Archive for June, 2009

Candidate: #26

Location: Jasper National Park, Alberta

Elevation: 3,361 metres

Range: Canadian Rockies

There is often some confusion about which peak is Mount Fryatt because the common view across the Athabasca River towards Mount Fryatt actually includes two peaks that are lower but more prominent to the eyes, Mount Christie and Mount Geraldine. In particular, Mount Geraldine stands out because of its scalloped erosion pattern. However, beyond Geraldine rises a mountain that was carved on three sides by glaciers, making it a horn mountain. This is Mount Fryatt. A peak of spectacular cliffs and routes that go beyond scrambling, Mount Fryatt has been compared to Mount Assiniboine in climbing difficulty, though it was said that it was a little easier than the most famous horn peak of the Canadian Rockies.

For the story behind the name we again look back to World War I. German submarines began making their appearances in the waters around Great Britain and recently appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill gave the orders that any civilian ship encountering the enemy were to either engage them if they had armaments and if not they were to ram them. Any captain surrendering his vessel to the enemy would be prosecuted. In March of 1915, Captain Charles Algernon Fryatt of the railway ferry Brussels twie encountered German U-boats. He successfully escaped the first encounter and received a hero’s welcome upon returning to port. In the second encounter the Brussels was being lined up for a torpedo shot when Fryatt turned his vessel on the submarine and attempted to ram it, forcing it to crash dive. It seemed his actions got the attention of the Germans. He found himself surrounded by a flotilla of German torpedo boats in June of 1916 and taken as captive. He was tried and found guilty on July 27. According to the source on Bivouac, attempting to ram enemy ships with a civilian ship was still considered improper etiquette in spite of what Churchill had ordered. Captain Fryatt was promptly shot. A cry went up across Britain as Fryatt was viewed as a hero for saving his crew and passengers. Even in the then neutral United States the New York Times reported the execution as “a deliberate murder”, and Britain claimed it was an act to terrorize merchant seaman. In 1920 the Alberta Boundary Commission named the mountain after Captain Fryatt and another mountain was named Mount Brussles after his ship.

Mount Fryatt was first ascended in 1926 by J.W.A. Hickson and Howard Palmer with their guide Hans Fuhrer. During their climb they were forced to bivouac on the mountain when a thunder storm struck. Climbing Mount Fryatt is said to require three days – one to get in, one to climb, and one to get out. Mount Fryatt is one of the Over 11,000 Foot Mountains of the Canadian Rockies.







Next: Mount Saskatchewan


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Candidate: #25

Location: Jasper National Park, Alberta

Elevation: 3,268 metres

Range: Queen Elizabeth Range, Canadian Rockies

From the shore of Maligne Lake – the view most tourists see and also the view from near Spirit Island – a grand sweeping view of rocky mountain peaks greets the eye. Among these many peaks a twin set stands out on the right side. Mount Unwin and Mount Charlton, joined by a ridge, make a pair of rugged peaks with snow and ice clinging to their sides. The higher of the two is Mount Unwin.

Like many peaks of the Rockies, stories of war time heroes or early explorers and climbers lie behind the names. Mount Unwin was named after a man who was both. Sidney Unwin, an Englishman who came to the Canadian Rockies to work as a guide and outfitter. He was legendary for his outdoor skills and courteous manner. During the 1908 visit by Mary Schaffer, searching for a long lake whose location was only drawn on a sketch map, the party was growing tired of tramping through much burnt out forest. At camp one day, Unwin their guide said he would climb the highest mountain near their camp and try to spot the lake. He returned 24 hours later having seen it on the other side of the mountain. Later, as they canoed on the lake, Unwin pointed out the mountain he had climbed and Mary Schaffer gave the mountain its name.

