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Victoria Sports and Recreation: Mountaineering

[ Background | Equipment | Where ]


Mountaineering in the Canadian Rockies

Mountaineering originated in the 18th century in Europe. Religious superstitions deterred earlier climbers. The first major peak to be climbed was the French Mont Blanc in 1786 by Swiss climbers. British climbers and explorers in the 1800s climbed every major peak in Europe, North and South America and Africa. It wasn't until this century that a Himalayan peak was attempted, an in 1953, with the assistance of oxygen tanks, Sir Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzig Norgay of Nepal reached the top of Mt. Everest (8848 m, 26,504 ft), the tallest peak in the world. Recently a number of Canadians also climbed Everest.

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Mountaineering requires a fair amount of equipment, though it can be rented and is often included with a course. The essential equipment includes: warm, waterproof clothing including gloves, hat, gaiters, leather or plastic mountaineering boots, "crampons" (pointed metal plate affixed to boots for better traction on ice and snow), harness, ice axe and backpack for carrying food, extra clothing and emergency gear.

Other equipment, typically shared by the climbing party, includes climbing ropes, ice screws, rescue pulley, and snow shovel.

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Beginners should take a mountaineering course, an avalanche and ice safety course, or consider hiring a personal guide. To find out about courses and/or guides, call the University of Victoria 's Outdoor Program Centre (250-220-5038), Canada West Mountain School in Vancouver(604-878-7007) Yamnuska in Canmore, ALberta (403-678-4164).
or Yamnuska in Canmore(403-678-4164).

The local Vancouver Island mountains rise to about 450 metres (the highest is Mount Work), and the Gulf Islands also have some more challenging slopes with some more rewarding views. On SaltSpring Island is Hope Hill, on the very southern tip, Mt. Tuam (near, but not a walk from the Fulford Ferry terminal), and Mt. Maxwell, the best known viewpoint on Saltspring. These all have great water views, stretching as far as Mount Baker, near Seattle.

WARNING. Mountaineering requires essential safety precautions to avoid unnecessary risk. For difficult or challenging climbs a guide familiar with the area is recommended.

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