Unbeknownst to some, Chilliwack is home to many outstanding mountain and adventure sports athletes who are plying their craft in our surreal backcountry. Over the past couple of years I have had the privilege to get to know many of these folks and watch them as they peruse perfection at their activity unrelentingly. It’s always inspiring to me to see this kind of dedication in people, who for the most part work normal jobs and have families as well, however they also make the time to play really hard. It’s the sort of motivation to be up before the sun on a rainy morning and get out on Cultus Lake with a paddleboard to train for a far off event. Or lace up the trail runners, strap on a headlamp and go for a nighttime trail run well into the witching hours, because it can’t be squeezed into any other part of the day.
I have chosen to highlight some of these athletes here to give you a bit of a window into the underground outdoor culture that is emerging in our lovely little burg.
Meet the ambassadors!
Marc Andre-Leclerc: Born and raised in B.C, Marc-Andre always knew that he wanted to be a climber. At summer camp at the age of six he finally got his chance on a 20-foot top rope wall. But he broke down crying less than half way up and swore he’d never try it again.
Luckily the trauma of this initial introduction was soon forgotten and Marc-Andre gave indoor climbing another shot at the age of 10. This time he became instantly obsessed with the sport and began a short career in competitive climbing which lasted for about two years until the natural beauty of the mountains surrounding his home in the Fraser Valley led him away from the gym and into the alpine. Since then Marc-Andre has spent his time developing skills in all climbing practices; sport, trad, ice, big-walls, free-soloing, bouldering… you name it. Now 22 years old, and based out of Squamish B.C, Marc-Andre is drawn to big, remote, steep mountain walls and loves finding inspiring unclimbed lines in wild settings.
Kevin Ault: Kevin Ault has been adventuring for forty years as a backpacker, climber, canoeist, kayaker, and paraglider pilot. He has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Aconcagua, and flown his paraglider in more than 20 countries. Kevin spent many years leading young offenders on wilderness adventures for the BC corrections system before becoming a BC middle school teacher and specializing in outdoor education. He has led canoe trips with teenagers around the Bowron Lakes chain seven times and even taken a group down the Yukon River from Carmacks to Dawson City.
Kevin took up ocean kayaking in 1997 with a tour of the Broken Island Group and then began adventuring in other parts of Vancouver Island’s west coast from Winter Harbor to Tofino. These trips have given Kevin an appreciation for and even a kind of addiction to the west coast. He plans a seven to 10 day adventures each summer now and has grown to love this area. He also has great concern about the vulnerability of the coast to oil spills, garbage and of course, nuclear contamination.
Kevin is a “frequent flyer” with his paraglider 12 months of the year. In the spring and summer he flies cross country flights on his solo wing. He also climbs local mountains and flies from them with his alpine flying gear. Kevin also introduces people to the sport of paragliding by flying tandem flights during these nice months. In the winter, he continues flying by hiking up Elk Mountain and flying down, a great way to combine exercise with a knee-saving glorious descent from the snowy mountain back to the valley.
Joe Mckeen: Joe is a Chilliwack local who has grown up playing in the colorful backcountry around our home. In addition to hiking, climbing and ski touring, Fishing has always been a part of his life and something that he has pursued endlessly.
Joe’s passion for fishing runs deep, he spent a number of years with the Freshwater Fisheries society of BC running Learn to Fish programs and working hard to get thousands of participants fully stoked to enter the world of angling. His main interests in the fishing world consist of exploring dynamic, hard to reach rivers, nymph fishing for trout, and most importantly: chasing steelhead.
If satellite imagery, logging roads, bushwhacking, and no other people are involved, it is a good day. The further out, the better, Joe has travelled thousands of kilometers on dirt roads in pursuit of the next “spot.”
Between university at UFV and work at Mt. Waddington’s, 4-7 days per week, he finds at least a few hours to be out on the water. Joe finds value and personal development in the lessons he learns chasing fish. Tight lines come from patience, persistence, awareness, and a modicum of creativity. “Every day offers a unique experience, the opportunity to out-do the sharp instincts of some amazing animals, and push yourself to a new level of ability.” Joe plans to continue hunting fish in new places around our province, and the globe, as long as he lives.
Sam Waddington is the owner of Mt. Waddington’s Outdoors: “Equipping you for rock, water, snow, sand, wind and anything else the outdoors can throw at you!”