In 1961 Ed Cooper and his climbing partner Jim Baldwin made Squamish a famous climbing destination.
Now Cooper is lashing out at a proposal to put a gondola on the Stawamus Chief.
“It is an atrocity,” Cooper said this week of a proposal to build a gondola to the second peak of the Stawamus Chief. “I think it is the worst idea I have ever heard and I have heard some pretty bad development proposals for natural wonders.”
Copper, 67, is allowing the new group called Friends of the Chief to use his name in efforts to keep the Stawamus Chief free of gondolas. Cooper’s name is highly recognized in the climbing community as he and Baldwin made the first ascent of the Grand Wall. They nailed and bolted their way up the rock face over the course of 40 days back in 1961. The pair installed 136 bolts on the way up.
Baldwin died in a 1964 rappelling accident at Yosemite. Cooper now lives in California and continues to spend time in the mountains.
“Here you have this marvelous rock, the Stawamus Chief, just a landmark and a centre of attraction for sport climbing and hiking for Squamish and the Howe Sound,” Cooper said. “It [the gondola] defiles the landmark.”
Along with allowing his name to be used in the effort to prevent the gondola from being built, Cooper recently wrote a letter to Mayor Ian Sutherland and copied it to The Chief (see page 11). Cooper said he is also offering to loan pictures to the group.
“I think it is worth going to a lot of trouble stopping this gondola,” said Cooper.
The legendary climber was in Squamish back in 2001 to mark the 40th anniversary of his accomplishment with Baldwin. He said he is not ruling out making a trip to Squamish in the future.
“There are plenty of other places where they could put a gondola with good views of the Chief and without defiling the Chief,” Cooper said. “They could put a gondola in a location that offers views of both Mt. Garibaldi and The Chief and I think that would be a better view than the one from the top of the Chief.”
Gondola proponents Paul Mathews and Peter Alder of Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners are about to embark on a public consultation process regarding their proposal. Mathews indicated that climbers made him aware of other possible final destinations for the gondola and he said he is willing to look at alternate routes.
The current Stawamus Chief Provincial Park master plan does not allow for commercial activities in the park. The proponents want the community to endorse their desire to have the provincial government change the master plan so commercial ventures, specifically a gondola, are allowed in the park.