This year we joined the Alpine Club of Canada (the ACC), an organization founded in 1906 with a focus on mountaineering. We joined the Toronto chapter which offers trips, meet ups, and other opportunities to explore the world of mountaineering within our own community. Besides the incredible community that we’re welcomed in to, another great perk of the ACC is their huts located across Canada and the U.S. that offer accommodations for members at really incredible rates.
Our first meet up with the ACC was a talk by Helmut Microys. We all gathered in the upstairs of a pub off Yonge – it was packed. Scattered pints, grins, and anticipation packed the space between members as we huddled beside one another for a peak at the projector screen.
Helmut has six decades of climbing experience. His thick accent and quick sense of direction led us on a journey up and down slopes he’s conquered in his native Austria and around the world. It was my first time hearing someone talk in detail about their mountaineering experience and offering advice on crevasses, scrambling, and experienced to extremely inexperienced passerbys.
He made a joke explaining scrambling and why it’s important to be really good at it. “Don’t worry,” he said. “It’s dead easy. I said that once to someone and he said to me, ‘Maybe you shouldn’t say dead,’ so I guess I should say, ‘It’s life easy.'” This was the sort of humour Helmut had.
There are about six or seven points that Helmut made that stuck out to me, a novice climber.
If you don’t put your socks on standing on one leg, start. It’s good practice.
Good balance is a key element to your own and others safety.
Scramble scramble scramble. Practice makes perfect.
Scrambling lies somewhere between rock climbing and hiking. Often on a rock edge or ridge, your hands and feet (but no ropes) are used as you move up or down the path. It is important to know how to scramble effectively so that you and your team can approach loose rock and unknown territory safely and soundly.
The second most important element of mountaineering next to scrambling is finding your route.
Have an updated and working GPS system and map.
If you can help it, never run out of rope.
There are many stories of climber summiting peaks and running out of rope a few feet shy of the top. It’s important to calculate your distances precisely and to do your best to ensure this does not happen.
Learn how to do it blindly.
Helmut urged that it’s smart to be able to comfortably climb and descend an area blindly. Tying knots, fishing in your pack, accessing different tools – it’s a good idea to know where everything is located with your eyes closed. This will give you the confidence and ability to go up and down with as little trouble as possible.
And last but not least, I scribbled down Helmut’s last slide, not out of fear, but out of determination to prepare for each and every one of these factors.
The many ways of falling off a moutain:
- Rock fall
- Crevasses (Glaciers, humps, dips, and transported snow (streaks).. You’d don’t walk you belay..)
- Moats (Randkluft)
- Sudden bad weather
- Altitude sickness
- Frost bite
- River crossing
- Bad judgement
Header Photo © Helmut Microys, 1967, Mt. Ontario
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