Super senior conquers lofty Ha Ling hike at 95
Of the 500 hikers who ascended Ha Ling Peak Saturday morning, none was more determined than Richard Guy.
Reaching the trailhead at 4:15 a.m. (July 1), the 95-year-old mathematician made the slow, steady, six-hour hike to the top of the mountain, gaining 819 metres of elevation along the way with single-minded fashion.
His steps were sure, his purpose was clear: he had to lay to rest the remains of his wife Louise.
“It was a favourite hike for my wife and myself. We probably climbed it 20 times,” Guy said. “It was difficult going up, impossible going down.”
Accompanied by several friends and colleagues along the way, Guy thought the hike was a fitting way to pay tribute to his wife.
The couple first reached the peak in 1966 and returned many times. Three years ago, the couple made the climb – their last together.
At that time, Louise, 90, followed the path with her husband – a replacement aortic valve in her heart, braces on both knees and half a lung propelling her up the mountain.
After Louise passed away, Guy knew he had to return at least one more time.
“I was quite pleased reaching the summit,” he said.
Chic Scott oversaw the event from the peak and raised a glass of single-malt scotch for the hiker at the summit. A long-time friend of Guy, he helped with what proved to be a slippery trip down the mountain. Rain turned the rooted trail into a tough slog.
“It was really remarkable the way it turned out. There were about 500 people on the mountain that day and almost all of them were young people. There were school groups from Detroit and Winnipeg. They were all thrilled to meet Richard and see his example. It was an exceptional experience,” Scott said. “He wanted to do it one more time, and he may do it again. As Yogi Berra said, it’s not over ‘til it’s over.”
As is often the case with Ha Ling, the trip down truly exhausted Guy, who had lots of support.
“Coming down was a real test. Richard had to dig down deep. We went very slowly, concentrating placing feet. He was down to running on empty, but he joked he didn’t have a choice,” Scott said.
The crew finished with pizza and beer at a cabin in Lac Des Arcs to celebrate.
Remarkable achievements are nothing new for Guy. Born in England, he was a child mathematics prodigy and drew the attention of Cambridge. He met Louise before the Second World War and they wed before he was stationed in the North Atlantic, where he did weather forecasting for the war effort.
He returned to Louise and the couple had three children together. They travelled to Southeast Asia during the 1950s and Guy helped set up what became the University of Singapore. The family then moved to Delhi for three years, but grew tired of the heat and rain.
“He was sent a picture of Spray Lakes, packed up and came to Canada and been here ever since,” Scott said.
Guy joined the University of Calgary faculty and helped the fledgling mathematics department. He still works for the university, eight hours a day, five days a week. In his time there, he’s published more than 300 papers and written six books.
The couple hiked frequently in the foothills of the Himalayas and Switzerland, and Guy scaled Mount Kinabalu in Borneo.
“Guy is a quietly determined, very disciplined man. A man in control of himself,” Scott said.
He noted the ceremony was fitting for Louise, who was voted Calgary’s most active senior.
“It was lovely. Louise was such a happy, lively woman. She celebrated life,” Scott said.
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