American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Canadian Rockies, Edith Cavell, Second Ascent of the North Face

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1967

Edith Cavell, Second Ascent of the North Face. On July 30 Gray Thompson and I quickly climbed the first third of the 4000-foot face on firm quartzite, finding good holds all the way to the Angel Glacier. We roped below the glacier and after two steep ice leads, we trudged up the glacier, crossed a difficult bergschrund, and climbed continuously mixed snow and rock to the base of a 300-foot vertical buttress. I led the first pitch up wet rock on the right face of an inside corner; then Gray made an extremely difficult second lead, climbing F7 rock up a waterfall. We emerged at the top of the buttress soaked but happy that the hardest rock climbing was behind us. More mixed climbing, some of it after dark across steep ice, took us to a bivouac ledge 200 feet below the summit icefield. We had expected that the icefield would be an easy snow climb to the summit, but the next day we found that the snow was rotten and underlain by hard ice. We avoided the summit rocks climbed by the first-ascent party by traversing left and climbing ice to a rock outcrop directly below the giant cornices which festooned the summit ridge. The final lead began up snow which was at first underlain by rotten rock, and then by ice, and it ended in deep unstable snow, which let me know I would not fall only when I dug my ice-axe into the summit. When Beckey, Chouinard and Doody made the first ascent in 1961 (A.A.J., 1962, 13:1, pp. 53-6), the face was dry and they had heavy rockfall. We had no rockfall, probably because the face was still plastered with winter snow and the rocks were frozen in place. Under the right conditions, the objective dangers are not great, and it is certainly one of the great face climbs in North America.

Dennis Eberl

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