When Tracey Bulley?s brother sent her a link to a website with a story about a Canadian mountain that bore her last name, she had no idea it would turn into the focal point of a year-long, round the world journey. The website was that of the Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society, and the mountain was Mount Bulley, east of Monkman Provincial Park. Tracey?s brother challenged her to climb it, and the idea grew.
Tracey, who lives in England, corresponded with Kevin Sharman, author of the Mount Bulley story on the website. The excitement grew as Kevin described a remote and stunningly beautiful area to the south of Tumbler Ridge. Tracey and her boyfriend Tony decided it was time for an extended vacation, so they quit their jobs and hit the trail. Their journey took them to the Far East, Australia and New Zealand before arriving in Tumbler Ridge in late June.
Kevin was out of town when they arrived, but had left a map, and talked to them by phone with some last minute directions and tips. This was to be a five day backpacking trip into trail-less wilderness. Kevin said later, ?I could just imagine what they must have been thinking ? ?here we are ready to head into the Canadian wild, with sketchy directions from a guy we?ve never met!?? Kevin?s wife Birgit treated them to a slide show of the Bulley area, which chronicled Kevin?s visits and gave them an appreciation for the terrain and weather that they could expect.
Mount Bulley was named after Private Kenneth Bulley, from Gundy (southeast of Dawson Creek), who was killed in World War II. It is not known whether he ever saw the mountain that bears his name. Is Tracey related? She?s not sure, although it isn?t a very common name and it is possible.
The trip began on the Bulley Creek Forest Service road, which heads south from the campground at Kinuseo Falls. The pair drove up this to the 71 kilometer mark, where they parked and walked along the deactivated road for a further 4 km. Then it was time to ?bushwhack?, as it is known in Canada. This refers to walking through the forest, trying to pick the easiest route. Fortunately, there were some animal trails to make the walking easier, but they found this quite challenging. An unexpected dunking in the ice cold waters of Bulley Creek put their camera out of commission, so that they have no photos of the trip.
Tracy and Tony made it to the head of the valley and camped, resting up for the climb. It was to be a steep ascent out of the valley, then alpine rambling to the foot of the peak. They opted to go light for this segment, carrying only daypacks. Slower going meant that they were going to run out of time to make the mountain. Tracy, determined to succeed, hiked back down to get their overnight gear so they could camp near the foot of the peak. The alpine area was the highlight of the trip, with blue skies, spectacular wildflowers, and rugged scenery all around them.
As it turned out, Tracy and Tony ran out of time and weather, and although they came close, didn?t manage to make the summit of Mt. Bulley. Faced with a thunderstorm moving in and running low on food, they made a judgment call to turn back. As Tracy says, ?It was a really hard decision, but it?s better to make it back in one piece and try again sometime?. In these sometimes unforgiving mountains, this was a wise choice indeed.
Tracy and Tony were most impressed with the utter wildness and beauty of the area south of Tumbler Ridge. It was the most remote hiking trip they had ever done, and the feeling of isolation was inspiring. Having just come from hiking in New Zealand, with its crowded trails and necessity to register for the popular hikes, they found our brand of adventure refreshing. Will they be back to try the mountain again? Definitely, says Tracy. Tony mentioned something about a helicopter??