Michael David Walsh
Michael (Mike) Walsh was born on September 13, 1944, in Moncton on the south eastern shore of New Brunswick. As a typical young boy he was physically active but loved scrambling around on the sea cliffs of the Bay of Fundy and other crags when on family trips. Unfortunately, there were no mountains to climb but he was learning to respect the rock but at the same time hone his skills which would come in useful later. Mike left home at eighteen and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, where he worked as an Aero Engine Technician with Search and Rescue and later trained as a Pilot.
In November 1964 he was transferred to Comox 442 Squadron on Vancouver Island where he saw the Comox Glacier for the first time. The sight of this outstanding landmark for the Comox Valley made a deep impression on Mike and in January 1965 he decided he needed to climb it. Several months later he borrowed a bicycle from a friend and rode around Comox Lake with his pack and made his first excursion onto the glacier. This was the beginning of Mike's climbing career which lasted for the next sixteen years. Many of his mountaineering trips both on Vancouver Island, British Columbia's mainland and overseas were made in the company of Ron Facer, Joe Bajan, Ralph Hutchinson and Bob Tustin. However, the one climb that Mike Walsh is noted for was audacious first ascent of Mount Colonel Foster solo.
On July 18, 1968, Mike started up the Elk River valley in the pouring ran. The weather didn't deter him as this was only a reconnaissance trip to the north shoulder of Mount Colonel Foster. He was hoping to find a route of attack for the following week when he and Ralph Hutchinson planned an assault. After crossing Butterwort Creek he ascended the steep walls beside the creek to the upper valley. He then traversed across to the col beneath the imposing rampart of the North Tower where he set up camp. It continued to rain all the next day but around 4 p.m. it eased somewhat so he decided have a look at the snow gully that separates the North Tower from the other summits to the south. Once at the bergshrund he moved out onto the rocks on the left and followed a system of ledges and chimneys to the summit of the North Tower. The only difficulty encountered was an awkward corner and an ice filled chimney. By 8 p.m. Mike was back in his tent on the col.
When Mike got up the next morning the rain had stopped but clouds hung over the top of the mountains. Wanting to get a perspective on the other summits, Mike retraced his route as far as the bergshrund. He then moved into a small snow couloir on the wall to the right and followed ledges across the West Face, occasionally being forced to climb severe pitches of ten to fifteen feet to gain the next band. The clouds were still hovering around the summits and sporadically would come down and obscure everything from sight but he continued to scramble upwards to the summit ridge. By 10 a.m. he was standing on the previously unclimbed Northwest Summit. Mike described the view:
It was too early in the day to stop so Mike chose to continue rather than return. By noon he arrived on the top of the Northeast Summit and when the clouds lifted he was greeted with the view of the next peak, the last remaining unclimbed peak on the "Colonel." The route appeared to be quite straigthforward; down to a col then up the other side to the summit. That a few difficult exposed areas belied the apparent ease of this route was not about to stop Mike. An hour later Mike was standing on the highest point of Mount Colonel Foster! There was no sign that anyone had been there before him and there was no one there for him to share his elation with but he knew that would come later. Initially he thought of traversing the peaks to the south to get off the mountain but when he got to the gendarme it began raining. He decided the wisest thing to do would be to retrace his ascent route, however, once back at the col between the Main Summit and the Northeast Summit he made the decision to descend a steep snow couloir down the West Face. The upper gully went well, but half way down there was a vast break in the snow, the continuation of which was fifty feet below a chockstone. It took Mike over an hour of tricky climbing to get over the boulder which blocked his route and finally back onto the snow where he was able to glissade most of the way down.
When he reached camp at 9 p.m., Mike was finally able to reflect on what he had just accomplished. It had been a most successful days climbing but he realized it was a "foolhardy foray". Not only had he completed the climb alone, he had done it without a rope of pitons, something he thought he cold have used in several places. Mike returned to the Main Summit of the "Colonel" the following year (1969) and again in 1971 and 1973 always with different partners.
