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Kootenay mountaineers living the high life

Members have been taking hikers into the backcountry for more than 50 years

The Kootenay Mountaineering Club (KMC) has been creating memorable life experiences for more than 50 years.

KMC first formed in 1968, and has been hosting hiking/climbing camps since 1974, with only 2020 and 2021 campouts missed due to COVID health orders.

“Each summer the Kootenay Mountaineering Club (KMC) organizes three one-week long hiking camps for interested members of the KMC,” explained longtime executive member Peter Oostlander. “The camps are usually in remote locations, in areas further afield in the Kootenays.”

The past summer, members hiked from camps in the Septet Creek area of the Bugaboo Mountains near Bugaboo Provincial Park just outside of Invermere. Historically, most camps visit remote and often challenging terrain in the Purcell, Monashee, Selkirk, and Rocky Mountains.

Participants are flown into the selected site by helicopter along with their own hiking/climbing gear, camp gear, and, food.

All camps are self-catered and unguided. Each trip has a capacity of 20 people per camp including a volunteer leader who organizes the pre-camp and in-camp set-up, and a volunteer cook.

Of the 365 members, most are from the Trail, Rossland, Castlegar and Nelson area, making KMC the largest climbing club outside the Lower Mainland. This year, because of a high snowpack in the alpine areas, the first two camps were cancelled, but an additional camp was added after the last camp.

Active members are selected for the camps by an annual lottery system and Greater Trail’s Dan Bouillon was one of the lucky draw winners, who joined a recent hike into the Bugaboos.

“What I found most surprising and amazing about the experience was the people I met,” said Bouillon. “Although I was fully expecting to be inspired by mountains and vistas, to have my heart want to pump out of my chest from exertion, and to experience a bit of fear in the most dangerous places, it was the inspiring people I met that gave me the most lasting impressions.

“We talked about biology and conservation, adventures to far off lands in every corner of the earth, encounters with rhinos and elephants, Bengal tigers and hippos, cougars and bears.

“Many of the hikers were retirement age and there was nothing holding them back in life – truly inspiring!”

And in addition to no age limits, fitness or climbing ability are also not an issue.

“Since the hiking camp has 20 participants each, we see the group split up in small teams that have similar abilities,” added Oostlander. “So, one group might hike only easy terrain, while others are more energetic and select longer distances or a little more technical terrain.”

In addition to the hiking camps, KMC members regularly organize hikes up mountains or through meadows, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing and other adventures almost every week of the year.

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Jim Bailey

About the Author: Jim Bailey

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