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‘I lost my identity,’ climber says after devastating fire

Shaun Parent to keep rock and ice climbing, writing and travelling after fire torches garage, chalet, climbing artifacts
Shaun Parent, Superior Exploration, Adventure and Climbing owner/operator and pioneer of rock and ice climbing development in the Lake Superior region.

After a climbing trip to Peru, Shaun Parent returned to his home 40 kilometres north of the Sault last week to be met with some devastating news.

Though his house wasn’t severely damaged, his garage and climber’s chalet for rock and ice climbers were destroyed by fire in the early morning hours of Friday, Nov. 25.

Parent is a well-known rock and ice climber in the Sault and Algoma Region, recognized by National Geographic for his achievements.

“I hadn’t been home since Nov. 8. I was packed up to go to my house and go climbing on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and I received a text from Batchawana Fire & Rescue saying I’d lost my snowmobile, my ATVs, my garage and my chalet. It was a climber’s chalet where climbers stayed but it was also a climbing museum with antique climbing gear going back to 1848,” Parent told SooToday on Tuesday.

Parent’s Volkswagen van and three paragliders were also lost in the fire.

The fire started at approximately 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 25 and burned for five hours.

The cause of the blaze is under investigation, Parent said.

“My garage had all my gear. All my climbing gear, 40 pairs of boots, all the climbing gear for teaching beginners, all the spikes, all the ropes, all gone.”

“In the garage were all my pictures, all my slides, all my original drafts of all my guide books since 1981 and all my diaries of every day, every year since 1974. That’s all gone.”

Parent said a draft of his autobiography was lost in the fire.

“I lost my identity as far as climbing’s concerned.”

“I had a dream last night of being a child in a field and looking around, no trees, just a field and I was crying, feeling lost and looking for my mother,” he said.

In spite of the shock and grief, Parent is dealing with the loss in a positive way.

“I’m thinking it’s a rebirth, to start over.”

Parent said he will continue to provide instruction for intermediate and advanced climbers, work on two guide books that he wants to have completed by May, keep on exploring and developing new climbs in Algoma and instructing a group of seven climbers in Peru next summer.

“I’ve got friends saying they’ll give me gear…I have to go buy new gear.”

“There are a bunch of new ice climbs I want to develop this winter in one of the townships east of Batchawana. I’ve got two snowmobiles that were saved.”

Parent said he wants to complete a new guide to ice climbing in Algoma that includes 640 ice climbs, including climbs in Agawa Canyon.

He wrote three previous guide books to Agawa Canyon - in 1997, 2000 and 2012.

Educated in geology and having worked in mining exploration, Parent has been rock and ice climbing since 1979 and instructing since 1983.

Since 1981, he has written 17 guide books and has developed numerous areas for climbing in northern Ontario.

He has climbed mountains and hills in Nepal, India, Peru and Chile.

He started climbing in 1977 in Wyoming, taking a basic mountaineering course.

“I felt it was the right way to go with my life, to start climbing.”

While not working in geology and mining exploration, Parent taught ice climbing from December to April and rock climbing in the summer months.

His climbing school - originally called North of Superior Climbing Company and now known as Superior Exploration, Adventure and Climbing - was endorsed by National Geographic's Ultimate Adventure in 2000 as one of the top six such schools in the world.

“Climbing makes me who I am. I am the adventure. So now I have no identity. My adventures are gone. All my kayaks, mountain bikes, climbing gear, adventure gear is gone.”

“So now my identity is my mind because all I have is my memories. All those adventures made me the character I am today,” he said, grateful that no one can take those memories away while he restarts his career.

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Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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