North America, Canada, Canadian Rockies, Mt. Kitchener, Rights of Passage, Second Ascent

Publication Year: 2004.

Mt. Kitchener, Rights of Passage, second ascent. The welcoming heat of late June had us on the Icefields Parkway to attempt Eric Dumerac’s route, Rights of Passage. Eamonn Walsh, Greg Thaczuk, and I left in early afternoon and made our way to the base of the route. By making a short bivy at the base and leaving at midnight, we could climb the lower section of the route with good névé, as it is mainly a steep couloir with short rock steps.

As expected the lower section went quickly, with Greg and Eamonn slogging me into the ground. They reached the base of the steep serac headwall and waited patiently as I lumbered to catch up, wheezing like a geriatric smoker. The serac headwall was quite formidable, 100m high, 110° overhanging. Curiously, there was a single rope hanging anchored at about half height, severed close to the base [stuck rope from the first ascent—Ed.]. “Maybe Eric is not the only one who’s been up here?” we wondered.

Eamonn blazed up the first pitch, soloing and dragging a line, while Greg purged weight and I panted my way into my harness, trying to salvage time. At the base of the crux pitches we rock-paper-scissored for the first difficult lead. I won. Thus motivated, I used the experience of my only two ice leads of the past winter to grovel, muckle, and sketch my way up the flat, steep, plating ice. Two hours later I was at a comfortable ledge, with a full arm pump and screaming barfies that Satan would be proud of inflicting. “Yep, ice climbing. Still as great as I remembered it,” I said to myself. I looked around; to my surprise I had linked both crux pitches into one. “Thank God. I can’t bear climbing another piece of ice. Eamonn’s going to be pissed, though.” The boys followed, harassing me every swing, and Eamonn set off on the final lead, a most excellent ice chimney that went between the left- hand edge of the serac and Kitchener’s rock face. We rapped the route, elated, and were back at the car after 24 hours of being out, having survived WI8 and a few eventful river crossings. The ice was difficult but not psychologically stimulating. It begs the question of whether difficult leads come from the physical end of things or the mental stimulation of a thin death lead. I would argue the latter.

Ben Firth, Canada