A pair of Nelson rock climbers are getting set to make history by becoming the first people to embark on a self-propelled adventure to the summit of Mt. Gimli in the Valhalla Mountain Range.
ACMG mountain guide David Lussier and guidebook author Vince Hempsall will set out at 3:00 a.m. on August 29 from their homes in Nelson, and bike the 86 kilometres to the top of the Bannock Burns Forest Service Road. From there they will hike the 1.5 hours to the base of Mt. Gimli, simul-climb the 345-metre South Ridge route, hike back down and bike back to Nelson — all in under 24 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 works in close association with 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 litter removal.
The Mt. Gimli Challenge also marks an important milestone as the route the two men plan to climb is celebrating its 40th year. Mt. Gimli 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 makes 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, have been training for the past two months embarking on long, endurance mountain bike rides and practicing their simul-climbing skills. (The latter involves 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.)
“I feel pretty lucky to have access to such a superb climb like the South Ridge of Gimli in our backyard,” says Lussier, who first climbed the route 18 years ago.
As owner and operator of Summit Mountain Guides, Lussier has brought many guests to Gimli, as well as on other classic routes throughout Western Canada and Europe.
Should local outdoor enthusiasts wish to learn more about TAWKROC or to make a donation that will help with new route development, please log on to tawkroc.org.