Six backpackers joined Hope Mountain Centre’s Women’s Beginner Backpacking course from last Friday to last Sunday. They received guidance and tips from leaders Kelley Cook (left) and Kim Tiessen (second from right). (Hope Mountain Centre photo)

Six backpackers joined Hope Mountain Centre’s Women’s Beginner Backpacking course from last Friday to last Sunday. They received guidance and tips from leaders Kelley Cook (left) and Kim Tiessen (second from right). (Hope Mountain Centre photo)

Women-only backpacking trip teaches history and skills

Six backpackers went with three instructors to learn backpacking.

Six women went on a three-day backpacking trip from last Friday to last Sunday as part of Hope Mountain Centre’s (HMC) Women’s Beginner Backpacking course.

Participant Avaleigh Neill loved it so much that she sent a short email to the HMC to tell them about their “extraordinary public education.”

“The three-day trip just passed with (assistant instructor) Kelley Cook and (instructor) Kim Tiessen was one of the best experiences ever,” said Neill. “All participants were guided and challenged. We became so much more informed about B.C. history, both human and natural and how they intersect. We learned how to pack, how to hike, what to look for, tips on camp cooking, how to keep camp, navigate, and stay safe.”

Before the overnight backpacking trip, HMC took their participants out for a day trip on July 16 where they taught them what to prepare.

“I think that was great because it just gave the group a chance to bond … and I think if anybody’s feeling a bit anxious, that kind of helped,” said Tiessen.

Then came Friday, July 21, where participants lugged 30-40 pounds on average with a minimum of two litres of water. They brought filtration systems to drink water from sources near the trail.

Off they went to the Hudson’s Bay Company Heritage Trail, a fur brigade trail that played a key role in making Canada a nation “from sea to sea,” entering from the Tulameen Forest Service Road and into Jacobson Lake, northeast of Sunshine Valley. They hiked three kilometres to Conglomerate Flats, where they set up camp and did day trips from there.

Cook, with her decade of knowledge of the trail, shared her passion for it during the backpacking trip. The trips involved hiking with a light pack and took participants to points of interest such as Deer Camp, four kilometres away, which served as the one of the original camps of the brigade.

HMC program director Kelly Pearce said they host a women-only backpacking course because women perceive the value of the training and can influence others to take up the sport.

“Women, because they’re really important social influences in their community, if we can turn several of them a year into backpackers who are confident to do that then they have the confidence to take friends and kids and other folks in their social network out,” said Pearce. “My perception is a lot of guys have backpacked or have already enough skills to do it if they wanted to and aren’t maybe as motivated to take a skills course, but women are.”

For everyone looking to hike the trail with the HMC — this Saturday, in celebration of Canada 150, they will be leading a hike on the trail.

They add that the terrain is moderate and the 3.5-kilometre section from Jacobson Lake to the Cascade Divide offers sub-alpine meadows in “full bloom, pristine lakes, and spectacular views in all directions.” Fur trade historians and costumed interpreters will accompany hikers to share their knowledge of the people and events that litter the trail.

To join the hike, the public can drive their own vehicles from Hope to Jacobson Lake or travel in a customized van provided by Mount Waddington’s Outdoors. All participants should register with Hope Mountain Centre by calling 604-869-1274 or visit hopemountain.org.

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