The North Face Camp Hallam Glacier August 2018

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By Jackie Pearce

When I joined the YEG ACC, people kept mentioning the TNF course. It sounded really cool, like something I really wanted to do. But how to go about it? Everyone can remember when they first got into mountaineering – it wasn’t easy. You’re green, and most people aren’t interested in mentoring you. Sourcing out guides is expensive, and you may not actually learn stuff if you’re not careful.

Plenty of opportunities do exist, and the YEG section has done a superb job of creating programs and mentoring opportunities, which I sought out and enjoyed thoroughly. This past January, I felt like I had enough experience, and enough volunteering under my belt with the section that they may entertain the idea of sending me to the summer TNF. I applied. I waited. I was accepted! So I started getting ready.

This camp offered me a ton of opportunity to learn from some of the best guides in Canada and superstar volunteers of the ACC. I was invited into a beautiful, wild world with a simple, yet astounding basecamp – with heated showers this year too!

At the staging area members from all over Canada were introducing themselves and chatting away. Soon I was getting my very first ride in a helicopter! As we flew in, I had the neatest bird’s eye view of camp.

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A typical day for TNF was a wakeup call around 5am, breakfast and a quick meeting as a group to dispense shared gear and set out for the day. Our first day we headed to the toe of Hallam glacier to gear up and take a short walk on the glacier – we also had the opportunity to learn some short roping skills. This was definitely a day where the leaders were checking out the group dynamics and participant’s skill and comfort levels.

Our next day we spent doing snow school, snow anchors, crevasse rescue and rappelling skills. This day taught us all a lot about transition efficiencies. There was a small section of rock that needed to be climbed in order to access the desired terrain for teaching. The trouble was, we were a large group, and other groups participating in the GMC (General Mountaineering Camp) were also having to pass through the climbing corridor. It took our group of 13 over 2 hours to get through this area, and we just bat-manned the rope (climb the rope, not the rock). It gave us first hand learning about time management and savvy ways to deal with situations like this while out facilitating club trips. Pretty nifty.

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Next came a very early day, a 4 am wakeup call. We were off to do our first summit as a group, taking turns as “leader” with gentle supervision, head nods and coughs to help us find our way. This was my very first mountaineering summit EVER! It was called Cardu. It was a beautiful day, the rocks were especially shiny (so much mica everywhere you looked, pretty but very abrasive). It was a long day as we stopped for learning opportunities, we were a big group so that slowed us down too. I’m typically one of the slowest people in any alpine group, so it was no surprise to me when I was the very last person to summit. Jes, who was leader at that time allocated 15 minutes from when I arrived until we needed to begin our descent in order to make it back to camp for dinner. After a group photo we began our decent. Once we were insight of camp, we were greeted to everyone standing at the top of camp, by the cook tents cheering and heralding us in – we were about an hour late and the camp had decided to wait for us so we could all enjoy dinner together. That was a really cool moment I’ll likely never forget.

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The camp was about halfway through now, and we were all starting to get a bit sad, knowing this magickal time would come to an end and we would all return to the mundane world which we had come from. This day was a rest day (for our bodies) but an excellent day of learning and engaging our minds. Trip planning, radio communication, anchors, leadership discussions, new knots and more were all packed into this day. As was the big announcement for our project day, we would be split into two groups and given an assignment to take our guides to our given objective.

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 I was in the smaller of the two groups and would be headed to a peak called Wiser. Short roping would be covered on this objective which I was particularly jazzed about. Our group of four spent a few hours deciding how best to plan our day, to maximize efficiencies with transitions from walking to climbing, short roping, glacier travel and hopefully summiting and then repeating in reverse. We had some help from our beloved guide Cyril. While sitting on the summit of Wiser, Carly was feeling a little homesick and missing her daughter. Cyril asked if she’d like to call her. So she did! Actually, Cyril allowed each of us to make a phone call from the summit. That was pretty amazing!

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Our final field day was spent doing rock school, we practiced rock anchors, rock rescue, trad placements and played a fun game of numbers with anchor loads. It was another gorgeous day, with a minor 30 seconds of hail. It seemed like an easy day, and yet I left with a head feeling full, a heart stuffed a little fuller and a belly ready for those famous GMC meals. The Friday night is especially renowned as there is a party and talent show. To start the party off, Jeff, our head cook presented an award to one of the guides for his tremendous efforts at the camp.

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This course for me offered experience, new information and more innovation for how to plan club trips. I met some truly fabulous ACC members, who I think I’ll likely be adventure friends with hopefully for quite some time. I gained experience, confidence and created a ton of once in a lifetime memories.

Thanks YEG for selecting me for this year’s summer TNF course!