2018 Mystery Mountain Project: Mount Waddington, BC.

This account was provided by Stuart Rickard, member of the ACC-Ottawa section. Funding in support of this project was provided by ACC-Ottawa.

On June 29, 2018, I set out for Vancouver to embark on the most unusual project I’d ever been a part of. The goal was to summit Mount Waddington the largest mountain in British Columbia. Waddington, like most peaks has many challenges, an elevation of 4019 metres, an 18 km long glacier traverse, and, when approaching by foot, a 55 km bushwack through a coastal valley rainforest. To make this climb even more demanding our plan was to do it replicating the way it was first attempted by Don and Phyllis Munday, in 1926. These self-imposed hardships included, sleeping for 30 days using hand made floorless tents (and no “Deet”), in 10 lb wool lined sleeping bags, and ferrying loads of tin cans in the old expedition style. To add yet another angle to this, we were wearing period clothing, including hobnail boots, and would be relying on a safety system mainly comprised of hemp rope and alpinestocks. I questioned our sanity when, after shopping in Vancouver we took a full day to remove the light weight plastic packaging required to preserve our approximately 1000 lbs of food and replace it with hand waxed cotton sacks, cheese clothes, and of course, tin cans. This was shaping up to be both a mental and physical challenge of epic proportions.

We left a lodge on the north tip of Quadra Island and headed up the coast to Bute Inlet, a 9 hour boat ride in a beautifully restored schooner, the Misty Isles. The next three days the physical reality of the task set in. Two members of our team turned back, one because of a flu and the other because of severe foot blistering, both afflictions that were the result of the on and off rain and the constant moisture, trapped within the walls of the valley we were travelling in.

The next 20+ days became a routine slug fest; wake, eat, pack, carry, eat, sleep, became our rhythm. The monotony was broken by challenges like broken pack frames, grizzly bear encounters and debating where exactly we were on the map. There was also the anticipation of leaving this valley and gaining the alpine for the next phase of the journey.

On day 22, the freak weather that had led to almost three weeks without rain in most of the rest of BC and a growing blaze in the Okanagan, resulted in our planned extraction helicopter being called to fire duties. This canceled our take out, planned for the next week and unfortunately resulted in us having to stop our progress towards the mountain. We were left to spend the next 6 days camping close to the mouth of the inlet in wait of a water taxi home.

Like many projects of this nature we had ended far from the success we had envisioned, however it was also far from a failure. We had learned more about ourselves, what limits of discomfort we could endure, and had gained the best possible insight into the relentless dedication and extreme tenacity the Mundays possessed when they spent over a decade and 11 attempts to conquer such a beauty of a peak. Thanks to all my friends and family for their support and a special thanks to ACC-Ottawa for the financial contribution to this unique project.

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