After marrying in the early 1980's Mike hung his climbing boots up for good, however, Joe Bajan who learned to climb with Mike believes that if Mike had kept climbing he would have been a super star climber, one of Canada's best. He says: "It was his audacity and stamina as well as a competitive streak that made Mike great."
After six years in the airforce he transferred to the Navy and trained as a Bridge Watchkeeping Officer. In 1975 he was granted his Certificate of Service as Master of a Foreign-Going Steamship. His last few years in the Navy were spent training junior officers.
After eighteen years of service Mike resigned his commission in 1981 and settled in Vancouver to pursue his hobbies and to prepare to sail off over the horizon. He established himself in the wine industry, initially as a consultant, then as a writer, as an educator and as an importer. During this time, he also rekindled his boyhood hobby of coin collecting. Mike first became fascinated with coins in 1955 when his grandfather gave him a cigar box full of old tokens, large cents and fish scales (silver five cent pieces). The local librarians saw much of him over the ensuing months as he researched and organized his new hobby. Pocket change in the mid-fifties still contained a surprising amount of Victorian silver, as well as a good supply of Edward VII and George V pieces, so it was natural for Mike to collect these. "I had both a morning and an afternoon paper route, and I delivered the Star Weekly on Saturdays. Not only did these provide me with the necessary funding for my growing collection, but because I encouraged my customers to pay me with older coins, it also became a good source."
Mike spent his school lunch hours in the banks, searching through the rolls. "All the tellers in Moncton knew me, and would put the odd things aside for me. My greatest find was a 1921 fifty cent piece in a roll at the Royal Bank on Main Street (it would be a $40,000 coin today) and that find still drives me to this day. I'm always searching for the elusive, knowing that I won't find it if I don't look. I know that there are still some $15,000 1969 large date ten cent pieces out there in pocket change."
His interest in numismatics continued throughout his career as a Naval Officer, and after retiring in 1981, Mike began quietly dealing with private clients - buying, selling and building collections. He delighted in filling want lists and over the years put together for one client a complete Canadian and Maritime collection which the knowledgeable consider one of the finest business strike collections ever assembled.
As his vest-pocket business grew, Mike incorporated it as the Canadian Coinoisseur, Inc. Corporate structure notwithstanding, he continued to run a hands-on, private client operation, specializing condition-rare Canadian coins. Working from an office by appointment only, from his tables at the major coin shows and through this website, rather than from a storefront, gave him great flexibility to travel in search of coins.
1998, Mike began conducting public numismatic auctions, and since then
he has conducted twenty-two sales. He was appointed Official Auctioneer
for the 1999 and the 2000 Canadian Association of Numismatic Dealers (CAND)
Shows as well as for the 2000 and 2002 Canadian Numismatic Association
(CNA) Conventions. Then beginning in February 2001, he has conducted thirteen
sales as Official Auctioneer for Torex®, Canada's oldest and most
important coin show.
Although on Vancouver Island Mike is generally recognized as a mountaineer, it was boats and the sea that seemed to be in his blood, and he attributes this to his having been conceived aboard his father's commercial schooner, Nelly J King. Mike's first boat was a 16-foot cedar lapstrake rowboat with a rotten transom, which he removed and converted the remains into a 14-foot leeboard yawl with canvas sails on lumberyard spars, fittings and rigging. His subsequent boats were more seaworthy, and included Tastevin, a 48-foot ketch out of Vancouver, Lady Jane, a 45-foot Dutch steel cruiser on the French canals and Dawn Dreamer, a 48-foot motor yacht out of Vancouver. He has been an active volunteer in The Canadian Power and Sail Squadron, having instructed and served as the Training Officer and as the Commander of the Vancouver Squadron.
