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The First Canadian to Climb Everest was 40 Years Ago

Laurie Skreslet was the first Canadian to stand on the world's highest point back in 1982. Accidents left several people dead and injured, and the expedition cost millions of dollars

On Oct. 5, 1982, Calgary climber Laurie Skreslet, Sundare Sherpa and Lhakpa Dorje Sherpa reached the top of Everest. With his summit, Skreslet became the first Canadian to climb the world’s highest mountain.

The Calgary Herald front page on Oct. 5, 1982

Only two days later, fellow Canadian Pat Morrow reached the summit of Everest. Morrow would go on to climb the highest peak on every continent. By 1986, he reached the summit of Irian Jaya’s Carstensz Pyramid, thus completing the Seven Summits project. His book Beyond Everest: Quest for the Seven Summits is a must-read that documents true adventure. Morrow went on to receive the Order of Canada in 1988 and the Summit of Excellence at the 1990 Banff Mountain Film Festival.

In the 1980s, over 800 climbers tried to reach the summit of Everest, only 180 made it and sadly 56 died. Of those who died were four who were part of the 1982 Everest expedition. Ang Chuldim Sherpa, Dawa Dorje Sherpa and Pasang Sona Sherpa died in an avalanche on Aug. 31, while Canadian cameraman Blair Griffiths died in a serac fall on Sept. 2.

Skreslet was injured while carrying Griffiths down on a stretcher and was admitted to hospital where he recovered. When he returned to base camp, he was deemed the best choice to go for the summit. Skreslet continues to climb today and has guided in several of the world’s great ranges. You can find out more about his accomplishments on his website here.

Several climbers abandoned the 1982 Everest expedition because of the fatal accidents and other reasons. The expedition was sponsored by Air Canada and took five years to plan, cost $3 million to finance and required 27 tons of equipment to outfit the party.

In 1986, Canada returned to Everest on the Canadian Light Everest Expedition. Sharon Wood and Dwayne Congdon reached the summit via the West Ridge and Hornbein Couloir. Wood became the first North American woman to stand on Everest. The climbing team had several experienced Canadian alpinists, and included Jim Elzinga, James Blench, Barry Blanchard, Kevin Doyle, Dave McNab, Chris Shank, Dan Griffin, Laurie Skreslet, Albi Sole, Jane Fearing, and Dr. Robert Lee. Read Wood’s 1987 account of the expedition here.

Sharon Wood on Everest in 1986