Bugaboo Spire re-enactment captures the legend



Historical feat--Garry Reiss, Bryan Thompson, Rob LeBlanc and Natalia Danalachi on their ascent.  Photos by trip photographer Ivan Petrov
Historical feat–Garry Reiss, Bryan Thompson, Rob LeBlanc and Natalia Danalachi on their ascent.Photos by trip photographer Ivan Petrov

For the first time in a century, mountaineers have successfully climbed Bugaboo Spire using much of the same vintage equipment as one of the most legendary figures of Canadian climbing did in 1916.

Ontarians Bryan Thompson, Rob LeBlanc, Garry Reiss and Natalia Danalachi made the journey out west in July to make the 10,500-foot ascent up Bugaboo Spire using vintage gear and equipment from 100 years ago in hopes of re-enacting one of the most storied climbs made by the famous mountaineer Conrad Kain.

The climb that was done on Bugaboo Spire that was done 100 years ago was by far one of the most challenging climbs of that time and it was considered to be pretty challenging for years after that, said Ivan Petrov, one of the photographers on the trip. We were interested in experiencing what it was like to do something like that in 1916 and we also wanted to experience what it was like, not just to do the climb itself, but to camp in old wool clothes and use the same equipment and use the same foods that they would have eaten 100 years ago.

The planning process started two months ago when Mr. Thompson, shopping at army surplus shops, antique stores and eBay, began assembling the necessary supplies for the trip that were most similar to that of the 1916 climb. As the leader of the expedition, he wanted to recreate the climb as closely as possible to the point of matching the amount of males to females as the trip in 1916, Ms. Danalachi said.

She was invited on the trip to represent the famous Elizabeth McCarthy, who scaled Bugaboo Spire as the only female member in the four-person group a century ago.

Carrying some 700 pounds of gear including both modern equipment and food for safety precautions as well as film equipment for their documentary Hobnails and Hemp Rope the four climbers and film crew began their ascent on July 8th in the hopes of finishing a week later.

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Battling obstacles such as the uncomfortable hobnail boots known for the nails driven through the soles of the boots while dealing with failing equipment like their stove, they were forced to make the decision of how they would be able to reach the summit safely.

Making the climb increasingly difficult, Mr. Petrov said, was that they had to redo the route several times at each stage so they could bring all the equipment up with them, which added additional time to each stage. In the end, the group made the tough decision that it would only be safe for two of the group, Mr. LeBlanc and Ms. Danalachi, to reach the summit without taking on unnecessary risk.

Overall, it was one of the best experiences of my life, Ms. Danalachi said in an interview after reaching the summit. It was not easy, but all the suffering that we went through was worth it. It was nice to see what Conrad Kain and all the climbers back in 1916 had to challenge in order to summit.

As an amateur mountaineer himself, Mr. Petrov said that most of the crew had learned of this famous climb through books and wanted to share that story with more Canadians today.

Its not something that the general public seek out unless theyre involved in mountaineering or climbing, but it certainly seemed like something that required almost super human effort and preparation for planning 100 years ago without knowing whats around the corner and whether theyd be able to get to the summit or safely come back down the mountain, he said.

While not a perfect re-enactment, the group plans to produce the documentary film of their journey later this year with a trailer to its release available on YouTube by searching Hobnails and Hemp Rope documentary trailer or going directly to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrRDb8Kfv0U.

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