In April 2006 Mike realized that a quarter century had passed since his retirement from the Navy and that he still wanted to sail off over the edge of the earth; however, his wife (Memory) of twenty-two years did not want to share the adventure and they agreed to separate. At the end of June 2006, after exhaustive research, he ordered a new Hunter 49. He took possession of Sequitur (Sequitur is a Latin word which means: following logically from what has preceded; a logical conclusion) in July 2007 and spent the summer, autumn and winter shaking her down and single-handing her in fair weather and foul. In 2009, Mike closed the doors of his business for the time-being and on October 1 embarked on his dream of "sailing over the edge of the earth" thus beginning his "logical conclusion".
synopsis of Mike Walsh's mountaineering achievements:
(August 1) Ralph Hutchinson, Mike Hanry, Ron Facer, Bob Tustin, Ray
Paine and Mike Walsh climb Southeast Peak of Mount Colonel
Foster. Ralph Hutchinson, Ron Facer and Mike Hanry climb across to the
Redwall Peak with Bob Tustin and Ron Facer.
(July 19-20) Mike Walsh climbs North Tower and then the following day
climbs Northwest, Northeast and Main Summit of Mount Colonel Foster. Descent
via gully on West Face. First ascent of Main Summit.
(July) Mike Walsh, Blair Paterson and Steve Weber make the second ascent
of Mount Colonel Foster via the Northwest and Northeast Summits.
1970 South Ridge of Elkhorn with Tom Volkers.
(July 2) Mike Walsh and Bill
Perry traverse Northwest, Northeast, Main, Southwest and Southeast
Peaks of Mount Colonel Foster but by-pass North Tower (Third ascent).
1972 Shadowblade (MacKenzie Range) with Bill Perry. First ascent.
1973 (August 31) Mike Walsh and Joe Bajan climb Southeast Peak then traverse across the Southwest, Main, Northeast and Northwest Summit then descend Culbert's vertical bowling alley. They then climb the North Tower to complete the six summit traverse of Mount Colonel Foster (Fourth ascent by Mike, fifth of the mountain).
1974 Stikine Icecap with Ralph Hutchinson, Roger Neave, Bill Perry, Franz Bislin and Bob Tustin. Some first ascents of 8,000 ft peaks south of Noel Peak.
Afghanistan: Koh-I-Baba region with Ralph Hutchinson, Mike Walsh and Joe
Bajan. Several first ascents in the area.
(March) Mike Walsh and Joe Bajan inspect Mount Colonel Foster's East Face
in winter for future ascent.
1981 Stikine Icecap with Ralph Hutchinson, Roger Neave, Hugh Neave, Alfred Menninga, Tom Volkers, Carol and Walter Latter, Paul McEwen and Peg Davidson. First ascent of Noel Peak.
Bajan, Joe. Personal communication. 2009.
Tustin, Bob. Personal communication. 2008.
"Copter Rescues Climber." Vancouver Sun. [Vancouver, BC] (August 10, 1966.)
"Mountain Climber Undaunted by Fall." Vancouver Sun. [Vancouver, BC] (August 11, 1966.)
Guilbride, Patrick D. "El Piveto Mountain." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 50 The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1967. p. 55.
Volkers, Tom. "The South Peak of Mt. Elkhorn." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 54. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1971. p. 66.
Volkers, Tom. "The Needle, First Ascent." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 54. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1971. p. 66.
Walsh, Mike. "Mt. Colonel Foster." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 55. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1972. p. 55-56.
"Island Climbing Team Records First Ascent." Nanaimo Daily Free Press. [Nanaimo, BC] (August 12, 1974.) p. 13.
Perry, Bill. "First Ascent of Hidden Peak." Timberline Tales. Published by the Island Mountain Ramblers. Nanaimo, B.C. 1975.
Hutchinson, Ralph. "Koh-I-Baba Capers." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 59. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1976. p. 25-26.
Hutchinson, Ralph. "Champagne in the Champara." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 62. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1979. p. 25-29.
Elms, Lindsay J. Beyond Nootka: A Historical perspective of Vancouver Island Mountains. Misthorn Press. Courtenay, B.C. 1996.