Mt. Edith – Canadian Rockies

In the summer of 1958 we started climbing a little before 8 am. The Bow River Valley was still very misty but the weather for the day was promising. My brother-in-law who was a geologist and an amateur rock climber, invited me to go with him to ascend Mt. Edith near Banff, Alberta, which is located in Banff National Park, Canada.

It was considered to be an easy climb and no climbing gear or equipment would be required. We each carried a camera, some water, and a few snacks. Initially, when we started climbing, we stayed together but that soon proved to make climbing harder as we always seemed to be waiting on each other to get out of the way. We soon slowly moved apart until fifty to a hundred feet separated us horizontally. We climbed at about the same rate, so we could always see and hear each other.

View of town, Banff, Alberta

The plan was to climb to the top, take photographs of the valley on the back side of the mountain and be back down before it got dark. This first photo was taken early in the climb and shows my view to my right. Mt. Edith is to my left and a lower slope is in view and it shows the early angle of the climb of about 45 degrees.

The early morning humidity continued to hang in the valley so the quality of the photos was not great. The town of Banff sits to the extreme left middle of the photo, just this side of the small mountain known as Tunnel Mountain.

Climbing above the tree line

We eventually climbed above the tree line and it became harder to distinguish distance and height because we had no well known objects such as trees to use as a gauge. Everywhere we looked we saw various shades of grey rock. Soon the steepness of the climb increased and we were left clinging to the rocky side of the mountain and time seemed to pass slowly.

The previous photo was taken from the mountain we were climbing. The mountain and valley to my right had few if any paths or trails and was very inaccessible. No one lives or works in these surroundings. During the entire climb we rarely stopped for a rest as we did not wish to get stuck on the mountain during the night. Once in a while a projection of rock or a steep cliff would block our view of each other and it made you feel as if you were the only person in the world.

As we climbed we focused on the rock right in front of as we constantly searched for hand and foot holds. Much of the rock was loose so care had to be taken to grab something solid. The higher we climbed the steeper the slope became. Snow remained in the valleys and crevices but not on the slope we were on.

A world of rock and snow.

About half way up Mt. Edith all vegetation ceased and we were surrounded with nothing but rock and snow. It became very hard to judge heights or distances as we had no points of reference to what was normal. When we were at a point that we felt was close to the peak we noticed a unusual square bolder which appeared to be about the size of a small car. It looked as if it was about a city block away but no matter how long we climbed it grew in size very slowly. When we finally stood alongside the rock it was as big as a two story apartment building and yet the mountain peak still seemed no closer.

While the peak in the upper right of the above photo belongs to another mountain, it is similar in many ways to the peak we were climbing. We still climbed with our hands and feet but it was much steeper. A person standing on the other peak to the right would appear to be just a dot.

The higher we climbed the more the view opened up to us and we began to see other mountain ranges all around us. There was so much to see it was difficult to take it all in.

As we neared the peak we began to get a view of the valley behind our mountain. It was then that we realized that our mountain had two peaks and we were not on the tallest one. It was with great difficulty that we plodded across a ridge that connection them and climbed the tallest one.

The top of the mountain was about ten feet across but it felt like a postage stamp. Neither one of us had the courage to stand upright to take any pictures as the rock fell away steeply on all sides and we felt the slightest breeze would blow us off. The best we could do was to stay on our knees to take photos. We were mesmerized at the view that lay around us for miles and miles.

It was noon when we reached the top. The mountain we were on was about 9,000 feet heigh but since we started the climb at about 4 ,000 feet above sea level it was safe to say our climb had taken us about a mile heigh.

The trip back down the mountain was an entirely new experience as we now faced away from the mountain side at empty space, all the way down to the tiny thread of the Bow River. Each and every step had to be taken carefully as one slip would result in a catastrophe. As time passed our legs, and particularly our knees began to give out. The repetitive motion of each step was tiring and our overall strength was failing. Within sight of our vehicle we found it necessary to sit down and move down the slope in a crablike fashion.

The trip down the mountain took four hours so the total climb amounted to eight hours. I was about 23 years old while my partner was a couple of years older. Needless to say we were both in excellent health.

Some weeks later, when I was on the opposite side of the Bow River Valley I got a photo of the mountain peak we had climbed. I think if I had seen this view before we made the climb I might have looked for a less challenging mountain. I am not sorry I climbed it but I would not do it again.

2 thoughts on “Mt. Edith – Canadian Rockies

  1. It looks like beautiful country that I would love to see–but I will say no thank you to the climb. So how big a town was Banff, Alberta at that time? I thought it was a fairly big city, but sure looked like a pretty small place on your photo. I will probably have to google it to cure my curiosity! Thanks for the views from places most people will never see.

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    1. Back in those years the town had a population that was between three and four thousand people in the winter months. During the summer that number jumped by huge amounts. In spring when the staff of the Banff Springs Hotel arrived it was not unusual to see 800 employees get off the train.

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