Archive for the ‘20 Highest Peaks of Canada’ Category

Candidate: #28

Location: British Columbia

Elevation: 3,658 metres (the most commonly given elevation)

Range: Canadian Rockies

The fourth highest summit in the Canadian Rockies and the third highest major mountain (a major mountain has over 500 metres prominence according to Wikipedia), Mount Clemenceau is an isolated and immense mountain in the Rocky Mountains on the British Columbia side. It is one of the four 12,000 foot summits of the Rockies and due to its remoteness it is not climbed as often as the higher peaks of Robson, Columbia and the North Twin. Mount Clemenceau first captured the imaginations of Arthur Coleman and his party in 1892 when they were out searching for the elusive Mt. Hooker and Mt. Brown, the mythical peaks that were said to be over 5,000 metres high. Coleman’s party first spied the mountain from Fortress Lake, which they named after a mountain they had climbed and also named. Seen from Fortress Lake, the mountain had a distinct pyramid appearance and so they named the mountain Pyramid Mountain. They attempted to climb the mountain but had to give up on account of poor weather conditions and dwindling supplies. Four years later, Robert L. Barrett and Walter Wilcox climbed Fortress Mountain and saw through a parting in the clouds what they considered the highest and finest mountain they had seen on their journey, a mountain with a distinct wedge shape.

Mt. Clemenceau was finally first climbed in 1923 by D.B. Durand, H.S. Hall, W.D. Harris and H.B. De V. Schwab. These days most climbing parties fly in by helicopter from Mica Dam or Golden, B.C. and land on the Clemenceau Glacier, the Tusk Glacier or in the Cummins Meadows. The mountain is surrounded by icefields which inevitably means crossing glaciers to reach the summit.

Though known as Pyramid Mountain for many years (in all seven mountains in the Canadian Rockies have had the name “Pyramid”) the Interprovincial Boundary Survey in 1919 after the Premier of France Georges Clemenceau, who held office from 1906-09 and again from 1917-20. Known for his radical republican views, Clemenceau made his mark in French politics, particularly during WWI. More information about him can be read here.








None on Flickr – 100 Famous Mountains of Canada yet.

Next: Mt. LeFroy


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Candidate: #12

Location: British Columbia, Mount Robson Provincial Park

Elevation: 3,954 metres

Range: Canadian Rockies

Looking only at the numbers Mt. Robson’s splendour and grandiose appearance cannot quite be recognized. Among the major mountains of North America, Mt. Robson is about the 123rd highest. It is the 68th highest major peak in the Rocky Mountains and the only mountain in Canada to appear on the list of the 100 highest summits of the Rocky Mountains. It is the 18th highest major mountain of Canada, though if we consider all summits in Canada over 4,000 metres then Mt. Robson’s place slips to around 25th. Where the numbers begin to sound impressive is when we see that Mt. Robson is the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies. But more than that, Mt. Robson has the highest prominence of all the summits of the Rocky Mountains – 2,829 metres. In addition, Mt. Robson’s vertical relief from the south side is over 3,000 metres! At this point I think we can drop our list of statistics and look at the mountain for what it is:

“Mount Robson is not only the highest mountain in the Canadian Rocky Mountains but one of the great mountains of the world, and deserving of inclusion in any select list on account of many striking characteristics and a form, beauty, and grandeur transcending any other of the greater peaks of the Rockies… The mountain is unique, and its massive precipices, seamed with different-coloured rock strata, enhance it in both beauty and stature.”

The quotation above comes from Frank Smythe, an English mountaineer who wrote many books about mountains. Indeed, the two classic views of Mt. Robson, the view from the Yellow Head Highway near the Swiftcurrent River Bridge, where the vertical rise is 3,129 metres, and the view from Berg Lake are often used on the covers of brochures promoting not only the Canadian Rockies but the beauty of Canadian nature. Whatever the elevation of other mountains in the Rockies south of the border, or even that of the higher summits of the Saint Elias Mountains, Mt. Robson is likely the best internationally known mountain of superlatives in Canada. Another quote, this one by Arthur Wheeler, describes the mountain with equal enthusiasm:

“In no other pass of the Rockies does one mountain so dominate the entire landscape as does Mount Robson. Its enormous mass towers 7532 feet above the summit of the pass at such close range as to literally over-shadow it. Together with Robson Glacier, curling around its easterly face, Mt. Robson completely fills the range of the eye’s vision. It constitutes a picture of such unique character that it will probably become world-famous among artists as an outstanding example of a tremendous, solitary, self-contained subject in black and white, in the boldest style imaginable.”

