Archive for January, 2012

Mount Alberta

Candidate #43
Location: Jasper National Park, Alberta
Elevation: 3,619 metres
Range: Canadian Rockies

Mount Alberta is a mountain worth mentioning for a couple of reasons. First, it was the last of the major peaks in the Canadian Rockies to be summited because it is such a difficult mountains to climb. Second, there is an interesting story about an ice axe left behind by the first team to climb it.

Not visible from the highway, Mount Alberta is a towering wedge of a peak that Howard Palmer wrote would have been an excellent model for the Tower of Babel. Named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta by Norman Collie, the mountain attracted many eyes and precipitated many words of admiration and wonder to the journals of mountaineers and explorers. The first successful attempt to reach the summit was by members of the Japanese Alpine Club (their first expedition outside Japan) and their three guides. An account of their unusual approach to climbing a difficult section can be read here. Once on the summit, the climbers left an ice axe in the snow to mark their historic ascent. For the next 23 years, that ice axe became enveloped in lore as some said it was made of silver and others said it had been blessed by the emperor. In 1948, two American climbers reached the summit and found the fabled axe – which was indeed only an ordinary ice axe – embedded in ice. They tried to remove it, but it broke at the handle and they brought the top part only back to the American Alpine Club. The first Canadian ascent was in 1958. In 1965, a Japanese party came to the summit and retrieved the lower part of the 1925 ice axe and returned it to Japan. Then in 1993, the upper part was found with a bundle of ice axes under a table of archives at the American Alpine Club and in 1995 it was returned to Canada. Finally, in 1997 at a special ceremony in Japan and with 800 members of the Japanese Alpine Club in attendance, the two halves of the ice axe were reunited, fitting together perfectly.

The mountain remains today as a very difficult one to climb and in some years, due to snow conditions, the mountain isn’t climbed at all. However, even if one doesn’t plan to climb it, hiking along Parker Ridge offers distant views of the peak and a strenuous climb up from Fortress Lake to the base where most climbs begin.








Next: Mount Joffre (Alberta)


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