Climbers re-enact famous Bugaboo Spire climb with antique equipment



Hobnail and Hemp Rope team that re-enacted Conrad Kain's first ascent of Bugaboo Spire on its centennial in 2016.
Hobnail and Hemp Rope team that re-enacted Conrad Kain’s first ascent of Bugaboo Spire on its centennial in 2016.

Climbing a mountain is an arduous process in and of itself. Facing the environment, youre scaling an unpredictable and life-threatening obstacle for the sake of saying you did it. Add in the fact that youre climbing with equipment thats been out of date for a century and the danger multiplies.

Thats what a group of four mountain climbers did last week, though, re-creating the climb of Bugaboo Spire that was first climbed by one of the legendary figures of Canadian climbing, Conrad Kain, in 1916.

Bryan Thompson, Rob LeBlanc, Garry Reiss and Natalia Danalachi, four climbers from Toronto, made the journey west to make the 10,500-foot ascent up Bugaboo Spire using vintage gear and equipment from 100 years ago to re-create one of the most storied climbs made by the famous mountaineer Kain.

Preparing for the climb, Mr. Thompson scoured army surplus supply shops, antique stores and eBay to equip the expedition with camping and climbing equipment from 1916.

On the shopping list were things like vintage mess-kits, canteens, woolen shirts, ice axes and hobnail boots named for the nails hammered through the soles to increase traction.

Another challenge was camping under the stars with only blankets separating them from the elements.

A lot of modern climbers today are used to creature comforts that they didnt have 100 years ago, Mr. Thompson said in a press release. Were used to sleeping on nice air mattresses, in a down sleeping bag with a really nice alpine tent that protects us from the elements.

Starting their expedition on July 8th, two in the group (Mr. LeBlanc and Ms. Danalachi) were able to complete the climb on July 14th, according to Wilmer resident and mountaineer Pat Morrow, whos the head of the Conrad Kain Centennial Society.

Mr. Morrow said he has been trying to get the word out about Kains story since he came to the area eight years ago, stressing the importance of climbers like Kain and his team to the origins of mountaineering.

They were real explorers in the pure sense, he said. They were operating in this valley when there were no roads up any of the major drainages so from here to the Bugaboos would have taken them three or four days by horseback.

Mr. Morrow said he was happy to see a group of climbers try to re-create one of Kains 60 climbs, and is waiting anxiously to see the pictures and video that were recorded on the climb for the groups documentary entitled, Hobnails and Hemp Rope.

The proof will be in the pudding, he said. You never know until you see the end result in what is written and what appears on the screen.

Mr. Morrow said he has done the same climb at least six different times, but notes its much easier using modern equipment, which the group wasnt privy to.

While he said that while he tips his cap to the group re-enacting the climb, there was a major factor that made the climb even more dangerous for original explorers like Kain.

Its not just the funky clothing and the funky climbing gear that made it difficult, he said. It was the isolation and the fact that these people were pioneering a route that no human had ever been up and they had no idea where to go on the mountain until they actually put their hands on the mountain.

These people who just did the re-enactment, there are guidebooks that tell you exactly where you can put your hands and where you can put your protection and where you repel.

Ultimately, Mr. Morrow said, a re-created climb like this should be commended for its efforts to honour the climbs first pioneering mountain climber.

I always tip my hat to Kain and all the climbers of his era that were here filling in the blanks that David Thompson left 100 years before them when he made the map of this area, he said.

The Pioneer will be following up with the group so check back for a story on how they fared. The film trailer for Hobnails and Hemp Rope can be viewed on YouTube by searching for Hobnails and Hemp Rope documentary trailer.

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