BANFF – A group of locals is hiking up and down one of Banff's most popular summits for 24 hours straight while raising awareness for bipolar disorder and giving back to the community.
From Saturday to Sunday (July 31 to Aug. 1), the community is welcome to join the 2021 Banff 24 Hours for Bipolar event for one or multiple hikes up Tunnel Mountain – also known as Sleeping Buffalo – during the seventh annual bipolar disorder awareness hike and fundraiser.
For Scott Walker, organizer and hiker of 24 Hours for Bipolar, the growing event is a chance to raise funds for noble causes and reach out to anyone needing it.
"I live with bipolar disorder," said Walker. "This event helps to reduce stigma and raise awareness of bipolar disorder.
"There is a lot of misunderstanding about it out there ... the easiest way to explain [bipolar disorder] is we all know someone who is moody and for me it's like being moody times about 10 or even 20," Walker said. "I'd say one of the biggest diagnostic factors is someone actually being diagnosed with bipolar disorder is if they're having little to no sleep for multiple nights in a row and being in what's called a manic state."
All donations collected will go toward the International Bipolar Foundation and to the athletic program at Banff Community High School.
"For me in high school, sports were huge," said Walker. "It really means a lot to me that half the money raised goes to the high school in town here to help those kids who require financial assistance."
Even though Tunnel is a small mountain, the 24 hike is no small feat.
Last year, Walker hiked Tunnel 50 times – about 65 kilometres and a 13,000 foot vertical gain – enough to have a pair of sore legs the following day.
However, as each year passes, the event is growing in popularity and it's great for Walker to see old friends and meet new people. There have been occasions where people have met Walker and expected him to "be acting crazy" after learning he's living with bipolar disorder, which is one of the stigmas the hike addresses.
"It means a lot to me that they're coming out to the events and I think that's really wonderful," said Walker. "It's becoming more of an annual community event."