Open Mountains Project empowers youth with outdoor experiences

Mountain camps for youth include mountaineering trips to Bugaboos, Mt. Begbie in 2019.

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Ethan Jameson practices his climbing skills while participating in Open Mountains Project's first ever Bugaboos mountaineering trip in August. 2018. Photo: Open Mountains Project.

Last year, Open Mountains Project ran its first ever mountaineering trip to Bugaboo Provincial Park. My son, Ethan, was among the small group of youths who participated in the four-day, three-night adventure. I dropped him off for the trip with his backpack and gear (all of it borrowed from Open Mountains, thanks to generous donations), and picked him up four days later. He was tired, sore and smelled something awful, but for days after he spoke about his experience at the camp.

I asked Ethan the other day what he remembers most about last year’s trip to the Bugaboos. Youth participating in the trip hiked the 900 metres of vertical gain to the Applebee Dome campground carrying most of their own gear. Ethan told me the long hike to get to their camp was the most difficult part, but once they got to the top there was a “crazy view.” That’s his way of telling me it was amazing and absolutely worth all the hard work and effort it took to get there. The next three days were spent exploring the area, including a summit of Eastpost Spire and enjoying the views that included a lake created by meltwater off the Crescent Glacier.

Youth at the camp were in good hands with guides including Open Mountains Project executive director Rachel Reimer and IFMGA Mountain Guide Barry Blanchard.

Blanchard, known as one of North America’s top alpine climbers and one of a few Metis guides, acted as lead guide during the Bugaboos trip. Together, the group worked on developing skills in single pitch rock climbing on granite slabs and cracks near camp, and glacier travel using crampons and ice axes while roped together in rope teams.

Youth worked on developing skills in single pitch rock climbing on granite slabs and cracks. Photo: Open Mountains Project

This year, Open Mountains has added a second mountaineering trip to Mt. Begbie, in addition to the Bugaboos trip and Mountain Youth camp. Founded in 2016, the local non-profit organization operates with a goal of providing youth with barrier-free, empowering experiences in the mountain environment. Reimer said Open Mountains is dedicated to supporting the resilience and leadership of youth, young adults and other vulnerable populations in Revelstoke.

In addition to the summer camps, Open Mountains also offers winter avalanche courses designed for youth and parents. The Mountain Youth Winter program includes a six-session ski and splitboard touring course that finishes with a three-day backcountry hut trip for youth aged 13-16. All of Open Mountain Project’s camps and courses are subsidized by local businesses, individual donations and the Columbia Basin Trust helping to lower the costs, which are typically run at around $800 per youth for the summer camps. A generosity policy allows families who may not be able to afford the already lowered cost of the camps to either pay what they can or to ask for the fee to be waived, depending on their unique financial ability. For more information visit the Open Mountains Project website.

Youth participating in the Bugaboos trip carried most of their own gear up 900m of vertical gain to the Applebee Dome campground. Photo: Open Mountains Project

This year’s summer camps include:

Mountain Youth Summer Camp
When: July 15-20
Cost: $300 (generosity policy applies)
Ages: 12-14

This week-long day camp gives youth an introduction to (or develop existing skills in) rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, backpacking skills and canoeing. The week finishes off with an overnight backpacking trip to summit Mt.Mackenzie. Suitable for youth who like an introductory to moderate level of fitness and skills challenges, the youth camp is an excellent way to build towards one of the mountaineering courses Open Mountains offers.

Bugaboos Intro To Mountaineering
When: August 13-16
Cost: $375 (generosity policy applies)
Ages: 13-16

Youth spend four days/three nights in the granite spires of Bugaboo Provincial Park, with mountain guide and mentor Barry Blanchard. Build on existing skills in rock climbing, hiking, and backpacking by engaging in a unique challenge in a small group environment. Summit Eastpost Spire, learn crack climbing techniques, and glacier travel. Physical fitness required.

Mt.Begbie Intro to Mountaineering
When: August 19-22
Cost: $375 (generosity policy applies)
Ages: 13-16

Youth spend four days/three nights in the beautiful moraines, meadows and lakes just below the glacier on Mt. Begbie. Practice glacier travel, rock climbing and engage in a unique challenge in a small group environment, with the goal of summiting Mt. Begbie. Physical fitness required.

Sign-up information for this summer’s camps can be found here.

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