Media & Press

Shortly after this term began…

1 May, 2015

Cassandra Elphinstone

Shortly after this term began, two of my climbing friends died after a 600m fall down the main couloir on Joffre Peak. Mountaineering, skiing, and spending time outside is what I love. To hear that my friends had died climbing deeply affected me. This is the first time I have lost close friends in a climbing accident. I know that the mountains and wilderness are not safe places; perhaps in part their rough harsh nature is what makes them so beautiful.  My friends’ deaths still came as a horrible shock.

This term had an interesting composition of non-academic activities; skiing, climbing and meditation. I knew that even though my friends had died in the mountains, they had lived their lives to the fullest. I am even more aware of how dangerous the mountains can be but I also know I belong outside. This term I began to lead beginner friendly backcountry skiing trips, showing people how to ski, camp, and enjoy the outdoors. There is nothing better than watching people see their first glaciers or watch the Milky Way dance across the sky. I skied the Garibaldi Neve and the Spearhead (covering ~80km and traversing  19 glaciers in total) over two weekends with spectacular weather.


I am currently planning a 100-120km traverse ski trip to try to visit 3 of the 4 VOC huts because I recently was elected as the VOC Huts Coordinator‏.

On campus, I also got involved in the UBC meditation community. Once a week I set up meditation mats and cushions for students to learn about Zen meditation. It was striking to see the contrast and the similarities between the meditation community and the outdoors club. Both of these groups of people are searching for something. Some go to the mountains to experience a feeling of being alive while others realize life is all around us if we take the time to look.

My classes were more specialized this term which made them fascinating! I began to plan my research for my Honour’s Thesis. This summer will be spent up north on Ellesmere Island collecting data. I will be studying tundra plant succession in a region that used to be covered by a permanent snow cap.  This past term, through a directed studies project, I learned how to work with large datasets by analyzing 20 years of snow depth data from Ellesmere Island.

Overall, this term has reminded me how important it is to appreciate every moment of life. Sometimes as I am walking through campus I catch myself worrying about an exam or assignment. When I do this I stop what I am doing and look, really look around, appreciating whatever I see; bright blue sky, fresh rain, spring flowers, the unique faces and personalities of the people around me. These momentary things that we so often miss as students, are worth far more than any exam or assignment mark.