By Kristy Koehler, June 28 2018—
University of Calgary alumnus Paddy McGuire is set to explore Mount Waddington this summer with a group of adventurers from The Canadian Explorations Heritage Society (CEHS).
The CEHS is devoted to recreating explorations that happened in the early years of mountaineering. The not-for-profit society’s goal is to create awareness of explorers and the regions they trekked throughout history.
Their next adventure is Mystery Mountain, now known as Mount Waddington in British Columbia. In July, CEHS will follow in the footsteps of Don and Phyllis Munday, a couple who made incredible contributions to Canadian mountaineering. In 1926, the couple set out to explore a mountain no one believed existed — one Phyllis claimed to have spotted from Vancouver Island. Phyllis Munday was the first woman to summit Mount Robson, guided by Conrad Kain.
CEHS expedition leader Bryan Thompson hopes this re-enactment will bring attention to people who were “intrepid history makers.” He is a stickler for historical accuracy — the only exception to his rule of authenticity on this journey will be a modern toothbrush.
The Mystery Mountain Project will last for 30 days, nearly three weeks longer than previous ascents the group has undertaken. The expedition team made their own tents, backpacks and sleeping bags based on historical photos and antique prototypes. The team is replacing the zippers on their clothing with buttons, wearing hobnail boots, and preparing to live partially off the land by eating berries and mushrooms along the way.
How is the team chosen for these expeditions? Thompson has one heck of a sales pitch.
“[I tell explorers they will be] in wool clothes, nowhere near Gore-Tex, running into a grizzly every day, plowing through thorny brush that will rip flesh off, cutting down trees, in knee-deep snow and huge crevasses and experiencing rock falls on massive scale, all with very little chance of making it to the top,” he says.
For many mountaineers, making the summit is the goal, but for Thompson and his team, it’s being able to experience history. Potential adventurers have to buy into the purpose of the climb and a sense of humour, even in adverse conditions, is vital. Out of thousands of climbers in the Toronto area, only four wanted to participate, so Bryan started advertising in Western Canada. This is how he found McGuire, U of C alumnus, active member of the Alpine Club of Canada and an experienced mountaineer.
McGuire always wanted to climb Mount Waddington. Being a history buff, he jumped at the chance to do a historical re-enactment climb. He isn’t daunted by the lack of modern conveniences and is looking forward to unplugging from everything. He expects to be hungry and cold. There won’t be any bear spray either, so McGuire says he’ll just be “banging pots and pans together.”
As far as Thompson knows, there are no groups like this anywhere else in Canada. Climbing a mountain is a formidable task even with modern conveniences — climbing a mountain using authentic gear, clothing and food available in the 1920s seems next to impossible. Thompson, McGuire and the rest of their team have fundraised for this adventure for months, contributing their own personal funds as well.
The Mystery Mountain Project will be filmed and used as an educational tool to bring awareness to an amazing part of Canadian history. The obvious question for Thompson was, ‘What’s next?’ In 2021, the CEHS will be recreating the 1793 Peace River Expedition, when Alexander Mackenzie and his party became the first Europeans to cross North America North of Mexico. The CEHS also plan to celebrate the centennial of The Alpine Club of Canada’s famous 1925 ascent of Mount Logan, which is Canada’s highest peak.
For more information, check out https://canadianehsociety.ca/expedition-waddington/