Mount Norfolk (13,016ft) - Prologue

September 2nd 1894. Mr. Wilcox, Mr. Bryant and their guide, Peyto, attempt the mountain from the west side. From observation it seems to offer the most direct route, via a small, tempting gully created by a waterfall which dried a millennium ago.

Within two days they reach a height of nine thousand feet and onto a graphite crag which forms a boundless citadel of razor-sharp ramparts. The heavens open, turning the already treacherous narrow paths on which they step into flowing rapids. Attempt after attempt is made to move onwards, but they are forced to make camp where they stand. Two days later and the rain shows no sign of giving up on its attack. It reinforces itself with ear-piercing winds. Exhausted, defeated, they sound the retreat and begin to descend.

May 4th 1895. Christian Hasler and Christian Bowen (led by Captain M. Dent) spend their first day in the exact footsteps of Peyto’s team. At four thousand five hundred feet, instead of continuing upwards, they spend a day traversing east to the south face, which is rich in vegetation, and I’m told, abundant with wildlife, especially game. They make good speed.

At a little over ten thousand feet they came across an obstacle they name “The Hour Glass”. Two overhangs stand either side of a steep talus slope, some one hundred and fifty foot in height. This obstacle would prove to be fatal to Christian Bowen. Whilst laying a line he misjudges his hold when the mountain launched a sudden volley of rocks at him. As his rope pulled tight, it snags and snaps his neck. Demoralised, the remaining two ended their climb.

These are the only two attempts worthy of mention. In the summer of ninety-five there would be six more, including a joint effort between Peyto and Captain Dent, and one by the Boston Appalachian Mountaineering club. All of these would pass without merit, with one ending in fatality for all those involved. Their bodies, yet to be recovered, await on the mountain in some macabre pose.

June 7th 1896. Alone, and a little after five pm, like a matador and a bull in their final dance, I drive my ice pick into the peak. This is my story.


Mount Norfolk (13,016ft) - Prologue

Robert St-John Smith

Leeds, United Kingdom

  • Artist

Artist's Description

An English Gentlemen Explorer in the Canadian Rockies

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