Submitted by Pat Morrow,
chair of the Conrad Kain Society

“The first day was difficult for me, but I learned a lot about climbing and safety in general. I am so glad I had the opportunity to do this camp and would greatly encourage others to do it as well. Overall, this camp took me out of my comfort zone and made me a more confident person.” 

Those words, proffered by 14-year-old Cam Hofer, encourage the directors of the Conrad Kain Society and me to continue promoting the providence of pioneer mountain guide Conrad Kain by offering our annual free-of-charge three day climbing camp aimed at local teens.

And, Cam’s enthusiasm can be seen as an invitation to other youth in the valley to pursue any additional opportunity to discover, on their own terms, the physical and spiritual rewards of human powered pursuits in their own backyard. In the case of mountaineering, the focus required to overcome fear and physical challenges can be applied to the often overwhelming distractions and concerns in young adult lives. The opportunity to rope up with other teens under the guidance of experienced climbers has the potential to write a whole new chapter into their lives, which will be remembered even if they never climb another mountain.

Due to uncertainties around the pandemic, the Conrad Kain Society (CKS) chose to run its second abbreviated climbing camp based out of Invermere instead of the Kain Hut in the Bugaboos. ACMG guide Tim McAllister and I were honoured to introduce Virginia Denchuk, Anika Rievaj and Cam Hofer to some of the funnest “hands on” rock, ice and snow experiences to be found in the Rockies and Purcells within a bumpy hour’s drive from town.

We began in the Rockies with an exposed limestone ridge traverse that honed our concentration and short-roping skills, with an airy 20 m lower to get back to terra firma. 

On day two, we headed for the apex of the Purcell range to develop route-finding and glacier-crossing skills. A strong wind and the first rain in weeks kept us from reaching our objective, but the full-on conditions gave us a sense of the power of nature and the need to be prepared in terms of comfort and safety.

On the third and final day, the weather gods threatened to shut us down early, so we chose to crag climb locally under a huge rock overhang that repelled the first sprinkles of rain. Moments after we began the drive home, a torrential downpour brought much needed moisture to the valley.

Many thanks to the directors and members of the CKS for their support, and the Alpine Club of Canada for their enduring involvement in this introductory mountaineering program, which was inspired by the legacy of their very first mountain guide, Conrad Kain, hired in 1909 to run one of the ACC’s earliest camps, out of Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park.

Virginia has the last words: “I had a lot of fun during this camp! I appreciated that it was more of an experiential learning experience than a coached learning experience. I belayed someone for the first time.”