North Coast outdoorsman through and through

Heart of Our City: Off the beaten trail (video)

The world may be your oyster, but the North Coast is his playground.

The world may be your oyster, but the North Coast is his playground.

Kris Pucci takes full advantage of every season — whether it’s climbing cragged rock faces, hiking into the backcountry to discover new lines, or spending time on the water as a spill response technician.

Born and raised in Prince Rupert, surrounded by tapped and untapped landscapes that offer endless adventures, Pucci has embraced the outdoorsman persona. He’s cool and collected when he speaks to you from his 6-foot-4 stature topped with shoulder-length curls and a full beard.

“I’ve been an outdoor enthusiast for some time and I’m still learning about how much more it has to offer. By no means do I think I have reached the limits or tapped it out,” he said.

On weekends, he tours the mountains on skis with his friends at Shames, north of Terrace or between Terrace and Kitimat. During the week, he works for the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC).

The response organization is industry funded but federally regulated to protect the West Coast waters in the event of an oil spill. Pucci was hired after he spent seven years as a marine science technician with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and had enough sea time to acquire his 150 tonne certificate.

After a couple of years working with WCMRC, his training was put to the test on handling the diesel spill in Bella Bella.

On Oct. 13, 2016 the Nathan E. Stewart tug was loaded with more than 237,000 litres of diesel fuel when it ran aground near the Heiltsuk First Nation community.

Prince Rupert’s WCMRC was called to the scene to manage the spill site where the tug had released an estimated 107,552 litres of diesel into the ocean. Pucci took the night shift on the boat and worked 14-16 hour shifts by the time they had travelled to and from the site.

“There were boats everywhere, great big marine cranes and little boats. At night there were lights everywhere,” Pucci said recalling the event. “The weather got really bad for a while. You couldn’t do much in 80 knots of wind. It was really good experience for me.”

Skimming diesel off the surface of the water was another challenge. Heavier oil is easier to see, and can be removed off the water. Diesel thins out, and it would evaporate as they tried to pick up.

He worked on the Bella Bella spill for three-and-a-half weeks. On a regular day, he works with 10 people at the station in Prince Rupert. They spend two to three days on the water training, and the rest of the time maintaining the equipment in the warehouse.

Aside from preparing to handle potential spills, the team also conducts in-house training for the remote communities along the North Coast. Pucci travels to Kitkatla, Masset, Queen Charlotte, Shearwater in Bella Bella, Hartley Bay and Metlakatla.

“I get to be out on the water and explore around and learn the coast. It’s a beautiful spot. Always good to get out and realize what the boat is going to do in certain weather,” he said.

But back to how we started Pucci’s story — the North Coast is his playground — and after work hours, he’s off exploring.

After 15 plus years of backcountry skiing, the other weekend Pucci was with friends when they poked into a mountain range he hadn’t been in before.

“It just keeps opening up more and more. The more you get out there the more you realize how much there is. There’s multiple lifetimes of skiing,” he said.

In 2012, he was a part of the trio that founded Divide Rides, a business that builds skis and splitboards. The concept originated with Derek Kormendy who wanted to build his own splitboard (a snowboard that separates into two for touring up a slope).

Fellow outdoorsman, Dean Wagner, had the space in his basement to assemble the equipment. Pucci was living with Wagner at the time and three started their business from the ground up.

“It’s super rewarding. I thought the best thing was when I rode my skis for the first time myself but what is actually the best is when somebody rides them for the first time and says how great they are,” Pucci said.

Five years later, they’ve made skis and splitboards for people across the province, and have had orders from Colorado and Edmonton. Recently, Pucci has dialed back from the business now that he’s full time with WCMRC.

When the snow melts, climbing season takes over. All year round, he has access to the Devil’s Crag climbing wall at the civic centre, and the bouldering setup he built with his girlfriend and climbing partner in their basement.

The couple travelled to Joshua Tree, California last year — a Mecca for climbing junkies — and this year he’s thinking that a trip to Utah might be next on the list.

 

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