By: Korie Marshall
Coming off Mount Robson in the dark in mid-September, using a path not commonly used, Reiner Thoni spotted what he first thought was a strangely shiny rock in the light from his headlamp. Then he realized it was a camera. He thought it was a very lucky stroke to find something one of his friends must have dropped in the run out that comes off the “roof” – the year-round snow that comes down the right side of the peak, viewed from the highway. But this camera was not dropped recently.
It’s a Rollei 35, and Thoni’s research tells him it was a common, good quality 35 mm camera sold in the late 1960’s and early 70’s, and often used by mountain climbers. It’s heavy, and beat up at the corners, not like it was just dropped out of someone’s pack. When he found it, it was sitting lens down, apparently still in its cloth carrying case, although the top of the cloth has worn away from exposure to the elements. He thinks it must have come from the “roof” or the south-east face of the mountain.
Last year Thoni and some climbing friends, who have been working on a new trail up Mount Robson’s south face, found some rope and other bits of climbing gear near the same spot he found the camera.
“Climbers don’t usually lose rope, unless there is an accident, or someone is lost,” says Thoni. He says there are eight climbers who have been lost on the mountain over the years whose bodies have never been found, and he wonders if this camera might have belonged to one of them.
He hasn’t opened the camera yet, for fear of damaging the film inside, if there is any, but he plans to send it to someone who can try to recover any images that might be on it. He’s looked into a couple of companies that can develop and digitize old films. One company he found, Film Rescue International, says it would be the fifth camera found on a mountain they’ve received, and they were able to salvage images from two of those cameras. Maybe the mountain will yet reveal some of its secrets and those of a lost climber.