The story of the first ascent is a lengthy and incredible tale, and whether the ascent to the summit was truly made became a subject of great controversy. George Kinney and Curly Phillips claimed to have made the first ascent in August of 1909, Phillips climbing with a sturdy staff he picked up in the forest. In those days the nearest train stop was at the current location of Lake Louise and the climbers had to walk 39 days through the bush to reach the base of the mountain. Kinney had made several attempts between 1907 and ’09, originally with expedition organizer A.P. Coleman. In 1909 he went alone and met Phillips along the way. Though Phillips had no previous mountaineering experience Kinney felt he was tough enough for the task. Yet, in spite of all their efforts, when the Alpine Club of Canada reached the summit in 1913 doubt was cast over whether Kinney’s ascent had actually made it over the final dome to the true summit. Now the first ascent is credited to Billy Foster and Albert McCarthy with European Alps guide Conrad Kain taking them up. The story can be read in detail on the Peakfinder and an abbreviated version on Bivouac.

Because of Mt. Robson’s height, winds must rise 3,000 metres to cross the mountain, thus keeping the top of the mountain in clouds most of the time. Temperatures at the top can drop to -20 even in summer and storms can occur year round. All routes to the top are technical though there are some scrambling and walking (hard walking!) routes that go up partway. Excellent detailed information about climbing routes on Robson can be found on some of the links below.

Mt. Robson is believed to have been named after Colin Robertson, who worked for both the North West Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company during the early 1800s. His name was later mis-transcribed as Robinson’s Mountain in the diary of fur trader George McDougall in 1827. Years later William Fitzwilliam and Walter Cheadle wrote about the mountain and referred to it as Robson’s Mountain. To the Texqakallt people the mountain was known as Yuh-hai-has-kun, the Mountain of the Spiral Road because of the horizontal layers of rock that angle upward to the east giving the impression of a spiral road going round the mountain.










Next: Mount Columbia

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Candidate: #11

Location: Waddington Range, British Columbia

Elevation: 4,019 metres

Range: Pacific Ranges, Coast Mountains

There are two views of Mt. Waddington that come up frequently when searching the Internet for photos and information. The first view is from the east looking northwest across the Homathko Icefield. Waddington towers above the other peaks in the distance and looks like a thick white angular jaw jutting skyward with two incisors protruding from the tip. The other view commonly turning up is a view from the northwest peak looking to the main summit. From this view the summit of Waddington is a spire of snow-covered rock stabbing at the heavens, towering a thousand metres above the icefield below. It is this view that graces the cover of John Bladwin’s extraordinary book Mountains of the Coast.

When it comes to mountains, Mt. Waddington is one of those exceptional peaks that sends shivers of excitement down your spine just reading about it. Only Mt. Logan has impressed and excited me as much in my research so far. The highest mountain entirely within British Columbia (Fairweather Mountain and Mt. Qincy Adams are higher but partially in Alaska) the elevation of Mt. Waddington has been given anywhere between slightly below 4,000 metres and a little higher than the current accepted height of 4,019 metres. It is the only mountain in Canada exceeding 4,000 metres that is located outside of the Saint Elias Mountains in the Yukon, British Columbia and Alaska. It has been compared to Mont Blanc in Europe and was used as the location for the filming of the movie K2.

