Meet Leigh McClurg, a new athlete ambassador

Ryan Correy January 12, 2015 No Comments
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Learning to climb mountains in BC

Learning to climb mountains in BC

In the Spring of 2010, wheezing from the exertion of carrying my two suitcases, the entirety of my possessions in the world, up a couple of flights of stairs, I walked in to my new home in Squamish, BC for the first time and stared out at the hills and snow capped mountains rising up around me.

My portly frame weighed close to 300lbs soaking wet at that time. I had not come to this place with an interest in Mountains, but the sight of them filled a blank inside of me that I had been unconscious about before. I was stung with the desire to get to those shining summits.

Originally from Ireland, I did not grow up in a culture of fitness or athleticism. I was never very coordinated so any team sports I tried I usually failed at and quickly quit. The circle of friends I had would play a game of soccer on a Sunday and then follow it with a trip to the Pub to consume back any calories expended followed by a late night trip to the local Fish and Chip shop for good measure. No physical exercise would occur again until the next Sunday and if it was raining too hard, which it frequently does in Ireland, we’d skip soccer and head straight to the Pub.

Leaving Ireland in 2010

Leaving Ireland in 2010

After University I got a cushy desk job and became extremely sedentary. On weekends I’d watch marathons of TV shows, Movies and play video games. Eventually, through a poor diet and a complete lack of exercise, I looked down at the weighing scale and realized I’d passed the maximum weight of 280lbs on it. I stopped weighing myself after that, ashamed at the thought of having to buy a scale with larger numbers, but I know I got a good bit heavier before coming to Canada.

The decision to move to the west coast of Canada was purely made to live somewhere different. My wife Spring, now a fellow Hammer Ambassador, is originally from Alberta and we’d always talked about starting a new life in her home country while living in Ireland.

I’d been to Canada before while dating Spring and I’d marvelled at the mountains then but they were always merely scenery for my holiday snapshots. In 2010, when I looked out on them, the impression was different. I can’t explain what changed, maybe it was the right time of my life, maybe I’d been idle for too long, but, like a Siren on the rocks, the winds shaving spindrift off those high ridges and summits beckoned me to reach them. No longer did I look upon those peaks as scenery but an arena to test myself.

Trail running near Squamish, BC

Trail running near Squamish, BC

I started pushing my cumbersome frame along trails, first to lakes, then to high viewpoints and finally I touched my first summit cairn. While resting in the evenings I’d research online about equipment and techniques for mountain travel. I’d never backpacked before so I needed to learn about tents, and sleeping bags. I’d never climbed before so I read about climbing knots and harnesses. Words that I previously had never said aloud like crampon, gaiter, couloir, crux become a daily part of my lexicon. My thirst to understand how other people where getting to summits I could see and had not yet reached was insatiable.

As I pushed myself higher, and further, not slowing down in the Winter months, I finally realized what my talent was. Whereas I wasn’t coordinated or capable at many competitive sports, I could suffer longer than others around me. I could keep putting one foot in front of the other when others would turn back. I could endure the cold, I could endure the sleepless nights inside a tent being beaten by the wind on a ridge crest. I was fine with looking like a fool as I fell over repeatedly trying to learn to ski. I could smile while being swarmed by thousands of mosquitos as I pushed through the dense coastal rainforest of BC, and I could get up and do it all again the next day. I didn’t need a couple of weeks, or months, rest to forget the tortures that led to reaching that summit. I could always see the next summit rising up behind the one I was currently reaching.

Standing near the summit of Mount Rainier

Standing near the summit of Mount Rainier

By the end of 2011 I’d lost over 120lbs. Weight though proved to be the least of the damages a life spent mostly motionless does to a body. I’ve been slowly working on undoing the effects many years of sedentary life at desks and on couches has done to my strength, flexibility and posture while also training to climb harder and move faster in the mountains to achieve more goals.

The ultimate goal for the future is to be a competent Alpinist and to be capable at moving in the mountains over a variety of terrain through all 4 seasons.

In 2015, I plan to run more competitively in a number of races to give my training some focus. I also hope to climb at grades I have previously never been capable of.

Learning to ice climb in the Rockies

Learning to ice climb in the Rockies

My interest in the equipment and nutrition needed to move quickly and endure physical stress for longer is what initially led me to Hammer Nutrition. I began to see individuals moving fast and light in the mountains and using Hammer bars and gels to fuel. It made sense. For the same reason a runner or cyclist is looking to shave weight so too is an Alpinist.

It is said that Mountain Climbing is one of only a few sports in which the Arena acquires a notoriety that will outshine and outlive the Athletes. In this fashion, unlike sports that require individuals to compete against one another, in Alpinism the individual competes against the Mountain. The weather around it, the difficulty of the climbing, the condition of the route. Going lighter allows an Alpinist to move faster, cover more ground and reduce the risk of getting caught out on the mountain after dark or when bad weather rolls in.

For the same reason I use lightweight technical equipment, I now also fuel using Hammer Nutrition products. It provides maximum benefits for endurance and recovery with minimal weight.

I am extremely humbled and honoured to be chosen as a Hammer Athlete Ambassador, along with my wife Spring, in 2015. I’m excited to show what can be achieved and experienced with a passion for Mountains fuelled by Hammer Nutrition.

Reaching a high summit north of Whistler, BC

Reaching a high summit north of Whistler, BC

Ryan Correy