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Bolton Expedition 1896
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John Richmond Waters


John and his twin brother Mike Waters were born in Victoria on October 30, 1974. At the age of two the family moved to Oyster Bay near Campbell River and two years later to Cumberland where John currently lives with Kama Corbett and their three young kids. John attended schools in Cumberland and then graduated from Vanier Secondary School. While in grades 11 and 12 he worked on a commercial fishing boat for the summers and once he graduated he continue to work on the boats for another two months. As a family the Waters had made regular trips to Mexico so when the fishing season finished John decided to go back to Mexico where he spent another six months traveling and surfing. After this trip he decided to attend North Island College in Courtenay where for two years he took a general science course. During the next five years he worked in Silviculture and traveled to Mexico in the winters. He then spent two years at BCIT where he obtained a Chemical Science technology diploma in with a special interest in environmental chemistry. After he graduated in 2000 he went up to the Yukon where he worked at a Gold Mine near Dawson City as an environmental/chemical analyst. Since 2002 John has worked at the Elk Falls Pulp Mill in Campbell River, first in the laboratory and then in the Fibre Supply on the tug boats until late 2008 when the Mill shut-down. Since 1994 he has worked part-time at the climbing wall at the Cumberland Recreation Centre.

Both John and Mike were always very active when they were young and their early climbing involved scrambling on the bluffs and crags around various beaches. They began skiing when they were six and were nine years old when they first overnight camped without their parents. Early exploration was up nearby Perserverance Creek and Trent River and then longer hiking and camping trips into Strathcona Park while at high school with trips on their own up Mount Albert Edward and the Elk River Trail. In fact on there failed attempt to climb the South Ridge of Elkhorn in grade 10 they saw ropes, pitons and in-situ slings for the first time in the mountains. These objects piqued their interest and they thought they might be useful to them when going into the mountains. They bought a rope from the local hardware store, a copy of Freedom of the Hills and Basic Rockcraft by Royal Robbins and began teaching themselves climbing techniques on various bluffs on the North Shore of Comox Lake. Other times they could be seen practicing rappelling off the Cruikshank Bridge and Trent River Trestle. Two unconventional locations they have rappelled is off the radio tower on Nikkei Mountain near Cumberland and a daring night rappel off Burrard Street Bridge in Vancouver:

"We had our harnesses on and our two (9mm) ropes stacked into separate grocery bags. We just casually walked along the bridge, but of course stopped above land. It was difficult to judge the distance down in the dark but figured the ropes would reach otherwise it would have been a long prusik back up. We looped the ropes around a lightpost and tied them together. Then we tossed the ropes down, the neatly stacked ropes in the bags fell perfectly to the ground. Now this was the tricky part and probably most concerning to people driving by. We quickly attached our devices and clipped into one rope each then climbed up onto the handrail as cars drove by. Making sure that we both weighted the rope at the same time, we hopped off the hand rail and simal rappelled. It was a fast rappel as a single 9mm rope free hanging doesn't offer much friction. We pulled in the ropes and walked back without incident to our friends house who lived nearby."

In 1991 John climbed his first route at Devil's Ladder near the Campground on Comox Lake and in 1996 the brothers began seriously cleaning and bolting the numerous bluffs located throughout the forest. Along with a few other local climbers they have also built access trails to all these bluffs and have had many talks with the Mayor of Cumberland and the Campground owner keeping them up-to-date on their development work. They don't want to be seen as rebels but rather stewards for their sport.

As twins, the brothers have a special bond and over the years have developed a chemistry that finds them comfortable climbing together on both hard rock and ice climbs. Their bond in trusting each other is reminiscent of the well-known British climbing twins, Aid and Al Burgess. John has recorded all the climbs at Comox Lake and published a guide book to the bluffs. Since these bluffs are "on his doorstep," if John is not found at home he will more-than-likely be out at the lake where he has become comfortable leading 5.11/5.12 routes. Although there are a lot of moderate 5.10 routes at Comox Lake, there are not many 5.7/5.8's for the beginners, however, John is quick to say: "While the hard stuff is challenging it is not all that important, it is more important to have fun. I've been cleaning harder routes lately because they are faster to clean as less moss and dirt accumulates on the steeper routes. With kids now I have less time to spend out there."

In 1995/96 John and Kama traveled all the way down through Mexico as far as Costa Rica. Along the way he hiked Volcán Tajumulco, the highest mountain in Guatemala at 4,220m. Since high school John has returned to Mexico eight times and with Mike, has climbed at many of the less know locations as well as surfing on the Pacific Coast. Together they have climbed steep ice routes in The Ghost Valley in the Canadian Rockies and waterfalls to W5 around Banff and Canmore, as well as around Lillooet. In the Bugaboos in 2001 they climbed the Northeast Ridge of Bugaboo Spire, the West Face of Snowpatch and the West Ridge of Pidgeon Spire. They have climbed to 5.12 on the Limestone Bluffs above Horne Lake and established a bouldering area on South Sutton Creek ( between Port Alberni and Tofino, but recently have preferred doing hard first ascents on the multi-pitched slab routes found on the granite walls in the Eldred Valley near Powell River.

