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The First Ascent of Mt. Aye

The First Ascent of Mt. Aye

Henry S. Crosby

MT. AYE, 10,640 ft., lies directly south of the better-known Mt. Assiniboine and forms the middle peak of the main ridge which includes Mt. Assiniboine on the north, Mt. Aye in the center, and Mt. Eon to the east and somewhat south of Aye. It is approximately twenty-five miles as the crow flies due south of Banff. The ascent was made on August 5th, 1934, by the writer and Rudolf Aemmer, veteran Swiss climbing guide with headquarters at Lake Louise.

The main camp was located in a small valley above Marvel Lake, about midway between the base of Mt. Gloria and Marvel Pass. From this point Mt. Gloria lay directly across the direct route to Aye with Mt. Eon just to the south of this same straight line. It may be well to explain that Mt. Gloria serves as the eastern boundary of the icefield which lies roughly in a semicircle between it and Aye on the west and Eon on the south.

On August 2nd, an attempt was made to find a route by skirting around to the north of Gloria, thence up the glacier to the upper icefield and on across it to the east face. Unfortunately, the glacier was impractical so it was necessary to spend considerable time in climbing up and over a western spur of Gloria. An examination of the east face of Aye from this point indicated that there might be a feasible route to the summit, but it became soon apparent that the day was too far gone to make a serious attempt. There was, however, a possibility that there might be a direct and easy route starting from the col between Aye and Eon. This was not, however, the case. The col was reached about noon, and there appeared to be no route that would justify an attempt, especially as the weather began to look threatening. The return was made across the upper icefield, over the main ridge of Gloria, and then down to camp, which was reached about 7.30.

On the next attempt, an entirely different approach was made. It was decided to try from the south. Leaving camp a little before 4.30 on the morning of August 5th, it took about two hours to ride around to the south of Mt. Eon and reach a point on Eon Creek almost due south of the col between Aye and Eon which had been reached three days before from the other side. The horses were left here with George Harrison who was general outfitter for the whole party (of which there were seven members) and he undertook to stay there until the ascent was made. Needless to say, the climbers were pleased to see him when they got back some twenty-two hours later.

Unfortunately, the ride resulted in a loss in elevation of about 1000 ft. The route to the col presented no difficulties at all. Several hours of plodding with a steep shale slope at the last brought us to the col at about 11.30. From there on, it was steady rock work up the back face. A little after 4 o'clock we reached what had appeared to be the summit, but it turned out to be only a lesser peak of the main ridge. It was another hour and a half or more to the summit which we reached a little before 6 o’clock.

The ridge was not easy. The east face dropped almost sheer to the icefield several thousand feet below and there was no easy route along the west face. For the most part, it was a question of working along the ridge.

After negotiating the last and most difficult notch in the ridge, it was a pleasure to see a gently sloping plane surface leading to the summit some hundred yards away. The weather was perfect. The sun was still warm, the sky clear, and there was no wind. The writer clearly remembers lighting a pipe at the summit without even shielding the match.

Leaving the summit a little before seven, we were able to get off the ridge and a short way down before dark. This was probably at elevation of about 9500 ft. and was just before a long stretch of steady rock work. Perhaps the most aggravating part of the night was that the camp fire of George Harrison, who was waiting in the valley below, was clearly visible.

After waiting long enough to get rid of some of the night’s stiffness, we started down again. It was slow work anyway and made slower by the writer's knack of picking an impossible route when working down near the full length of the rope and well out of sight of Rudolf’s watchful eye.

We reached the col about one-thirty, the starting point on Eon Creek a little after four, and were back in camp by seven. The ride back to camp was made less unpleasant by the knowledge that Mike, best of all camp cooks, had a hot supper waiting.

One feature of the climb is that there was not a bit of snow the whole way. The rock, generally speaking, was good. There were some rotten places but fortunately some of the most difficult spots had the best rock. It is a climb which should be interesting to anyone who enjoys rock work, and there are possibilities of other routes which appear to be “very interesting.”