Man in long underwear in camp, 1926 style tent to the left, smoke from campfire

The Mystery Mountain Project comes to Cortes Island

On Sunday November 7, Bryan Thompson and Susanna Oreskovic will be bringing The Mystery Mountain Project to Mansons Hall on Cortes Island.

The reenactors with Mike Moore in front of the Misty Isles – Photo courtesy Susanna Oreskovic

This is both a film and a book about the 2018 Canadian Explorations Heritage Society (CEHS) trek to Bute Inlet. They followed in the footsteps of Don and Phyllis Munday’s 1926 expedition to scale Mount Waddington. 

There are several Cortes Connections. Local historian Judith Williams met the members of the Canadian Exploration expedition on Quadra Island, before they sailed to Bute Inlet with local tourism operator Mike Moore on board the ‘Misty Isles.’ The documentary opens with multiple views of Cortes Island’s best known schooner. There are only five stops in the book and film tour of Western BC, which starts at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria and also includes North Vancouver, Squamish and a virtual event in Comox. The Mansons Hall screening is brought to us by the Cortes Island Museum and Archives.

This was the second historical reenactment film made by the Canadian EH Society. The first celebrated the centennial anniversary of  Conrad Kain’s 1916 ascent of the Bugaboo Spire in British Columbia’s Purcell Mountain Range.

Five of the six re-enactors – Photo courtesy Canadian EH Society

Trip organizer Bryan Thompson, who represents Don Munday’s brother Bert in this reenactment, said one of the biggest challenges they faced was adapting to the gear that would have been used in 1926. (‘Extreme Adventure done Old-School’ it says on the masthead of the Canadian EH Society website.) The straps of two of their homemade backpacks broke at the very beginning of the expedition. Their diet consisted of the foods on a grocery list compiled by the Mundays, most of which were heavy canned goods. The six re-enactors set out through mosquito infested country without bug spray, wearing hob nailed boots that lack the suppleness of modern foot wear.

“What we want to do is educate Canadians who went about exploring this nation back in the day and the pristine wilderness areas that they went exploring,” explained Thompson.

Susanna Oreskovic with her backpack – submitted photo

Oreskovic may appear diminutive with a 60 pound pack strapped on her back, but this is not the challenge that confronted her on the trip. She notes that while the membership of most mountaineering clubs is pretty equally split between genders, a European study found that 94% of the published literature was written by men. The film captured the climax of Oreskovic’s struggle with self doubt in a scene where she broke into tears, “I can’t do this, I can’t do this.” To which Thompson replied, “Of course you can, you’re doing it. You are here.” 

Camp life – Photo by Susanna Oreskovic with a 1921 Kodak film camera

Thompson found Oreskovic’s book very insightful, “After reading it, I was kind of chuckling to myself because she really compares how us guys were processing things.  We were not even aware of how we were processing things. All of this internal struggle, it doesn’t come to the surface.” 

“The story is: Don and Phyllis Munday were this powerhouse climbing couple. They climbed together for decades and they mapped out and climbed much of the Waddington range – which was really unmapped territory at the time. So they were hiking on Vancouver Island in 1925 and they spotted in the distance this peak that they had never seen before,” said Oreskovic.

Neither the Mundays or their modern day imitators reached the summit in their initial expeditions. Don and Phyllis were successful in 1928. Thompson plans to return with two other re-enactors in July 2022.

The groups first glimpse of Mount Waddington – Photo taken by Susanna Oreskovic with a 1921 Kodak film camera

Top photo credit: Bryan Thompson in camp – Photo by Susanna Oreskovic

Links for further information: 

The expedition’s last four members – courtesy Canadian EH Society
Bryan Thompson – Photo by Susanna Oreskovic
The Cortes Island poster

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