I attended my second Alpine Club of Canada General Mountaineering Camp last week. I loved my first time at the camp last year (despite snow and howling winds in July!) so I was excited to return again this year. I’m amazed at how the camp organizers manage to find such fantastic locations. This year our camp sat atop a small plateau, surrounded by tumbling glaciers and crashing waterfalls in the Purcell Mountains just north of Radium Hotsprings in BC.
The weather started off much as it did last year. Light rain turned into a downpour as we waited for the helicopter to arrive and fog threatened to close in. Very ominous. Fortunately, the flights got through without any trouble, taking us the long way around to avoid having to go up and over the glaciers in such weather. In camp the rain turned to hail, then snow.
Sil joined me this year and we both decided to spend our first day in camp at “Ice School”. We learned about travelling across glaciers and practiced crevasse rescue. The school day this year was such a contrast to last year. After a winter of hardly any snow, the bare glacier ice was exposed and nearly every climbing objective involved lots of travel across ice. Last year, there was so much snow, we only set foot on bare ice one day of the whole week.
Sometimes it’s the little things that you enjoy most in life and one special feature at this year’s GMC was no exception. As much as I loved the full day climbs, a little ice tunnel at the foot of the glacier turned out to be a really fun surprise. I went back twice, the second time going with Sil and our new friends Leslee and Carol. Sil felt inspired to climb up on top and practice some yoga.
The camp staff were fantastic! It’s hard to believe that the food can be so good up here in the alpine, surround by ice and hundreds of kilometers from the nearest town. We never went hungry. Actually, one of the previous week’s participants jokingly said “you might be camping, but you’re not going to lose any weight on this trip”. How true.
My first GMC was a bit unusual. The weather turned so bad that we couldn’t get up to any of the big peaks. The climbs we did do were more snow hikes and easy scrambles. This year I felt like I was actually mountaineering. On the climb up Camp Peak we had to tiptoe around the steep lip of a huge crevasse – a bus-eating monster of a crevasse!
Mountaineering is usually a “type-2 fun” kind of activity. That is, it’s not necessarily fun in the moment and you might even swear never to do it again after a particularly trying climb. Yet, slowly but surely, you find yourself wanting to return to the mountains. The GMC, though, is solidly in type-1 fun terrain. It’s fun to be there, fun to wander through the mazes of crevasses, fun to reach the summit, and fun to enjoy a delicious meal with new friends at the end of the day.