Submitted by Doug Clark
The Kootenay Mountaineering Club celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2014. The KMC existed as a section of the Alpine Club of Canada for its first five years, but went its own way when it could not or would not persuade sufficient numbers to sign up with the ACC. Today, the KMC numbers over 300 members and schedules more than 100 outdoor trips and activities every year. Its membership resides primarily in the West Kootenays with most members residing within the Rossland-Trail-Castlegar-Nelson corridor.
Fifty years ago the KMC’s constitution stated the objectives of the club were to:
• Maintain a program of climbs during the summer season and ski touring trips in the winter and spring,
• Serve as a nucleus for people interested in mountaineering and wishing to associate with others of like interests, and
• Maintain records of pertinent information on trips in the Kootenay area.
The club still does all of this, but 50 years ago the logging industry had not cut many roads into the mountains and access to some of the most beautiful Kootenay country was difficult. The early years of the club saw much effort directed into cutting a trail into Mulvey Basin in the Valhallas from where, if not a first summit, then second or third ascents could be launched. Many trails were cut in the KMC’s early years and first ascents were made throughout the Kootenays by KMC members. Weekly rock climbing classes were conducted and early records abound with accounts of very technical climbs. Ski touring and hiking in Kokanee Glacier Park was and still is popular. The old Slocan Chief cabin, built in 1896 to service mining operations in the Kokanee Glacier area, hosted many KMC winter and summer outings. The cabin still exists but today it houses historical information displays and the luxurious Kokanee Glacier Lodge has become the main destination for overnight trips since it was built 10 years ago. The KMC also manages and maintains the four huts on the famous Bonnington Traverse.
Highlights of the KMC’s year are the three one-week hiking camp sessions and the Kokanee Glacier ski week. Both are so much in demand that the club holds lotteries to select the participants. The club’s semi-annual socials are always popular for meeting friends and viewing members slide shows of some of their more exotic or adventurous trips.
Some things have changed in 50 years. While the KMC frowns on motorized, off-road back country recreation, the back country is becoming increasingly crowded with quads, snow mobiles and commercial cat and heli-skiing operations. The club doesn’t instruct technical climbing anymore, now relying on certified instructors to provide its members more advanced training.
When the KMC isn’t in the back country having fun, some challenges of a different nature are taken on. In the early years, the club lobbied successfully for preservation of Kokanee Glacier Park and the formation of the Valhalla Provincial Park and the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy. Today, the KMC is actively trying to keep the Jumbo Valley ‘wild’ and is rallying opposition to the resort’s development. Another concern is that, while access to the back country is better than it was in the 60’s thanks to logging roads, today many of the forestry roads are being decommissioned and some of the favorite hiking and climbing destinations are once again becoming difficult to impossible to access.
On June 7, 2014, the KMC will celebrate its 50th anniversary and host the Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC’s AGM in Castlegar. We are partnering with the FMCBC to fill the 200+ seats in the Old Castlegar Theatre to hear guest speaker, Dave Quinn, the ‘Outdoor Guy’ on CBC Radio West, talk that evening about conservation issues and his adventures in the Kootenays. The KMC looks forward to meeting the FMCBC Directors representing 31 outdoor clubs from around the province and sharing concerns, solutions and inspirations.
Check us out at: http://www.kootenaymountaineering.bc.ca