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Two Climbers Circumnavigate the 13 Peaks of Mulvey Basin in a Day

Dave Lussier photo

On August 22, 2017, David Lussier and I successfully completed a circumnavigation of Mulvey Basin in Valhalla Provincial Park, bagging all 13 peaks. I wrote a story about it for Mountain Culture Group. This is how it starts:

The headlamp beam glared off the white surface of the golf ball, forcing me to squint to make out the black cursive lettering: “Miracle Flight+ 2”. Appropriate considering we’d need some good fortune to complete the mission we had just embarked on. I placed the ball back on the rock where I found it beside its twin and a golf club and finished hiking the 20 metres to the summit of Mount Dag, one of the tallest peaks in the Valhalla mountain range.

It goes without saying a nine iron and two golf balls are strange items to find on top of any mountain peak. But the fact it was 2:30 in the morning and my climbing partner, and mountain guide, David Lussier and I were embarking on a quest to traverse 13 peaks of the Mulvey Basin in under 24 hours, made the discovery even more surreal.

This was our second attempt of this traverse in as many years and the forecast was perfect: clear skies with zero percent chance of precipitation. Then again, good weather was predicted for our first attempt in 2016 and that ended with us cowering under a boulder during a freak electrical storm at 8,500 feet.

As David signed the register on the summit of Dag, I continued thinking of my bizarre discovery. Why a nine iron? Why not a driver? Surely that would be a lot more satisfying. I imagined teeing up and driving a ball across the two-kilometre-wide span that separated us and Gladsheim Peak, the final destination of our mission. Suddenly all thoughts of golf vanished as David asked, “You ready?” He had replaced the register in its waterproof canister, slotted it back in the stone cairn and was looking at me expectantly. It was time to descend from the summit, collect our bivouac gear and start the 12-kilometre circumnavigation of Mulvey Basin: 13 peaks, eight of which we’d have to rock climb, and over 2,300 metres of elevation gain. At that moment, I wished I could’ve just soared over to Gladsheim as well.

To read the rest of the adventure tale, visit mountainculturegroup.com/mulvey-basin-circumnavigation-in-a-day.

Kootenay Climbing Festival Returns September 20th

The Kootenay Rock Climbing Festival is pleased to announce that Australian mountaineering and climbing legend John Fantini will be guest speaking at the event. Fantini, who now resides in Penticton, BC, has innumerable first alpine and rock climbing ascents to his credit around the world and, at 71 years old, is still going strong, putting up hard new sport routes in Skaha Provincial Park.

Organized by TAWKROC (the Association of West Kootenay Rock Climbers), the Kootenay Climbing Festival is now entering its third year and will occur on Saturday, September 20, from 2:00pm to 9:00pm. The event will be held by the natural rock climbing wall behind the Lions Head Pub in Robson, BC, and will feature a zipline for the kids, slackline, door prize draw, silent auction, and the always popular Tower of Power competition, which sees competitors try to stack the most number of milk crates… while standing on them!

Different for this year is the fact the Lion’s Head now has a family dining license which means kids can come and go from the restaurant anytime before 7:00pm. (Children must be accompanied by an adult.) Everyone young and old are welcome to the event and there is no coverage charge although, as this is a fundraiser to help new outdoor route development, donations are greatly appreciated.

TAWKROC was established in 2009 to help promote outdoor rock climbing in the Kootenay region by organizing work parties to improve rock climbing areas, both for locals and tourists, and by offering a bolt fund for climbing developers. Every year the organization reimburses climbers who spend time and money putting up new rock climbs in the area. In 2012, TAWKROC became a chapter of the Climbing Access Society of British Columbia and its directors are now committed to ensuring various climbing areas in the Kootenays remain accessible for all.

Last year TAWKROC reimbursed outdoor route developers for $668.48 worth of climbing hardware for new areas developed in Castlegar, Nelson and Creston. Also, later this autumn TAWKROC is organizing a work party to improve access to the Koch Creek climbing area in the Slocan Valley. In addition, the organization’s directors have been busy replacing old anchors and bolts at the Kinnaird Wall in Castlegar, an area that’s been a climbing destination for locals and visitors alike since the early 1960s.

