Tim Talks: The struggle to summit Mt. Mackenzie, then and now

Tim van der Krogt definitely not enjoying mountain biking at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. (Contributed-Oscar Bascones)Tim van der Krogt definitely not enjoying mountain biking at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. (Contributed-Oscar Bascones)
Tim van der Krogt definitely not enjoying mountain biking at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. (Contributed-Oscar Bascones)
Tim van der Krogt definitely not enjoying mountain biking at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. (Contributed-Oscar Bascones)

I’ve often looked around this town, and the surrounding area, and wondered what it would have been like 100 years ago. I’ve gazed with fascination at images of an unpaved Mackenzie Ave., the old hockey teams and the various social clubs that existed in days gone by.

Photos and architecture give us, as a town, a glimpse of our own unique wild west. A wild west Hollywood chose to ignore, a wild west where OG ski bums break world records and Swiss guides looked for new peaks to compete for first assents.

I’ve often walked along ridges and wondered who first walked these steps, did they make the history books, and if they did, were they really the first?

On this day (Aug. 15), 130 years ago the Kootenay Star reported that Frank Bourne, of Bourne Bros General store, and Morgan David, an employee of the Revelstoke Lumber Company, made the first known assent of Mount Mackenzie. That journey, from town, took a gruelling 48 hours.

READ MORE: Glimpses of Revelstoke’s past for Aug. 12

After coming across an old news clipping, in last week’s “glimpses of the past”, I decided to take on the challenge myself, and maybe, just maybe shatter their time.

So, much like Frank Bourne recruited Morgan, I assembled my own crew. My crack team was made up of local Australian Chris Wills, Spaniard Oscar Bascones and myself.

Unfortunately for me things have changed in the last 130 years, the journey is no longer as simple as walking for a few days, through ancient rainforest, thick undergrowth and devils club.

If I really wanted to shatter their time I was going to have to overcome my prejudice, I was going to have to question all that I stood for–I was going to have to mountain bike.

We set off from the Revelstoke Review office, I’d say I broke a sweat about halfway up the gondola, it was around that time I realized we were moving very efficiently and we where well ahead of Bourne and David’s time.

At the top of the gondola we transitioned to biking. I’ve rambled on before about the inefficiency of biking uphill and I stand by that. I just want to make it clear that the only reason I agreed to doing this on a bike was for down hill efficiency, I also want it on record that I rode the brakes the whole way, as I appreciate intact femurs.

We set off on the stoke climb, I peddled with even less efficiency than expected because, as it turns out, I suck at biking.

I kept selecting the wrong gear, losing all my momentum and having to push the bike. My crack team provided no assistance choosing not to coach me, instead pointing cameras at me and laughing.

About an hour in I’d run out of water, my face was sweating and I was ready to give up but I thought about Bourne and David and all the hardened men and women who’ve walked before us.

Tapping into their resilience, I found the push that I needed. I got back on my bike and I peddled on. With the summit in my sights nothing could stop me now, or so I thought.

We got to the top of the stoke climb and all that was left was to pedal a little ways more and walk the final pitch to the summit. It was within our reach no more than half an hour away. I was ready, I wanted it, we all wanted it, and that’s when I made the mistake of checking the time.

Who would have thought that on our mission to beat their time, it would in the end be time that beat us.

You see like many other people in this town my age, I have to work two jobs. As we reached the top of the stoke climb I realized I only had 30 minutes to get to work.

At that moment everything changed, I was no longer racing two men from a different century to a summit that is almost lift accessible. I was now simply trying to get to work on time, with the worlds longest flow tail and my own poor mountain bike skills between me and my new goal.

I turned around one last time to enjoy the view I was so close to earning, it was smoke.

As I descended, ripping around turns, I had to remind myself to frown, remind myself I wasn’t having fun, remind myself that I had failed where others had succeeded.

I gripped the handle bars, I rode the brakes and soon my finger started to hurt.

The never ending trail gave me time to think about Bourne and David’s adventure and how easy life was for them.

Sure it took them longer, sure their where no trails and no gondolas, but life was more simple. They didn’t have to deal with bikes, they probably had a nice view instead a thick blanket of smoke and they had each other, with no cameras, unable to capture each others stupidity.

Maybe it was easier or maybe I’m just bitter because in the end despite all our technological advancements I had failed where they succeeded.

Opinion