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North America, Canada, Canadian Coast Range, Mount Monarch, South Ridge, 1977

Mount Monarch, South Ridge, 1977. I made solo the first ascent of this obscure route, the south ridge, on the beautiful peak which dominates the southern Tweedsmuir area. On August 14 Fred Beckey and I were flown to Success Lake and made an airdrop on the Page-Monarch col. By nightfall we had moved to camp in a lovely meadow near the edge of the Telchako Glacier. Tuesday was spent hiking up the glacier to the edge of the Monarch Icefield and up the western of the two tributary glaciers which flow north from Page Peak. We climbed over the north ridge of Page and dropped onto the saddle from which we could climb to the foot of the icefall on the northwest side of Monarch and collect the drop, before making camp. Next morning, while Fred tried to appease a demon headache, I hiked over to the shoulder of Page to look at the route. The angle looked less than photos or the view from the plane had indicated, about 30°, but the ridge was broken midway by a great gendarme which didn’t protrude above the ridge but was defined by two deep notches. The 300-foot-deep upper one overhung spectacularly. With three days’ food, the next day we made the hot, unpleasant traverse to the south col over loose talus and soft snow. Fred nursed his headache while I scrambled 800 feet up the ridge. Though it had looked loose from the col, the rock was good, making for easy climbing. I descended to bivouac with Fred. We climbed slowly up to the first notch, following a small gully which splits the ridge and worked left on a ledge system which took us into the bottom of the notch. Two pitches of moderate fifth class up a chimney in the center of the uphill side of the notch and a short walk up low-angle slabs atop the gendarme brought us to the second notch, which looked horrible. It overhung dizzily. I lowered the 9-mm rope to see if a crossing was feasible; it touched the opposite side of the chasm a good 100 feet down. Fred decided that he wasn’t feeling up to this kind of madness with his headache. He would wait for me while I tried it solo. The landing on the far side was surprisingly easy when vague ledges became obvious from close up. I secured the rope and traversed right to the chimney. I jümared back up the rappel rope and assembled my gear. The rappel back into the notch was complicated by the fact that my safety Jümar grabbed about 30 feet from the top and cost me an hour’s arm- burning struggle. I took the climbing rope and rack and soloed an easy line up the left side of the chimney to a comfortable ledge, where I secured the rope, rappelled down for my pack and with a self-belay reclimbed the pitch to bivouac on the ledge. The next morning, August 19, 1977, I climbed a bit of easy third class to the top of the notch and hiked up a long, broad ridge of talus toward the summit block. A last little notch was easily crossed and complicated but easy rock put me on the summit just before noon.

D. Dennis Mullen, Unaffiliated