Previous to coming to Canada, Unwin had fought in South Africa where he distinguished himself as a soldier. When Canada went to war in 1914 he enlisted with the Canadian Army and was assigned to the 20th Artillery Battery in Lethbridge, the same unit that took on Vimy Ridge in 1916. During one very heavy shelling, Unwin ordered his troops back to their dugouts and stayed behind to man an artillery unit by himself. Even when one of his ammunition pits received a direct hit he remained loading and firing his weapon. His commanding officer, Lieutenant E.K. Carmichael, was so impressed that he committed his observations to paper right away in case of any accident, so at least the bravery of Unwin would not pass un-noted. Unwin was injured by a shell blast and spent his last days in military hospital. His humour had not failed him when he scribbled with his left hand in a letter, “Aside from having my right arm blown off, being almost stone deafened by shell fire, and having my head full of shrapnel fragments, I’m fine and dandy.” He also left behind a humorous poem:

“One spring day near Vimy Ridge

I very nearly crossed the Bridge

Which leads to Heaven or to Hell

For I tried to stop a Fritz shell

But now in Heaven I must be

For around me angels do I see

Protecting me from further harm

For I am bruised and short one arm.”

Sgt. Sid Unwin, May 27, 1917

Most people climb both Mount Unwin and Mount Charlton together as they are joined by a ridge about 1 kilometre long. The scramble is not difficult and from Lake Dougherty it is said to take about 12 hours.







Next: Mount Fryatt

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Candidate: #24

Location: Jasper National Park, Alberta

Elevation: 2,984 metres

Range: Canadian Rockies

Any visitor to the thundering tumult of water known as Athabasca Falls will have noticed the beautiful mountain across the highway, serving as the perfect backdrop to the falls with its syncline strata. The highest mountain in the Maligne Range, Mount Kerkeslin is actually at the end of a long ridge projecting from the rest of the range.

The mountain was named by Palliser expeditionary James Hector in 1859. Hector was generally good at keeping records of his choice for mountain names but strangely the meaning of the name “Kerkeslin” is unrecorded. An interesting possibility comes from research done by Joyce McCart for a book about the Palliser Expedition. She noted in his journals an entry where Hector writes about wolverines and says their Indian name is “ker-kes-shu”. He later wrote about a wolverine encounter near the location of Mount Kerkeslin. It was here that he named a mountain Mount Moberly, but that mountain is missing from today’s maps. Perhaps Moberly is Kerkeslin? Being one of the most well-recognized peaks in Jasper it is strange that the source of its name is such a mystery.

There was little information on the Internet about climbing Kerkeslin but the entry on Peakware describes it as a scramble. There appears to be a considerable amount of forest to clear first before reaching the rocks, however. It was first ascended in 1926 by F.H. Slark and J. Webber.







Next: Mt. Unwin

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Candidate: #23

Location: Continental Divide; Jasper National Park, Alberta; Robson Provincial Park, British Columbia

Elevation: 3,090 metres at Parapet Peak

Range: Canadian Rockies

If you are looking for photographs of the Ramparts on the Internet you will have no trouble finding them. Most hits for “the ramparts, jasper” on Google bring up sites bearing photos. Information, however, is another story. There are many sites telling how to get there but little information about anything else.

The Ramparts are on of the most famous scenes of Jasper National Park. From Amethyst Lakes a steep wall of tightly squeezed serrated peaks make up a mini mountain range. There is no one single mountain that stands out on its own, though Parapet Peak is the highest in the range. The mountains were seen in 1916 by Morris Bridgland, the first known visitor to the range. In 1920, the Interprovincial Boundary Survey made the name “Ramparts” official though it was used previous to that time. In keeping with the medieval castle theme, each peak received names like Redoubt, Dungeon, Oubliette, Paragon and Parapet. From the 1930s on the area was used by mountaineers and horses and today a horse cabin still remains in operation, one of the few still permitted to operate within park boundaries.

Though hiking and horseback riding are easily enjoyed activities, climbing presents a bigger challenge than many other famous peaks of the Canadian Rockies. Mountaineer C.G. Wates wrote in 1933, “I know of no compact and continuous range in the Canadian Rockies which can show such an array of difficult peaks.” And in his book The Glittering Mountains of Canada, J. Monroe Thorington compared the range to the vertebrae of a dinosaur as opposed to a castle, saying, “Certainly there were never any man-built castles in Jasper Park; but did we not know from the Indian stories that it had always been the abode of dragons?” Beyond the Ramparts lies even wilder country where the headwaters of the Fraser River begin their long journey to the Pacific Ocean. But the view from this side is one I haven’t been able to find in photographs on the Interenet.











