Reaching for the top

Southwest Arm Academy gets a lesson from mountain-climbing professor

Kevin Curley
Published on January 19, 2016

TA Loeffler is soon heading for her third attempt at climbing Mount Everest, but last week she was climbing the hills in Little Heart’s Ease with the students of Southwest Arm Academy.

Loeffler is an educator, mountaineer, nature advocate, and professional keynote speaker from St. John’s Newfoundland, her visit to Southwest Arm Academy was the Grand Prize for the school winning the Getting’ Outside School Challenge.

The competition, hosted by Recreation NL, challenged students to stay active for 60 minutes per day throughout the week and their activities were tracked on the 60 Minute Kids Club website, while sharing their experience on social media.

Loeffler visited the 22 students, Grades 4 to 6, and gave a presentation on why it’s important to be an explorer and how to stay active. Following the presentation, Loeffler had the children hop into snowshoes she provided and climbed the hill in behind the school.

“I showed pictures from all of my hikes and climbs around the world. They paid very rapt attention. I also tied it in to the Grade 4 social studies curriculum because they really focus on explorers and exploring,” Loeffler told The Packet.

Loeffler said the snowshoes she brought were aggressive and had teeth, which allowed them to go out in icy conditions.

She also brought a kick-sled, which is kind of like a scooter and allows for one person to be pushed by another.

“Recreation NL has the Find Your Fit campaign that lets people know there are lots of ways to stay active. It doesn’t have to be the gym or lifting weights. Staying active can mean gardening or going for a walk or snowshoeing,” says Loeffler.

As far as her own adventures, Loeffler says the children really seem to respond to her stories of volcano climbing. While trying the hat trip of the Americas, climbing the highest peak in North, Central and South America, she fell in love with Central America and climbed nine volcanoes while in El Salvador.

“It was a very ambitious Christmas vacation. It seems to have captivated people’s attention because volcanoes are cool,” says Loeffler.

The children also had a lot of questions about her preparations to attempt climbing Everest for the third time.

“I set it out so we were a climbing team using some of the same techniques we would use on the mountain. So it resonated with them even though it was only a small mountain in their backyard. No matter what their passion is, we start in our backyards and grow them for there,” said Loeffler.

Grade 6 student Katie Kelly said the presentation was fun and interesting.

“We learned about TA and how she was going to set her goal of climbing Mountain Everest,” Kelly told The Packet.

Kelly says her favourite part was the snowshoeing and she hopes to one day climb a mountain.

“Sounds cool,” she says.

Twitter: @kevincurleyjr