It’s been almost 20 years since the peak of Mt. Benson first inspired Ambrose.
“I thought, ‘Hmmm’,” the senior recalls, seeing how the mountain towered over the city. “There must be a way up there.”
So, he gathered his hiking gear and discovered an unexpectedly strenuous climb.
“It’s quite steep in some places, bit of a struggle,” Ambrose says. “But it’s okay. It’s beautiful!”
After ascending 1,019 metres over two to three hours, the views from the summit — across Nanaimo and the Gulf Islands — are breathtaking.
But Ambrose was also dismayed to see a broomstick attached to a tattered Canadian flag at the peak.
“The flag was hanging there with ropes and tape,” he says. “It was a mess.”
Yet, the hike proved lifechanging. He returned again and again — more than 50 times this past year alone.
That’s according to his handwritten hiking log, where he’s recorded his company, the conditions and when he’s made a feathered friend along the way.
“The fresh air, the scenery, the view from the top,” he smiles. “It’s just great!”
But Ambrose also made note of what wasn’t great and decided to do something about that flag.
“When I first heard about it, I thought it was great,” Wendy from the Mt. Benson Legion smiles.
She says Ambrose — who also volunteers at the Legion — asked if they had a used flag that could replace the one on Mt. Benson. Then, with the help of his friend Steve, he fixed the pole and attached new hardware to it.
“[Ambrose] took that on!” Wendy says. “He started being the person who’d replace the flag up there.”
Now, the 74-year-old hikes more than four hours (round-trip) to check on the flag. And, when needed, he spends countless hours sourcing used flags or buying new ones.
Ambrose guesses he’s replaced the flag 15 to 20 times, he didn’t have is log with him when asked, but he knows exactly how many times he’s climbed Mt. Benson — 259 times.
If you do a little math, you’ll find that he’s hiked the equivalent of Mt. Everest almost 30 times.
“Here I don’t need to take oxygen bottles with me, so it’s much easier,” he laughs. “And cheaper too!”
Then again, Ambrose has discovered that putting in the effort to make your community better can also make you feel like you’re on top of the world. And that is priceless.