On Vancouver Island John's name has become synonymous with Mount Colonel Foster. After his initial trip to the South Col with his brother in 1991, they returned in 1996 and climbed the North Buttress. Before attempting their first alpine multi-pitch climb, they practiced setting up belays at Crest Creek Crags by climbing half way up a single pitch gear route then setting a belay, thereby making a 20m climb into a multi-pitch. Since then, together and with other strong climbers, they have climbed almost every route on the mountain including a summit traverse as part of an ambitious project to circumnavigate the whole of the Elk River Valley. This project was first attempt by Peter Croft and Greg Foweraker in September 1986 except they attempted it in the opposite direction. In 2003 John and Mike put some new routes up on the granite buttresses on Mount Tom Taylor, and with Aaron Hamilton he put a route on the North Face of Redwall Peak in the Mackenzie Range. In 2009 John and Mike Waters, and Curtis Lyon made the first winter ascent of Mount Cobb and then a month later, John, Curtis and Louis Monjo made the long sought after first winter ascent of Victoria Peak.

Not one for sitting around too long, it is easy for John to find new climbing projects either on Vancouver Island, on the Canadian Mainland or in our neighbours to the south. John and his brother Mike are very accomplished rock climbers and are comfortable moving pretty quickly on the island's alpine rock and John's leadership on the bluffs at Comox Lake is a testament to his dedication in keeping the sport of rock climbing alive on Vancouver Island in the future. He has also become one of the Directors for the Strathcona Wilderness Institute, a non-profit organization that operates summer educational programs out of their building on the edge of the park at Paradise Meadows.

A brief synopsis of John Waters climbs on Vancouver Island:
1996 (July 23) - John and Mike Waters climb North Buttress Route on the North Tower of Mount Colonel Foster.

1997 (August 13) - John and Mike Waters climb Mount Colonel Foster's East Face in 6 hours. A 12 hour round trip.

1998 (March) - John and Mike Waters attempt Mount Colonel Foster's Grand Central Couloir in winter but only get halfway.

2001 (August 11) - Aaron Hamilton, John and Mike Waters climb X-Rated up the scar on the North Tower of Mount Colonel Foster. (FA)

2002 (August 17) - John and Mike Waters climb Expressway, a variation to the start of Cataract Ridge, a new route that joins the Cataract Ridge at 1,700m on Mount Colonel Foster in 14 hours 48 minutes from car to car. ((FA)

2003 (July 10) - John and Mike Waters climb Southwest Buttress on Mount Tom Taylor. (FA)
(July 11) - John and Mike Waters climb Savage Hummingbird and Seeing Things on the South Face of Mount Tom Taylor. (FA)
(August 4) - John Waters and Rene Monjo climb the East Face of the Northwest Peak of Mount Colonel Foster. (FA)
(Septmember 21) - John Waters and Aaron Hamilton climb North Face of Redwall Peak, Mackenzie Range. (FA)

2005 (June 27) - John Waters and Grant McCartney climb Southwest Summit of Mount Colonel Foster.
(July 10) - John and Mike Waters, and Rene Monjo climb standard route on Redwall Peak, Mackenzie Range.
(July 24) - Rene Monjo, John and Mike Waters complete south to north traverse of Mount Colonel Foster.
(Aug 10) - Kara Charbonneau, John and Mike Waters repeat North Buttress on Mount Colonel Foster's North Tower.

2006 (February) - Curtis Lyon and John Waters attempt a winter ascent of The Sceptre on Victoria Peak
(August 12) - Curtis Lyon, John and Mike Waters climb Into the Mystic on Mount Colonel Foster.
(September 12) - John Waters and Aaron Hamilton climb Cataract Ridge on Mount Colonel Foster.

2009 (January 27) - Curtis Lyon and John and Mike Waters climb Mount Cobb via North Gully. (FWA)
(March 8) - John Waters, Curtis Lyon and Louis Monjo climbed Victoria Peak via The Sceptre. (FWA)
(August 17) - Grant McCartney, John and Mike Waters climb East Face of the Northeast Peak of Mount Colonel Foster. (FA)

FA - First Ascent, FWA - First Winter Ascent.

Waters, John. Personal communication. 2009.

Elms, Lindsay. "New Multi-pitch Alpine Routes on Colonel Foster and Tom Taylor." Island Bushwhacker Annual. The Alpine Club of Canada Vancouver Island section. 2003. P. 70-72.

Waters, Mike. "Elk River Valley Traverse." Island Bushwhacker Annual. The Alpine Club of Canada Vancouver Island section 2005. p. 14-17.

Waters, John. "East Face of Mount Colonel Foster Northeast Peak Buttress - 5.9." Island Bushwhacker Annual. The Alpine Club of Canada Vancouver Island section. 2009. p. 28-29.

Elms, Lindsay. "Victoria Peak: First Winter Ascent." ACCVI April 2009 Newsletter.

Elms, Lindsay. "Mount Cobb: First Winter Ascent." ACCVI May 2009 Newsletter.

Waters, John. "The Colonel." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 93. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 2009. p. 96-97.

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