Squamish climbers start local chapter of Alpine Club of Canada

First members' social set for Aug. 20

Looking for an adventure partner, but don't want to put your life in the hands of a stranger you met on the Internet? There's a club for that.

After several months of meeting the requirements of the long-established Alpine Club of Canada (ACC), Squamish now has its own official section. The club will cover everything outdoors from rock climbing, hiking, scrambling, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, ski mountaineering to trail running. The exceptions — for liability reasons — are no air time (base jumping) or water sports. Also, no biking since SORCA and Trials 99 have that covered. 

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ACC Squamish chair, Scott MacPherson, said he knows firsthand the desire for a more organized and accessible community. The local board members chose the ACC because of its history and the help the national group can offer with governance and connecting members across the country.

For most places with a local ACC, there's a six-hour radius to travel within for outdoor recreation but that's not the case here.

"In Squamish, in particular, that radius of a lifetime of recreation is very, very tight. Instead of talking about a six-hour radius, we're talking about a 25-minute radius," MacPherson said.

With so much close by, you often don't even need a vehicle to access the alpine. But, until now, there hasn't been a centralized community for the number of active people who live here and the many moving in. MacPherson said there were few options to find climbing partners: you could go to a coffee shop "look for someone with over-developed forearms and ratty clothing" or reach out on a Facebook group.

"It leaves a lot to be desired," MacPherson said. "If you're trusting your safety to your trip partner, it would be great if there's more precedence there. Something before that interaction… What we're aspiring to achieve here with our Alpine Club of Canada is to build a community hub for these activities."

At just more than three weeks old, ACC Squamish has held two social climbs for beginners at Smoke Bluffs. The first drew seven people, who climbed until a downpour made them seek shelter in a pub.

community
The new ACC group will provide training for members, too. - Pexels.com

As the club grows, they plan to help volunteers facilitate trips and training. As members learn new skills, they will help assist and teach what they know in turn — keeping skills in Squamish, unlike out-of-town drop-in sessions that leave as fast as they arrive. The ACC will also do competency assessments of members before they teach.

"As volunteers, we're happy to train you, but we want you to contribute to the community," MacPherson said. By creating a cycle of reciprocating, the club will be more sustainable and prevent relying on — and burning out — a handful of volunteers.

The idea, MacPherson said, is to create local friendships. Rather than hiring a guide and becoming a client, the volunteer-based system is meant to be more social in nature and act as a sort of fundraiser for ACC.

"I'm looking forward to meeting my course participants at the grocery store, one day," he said.

Between the seven board members, the club has more than 25 years of living in Squamish and vast knowledge of the terrain. They also hope to get in touch and collaborate with similar outdoor groups.

A grand opening social is planned for Aug. 20. At 7:30 p.m., people interested in the Squamish Alpine Club of Canada are invited to hear a presentation from local big wall climber Bronwyn Hodgins at Valhalla Pure Outfitters.

People can become official members through the www.alpineclubofcanada.ca website or on Facebook at ACC Squamish.

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