Peter Rowat is one of the most important pioneers to ever set rubber-clad feet in the Valhallas. He now lives in California but recently he revisited the area to give a presentation at the Kootenay Climbing Festival and share photos from his early explorations. And for the first time ever we’ve published them here.
Rowat has to his credit the first ascent of the south face of Asgard and Gladsheim alongside his friend Peter Koetd as well as the West Molar, a sharp sub-peak along the East Ridge of Gladsheim. He was also involved in the earliest attempt at the iconic South Ridge of Gimli Peak.
Aside from his accomplishments in the Kootenays, Rowat also has many first ascents in the southern Logan Mountains in the Northwest Territories, he did the first British ski traverse of the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland, worked as a mountain guide all over Europe and, in more recent years, has explored the Eastern Himalaya.
Born in Scotland in 1941, Rowat spent a large part of his youth exploring the highlands near Inverness where he was eventually gifted his first climbing gear: a hemp rope and Tricouni nailed boots. In between his mountaineering adventures he studied mathematics at Cambridge university and then, in the 1970s, attainted his PhD in Artificial Intelligence at the University of British Columbia. He’s also taught at MIT, Simon Fraser, Western Washington University and is currently Project Scientist at the Institute for Neural Computation, University of California San Diego.
It was during his stint at UBC that Peter was first introduced to the Kootenays and, specifically, the untapped mountaineering potential in the Valhallas. He visited the area twice (in 1973 and ’74) with his family and friends and stayed at the Mulvey Basin Hut, which had been built in 1968 by the Kootenay Mountaineering Club.
Members of the KMC had done a number of forays and important first ascents in the range the decade leading up to then but access was challenging as the nearest road was 10 kilometres away and, because of the dense forest, it was a two-day bushwhack. Improvements to the trail to Mulvey Basin eventually led to the decision to build the hut, which is where Peter and his family (including wife Nona, toddler Ruby and baby Lena) stayed. A helicopter was used to take in the gear, babysitter and her three charges (two three-year-olds and a six-month old) while the adults hiked the Mulvey Creek trail. Also on those trips were Greg Shannan and Peter Koedt and the 1973 excursion included Robert and Rosemary Coupe with their toddler Ian as well as Peter & Wendy von der Porten.
Today the Mulvey Basin Hut no longer exists (it was burned down in 1989) but the access to the area is much easier thanks to logging roads and park roads that take you to within a 1.5-hour hike of Gimi Peak. Which is why these photos taken by Rowat in the 70s are so valuable: they record an earlier time when the Valhallas were an unexplored wonderland. These are the images he shared at the Kootenay Climbing Festival recently. Enjoy this trip into the past.
All photo credits belong to Peter Rowat and pics cannot be republished without his permission.