Post edited 7:17 pm – September 3, 2012 by admin
Two backcountry adventurers in Nelson, British Columbia, have made history by becoming the first people to complete a self-propelled adventure to the summit of Gimli Peak in the Valhalla Mountain Range.
ACMG mountain guide David Lussier and guidebook author Vince Hempsall set out at 3:00 a.m. on Friday, August 31st from their homes in Nelson, and biked the 86 kilometres to the top of the Bannock Burn Forest Service Road. From there they hiked the 1.5 hours to the base of Gimli Peak, simul-climbed the 345-metre (1,100-foot) South Ridge route (in a record-breaking 2.5 hours), hiked back down and biked back to Nelson – all in 20 hours.
The challenge was set up to help bring awareness to the Association of West Kootenay Rock Climbers (TAWKROC), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the responsible development, maintenance and access of safe outdoor rock climbing areas in the West Kootenays. TAWKROC (www.tawkroc.org) works in close association with CASBC (the Climbers Access Society of BC) which funds environmental projects such as erosion protection measures at the base of cliffs, trail building, and graffiti and garbage removal.
The Gimli Challenge also marks an important milestone as the route the two men climbed is celebrating its 40th year. Gimli Peak is the centerpiece of the Valhallas and the South Ridge route (which has a rating of 5.10a) is its most famous climb. People have travelled from as far away as Tasmania just to attempt this nine-pitch route, which was first put up by a team of climbers lead by Peter Koedt and Peter Rowat in the early 1970s.
"Gimli is one of the most beautiful pieces of rock I have ever had the pleasure to climb," says Hempsall, who co-authored the West Kootenay Rock Guide. "It made sense to honour the 40th anniversary of the landmark South Ridge route and bring some awareness to the efforts of those who continue developing new outdoor climbs in our area."
Lussier and Hempsall, who are also celebrating their 40th birthdays this year, agree the biking portion of the day was definitely the biggest challenge as the pair spent a total of 12 hours on their hard-tail, hybrid bikes carrying everything they needed for the adventure in backpacks and panniers. It took them 5 hours to reach the base of Bannock Burn Road and another 2 hours to bike the last 8 kilometres to the Gimli parking lot. The logging roads were difficult because they were in washboard condition after a summer's worth of use and the pair also spent about five hours riding in the dark.
Interestingly, the most dangerous part of the day (rock climbing the route) was also the easiest, Dave says. (Simul-climbing involved the two men climbing at the same time, attached by one 30-metre length of rope, with the leader placing gear in the rock to protect any falls. The seconder removes the gear as he climbs.)
The weather conditions were excellent for the day. They departed under a blue moon and had clear skies. It was 27°C in the valley but 9°C with the windchill in the alpine and Vince says he was happy to have his North Face Wrencher jersey and Alpine Project jacket along for the ride as both were lightweight, breathable and tough. For more about these particular pieces of technical wear click here.
For more about the Gimli Challenge, click here.