Seneca climber on track to complete the Seven Summits
Risk management student aims to end year on a high note
Nov. 26, 2020
It may have taken Angus Murray 20 years, but the Seneca student, also an avid mountaineer, is one climb away from completing the Seven Summits, the tallest mountains of each of the seven continents.
“It has been a long journey,” he said. “I might be the person who has taken the longest to climb the Seven Summits.”
Mr. Murray is taking risk management courses at Seneca and working toward a Canadian Risk Management designation. He is the Co-ordinator of Outdoor Education and Risk Management at St. Andrew’s College in Aurora, where he now lives. Mr. Murray has also worked as a risk consultant, outdoor guide, teacher among other roles in outdoor education and adventure training.
Winter camping, rock and ice climbing, canoeing, kayaking, dog sledding and skiing — these are just some of the outdoor activities Mr. Murray has taught over the years. Now in his 50s, he has been leading expeditions for 30 years and has spent more than 3,000 days leading trips.
“To put that into perspective, I’ve spent nine years of my life living in a tent,” he said.
Mr. Murray’s first big climb came in 1998 on Mount Logan in the Yukon — the tallest mountain in Canada. It was a fundraising expedition that didn’t reach the summit for logistical reasons, but Mr. Murray was hooked.
He began leading mountaineering expeditions in 2000, starting with Mount Kilimanjaro, which he has since climbed 10 times. He was scheduled to lead another Kilimanjaro expedition this summer but the trip was cancelled due to COVID-19.
Mr. Murray learned the ins and outs of transportation, equipment, training, route planning and safety during his numerous international expeditions. He says he was unsure if he could actually climb all of the Seven Summits because two are particularly challenging to arrange: Mount Everest in the Himalayas, the tallest peak in the world, and Mount Vinson in Antarctica, one of the most remote and expensive mountains to climb.
Having said that, he became the 50th Canadian to summit Mount Everest in 2008.
“Climbing the Big E contextualizes all that stuff you’ve read and seen about climbing Mount Everest,” he said of the two-month expedition. “At 8,000 metres, everything breaks down in the ‘death zone.’ Communications break down, equipment breaks down, people break down. It becomes pure survival. If you go there and get into serious trouble, there’s only one person who can save you, and that’s you.”
Mr. Murray describes Everest Base Camp as “the world’s highest study of human psychology” and says it’s not uncommon for mountaineers to spot bodies on their way up or down the climb.
“It’s a crazy place,” he said.
Many years after Everest, and after having a son, Mr. Murray was asked to guide a trip to Mount Vinson in 2016.
“It was a chance of a lifetime,” he said. “It meant I could now do the Seven Summits.”
His next climb, his seventh and final climb, is Mount Aconcagua in Argentina next month, COVID-19 permitting.
“The big challenge is, will I be able to safely go?” he said.
But COVID-19 has had one silver lining for Mr. Murray. It has provided him with the opportunity to work on getting his Canadian Risk Management designation.
“The Risk Management course at Seneca gives you a framework to look at identifying and mitigating risks,” he said. “Even though I was familiar with some of the tools before, I’m now getting trained on using them properly. It brings together my previous experiences with risk management and I’m excited about that.”
Terry Lampropoulos, who taught Mr. Murray in the Risk Management Foundations course this summer, says that while there is risk involved in everything, people have controls to avoid bad things from happening.
“My course, whether it’s in your personal life or in your professional career, teaches people that taking risks is a necessary step to moving forward,” he said. “Managing those risks is what can bring unbridled success, such as climbing mountains around the world.”
While that’s certainly the case for Mr. Murray, he doesn’t actually consider himself a risk-taker.
“I know what real risks are, and in some aspects of my life, I would say that I’m a risk-taker because I just love being outside and challenging myself,” he said. “But in my day-to-day life I can be risk-averse. I was very reluctant to take on a mortgage, for example. I didn’t want to commit to taking on that debt.
“What I’ve learned, though, is that when an opportunity presents itself, go for it. The perfect time to do something will never come, so commit, do your best and move forward.”