Two Nelson adventurers have entered the history books by becoming the first people to complete a self-propelled adventure to the summit of Gimli Peak in the Valhalla Mountain Range and back again in under 24 hours.
Nelson, British Columbia, residents David Lussier and Vince Hempsall have bicycled from their homes to the parking lot of Gimli Peak in the Valhalla Mountains, hiked to the base of the classic South Ridge route, rock climbed it and then descended back to the parking lot before returning by bike to Nelson. The distances travelled included 172 km on bikes (about 90 of those were on gravel logging roads), four kilometres of hiking and descending and 345 metres of rock climbing.
The biking portion of the day was definitely the biggest challenge as the pair spent a total of 12 hours on their hard-tail, hybrid bikes carrying everything they needed for the adventure in backpacks and panniers. It took them five hours to reach the base of Bannock Burn Road and another two hours to bike the last eight kilometres to the Gimli parking lot.
“The logging roads were difficult because they were in washboard condition after a summer’s worth of use,” Hempsall says. “In fact, the scariest part of the trip wasn’t the rock climbing, but biking the highway at night with the traffic.”
Luckily the weather conditions were perfect. They had originally planned to depart on August 29, but a storm rolled through and they were delayed. Instead they set off at 3 a.m. on August 31 under a blue moon and the day proved to be cool in the alpine and partly cloudy. They returned under clear skies and a full moon.
Other than one flat tire, there were no mishaps during the adventure. In fact, the pair probably set a record for the fastest two-man ascent of the South Ridge route, completing it in just 2.5 hours. (It normally takes a team five to six hours to gain the summit.)
Lussier and Hempsall undertook the adventure for three reasons: to celebrate their 40th birthdays and the 40th anniversary of the first ascent of the South Ridge route, and to bring awareness to the Association of West Kootenay Rock Climbers, an organization responsible for developing and maintaining outdoor rock climbing routes.