Alpine Club of Canada

Winter Gazette 2013

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Longstaff climb brings summit surprise by Paul Geddes O n July 21, 2013 five long-time friends and members of the Alpine Club of Canada's Toronto Section flew onto the edge of the Swiftcurrent Glacier to establish a camp at an elevation of 2,300 metres. An objective of the trip was to make a con‑ tribution to the centennial celebrations of Mount Robson Provincial Park. The western boundary of the Park runs across the summit of Mount Longstaff. In contrast to Mount Robson's more popular summit, with our ascent only a dozen climbers have stood on the summit of Mount Longstaff. In July 1916, three American climbers, Holway, Gilmour and Palmer, became the first people known to view the head‑ waters of Swiftcurrent Creek. On July 27 they were able to gain the 3,180-metre summit of Mount Longstaff. Palmer's article in the Appalachia Journal of 1920 records in detail this epic endeavour to reach and climb Longstaff over a period of 10 days from the nearby rail stop. The text that really caught my imagination was: "After perhaps half an hour we started back, stopping a moment at the rocks to pile up a few stones as a protec‑ tion for a small tin record box." After a day of settling into our new environment we got an early start up the snow covered glacier which ascends all the way to Mount Longstaff 's sum‑ mit. The upper ice face was covered by 25 centimetres of snow, making step kicking ideal. Five hours from camp to summit and good weather gave us time to lollygag on the summit ridge. The views to the south of the Cariboo Mountains and to the east of Mounts Robson, Camp manager Brad Harrison and cook Julie Perkins take a rare break from keeping the troops happy during the Robson Pass Centennial Camp. photo by Pat Morrow Whitehorn and Philips were stunning. I hiked down the ridge in search of the cairn Palmer referred to. I searched around a couple of rock bluffs, then by chance I noticed a small tin lying amongst the rubble. The lid was rusted tightly in place so I put it in my pocket for the return to camp. Unfortunately the paper inside was water-saturated, making it very fragile. I laid it out on a smooth rock in the sun and carefully unfolded it to reveal the date I was looking for—July 27, 1916. Our find soon led to another discov‑ ery in the nearby town of Valemount, BC, where we learned that Reiner Thoni had climbed the classic Wishbone Arête on Mount Robson in August 2012 with Janelle and Mark Smiley. At a bivi site on the arête 550 metres below the sum‑ mit, they found a small canister with a handwritten record inside. It was from Participants in the ACC's Mount Robson Centennial Camp found Mount Longstaff's 1916 first ascent summit record, which is now safely stored at Banff's Whyte Museum. photo by Paul Geddes the second serious attempt on the route, dated July 24/25, 1951, a climb which ended due to the avalanche conditions. The canister, which contained a wishbone, broke upon opening so they brought the note down not wanting to see it lost to the elements on the mountain. With the agreement of Mount Robson Park these two records have now been added to the Alpine Club of Canada collection at the archives of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff. The ACC collection is one of the main resources for the study of Canadian mountaineering history. Mount Longstaff team members were Paul and Willa Geddes, Norm Greene, Bill McKenzie and Roger Wallis. Snowsled Ice Blue® pulks/toboggans/sleds are now available in Canada and the USA. For these and all other Snowsled cold climate equipment see www.snowsled.com Or email snowsled-canada@snowsled.com Club alpin du Canada Gazette hiver 2013  11

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