kind. He’s not a fanatic about eating “everything organic,” but he does believe in a Mediterranean way of eating, lots of fish, vegetables, and fruit. “Healthy things, whole things,” not manufactured. And that it truly does come down to calories in versus calories out.

“You really are what you eat.”

Fairhurst trains with a group, Esprit de Corps, an outdoor training group with“ guys half his age” and is very proud of the fact he sits on the Esprit de Corp foundation. It’s a non-profit organization devoted to helping a new generation achieve a healthy lifestyle. One of the most recent projects was to help single working parents, specifically to help them get a handle on their lives, learn to train for a challenge, and to get into better physical shape. “We want to help them learn to help themselves” he said.

It’s his hope this foundation, alongside founder Gilles Barbot, will help people live their best – and healthiest – lives.

These days, he’s spending most of his time training for his trek in Russia. Weekends are spent at his cottage, mountain biking, weightlifting and running up Mont Tremblant with heavy packs.

It’s clear how passionate he is about his lifestyle. And he’s also added photography to his list of accomplishments.

The images on his website of his treks are glorious.

He says Antarctica is extraordinary. “It’s white and harsh and extreme – and simply breathtaking.”

He’d love to go one day “where very few footsteps have been,” but that requires significant resources and planning.

Somehow, I just know that he will check that particular goal off his checklist, too.

You can read all about Ted Fairhurst’s adventures on his website, He recently uploaded a video on YouTube, which you can view by clicking here. jthompson@montrealgazette.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Twitter: @junieone

Posted with the express permission of: “Montreal Gazette”, a division of Postmedia Network Inc


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