A Handful of Mountaineering Tips from Helmut Microys

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
  • Avalanche
  • Seracs
  • Crevasses (Glaciers, humps, dips, and transported snow (streaks).. You’d don’t walk you belay..)
  • Moats (Randkluft)
  • Bergshchrund
  • Repelling
  • Sudden bad weather
  • Altitude sickness
  • Hypothermia
  • Frost bite
  • River crossing
  • Animals
  • Bad judgement

Header Photo © Helmut Microys, 1967, Mt. Ontario

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Where to Find Backcountry Trails in the City

I moved to downtown Toronto in 2009 and I remember being very excited about finally living in the centre of things. I was ready to explore the entire area for the best restaurants, bars, concert venues, cafes, and everything else the city had to offer. I absolutely didn’t expect to find myself in the woods, but there I was having unknowingly stumbled onto one the city’s many natural trail areas… I was hooked! My weekends were suddenly filled trail hiking with the dog and mountain biking with friends.

Toronto is home to over 200 acres (that’s *just* over 151 football fields) of natural environment spaces that are maintained by the city and free-to-use to the public. These areas include features like single and double-track trails, water sheds, rivers, ponds, woodlands and meadows that are very public-transit, bicycle and even pedestrian-friendly. One of my favourite sections of trail is the Milkman’s Lane-Yellow Creek area.

Hiking with Mutton

Hiking with Mutton

Milkman’s Lane is a trail that I first came across while walking the dog. It’s a 300 meter gravel trail that has been around for over 130 years (used as an equestrian trail in Old Toronto). It can be accessed via South Drive near Craigleigh Gardens and is a favourite training hill for many runners and mountain bikers in the city. It’s a great place for a hike, run or a leisurely walk and is the perfect entry way to two of the City’s natural spaces; at the bottom of the hill continuing North takes you over to Evergreen Brickworks while going West toward Mt. Pleasant, brings you to Yellow Creek.

Yellow Creek is little-known tributary of the Don River that has a couple of trails that can take you all the way from Milkman’s to the Mount Pleasant Cemetery at Yonge and Davisville and packs some amazing views; including the awesome graffiti at the St. Clair Avenue underpass. This entire trail system is easily accessible via the Sherbourne TTC station by heading north over the pedestrian bridge and heading toward South Drive.

The Peakbaggers and #DiscoverYourWild crew recently did a 6.0 km hike though this very trail system and we had a blast seeing the different types of wild-life in the area while trekking over downed tree trunks and under city underpasses. If you didn’t get a chance to come out to the hike I highly recommend you try it for yourself. You can find the route for our Urban Hike here.



Toronto is full of amazing nature areas that are just waiting to be explored! Stay tuned for more Tales of Trails in Toronto from myself and The Peakbaggers and keep looking out for the #Hike #DiscoverYourWild tags on your favourite social media platforms. And, of course, come join us on our next adventure!


Meldon is one of the newest additions to The Peakbaggers and #DiscoverYourWild team. He discovered his first trail at 26 and has fallen in love with mountain biking ever since. You can explore some of the trails he’s biked on his blog and keep in touch with Meldon on Twitter!

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