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The 2009 GMC

September 1, 2009

P1090074So much of what I like about the ACC is embodied in its annual General Mountaineering Camp (GMC). The club has a lot traditions and a proud history with lots of colourful characters and all-round fun people. This was well represented by the cross-section of folks staffing and attending this year’s camp.

Opportunities to grow and gain experience as an outdoor leader within the Club are virtually limitless for those willing to put some time and energy into seeking them out. Last year, I applied for and was lucky enough to attend the TNF/ACC Summer Leadership Course. Generously sponsored by The North Face and heavily subsidized by the ACC, the course is intended to develop amateur leaders for prominent roles within the Club. I had initially intended to use the course to prepare myself for our Section camp last year, but was also fortunate enough to garner a spot as an amateur leader for a week at this year’s GMC. After much internal debate and apprehension (and of course a blessing from Jenn, taking off in the midst of our wedding planning for a couple of weeks!), I found myself signed up for Week 6 at the Trident-Neptune camp in the northern Selkirks, BC

P1080997As a volunteer trip leader, I could not imagine a more challenging role for myself than volunteering at the GMC. Despite more than a few successful summer road trips mountaineering in the Rockies, having made it through the TNF course, helping to run a successful joint summer mountaineering camp for the Section last summer, and leading countless Section trips, I still felt that I could use even more skills development and experience for leading in the alpine realm.

I was more than a little apprehensive when I showed up for breakfast on fly-in day, but was quickly set at ease (and pleasantly surprised) to see some familiar faces there – my instructors from the TNF course, Cyril and Helen were guiding the same week along with Jeremy Mackenzie, who I had also met the year before. Zac Robinson was also up for Camp Manager that week, as he had been the year before. It was also a great opportunity to get to meet Dave Dornian, also on as an amateur leader and recognized volunteer who has contributed much to the ACC over the years. The remaining camp staff (Catherine – Coordinator, Grant and Lorie – the cooks) I met as the day progressed, and everyone was absolutely awesome and welcoming to the “apprentice”, one of a couple of nicknames I got stuck with that week.

P1090132After a short but crazy weather event (that’s another story…let’s just say it cost us a lot of beer and dry tents were in short supply for a day or so), we got down to the business of climbing as much as possible and doing our best to wear out the lucky participants. It’s humbling to realize that the folks you help to climb peaks throughout the week may very well be on their sole vacation for the year, and in many cases this may be a trip of a lifetime for them. For this they’ve chosen the ACC, so the pressure is definitely on to do your best as a volunteer to ensure they have a great trip.

And they did! Fortunately for us, the weather cooperated for the most part, even if things could have been a tad cooler earlier in the week. Out of six climbing days, we only got rained out once, and I think everyone got in as many peaks as they could handle in a week. The area offered a nice variety of mountaineering objectives, most of which could be achieved in a reasonably short day. Everything from classic glacier slogs, to more technical rock, ice and snow peaks was readily accessible from camp, many within an hour’s approach to the glacier or ridge.

P1080976Writing this a few weeks after, my memories are less about the actual climbs, and more about the incredible people, as they often are after a big trip. The camp participants ranged in age from about 17 to 73, and came from every background imaginable. This really came out in the evenings, when it is a GMC tradition to have someone from each trip recount a tale or two about the day’s events. Merely telling a story was not enough for most though – we were treated to all manner of spontaneously written songs, poems and creative writing.

Later in the week, I started to feel more confident about my leadership while helping Cyril lead a small group on an ascent of Trident, the second-highest peak in the area. Though I’d had a relatively minor role on much of the ascent, it was reassuring to hear Cyril voice many of the thoughts I’d had throughout the day regarding route-finding choices and group management decisions. I’d learned tons from all of the other guides and leaders that week, and it was nice to begin feeling like I was on the right track with some of my mountain leadership skills.

Though this took place near the end of the week, the highlight of the week for me occurred much earlier. Cyril and I had led a group up Porpoise Peak, perhaps the most popular objective for the week. As we congratulated everyone upon our return to camp, Jerry, one of the guests, remarked that he had an especially great day, as it had been his first-ever mountain climb. It was very cool to have helped him with that achievement.

Volunteering alongside some incredibly competent and professional guides only served to strengthen my own skills, and I’m eternally grateful for their willingness to support amateur leaders within the ACC.

I can’t wait to go back to the GMC.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 1, 2009 02:42

    I don’t know If I said it already but …Great site…keep up the good work. 🙂 I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Jim Bean

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