American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, British Columbia and Alberta, First Ascents in the Canadian Rockies

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1953

First Ascents in the Canadian Rockies. The crumbling limestone towers of Aiguille Peak (9840 feet) rise above the Banff-Jasper Highway, west of the Mistaya. Dr. J. Monroe Thorington visited the headwaters of North Ebon Creek, southwest of Aiguille, with guide Edward Feuz and the Measurolls in 1944, making first ascents of Stairway and Aries. Mr, Measurolls description and picture of interesting and virgin Aiguille inspired my wife, Ruth, and me, of the Sierra Club, to make an attempt.

On 1 August 1952, we packed up the Howse River on Warden Black’s fine trail and over Howse Pass to camp on the upper Blaeberry (21 miles). The following day we carried heavy packs up tiring slopes crisscrossed with fallen logs, and our tent was set up at high timber on the North Fork of Ebon Creek. A valuable telescopic reconnaissance of Aiguille was made from the Aiguille- Stairway Glacier that afternoon.

Dawn of August 3rd was clear, and axes were cached after the glacier-crossing. The southwest arête was ascended unroped, and we were soon at the crest. Now roped, Ruth led down steep but sound rocks for five long pitches. Then followed a lengthy, unpleasant traverse on outsloping scree-covered ledges above cliffs dropping to the Aiguille-Stairway Glacier. The only piton required was placed on the seventh attempt! This traverse was followed by a welcome sound though steep chimney, which led to the top of the square southeast shoulder.

Above, bulging in places, rose the final summit. The only apparent chance consisted of a loose, narrow three-inch crack, overhanging slightly near the top. With Ruth belaying from a poor piton, I placed two more and reached the base of the crack. This was as unsound as anticipated, yet pitons four, five, and six each fiendishly refused to penetrate over an inch. Not daring to risk a fall on these, I snapped two slings into the highest piton before tackling the slight overhang. Piton seven, above the bulge, was the first sound one, and the leader could finally draw a deep breath. An effort to revert to Class 5 climbing only resulted in slipping off the bulge, and I sadly snapped in another sling. Delicate friction followed to a piton belay.

Despite the pack’s weight, little Ruth speedily ascended the crack, extracting six of the seven pitons with regrettable ease. She led the next pitch on steep, firm rock, and the last section yielded the rather small summit. The drop-offs around us were reminiscent of Yosemite’s Cathedral Spires.

On the descent, the critical pitch was passed in one long rappel. Camp was reached after 18 hours out. The following day, unclimbed Mt. Synge (9700 ft.) and Midway Peak (9570 ft.) were ascended.

J. D. Mendenhall

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