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Pioneering Squamish climber recognized by BC Achievement Foundation

Anders Ourom receives honour for his contributions to climbing and parks in B.C.

One of the most significant contributors to Squamish — and the province's — climbing scene has been recognized for his work with a BC Achievement Foundation Community Award.

Whether you've spotted his name as a first ascensionist in a guidebook — there are a number of mentions — or you've lined up to climb the classic route Penny Lane route in the Smoke Bluffs, Anders Ourom's work has likely affected you if you've ever touched a rock in Squamish.

Early in May, Ourom was revealed as one of the 20 recipients of this year's award.

Those who were given the honour were recognized by Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin in Government House, Victoria, on May 10.

Ourom's rock climbing resume is extensive. He started going on family hikes in the 1960s, which later turned into outings with his father and the BC Mountaineering Club, which his parents were a part of.

Later, he would join the Varsity Outdoor Club of UBC, becoming a mentor to many rock climbers.

Ourom also penned a 1980 guidebook that systematized all the information about local Squamish climbs available up to that point.

Ourom said that one of the highlights of his time was pioneering the first free ascent of the ever-popular Penny Lane climb.

"We were just starting to explore the Little Smoke Bluffs in the mid to late 1970s," Ourom told The Squamish Chief. "And I happened to walk along there one spring, and I thought we could do a climb here. Somebody had aided that previously, but that didn't come out until much later. [We] came back and cleaned it up and climbed it, and it just seemed like a nice and obvious thing to do. And it turned out to be reasonably popular."

In addition, Ourom is a founder and was a long-time president of the Climbers' Access Society of BC. He also was one of the key players in lobbying the province to create Stawamus Chief Provincial Park in 1995 and Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park in 2010.

On top of that, he is a founding member of the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival, which began in 1997.

He was an early member of Mountain Equipment Co-operative, volunteering his time at its first store. He went on to serve nine years as a director and three years as chair.

Climbing was not the only field where Ourom has made contributions. He said he came up with the idea to rebuild the Yew Lake trail around Cypress Bowl in the early 1990s, helping make it accessible enough for a motorized wheelchair to trek through.

Currently, family responsibilities have forced him to put his roles with the access society second, but he is still involved in crag stewardship to this day.

Ourom said the reception of the award was a surprise, as he didn't know he had been nominated to begin with.

In fact, when he first got the call from the BC Achievement Foundation, he thought it might've been a work-related call.

"I thought that it was possibly a client or somebody with kind of a legal thing. So we introduced ourselves, and then I said, 'Well,  how can I help you?' Which wasn't quite why they were calling. So it's kind of amusing," he said. "It was quite an honour."

Ourom emphasized that while he may be the one receiving the award, many others deserve credit for advancing climbing in Squamish and in the province.

"None of these things that I might have helped with would have happened without an awful lot of other people helping and contributing in various ways," he said. "It's really my view that an award like this is more of a symbolic thing where it's really recognizing the climbing and mountaineering communities for their contributions to B.C."

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Ourom's surname. It is Ourom, not Ourum.