For a group a recreational hikers and backpackers to organize an outing it can take a dizzying amount of calls and meetings and even with that amount of planning things will sometimes still not work out.
For a group to come together and continue organizing numerous outings every year for 50 years is a mountainous accomplishment but that is the milestone that the Kootenay Mountaineering Club (KMC) will be celebrating in June.
Prior to 1964, mountaineering enthusiasts were organized under the Alpine Club of Canada but they chose to organize more locally when they had difficulty encouraging enough people to sign up with the national organization.
Today, the KMC has over 300 members throughout the Kootenays, with the majority living in the west in the Trail-Rossland-Castlegar-Nelson corridor.
“The membership in Trail and Rossland is pretty strong, probably representing about a third of our numbers,” said Doug Clark, president of the KMC. “The biggest contingent is from the Nelson area though.”
KMC members meet to practice various climbing techniques and can be seen free-climbing, or scrambling, their way up rock bluffs around the area, near Salmo or Syringa Creek, as well as going on hikes through the summer season and cross-country ski trips through the winter and spring seasons.
“We have some trips that are quite popular; Mount Loki, on the East Shore of Kootenay Lake, Mount Gimli in the Valhallas, Old Glory and Mount Roberts on Canada Day,” said Clark. “All trips are graded by the degree of difficulty, from A to D, and people choose which trips to go on depending on their interests and ability.”
Another area that proves popular with KMC members is the Jumbo Pass, in the Purcell Mountain range, which is the controversial area slated for development as a ski resort.
“We are concerned about this development,” Clark said. “We do support environmental causes and, as a club, we’re opposed to Jumbo development.”
Historically, the club has cut numerous trails into the backcountry, providing access to areas that have become increasingly popular hiking and backcountry ski routes and were also active successfully lobbying for the preservation of Kokanee Glacier Park, and the formation of the Valhalla Provincial Park and Purcell Wilderness conservancy.
The club maintains records of their various hikes and climbs, some of which have been “first ascents” of some of the loftier peaks, to provide guidance to those who come after them in exploring the awesome vistas and natural beauty of Kootenays.
Clark, who moved to the area relatively recently, said the ability to access the wisdom of others was one of the things that attracted him to the KMC.
“Being able to leverage other people’s experience to learn the area was important,” he said. “It helped me learn the area a lot quicker and in more detail by going out with people who have experience.
“I think most people who live in the Kootenays love the scenery and the wild country. This club is about getting out and enjoying it.”
The KMC will be celebrating its 50 year anniversary, June 7 at the Old Castlegar Theatre at 8 p.m. with a presentation by guest speaker, Dave Quinn, the “Outdoor Guy” with CBC Radio West. More information about the event and the KMC can be found at www.kootenaymountaineering.bc.ca.