Submitted by Pat Morrow
A new outdoor adventure documentary takes on a quirky and unusual subject: a group of friends who set out to re-enact a celebrated mountain climb in the Purcells.
The 25-minute long film, Hobnails and Hemp Rope, which is previewing on Tuesday, November 29th at 7 p.m. at the Jumbo Creek Conservation Societys AGM in the DTSS theatre (admission by donation), follows the story of four amateur climbers from the Toronto section of the Alpine Club of Canada as they attempt to reproduce the ground-breaking 1916 ascent of Bugaboo Spire by the legendary mountain guide Conrad Kain (Editors note: The Bugaboo Spire reenactment was reported on in the July 22nd and August 5th issues of The Pioneer).
Preceding the film, the JCCS will hold its traditionally brief AGM, and bring the audience up to date on its efforts to Keep Jumbo Wild. As an introduction to the film, photographer and one of JCCSs directors, Pat Morrow, will provide context to Kains pioneering of the most technical alpine climb of his era.
Morrow will present a brief A/V show on some of the other 14 first ascents Kain led that same summer (all in the company of K2 Ranch-based clients Albert and Bess MacCarthy). Hell also share photos from some of his own half dozen ascents of this iconic peak.
Expedition organizer Bryan Thompson, who is both a climber and a history buff, explains the motivation behind this project: We really wanted to experience what it was like a hundred years ago to climb, to camp, to cook in the outdoors, to eat the kinds of food they ate.
Thompson and his teammates stopped for a night on their way to the Bugaboos to meet members of the Conrad Kain Centennial Society and to pay respects to Kain at the memorial cairn outside Wilmer community hall.
Striving for historical accuracy, the four members of the expedition Thompson, Rob LeBlanc, Garry Reiss and Natalia Danalachi used only mountaineering equipment from the early 1900s. This included wooden ice axes, a hemp rope, hobnail-soled boots, a canvas tent and vintage woolen clothing.
They werent allowed to use modern technology such as sleeping bags or inflatable mattresses; not even waterproof jackets to fend off the violent rainstorms that sweep down off the Vowell and Bugaboo glaciers.
Montreal writer, producer and director of photography Greg Gransden worked hard to capture some of the more grueling moments of the modern day Sufferfest.
Unable to get their antique kerosene stove to work properly, Gransdens camera faithfully records the misery of the hypothermic climbers having to bed down for the night cold and hungry sleeping on a bed of rain-soaked spruce branches and woolen blankets, as they did in Kains time. The expeditions official still photographer and publicist, Ivan Petrov, worked alongside Gransden to create photos for a two-month long exhibit that will be launched along with the films screening at Banffs Whyte Museum on November 24th.
The nicely crafted film follows them gingerly making their way up the famed granitic rock of Bugaboo Spire, wondering if their hundred-year-old equipment would protect them in the event of an accident. The spire is a daunting climb, threatened by rock fall on its lower slopes, which gets noticeably more lethal every year due to climate change, and weather that can turn the spire into a 10,500-foot lightning rod.
The climb didnt always go smoothly, nor did their clunky footwear make the job any easier. Those hobnail boots are really bad, said Reiss. On the rock, with 1000 meters of terrifying exposure below, they would sometimes slide its like wearing skates. I couldnt wait to get em off.
Thompson sums it up nicely: I always revered Conrad Kain and Albert and Bess MacCarthy, the clients who climbed with him the most. But having survived some of the hardships they endured on every single climb, I have a deeper appreciation for what they did.
Sponsors of the expedition include the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, BC Parks, the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Toronto Section – Alpine Club of Canada, Canterbury Museum and Eagle Brand. The film trailer can be viewed on YouTube by searching Hobnails and Hemp Rope Trailer #2.