Well known Parksville businessman dead after falling in Strathcona Provincial Park

Well known Parksville businessman dead after falling in Strathcona Provincial Park
Watch Clarke Gourlay and his wife started Little Qualicum Cheeseworks with one cow in 2001 eventually turning it into a large dairy farm employing dozens of people. He died Saturday after a fall on Mount Donner in Strathcona Provincial Park.

Clarke Gourlay was passionate about life in every way possible from the dairy farm he built up from just one cow in 2001 to his love of the outdoors and climbing that saw him summit mountains around the world.

He was a man who never did anything halfway.

“He just had this really uncommon audacity and a desire to learn new things and take on new skills and just a very uncommon boldness and courage,” said one of his three sons, Raymond Gourlay.

After doing missionary and humanitarian aid work in Turkey in the 1980s and 1990s, he and his family settled in Parksville buying a farm and turning it into a well-known business making cheese and wine.

Last fall, he was elected as Area G Director for the Regional District of Nanaimo and as busy as he was he always had time for his family and climbing, spending countless weekends on different slopes in Strathcona Provincial Park.

That’s why what happened Saturday has stunned family and friends.

“It was incredibly shocking,” said his son Kevin Gourlay. “It was a day trip they went out on. There was a four-day club hike that he was joining for one day just to hike up the first peak.”

The hike was a day trip to Mount Donner with four other people. It was not a technical climb but a hike to about 6,000 feet. Near the top, Clarke ran into trouble trying to find a route through a patch of Class 4 terrain where ropes and harnesses would not normally be required.

The other members of the group were within earshot as they communicated with each other but no one saw Clarke fall.

“His greatest passion is hiking and he was able to die doing that and we know that there wasn’t suffering,” said Raymond

“There was nothing ever remotely passive about my dad,” said Kevin Gourlay. “He was the most driven man that I’d ever known and the most courageous man I’d ever known.”

Clarke was 55 years old. He leaves behind his wife and three sons.

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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