For more information about TAWKROC or the Kootenay Climbing Festival, please contact director Vince Hempsall at vhempsall at access-society.ca.

Review of the Black Diamond Element 60 Backpack

Backpacks are a tricky thing – you don’t want too many bells and whistles because they’ll just increase the weight, but you don’t want a garbage bag either. I tend to prefer those packs that fall into the middle of the road: just enough straps to keep everything in place but without dozens of pockets, external cords and an espresso machine. Utah-based Black Diamond offers about 70 different packs so most likely there’s something for everyone in its quiver. (And that doesn’t include the Gregory line of backpacks, which parent company Black Diamond Inc. owns.) In the case of the newly launched Black Diamond Element line, the company is looking to appeal to the “minimalist-minded weekend backpacker” who is looking for a “streamlined and lightweight top-loader.” The Element comes in a 45-litre and a 60-litre option and the equivalent line in the female-specific category is called “Elixir.” Both models feature Black Diamond’s proprietary “reACTIV” suspension system and “SwingArm” shoulder straps that the company says articulate and move with you while you’re hiking over uneven terrain, thus reducing fatigue. When I looked more closely into this system, I learned that what the company is trying to do is have certain parts of the pack move with your body rather than remaining static so that when you bounce and swivel over rocks and roots, the entire load of the pack isn’t forced to move with you. The SwingArm straps have a stainless steel cable running through them that ensures they remain relatively friction free while allowing for greater movement and the waist belt isn’t affixed to any part of the frame, which means it too can move freely without bringing the entire weight of the pack along for the ride.

To read the full review, log on to Backcountry Skiing Canada.

Review of the RAB Neutrino 200 Down Sleeping Bag

I’m a hot guy in bed. That is, my body is like a 6-foot furnace when I’m horizontal for the night. And when I sleep outside, that furnace seems to kick into overdrive. I’ve spent more than one evening lying in a tent wishing I could just tear a hole in the fabric to increase airflow. Suffice to say, I’m really picky when it comes to sleeping bags – I don’t want a quiver of them so I’ve spent 25 years searching for the perfect one. It has to be comfortable but streamlined; breathable but not drafty; light and small when rolled up; and (here’s the kicker) it needs to be warm in the winter and cool in the summer. That last point is a big ask but I have faith. When I was asked to review Rab’s Neutrino 200 down sleeping bag recently, I knew it wasn’t going to fulfill all those qualities (it’s meant for lightweight use such as cycle touring in moderate climates) but I respect the company and I kept an open mind. The Rab brand was started in 1981 by its namesake, British alpinist Rab Carrington and, four years ago, the business expanded into the North American market after opening an office in Boulder, Colorado. Today, Rab offers everything from clothing and packs to tents and, of course, sleeping bags.

To read this entire review, log on to Backcountry Skiing Canada.

Review of the Exped Ultralite 500 Down Sleeping Bag

In 2009 Exped completely changed my backcountry sleeping experience. Until that time I had endured innumerable nights on a well-known brand name sleeping pad, which was like sleeping on a slice of tissue paper. No matter how tiny the rock, root or rodent underneath me, I could feel every poke and prod the second I lay on my back. Then along came Exped’s Downmat 7 and suddenly I was sleeping on what felt like a warm, queen-size mattress. And I didn’t have to sacrifice that much weight! So when I received the Exped Ultralight 500 sleeping bag to review, I was curious to see if the company would further transform my backcountry snooze experience – and I wasn’t disappointed. The Ultralight 500 is comfortable, cozy and, above all, light. In fact, this bag is all about gram savings: by incorporating a super light-weight fabric, a 3/4 length zipper and 840 fill Down, Exped has ensured the Ultralight is indeed well named.

To read the full review, log on to Backcountry Skiing Canada.