By Ben Wilkey/Alpine Club of Canada, Columbia Mountains Section
This club report first appeared in print in the October/November 2019 issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.
An ambitious idea was hatched last October, when a handful of mountain locals got together and formed the 24th section of the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC). In a matter of weeks the ACC Columbia Mountains Section was official.
For those of you that are new to town, or have yet to spend the time pouring over maps, the Columbia Mountains are made up of the Monashee, Selkirk, Purcell and Cariboo mountain ranges. Our new section has filled a long-standing gap in the otherwise extensive network of ACC sections across the country — ironic, to say the least. After all, Rogers Pass was the birthplace of North American Mountaineering well over a hundred years ago.
Now one year after its inception, the section is really picking up momentum, with 172 affiliated members and counting! For the section’s first winter, we began organizing and leading beginner and intermediate ski touring trips. The absolute beginner trip made it to the back of Balu in Rogers Pass. Here, participants received an introduction to the world of ski touring outside the boundaries of Revelstoke Mountain Resort. The intermediate trip had participants touring to the Dome Glacier at Rogers Pass. We also ran a successful winter glacier travel and crevasse rescue course that included both classroom and outdoor components.
This past summer, we divided our efforts into developing two distinct programs for our section members. First, we organized professionally guided rock and alpine climbing courses, taught by members of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG). These courses were a huge success; Intro to Traditional Climbing, Rock Rescue, and Intermediate Alpine Climbing to name a few.
Our second focus was our youth program. Youth (ages six to 12) took part in introductory rock climbing sessions at the Big Eddy Boulders, alpine hiking trips to Balu Pass and Joss Mountain, and went overnight backpacking to Hermit Meadows and McCrae Lakes. The trip leaders were almost as stoked as the kids, who got to tick off their first real Selkirk summit!
Our youth programs have been such a success, this fall we are extending the initiative in a collaborative effort with the City of Revelstoke. By offering after-school and weekend outdoor activities in our Natural Leaders Program, youth are empowered with outdoor skills such as knot tying, fire building and local plant and animal identification.
Other summer events included the beginnings of a local trail stewardship and maintenance program. Section members spent the day working to clear the Mount Begbie recreation trail. We also ran women-specific rock climbing sessions led by volunteer trip leaders. These sessions were open to female climbers of all abilities and were well attended.
The first week of this past August, our section President Karla Kuharic and I had the privilege of attending the ACC General Mountaineering Camp (GMC) in the Westfall Group of the Selkirk Mountains. It was the 113th consecutive year of the GMC. We attended the coveted ACC North Face Leadership Course designed to give active section leaders the opportunity to develop and practice sound mountain leadership skills. The course was in part subsidized by the National ACC organization. We would also like to recognize the support we received from the Columbia Basin Trust through their Basin PLAYS program.
This coming winter, the section plans to offer more of the great trips that ran last winter. In addition to offering the foundational Avalanche Skills Training (AST) courses based out of the ACC Wheeler Hut in Rogers Pass, we plan to offer a Winter Leadership course and a spring Shred Camp at our local ACC Asulkan Hut. We are also making plans to offer ice climbing trips.
With the section’s first full year behind us, we can reflect and recognize how much we have accomplished. But at the section’s core, the board of directors is still just a small group of local mountain enthusiasts. We know the importance of getting people outside, of helping locals to discover their own backyard in a safe environment. Spending time in these mountains, our Selkirks, develops an appreciation and respect for our wilderness that stays with a person for life. It gives us a sense of ownership, and ultimately, the obligation to stand up for these places when they are threatened by industry and development. If not us, then who?
We invite you to help build the momentum of the Columbia Mountains Section. We are actively looking for like-minded individuals to help steer the direction of the section in the coming years. Did you just move to town and want to meet motivated mountain people? Are you good with social media? Do you have an interest in becoming a volunteer trip leader to help build your guiding resume? Do you like working with youth outdoors? Do you have a strong appreciation for our local hiking trails and want to help get the trail stewardship program rolling? Are you good at writing grant proposals? Do you want to help with grassroots environmental activism to protect our mountains? What about establishing a good working relationship with local retail shops and businesses? Do you have skills in organizing and realizing local fundraising events? If you possess any of these skills and interests, we would love to hear from you. Contact us through our website (acccolumbiamountains.com), and stay up to date with upcoming events on the ACC Columbia Mountains Facebook group page.
See you in the hills.