A tale of two peoples: The hated mountain folk and the beloved lowlanders

Andru McCracken headshot
Andru McCracken, Editor

By Andru McCracken,


I’ve met some very wild people in my day, but none more wild than these low elevation folks.

A friend and I once hiked up a mountainside more steep than we could safely descend, floundered up a rolling rockslide in a cascade of stones, we were stung by bees (allergy alert) and felt the electricity in the air as we watched a lightning storm roll into the valley. The aluminum poles of our flimsy tent stretched out to meet the sky while we wondered at the weather crackling around us. Our little bit of shelter, the only flat ground we could find was on a mountain ledge more than 2000m above sea level on Mount Trudeau. That’s more than a kilometer above the valley floor.

We had a perfect view of town. We could look down and contemplate from on high, the hundred little things that villagers were worrying about. We could see the little lowlanders drive over this way and drive back over this way. They had the look of doomed mice in a failed drug trial.

McKirdy Cabin illuminated by a headlamp. Few places are as beautiful as a cabin in the alpine. When you add 160 cm of snow, things get magical. //ANDRU MCCRACKEN

One day when we came back to our little abode we found a very large rock had fallen next to our tent. We hadn’t noticed it while setting up. We were just glad it didn’t roll over the tent because it would have smashed the poles to smithereens.

We camped up there for three days and the only thing more dangerous than clambering up was coming down.
But it was nothing compared to the vast majority of residents of the valley we gazed upon.

Hated mountain folk
Everyday someone is hiking up to a mountain top, or shooting into the alpine on snowmachines, gliding up on skis, or just crazily snowshoeing through deep high elevation snow.
As a society, we hate these people. If they mess up and die you can be sure this newspaper will document everything they did wrong.

“They should have read the avalanche report, they should have had more practice, been more prepared, went one at a time, hopped on one leg, worn two helmets…”

These mountain folk will be judged harshly. Meanwhile the real wild ones? Lowlanders stride about on flat ground courting death. They will never face a critic for their death-defying antics.

In my view, no one is more loco than those of us who choose not to get out into the mountains and nature around us.

Not everyone can hike to a mountain top. But if you can, you should.

If you can’t, do what you can.

At the cabin, high up on McKirdy mountain there is a log book of visitors to the sanctuary. Why are there so few names in there? How come there is so long between visits? Where have you been?

Don’t you know that 5 kilometres and 500 metres in elevation from the top of 5 Mile is a well appointed cabin beside a clean flowing brook?

What about the cabin at valley bottom that you can drive to at Camp Creek? How about the Porcupine Cabin accessible by snowmobile near Clemina?

If people aren’t going to these cabins, exactly what are they doing?

I wonder at the lowlanders way. Are they waiting for enough traffic for a traffic jam? Sitting on the sofa waiting for a respectable death via cirrhosis of the liver? Eating sausage and hoping for a heart attack?

The harsh reality is that most of us live our lives ruled by irrational fears, terrified of the unknown.

People have forgotten just how terrifying the known is.

Imagine dying on the highway on a supply run to Prince George. Your body and a year’s worth of toilet paper and dijon mustard spread out on the highway. Now that is terrifying.

What about a heart attack while pulling on your slipper? I ask you this: what is a cougar attack compared to that cruel death?

I hate to be the messenger of doom, but I’m going to level with you. You will die someday. Maybe soon.

Get into the mountains as often as you can. It won’t save you, in fact it may kill you, but while you are there you will remember why you are alive.

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