Next: Mount Kerkeslin

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Candidate: #22

Location: Jasper National Park, Alberta

Elevation: 2,766 metres

Range: Canadian Rockies

One giveaway that a mountain is famous is when you search for information on Google and get mostly hits for sites with photos of that mountain. This occurs with several of the mountains in the Canadian Rockies and Pyramid Mountain is one of those often photographed peaks. Pyramid Mountain is easily viewed from across Patricia Lake and Pyramid Lake, a short drive from the Jasper town site. It was named by James Hector in 1859 for its shape when viewed from the north eastern side. Previously it was known as Priest’s Rock. It was first climbed by Rev. George Kinney and his guide Conrad Kain on July 11, 1911, according to Bivouac. The mountain lost about ten metres in elevation to the building of a telecommunications tower with a service tram but both tram and tower were removed in 2004/05. The climb to the summit is said to be a fairly easy scramble route on the eastern slopes.

Pyramid Mountain is part of the Victoria Cross Range which is composed of much older rocks than those found in the mountains to the south. The rock has a reddish orange hue to it due to the oxidation of iron minerals found in much of the range. The mountains are composed largely of gritstone, which is a sandstone with added grains of mica and feldspar, and slate. These rocks are softer and more easily eroded, leaving a rounded profile. The rock was originally formed over a billion years ago.

There have been seven mountains in the Canadian Rockies that bore the name “Pyramid” and some time or another but Pyramid Mountain is the only one that retained the name. The highest mountain in the vicinity of the Jasper townsite, Pyramid Mountain is truly one of the classic peaks of the Canadian Rockies.








Next: The Ramparts

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Candidate: #21

Location: Banff National Park, Alberta

Elevation: 3,491 metres

Range: Canadian Rockies

One of the must-see attractions of the Canadian Rockies and Jasper National Park is the world famous Athabasca Glacier. It is so well-known mostly because it can be viewed from highway 93N and visitors can ride a snow coach onto the glacier and step out for a short visit. The Athabasca Glacier is also bears notoriety for its rate of recession. Markers along the path from the visitor centre to the toe of the glacier mark the terminus of the glacier over the last 120 years or so, and it is made poignantly clear that the glacier is receding fairly rapidly.

To the right of the Athabasca Glacier a towering “glacier-hung” mountain looms over the view from the highway. This great and gorgeous mountain is but one of nine (or ten depending on the source) peaks that surround the 300 square kilometre expanse of snow and ice known as the Columbia Icefield. It is also the southern end of the Continental Divide Range. Going south from here the divide drops down to Sunwapta Pass. Mount Athabasca was first seen by non-natives in 1896 by Walter Wilcox, Robert L. Barrett and their guides while they were on a sixty-day tour, searching for a route through the mountains. Though they attempted to climb the mountain they were unsuccessful. Two years later, climbers Norman Collie, Herman Woolley and Hugh Stutfield came to Mount Athabasca and were eager to attempt the climb. On August 18, 1898 they made the ascent, which was the second highest ascent in the Rockies to date next to Mount Temple. From the summit the climbers were likely the first human beings to set eyes on the enormous Columbia Icefield, the largest in the Rockies, and the surrounding peaks. They named seven of the peaks that day, including Mount Columbia, the second highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies. According to their words, Mount Columbia was “bigger than anything in Switzerland.” Collie named the mountain “athabasca” which is the Cree word for “where there are reeds”, the name given to Lake Athabasca.


Besides being a diadem in the crown of the Columbia Icefield, Mount Athabasca has the special distinction of being the hydrographic apex of North America. Water running off the mountain flows to three different oceans: the Pacific, the Atlantic and the Arctic. There is only one other such place in the world, in Russia.

Mount Athabasca is probably the most popular snow and ice climb in the Canadian Rockies. There are a few routes and guided treks are available. For more information about climbing the mountain please check the links below. Part of the reason for Athabasca’s popularity is because it is easily accessible from the Icefields Parkway and practically the whole mountain is above the treeline.









Next: Pyramid Mountain

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