Alpine Club of Canada. Mountains. In addition to copious climbing options from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island, Canadians are blessed with vast, unpopulated spaces in- between. But with a relatively small population inhabiting the world’s second largest country, it’s not easy to maintain a national identity in a social or political sense, not to mention viewing Canada’s climbing community as a single cohesive entity. With over 10,000 members, the Alpine Club of Canada includes 18 regional sections.
Every November, the Banff Mountain Film Festival brings ACC members together. They volunteer in Banff at the festival’s food concessions, which fund the ACC sponsored prize for Best Climbing Film, then gather in local auditoriums across the country for ACC organized screenings of the festival’s best films. Last year the Vancouver section organized a two-week summer climbing camp in the Waddington Range’s Upper Tellot Glacier area, the Prince George section embarked on its First international trip to climb warm rock at Joshua Tree in California, and the Ottawa section staged a summer camp at the A.O. Wheeler Hut in Rogers Pass. Volunteer-led mountain outings are the backbone of the ACC, as is a commitment of stewardship toward the places those adventures take place. Across the country, section members collaborate, as the Outaouais, Montreal, and Ottawa sections have, to create the Keane Farm Management Committee. Last August the Manitoba section hosted an invitational climbing weekend for Thunder Bay members, returning Thunder Bay’s hospitality during its invitational ice-climbing weekend. Online, the Edmonton section maintains the Alpine Accidents in Canada Website to the benefit of all Canadians.
Along with volunteer-led club outings, ACC membership offers valuable leadership training, from telemark clinics to backcountry orienteering, watercolor painting workshops to writing contests, adventure races to ice climbing festivals. All promote the club’s founding objectives: the encouragement and practice of mountaineering and mountain crafts, the education of Canadians in appreciation of their mountaineering heritage, the exploration of alpine and glacial regions, and the preservation of their natural beauties.
Under its new and broader Mountain Culture heading, the publications committee continues to celebrate the people and events that shape Canada’s alpine heritage through its ever-expanding library. Three times a year Mountain Culture’s volunteers produce the full color Gazette, bringing ACC and mountain related news to members across the country. Every year since 1907, climbers in Canada and other alpine nations have looked forward to exploring the pages of the Canadian Alpine Journal. Working in partnership with other organizations and individuals, in 2003 Mountain Culture published Artists of the Rockies: Inspiration of Lake O’Hara, by Jane Lytton Gooch. Honoring the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides’ founding members at the 2003 ACC Mountain Guide’s Ball annual fundraiser, Mountain Culture produced the ACMG’s only published history, Route Finding, by Lynn Martel.
While the past is important to all cultures, so is the present and future. The ACC’s Competition Climbing Canada/Competition d’Escalade Canada encourages Canadian youth to pursue climbing, with over 100 registered athletes competing on a regular basis. Last year 12 climbers traveled to Bulgaria for the World Youth Championships, where Vancouver’s Sean McColl won his 17 year-old age category. The Canadian Ski Mountaineering Competition Committee has developed a proposal for a ski mountaineering competition to take place in the Rockies, with plans for a Canadian team for this growing sport. The Huts Committee is planning a new Fay Hut to replace the historic log cabin that was lost to forest fire last August. Honoring the club’s past, the Fairy Meadow Hut was renamed the Bill Putnam Hut last summer, while the ACC took over management of the new Kokanee Glacier Trudeau Hut.
While dedicated volunteers put their expertise in areas of access and environment to use for the benefit of club members and all Canadians, the Grants Committee handed out $12,500 last year to worthy mountain related projects, including the Cliff Face Vegetation Communities Project to research and document the impacts of sport climbing on cliff face vegetation in the Niagara Escarpment area, and the Vampire Spires all-woman first-ascent attempt near the NWT’s Cirque of the Unclimbables.
Like any organization, the ACC faces unforeseen challenges. Rising liability insurance costs have affected the club’s financial picture, as did last year’s SARS outbreak, rampant forest fires in B.C., and an unusually high number of avalanche deaths. Such challenges are unavoidable, but serve to highlight the strength of Canada’s mountaineering community and its partnerships with related organizations, including the Union Internationale des Associations d'Alpinisme and the American Alpine Club. And at the end of the day, ACC members head to their nearest hills, crags, cliffs and peaks to celebrate the blessing of being able to do so.