Hobnail boots and hemp rope: team aims to climb B.C.'s highest peak using antique equipment

Clad in wool, waxed canvas, and hobnail boots, Bryan Thomas and his team of amateur explorers will climb Mount Waddington, the highest peak in the Coast Mountains of B.C., using antique mountaineering equipment.

This is the 2nd excursion for the Canadian Exploration Heritage Society

Bryan Thompson led the expedition to climb Bugaboo Spire, in the same way alpine climber Conrad Kain did in 1916. His next adventure takes him to Mount Waddington, first explored by Don and Phyllis Munday in 1926. (Ivan Petrov/Hobnails and Hemp Rope)

Nearly 100 years ago, a young couple set out in search of what was known only as Mystery Mountain, and this summer a team of explorers will recreate their journey.

Clad in wool, waxed canvas, and hobnail boots, Bryan Thomas and his team of amateur explorers will climb Mount Waddington, the highest peak in the Coast Mountains of B.C., using antique mountaineering equipment. 

Two of Thomas' heroes, Don and Phyllis Munday, explored the Waddington range in the 1920's and it's their route — through thorny brush and grizzly bear territory — that he'll be retracing.

In 2016, Thomas recreated the first ascent of Bugaboo Spire, northwest of Invermere in the Purcell Mountains, another impressive peak in B.C. which was conquered by climbers in 1916.

"We just gained such a hardy respect for the people who went out exploring Canada's wilderness around the turn of the century," Thomas told Daybreak Kamloop's Shelley Joyce.

Wearing boots made of heavy leather with nails inserted in the soles, called hobnails, and carrying axes and rope for climbing, the team will do away with modern mountaineering equipment and lug what the pioneers used up the steep traverse.

He estimates they'll be carrying about 1,400 pounds of clothing and food between the six people reenacting the hike.

Bryan Thompson describes hobnail boots as firm leather boots with just nails nailed into the soles. (Bryan Thompson/Hobnails and Hemp Rope)

They filmed the expedition to create the documentary Hobnails and Hemp Rope, and while touring for the film he said they were asked what the next great adventure would be.

"We hadn't really thought about it but as those questions kept coming up we thought, that's a good idea, we've bought all this stuff, we should do another recreation."

The Mystery Mountain Project will be the second instalment in their series of heritage excursions, with two more climbs planned for 2021 and 2025.

Filmmaker Ivan Petrov captured the scale and difficulty of the first adventure and will be accompanying Thomas and his team of six when they set out for Mount Waddington on July 5. The peak is located southeast of Bella Coola.

"You relive that same spirit of adventure that people must've experienced 100 years ago… you feel that deep connection with them that transcends history and time," Petrov said.

After they completed the hike to Bugaboo Spire, the team formed the Canadian Exploration Heritage Society, a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to telling the stories of Canadian pioneers.

"Our goal is to basically bring to life interesting historical expeditions in Canada and share them with the broader public," Petrov said.

The group will be sharing stories a slideshow of photos from their first adventure on July 2 at Fjällräven Kitsilano hosted by the Alpine Club of Canada.

To hear the full interview listen to media below:

Bryan Thomas and Ivan Petrov speak with Daybreak Kamloops' Shelley Joyce about their next epic adventure, which takes them to the highest peak in the Coast Mountain range, Mount Waddington. 10:08

With files from Daybreak Kamloops

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