2009-07-22 Mt. Edith Cavell

Mt. Edith Cavell

The matron of Jasper, Edith Cavell, looms large over most of the valley and in doing some research for this write-up I found out much about the lady this peak was named for.

Edith Louise Cavell was born in 1865 in Norfolk, England. At the age of twenty she entered the nursing profession and in 1907 was appointed the matron of the Berkendael Institute in Brussels where she greatly improved the standard of nursing.

After the German occupation of Belgium she cared for wounded German troops but also became involved with an underground group which assisted some two hundred British, French, and Belgian soldiers who were trapped behind enemy lines to escape to neutral Holland and rejoin their armies. Sheltered at the Institute, which had become a Red Cross hospital, they were provided with money and guides by Philippe Baucq, a Belgian. This was regarded as treason under German Martial Law and was punishable by death. In August 1915 Edith Cavell was betrayed by a spy who asked her to help him escape and Cavell and several others were arrested, tried by a court-martial, and sentenced to be executed. Her defence was that as a nurse she was duty-bound to save lives and she was doing just that by concealing and helping hunted men to return to their homes.

Although neutral governments, including the United States and Spanish representatives, tried to have their death sentences reprieved, both she and a Philippe Baucq, were shot on October 12th. Her last words were, “I see now that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.” source: peakfinder.com

After our rest day in Jasper we were all feeling, well, rested and ready to tackle another peak. The E Ridge of Edith Cavell is considered a “Classic” route in the Rockies, but due to our relative inexperience placing pro we didn’t feel completely comfortable with it and opted for the non-technical W Ridge instead. I’ll say this at the outset, the W Ridge is a decent route for those that like talus, scree, and long days. It isn’t particularly joyful or esthetic but it will get the job done. That being said, I never plan on doing this route again!

In what had become a classic start for this trip we were up and at em at 2am and were actually ahead of schedule and pulling out of the campground by 2:45 am! Unfortunately in my early morning haze I backed up right into a stump and high-centered our borrowed car! (Sorry Mom! There was no damage, I swear!) The wheels were spinning and it was clear that we weren’t going anywhere. Sean and Leigh Ann started to wonder and we eventually contacted them on our FRS radios and it wasn’t long before we had the car emptied out, jacked up and wood under the tires. By 3:30am we were on the road again!

The trailhead was easy to find and the approach was easy. We made one little mistake and ended up at the horse stables rather than taking the obvious trail to the right but this was easily corrected and no time was really lost. We found ourselves bang-on the description:1hr on the highway-like trail, 1.5hrs on the climbers trail and into the Alpine. The bugs which had been minimal so far this trip were out in force and we were swarmed by mosquitos! Because of this we didn’t take many breaks, just kept on moving with the hope that we would eventually leave them all behind.

Mountains at Sunrise

Where the trail ended the scree and talus began! We started churning up the slope doing our best to gain elevation without tiring ourselves out completely.

Sean working up a rock band

Sean managed to find some more stable rock and made really good time on the first section of scree.

View into the valley

He stopped to wait on a lookout while Jamie and I kept on going towards the ridge. Once we hit the ridge we were hoping that the talus would slow down, but itwas not to be. The whole ridge was a mess of talus and took some time and effort to noegotiate safely.

Mountains in the distance

Jamie doing the talus dance

Sean and Leigh Ann on a ridge

Jamie after ascending the scree and talus

Jon after ascending the scree and talus

From this high-point on the ridge we could clearly see the remaining route and I must admit it looked rather daunting.

Jamie with the summit of Edith Cavell in the background

Jon with a good view of the dickety, just above the large snowy section on the right

(we had to call it the dickety because the Kaiser stole the word for “traverse”)

Like so many things in life and in the mountains though once we go going on it the route wasn’t so bad. The exposure was decent and easily managable and the footings were good and solid. We worked our way up the visible W ridge and then dicketyed above the large section of snow to the SW ridge (click here for route). There is a way that continues up the W ridge over a rock-step that Sean and Leigh Ann attempted but they told us later that it was rotten rock with tons of exposure and was really not fun at all!! 

Sean and Leigh Ann on the ridge

Once we were on the SW Ridge the way was clear going and we were quickly on the summit. Jamie insisted that the next bump over looked higher and went running over to it. I think she just wanted to get this awesome pose and picture.

Jamie at the summit

Jon at the summit

Yup, arms still work!

Truly the higest point

Sean on a ridge, view from the summit

Sean and Leigh Ann were travelling at a good pace and were holding prettysteady throughout the day and we only waited a little while on the summit for them to arrive. It was a glorious day though and the view was magnificent so we really didn’t mind.

Sean reaching the summit

Leigh Ann reaching the summit

I had a goofier picture of Leigh Ann, but she wouldn’t let me post it! We did the usual pause for pictures and then started the epic back down.

Jon and Jamie on the summit

Sean and Leigh Ann on the summit

For as annoying as parts of the ascent were the descent was just as bad! We were exhausted and working our way over the talus was not at all enjoyable. We took our time and tried not to break any ankles, which we were succesful at and then it was a 4km slog back down the climbers trail through the mosquitos, then another 4km up the highway-esque trail to the trail head. Total time was 14hrs for Jamie and I and Sean and Leigh Ann were about the same. They decided to take an alternate descent route down a different ridge that resulted in a little bushwacking and a lot of time saved. I was pretty unwilling to bushwack at the end of that day but it really did seem to work out well for them.

I really liked the summit of Edith Cavell, it has an amazing remote feel that adds to the experience. I probably don’t need to do the W Ridge route again though to get that experience 😉

26.6km (16 mi) round trip
1,737m (5700 ft) elevation gain
14 hours round trip

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