Made for the Mountains – Week 4
An Extraordinary Day on Mount Edith Cavell
My name is Tim Ricci and I’m an Internationally Certified Canadian Mountain Guide. My job takes me to some of the most remote mountain venues with some of the most difficult off-road terrain Canada has to offer. To do my job well, I don’t need good … I need the best. That’s why I’m testing out the 2022 Land Rover Defender.
Week four saw me reunite with a long-time client to tackle one of the most iconic peaks within Jasper National Park: Mt. Edith Cavell!
Notable for its extraordinary 11,000-foot peak, Mount Edith Cavell is named after a British nurse executed during World War I for her part in helping Allied prisoners escape occupied Brussels. But to get a true sense of its scale, it should be noted that its earlier name was “La Montagne de la Grande Traverse.” It was named by French-Canadian voyageurs using the nearby Athabasca Pass as a fur trade route.
To get a glimpse at the mountain’s awesome north face, just follow the narrow 14 KM road that winds near it. You’ll also be treated to views of some great moraines, the Cavell Meadows, some gorgeous vegetation and fantastic views of Angel Glacier.
Edith Cavell is a classic alpine climb that offers blocky quartzite rock with outstanding positions on the upper ridge. It stands alone and can be seen from the townsite, making it a highly sought-after objective for alpinists. It is also one of the “11,00-ers” of the Canadian Rockies, making it a must-do when conditions allow.
The plan was to meet up with my client in Jasper, have a meal, then drive out to the Edith Cavell parking lot. Here I would spend the night sleeping in the back of the Defender to prepare for an Alpine Start of 3 AM.
3 AM came fast this round, and it was a colder night. I cracked a door open and fired up my stove in the back of the Defender to make a warm brew and choke down the obligatory bowl of oatmeal. I then crawled out of the Defender and began the approach to the East Ridge route.
The East Ridge
The approach follows the paved trails of Cavell Meadows. Once the trail levels off careful route finding in the dark leads you to a col at the base of the East Ridge. My client and I have been climbing a lot together over the past year and a half and, if successful, this would be his eighth “11,000-er” so far.
First light would bring us to the base of the East Ridge where we would scramble up to a broad shoulder that bring you to the best climbing the peak has to offer. From here you follow the ridge upwards where it becomes increasingly steeper with bomber quartzite rock, a fine position, incredible exposure and a view of the famous North Face and Angel Glacier.
The route was dry and in perfect condition, allowing us to move efficiently through the upper part of the mountain. Often hindered with snow and ice, this objective can often pose unique challenges on the upper part before reaching the summit. Because we’ve had such a warm summer, I’ve never seen this peak so dry.
By 11:15 AM we were standing on the summit with the eighth “11,000-er” in the bag.
The smoke had been an issue on previous days, but we were rewarded with clear skies and views for days. The decision was made to descend the West Ridge “tourist route.” This would prove to be a challenge, as well, and required careful route-finding on the descent.
Once off the route, we walked down and around Verdant Creek and picked up Astoria River trail. A long walk off in hot temps left us extremely happy to eventually reach the Defender! Defender to Defender, the day took just under 12 hours.
We loaded up and headed to Jasper. to find the local brew pub where we had a great view from the patio of our day’s objective.
Another amazing peak ticked off the list for my client with many more to come!
About Tim Ricci
Tim loved to the mountains over 20 years ago and has not looked back since. Tim is a fully certified Mountain Guide and holds Canadian Avalanche Association Level 3 and Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT) Level 3 certifications. Since September 2018 Tim has worked as Yamnuska Mountain Adventures Assistant Director of Operations. Located in Canmore, Alberta at the Banff National Park gates, Yamnuska is a premier provider of mountaineering, ice climbing, rock climbing, backcountry skiing, avalanche training and trekking experiences in the Canadian Rockies for over 40 years. Tim Resides in Canmore, AB, where he lives with his wife Wanessa and two kids, Ella and Miles.