By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: March. 10, 2012
In the photo, a young man stands wedged between two cracks on the Malamute Cliff.
Beneath him is the train track and across from there log booms stacked neatly in the water.
The man’s red shirt compares starkly to the black and white vastness of the sea, the mountain, and the sky.
The picture is just one glittering gem in the bag of Anders Ourom, one of the early climbers in Squamish, and a historian, who took hundreds of pictures of the era, and saved them for posterity to understand the past of climbing.
Those emerald images filled the screen as Ourom spoke about the history of climbing in Squamish at the Squamish Adventure Centre on Thursday, March.8 on the invitation of Squamish Historical Society.
Anders completed his first route on the Stawamus Chief on Dec 31, 1972 at the age of 16.
The Squamish Chief Mountain at that time didn’t have the iconic status as a climbing destination in the world as it has now.
The climbers in the 60s and 70s were often college kids like him from Vancouver, occasionally Prince George, and sometimes America and Britain.
“Squamish was the backwater as far as climbing is concerned, Yosemite was much more popular,” he said.
Wooden axes, purloin ropes, and big petons to hammer in the cracks were some of the mountain climbing devices used by the early climbers.
A baggy white trouser with bright blue suedes was the unofficial uniform of the climbers.
“Elvis would have never worn them,” he said, joking.
As a sport and a passion, climbers first started ascending the Chief in the 60s. Jim Sinclair, Glenn Woodsworth, and James Baldwin were some of the climbers of this era.
The first recorded climb was in 1957, and the opening of the highway in the late 50s brought more climbers to Squamish.
Although Ourom had been taking pictures and keeping records, he became more interested in organising them with the death of climber Tony Cousins in 2008.
He now has a thick pile of newspaper and magazine clippings of article about climbing, but perhaps the most fascinating items are the raw images he took of climbers.
Compared to the slick images printed in the magazines, these are plain, but that much more real and edgy.
They tell the story of climbing, but also of a bygone era: Young men in baggy pants camping next to their old Beetles, drinking from Canadian stubby beer bottles.
Equally fascinating is the first hand-written guide book by James Baldwin.
At the beginning of his presentation, Ourom said he knew there can’t be just one history, that histories are plural projects.
That might be true, but his project—images, documents, notes- is certainly one that climbers and non-climbers will trust and relish for years to come.