A climber has shared a story of a summit gone wrong at Mt. Slesse, to remind everyone to plan thoroughly.
Adam Wilkie, from Burnaby, his 19-year-old son Xander, and friend Liam Ball had been looking forward to climbing the northeast buttress of the Chilliwack area mountain for some time. They prepared for what they thought was everything, throughout the year.
“We climbed several other alpine trad routes, dialing in our systems and preparing,” he says. “We reasearched the route in depth, the weather forecast, and the new descent route.”
They headed out at 3 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 29, expecting a two-day adventure. They did not expect the trip to include dangling under a helicopter in a “screamer” harness. But that’s exactly what happened after Wilkie suffered a 50-foot fall against the imposing rock face, tied to an anchor. He used an SOS app, and the call was answered, but night was falling. They were left to wait it out on Mt. Slesse, in the snow on an exposed rock face.
“We had ledges about the size of dinner plates that we were ‘sitting’ on,” he says. “We were mostly hanging from our anchor.”
The next day, both the Coast Guard’s Cormorant and the Chilliwack Search and Rescue team came to their aid. Wilkie tells the story in technical detail on a public post on his Facebook, and spoke to The Progress about the ordeal.
“Hopefully someone takes something from this,” he said. “I know I’ve received a lot of advice from the community for the next time I attempt it.”
While he knew they would be okay, he was more worried about his wife, friends and family back home wondering how they were doing. Thankfully, he uses the SOS app was able to communicate with rescuers on the ground and in the air.
“It is non negotiable,” he says. “I even take it hiking at the lake. You never know when you may twist an ankle. There is always an element that can’t be planned.”
Among the technical advice he offers in retrospect, there are cautions that hikers and climbers of all levels can take from his story.
“Allow extra time for climbing with three instead of two and unplanned circumstances like waiting for other parties to pass,” he says in his post. “We did not allow enough time for this climb.”
Wilkie has been climbing for about three years now, he says, and this won’t keep him from his passion of conquering mountains. But it has reminded him that even if he knows he’s safe, others will be worrying.
“No matter how confident you are in your safety, your situation or your skills, your loved ones will not share that confidence,” he says. “They are completely unaware of the crazy things we do being conquistadors of the useless. When things go bad, they will all assume the worst. We were cold and uncomfortable but suffering is part of climbing mountains. We had food, water and warm clothes. We knew we’d be fine but our families did not. They were terrified, traumatized, and unbelievably thankful when we got home. My addiction to climbing affects them too.”
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