Until the 1920s, Mt. Waddington was unknown and Mt. Robson was thought to be the highest mountain in British Columbia. It was first spotted by R.P. Bishop in 1922 while doing surveys from Mt. Good Hope. Three years later, Don and Phyllis Munday were climbing Mt. Arrowsmith on Vancouver Island when they saw a mountain that they believed could be higher than Mt. Robson. They mounted a number of expeditions to the mountain, which they referred to as Mystery Mountain, and made it as far as the lower summit in 1928. Over the next several years various climbing teams attempted to reach the summit but failed. One such party lost a member when he fell to his death. At last Fritz Wiessner and William House made the ascent on July 21st, 1936. A brief but detailed account of their ascent can be found on Wikipedia.

Mount Waddington was named in 1928 after Alfred Waddington who had proposed a transcontinental railway route via the Homathko River and Bute Inlet. R.P. Bishop had originally proposed the name “Cradock” and the Munday’s had called it “Mystery Mountain” but neither name was approved by the government.

Because of its remote location and pristine surroundings, Mt. Waddington is a must-do for many climbers and considered by many to be a true climbing experience.











Next: Mount Robson

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After searching for information about Canada’s next six highest mountains I have to conclude that there is little other than height in their favour. Information about Mt. Walsh, Mt. Alverstone, McArthur Peak, Mt. Augusta (British expedition here and photos here), Mt. Strickland, and Mt. Cook is sparse. Typing the individual mountain names into Google.com and examining the hits brought very little useful information. Mt. Alverstone was already mentioned in the write-up about Mt. Hubbard as was Kennedy Peak. Furthermore, I found a list on CanaTrek that introduces more mountains not on the Wikipedia list of Canada’s 100 Highest Summits: Mt. McAuley – 4,700m; Mt. Kennedy – 4,235m; Mt. Newton – 4,210; Mt. Quincy Adams – 4,133m; Snowfield Peak – 4,060m; Mt. Craig – 4,039m; and Avalanche Peak – 4,028m. These are all listed as being in the Saint Elias Mountains. Atlantic Peak is not on this list, nor does it turn up on the list at StatsCan.

Regarding the Wikipedia list, the mountains included are those which are considered major peaks only; that is, they have at least 500 metres topographic prominence. Therefore the peaks mentioned above may be sub-peaks of a main peak and may not have sufficient prominence to merit considering them major peaks.

Since already by the first ten highest there was doubt about just exactly what are the ten highest and what are the true elevations of some of them, and since there is so little information, I will conclude that the list of Canada’s 100 Famous Mountains can include the 10 highest as per the list on Wikipedia with an open argument about Mt. McAulay being the 8th highest until I find out more.

Then next we leave the Saint Elias Mountains and go to Mt. Waddington as our 11th Famous Mountain of Canada.

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Candidate: #10

Location: Yukon, Kluane National Park and Reserve/Alaska

Range: Saint Elias Mountains

Elevation: 4,557 metres

At a point where, heading east, the Yukon/Alaska border makes a sudden turn south there is another of the great mountain massifs of the Saint Elias Mountains. This large massif sports three main peaks, Mount Hubbard being the highest, with Mount Alverstone (located at the bend in the border) and Mount Kennedy as the second and third highest respectively. According to the satellite images on PeakBagger, the actual summit of Mt. Hubbard lies within the Yukon border, though part of the massif extends into Alaska. Wikipedia lists Mt. Hubbard as Canada’s 10th highest peak on its list of 100 Highest Major Summits of Canada, but the article about Mt. Hubbard (see link below) states that it is the 12th highest in Canada. The discrepency is likely due to the fact that some sub-peaks of major summits, such as Atlantic Peak near Mt. Lucania, are actually higher than Mt. Hubbard but are not officially recognized as separate mountains (though I have read otherwise in the case of Atlantic Peak). At least all sources I checked give the same elevation for Hubbard, unlike Mt. Wood and Mt. Vancouver, but it should also be noted that of all the sources I checked most of them had identical wording to the articles on Wikipedia and Bivouac.


