On December 8 at 6:00 p.m. Arq Mountain Centre will be hosting a fundraising event to support three Cranbrook climbers on their journey to Europe and Asia to take part in the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA) World Cup.
Gordon McArthur, 37, is one of the co-owners of Arq Mountain Centre, alongside Dr. Fraser Bowden. McArthur has been mixed-climbing for around 16 years and climbing competitively and professionally for the past decade. The UIAA World Cup Ice Climbing tour, he explained, has been going for the past 17 years.
“And only in the past few years has there been an actual representation from Canada which is really cool because for a long time there was nobody,” McArthur said. He added that around three years ago he was able to share his passion and now others have caught on. Cranbrook’s Noah Beek and Ineke Rhebergen will both be heading to the World Cup as well.
“So slowly we’re building up to have an actual representation, which is cool because the sport’s highly dominated by the Russians, by the Koreans, and so for us to start to kind of keep up is really cool actually.”
McArthur explained that North Americans are at a huge disadvantage due to geographical location and the costly travel required to participate. He said that the cost of going over there and living for a month runs a budget of between $10,000 and $14,000 and the cost is entirely on their shoulders, with the exception of some support from their sponsors.
“[It’s] a lot of money,” McArthur said. “So we have to raise money through the community in order to go and so this fundraiser is geared towards that. We just need support, we need help.”
The fundraiser will be comprised of a few main components including food, beverages and a silent auction, but there will also be a very special show from the Reel Rock Film Tour, a collection of films based on athletes from around the world.
“These climbers are just pushing the limits and it’s really cool. The film is always a highlight of the climbing season, to see what people are doing,” said McArthur, who added that he will also be putting on a demonstration, to clarify what exactly their style of climbing looks like. For those unclear, mixed climbing involves ice axes on rock and ice, dry tooling is ice axes on only rock.
Before the Reel Rock Films begin, McArthur will also be showing the film Storm Giant, made about his recent accomplishment completing the world’s hardest mixed climb.
Roughly four years ago a friend of McArthur’s sent him a picture of a cave near Fernie.
“I was like ‘oh my gosh,’” he recalls. “A cave like that, of it’s nature, doesn’t exist in Canada. You know they’re a dime a dozen in Europe and whatever else but in Canada there’s nothing like it.
“There’s a lot of underground caves, but nothing that has a mouth like that. So right away my friend and I went and saw the cave and instantly you can see that this had the potential to host the longest, biggest dry tooling, mixed climbing route in the world.”
Building the route, planning, installing quick-draws and anchors in the rock, was no easy feat. It took around a year and a half and then another three years to actually send the route.
“That was a process and a half, because you’re constantly driving to Fernie. Whether it was summer or winter — if it was winter you have to load sleds up into avalanche conditions, summer you’re dealing with heat and tourists and all that kind of stuff.”
The route was so long, clocking in at 85 metres, that it required two ropes and therefore two people were required to belay him while he practised it over and over again often in 35 degree heat, made even more intense at the top of the cave.
Then on August 17, 2017 he did it — 45 minutes climbing upside-down across 85 metres of cave ceiling.
“You have to press beyond what you think is impossible and keep believing somehow. Even if you don’t know if it’s possible, you have to keep trying and that’s when it’s hard, because you want to give up.
“But there was something inside of me that just kept saying’ just keep going, just keep going’ and so finally I kept going and finally it happened and the rest is history.”
To see the film yourself, contribute to their endeavour and learn more about McArthur’s incredible story make sure you get down to Arq Mountain Centre at 6:00 p.m. on December 8.