Al Hancock’s “Big 14” Challenge
Over the past seven years, Al Hancock has been quietly making Canadian history.
The former journeyman millwright and oil sands maintenance supervisor has summited Mount Everest, the world’s tallest peak, twice. And in the spring of 2014, along with Quebec climber Monique Richard, he made Canadian history by ascending the peak of Mount Makalu, which ranks 5th. Hancock followed that up two months later with a successful climb of the extremely challenging K2, the world’s second highest peak.
This Edmonton-based climber is on a roll. He’s successfully scaled six of the world’s 14 tallest mountains. His plan, over the next three years, is to become the first Canadian, and only the second North American, to summit all 14 of the world’s peaks over 8,000-metres.
The next leg of Hancock’s journey begins next March when he’ll travel to Nepal to tackle Annapurna and Dhaulagiri, 10th and seventh on the list, respectively.
So why does he do it? “The mountains choose me,” he says. “I’m like a piece of metal drawn to a magnet. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always had a sense of adventure. Making the choice to test myself to the limit, to push toward what seems to be an impossible goal is what life is all about. I want to live life to the fullest in this present moment.”
As he completes the 14-peak journey, Hancock will join the many voices calling for a change in Canadian law.
“My mother passed away last year after a long battle with cancer. I sat at her bedside and watched as she suffered through those last days. I vowed at that time to do what I could to help give people like my mom better options when it comes to choices about their death. There has to be a better way than the suffering I observed! And that’s why I’ll be partnering with the Dying with Dignity organization over the next three years.”
Hancock says there’s a strong link between what he does on the mountain and the cause he champions.
“I like what George Mallory, one of the first to scale Mount Everest, had to say about the mountaineering process, and I’m paraphrasing here: ‘The struggle of life itself is upward and forever upward. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the goal of life.’"