As with other high peaks of the Saint Elias, Mt. Hubbard has impressive vertical relief, rising 2,286 metres in 3.2 kilometres above the Alverstone Glacier, and 3,353 metres above the Hubbard Glacier in 11.2 kilometres. The Hubbard Glacier, an amazingly huge river of ice that is known to calf underwater in Disenchantment Bay, separates Mt. Hubbard from Mt. Vancouver. Though there are many steep faces, there is also a non-technical but long route to the summit on the east side that is a basic snow/ice/glacier climb.

The first ascent of Mt. Hubbard was by Walter Wood, Nicolas Clifford, Robert Bates and Peter Wood on July 5th, 1951, an expedition during which they also made the first ascent of Mt. Alverstone. The success of the climbs was marred with tragic news when Walter Wood learned that his wife and daughter had died in a plane crash nearby. Mt. Foresta near Mt. Alverstone is named in honour of his wife.

Mt. Hubbard was named after the first president of the National Geographic Society, Gardiner Greene Hubbard by USGS geologist Israel Russel whose expedition had been cosponsored by Hubbard.









Next: Mount Waddington

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Candidate: #9

Location: Alaska, Glacier Bay National Park and British Columbia, Tatshenshini/Alsek Provincial Park – part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Elevation: 4,671 metres

Range: Fairweather Range, Saint Elias Mountains

Just 23 kilometres from Glacier Bay in Alaska rises one of the world’s highest coastal mountains and the dominant peak of the Fairweather Range in Alaska and British Columbia. Named by Captain James Cook for the fine weather he encountered, Fairweather Mountain is a mountain that actually enjoys very little fair weather. It receives over 250cm of precipitation each year, most of which falls as snow, and the summit, though visible from Glacier Bay when conditions are clear, is usually enshrouded in clouds when storms aren’t blowing in off the Pacific. Furthermore, the temperature can drop to -50 degrees. The mountain is often more commonly referred to as Mount Fairweather, however the mountain is officially gazetted on Canadian maps from March of 1924 as “Fairweather Mountain” and American maps that labeled it as Mt. Fairweather at the time have since been updated.

Fairweather Mountain is a beautiful snow-covered peak with the Fairweather Glacier flowing slowly out to sea, 35 kilometres away. Though its slopes are on average about 50 degrees, there is a non-technical route along the west ridge. Only a few parties attempt to climb Fairweather each year because the actually climbing season is short – from May to July – since the summer produces more unstable conditions and storms. The first ascent was by Allen Carpé and Terris Moore on 8 June 1931. It was ascended for the second time in 1958 by a team who climbed it in celebration of British Columbia’s centennial year as a crown colony. Although 2/3s of the mountain lies in Alaska, because of a SW turn of the border that nearly cuts off the Alaska Panhandle, the summit is actually in British Columbia making it the highest point in the province.

The mountain is known as Tsalxhaan in the Tlingit language and is said to once have been next to Waas’eitaa Shaa (Mt. Saint Elias) but they had an argument and separated.














Next: Mount Hubbard

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Here are the country’s 20 highest summits

  1. Mount Logan – 5,959 metres, Saint Elias Mountains, Yukon Territory
  2. Mount Saint Elias – 5,489 metres, Saint Elias Mountains, Yukon Territory/Alaska
  3. Mount Lucania – 5,240 metres, Saint Elias Mountains, Yukon Territory
  4. King Peak – 5,173 metres, Saint Elias Mountains, Yukon Territory
  5. Mount Steele – 5,073 metres, Saint Elias Mountains, Yukon Territory
  6. Mount Wood – 4,840(?) metres, Saint Elias Mountains, Yukon Territory
  7. Mount Vancouver – 4,812(?) metres, Saint Elias Mountains, Yukon Territory
  8. Mount Slaggard – 4,742 metres, Saint Elias Mountains, Yukon Territory
  9. Mount Fairweather – 4,671 metres, Saint Elias Mountains, British Columbia/Alaska
  10. Mount Hubbard – 4,557 metres, Saint Elias Mountains, Yukon Territory/Alaska
  11. Mount Walsh – 4,506 metres, Saint Elias Mountains, Yukon Territory
  12. Mount Alverstone – 4,420 metres, Saint Elias Mountains, Yukon Territory/Alaska
  13. McArthur Peak – 4,360 metres, Saint Elias Mountains, Yukon Territory
  14. Mount Augusta – 4,289 metres, Saint Elias Mountains, Yukon Territory/Alaska
  15. Mount Strickland – 4,240 metres, Saint Elias Mountains, Yukon Territory
  16. Mount Cook – 4,194 metres, Saint Elias Mountains, Yukon Territory/Alaska
  17. Mount Waddington – 4,019 metres, Coast Mountains, British Columbia
  18. Mount Robson – 3,954 metres, Canadian Rockies, British Columbia
  19. Mount Columbia – 3,741 metres, Canadian Rockies, British Columbia/Alberta
  20. Mount Clemenceau – 3,664 metres, Canadian Rockies, British Columbia

