Chambers dictionary defines a mountain as "a very high, steep hill, often one of bare rock". The prestigious Oxford English Dictionary also provides a definition but I don't know what it is because the OED will only reveal its definition on payment of a fee. Greedy bar stewards.
Britain is a Very Mountainous Region
So, relying on Chambers' definition alone we can conclude that Britain is a very mountainous region. Mountains in Britain may not exceed 4409 feet high but there are lots of them. By contrast, Canada's highest mountain is Mount Logan in the Yukon Territory at 19,524 feet high. Of course higher doesn't always mean better - unless you are a competitive mountaineer.
Walk Up Mountains
In an earlier post, 10 Things I Miss Most About Britain: #9. The British Countryside, we wrote that to climb Britain's highest peak, Ben Nevis, you would have to scale 2000 feet high sheer cliff faces - or walk up the easy ascent trail on the other side of the mountain. There aren't many mountains in Canada on which you can walk to the summit, but we'll talk about a couple of exceptions in a minute.
The Towering Peaks of ... Saskatchewan?
We don't usually associate the province of Saskatchewan with mountains. Saskatchewan is usually thought of as being dead flat - as in pancake. But a peak in the Cypress Hills near the Alberta border exceeds the height of Ben Nevis by over 400 feet.
Mighty Mount Chinguacousy
Here in Ontario mountains are rarer than Stanley Cups at the Air Canada Centre. Ski reports on the radio in winter often refer to a little known peak in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). Those who are familiar with the mountain snicker when they hear its mention. When the City of Brampton, near Toronto, created a small artificial lake in a park near the city centre they piled the excavated soil up beside the lake. The pile of dirt became a ski hill officially christened "Mount Chinguacousy".
2000 Feet Vertical Drop
A towering peak in the City of Toronto rises to a height of over 2000 feet above sea level with a sheer vertical drop into Lake Ontario. It is a very challenging climb on the man-made stairs that lead all the way to the top. Those who aren't fit enough to make the climb can use the high speed elevators instead. Ok already, it's not exactly a mountain but the CN Tower is a very high, steep tower made of bare concrete - it almost fits the dictionary definition.
Sea to Sky
But Canada's real mountains are out west in Alberta and British Columbia. There are more peaks over ten thousand feet than you can shake a hockey stick at. There is a magnificent road in British Columbia that I have driven several times. The name of the road captures the beauty of that mountainous province. It will become internationally famous in 2010 when the Vancouver Winter Olympic athletes travel on the "Sea to Sky Highway".
My favourite place in Canada is in Alberta. If you stand outside the spectacular green-roofed CP hotel on the shore of Lake Louise in June, the lake water will be an iridescent blue. The colour is caused by a suspension of rock dust deposited in the lake by the glacier that winds its way down from the sky at the far end of the lake. Above the lake soar three mountain peaks each over ten thousand feet high. I had to leave Britain to experience that magical scene.
"Comedy always works best when it is mean-spirited" - John Cleese
Author John Corby also writes as "Bulldogge" for the British Canadian newspaper.
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