Whether or not this list of the 20 highest summits should be included in its entirety on the list of Canada’s 100 Famous Mountains was something I debated with myself for some time. My reasons for considering all 20 summits on the list are because Canada has 17 major summits (sub-peaks not included) over 4,000 metres, and only 17. Considering Canada and the United States together, in the Rocky Mountains alone we find 63 summits with over 4,000 metres elevation and all of them are located in the United States. California, Washington, and Alaska also have mountains over 4,000 metres with some Alaskan summits clearing 5,000 metres and Mount McKinley/Denali Peak climbing above 6,000 metres, the only mountain in North America to do so. Thus, it would seem that Canada has few peaks over 4,000 metres when compared to the United States. Shouldn’t we celebrate them all? Certainly we should include our five summits of over 5,000 metres, and then why not the other twelve? The remaining three mountains are Mt. Robson, whose face viewed from the Yellow Head Highway is a world famous view and whose view from Berg Lake is also very well-known among mountain enthusiasts; Mt. Columbia whose peak, bisected by the BC/Alberta border is the highest point in Alberta; and Mt. Clemenceau, which I honestly had not heard of before but rounds up our list to 20 instead of 19.

There are perhaps more reasons for why all 20 summits do not need to be included on the list. First, of the sixteen summits found in the Saint Elias Mountains not all are actually well-known at all, and because of their location, frequent storms, and the cost in time and money in getting out there the mountains are rarely climbed. Some are simply recognized for being over 4,000 metres but most of those are ignored in favour of the five over 5,000. Second, all 16 Saint Elias Mountains have basically the same appearance – high, ice-covered mountains, surrounded by ice fields and rarely ever climbed, some much bigger than others. Though the argument that they all have a similar appearance could also be applied to the list of peaks from the Canadian Rockies, for obvious reasons the Rockies are much better known and in fact world famous with tourists, hikers, climbers, and photographers. Far fewer people even know of the existence of the Saint Elias Mountains, let alone the individual mountain names and their contours. Third, Kyuya Fukuda did not include all of Japan’s 21 summits over 3,000 metres on his list so do we need to have all 17 of our summits over 4,000? In the case of Japan, a number of those summits are actually part of a chain or a massif and Fukuda chose to include only the main peaks. The others can be appreciated when one visits the main peaks. Fourth, there are many mountains further south which are much more familiar to a greater number of people that could vie for a position on the list, and there are also a number of other northern mountains which are not so well-known but beautiful nonetheless and much more easily accessible, even visible from the northern highways, which would add geological diversity as well as represent other ranges in Canada that people living down south know little about.

Whether all 20 of the highest mountains make the list of 100 depends on which argument wins over. As much as I think we should celebrate our top 20 in height, we could also make it a top 10 list and then only include those from the next 10 that distinguish themselves, such as Mt. Robson and Mt. Columbia, as well as Mt. Waddington. At least we could then add a few more mountains to the list from other places that the average traveler and trekker might have a better chance of seeing up close. We could also limit the list to the top five or even forget about the highest being important and simply go with those mountains that distinguish themselves in other ways in addition to their height. I would be interested in hearing the thoughts of others. For now I will go with including only the top 10 highest plus other important peaks, and in addition include a list of the 20 highest summits.

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