Mon­trealer hopes to summit Mount Lo­gan alone

The Peterborough Examiner - - Canada & World - SID­HARTHA BAN­ER­JEE

MON­TREAL — A Mon­treal moun­taineer will at­tempt to be­come the first solo woman to climb Canada’s high­est moun­tain in a trek that be­gins next month.

Should Monique Richard reach the summit of Yukon’s Mount Lo­gan, she will be the first fe­male to reach the top by her­self, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials with Parks Canada and data it has com­piled since the late 1800s.

Richard, 43, is an ex­pe­ri­enced climber who has tested her lim­its on some of the world’s high­est moun­tains and has taken part in some 30 as­cents since 2010.

She said she’s con­fi­dent she can make it up Lo­gan — a nearly 6,000-me­tre-high moun­tain she at­tempted un­suc­cess­fully last year af­ter a climb­ing part­ner en­coun­tered dif­fi­cul­ties.

“I sac­ri­ficed the summit to go back down with him for safety rea­sons,” she said. “I was about 12 hours from the top.”

Richard said she has the ben­e­fit of hav­ing al­ready braved Lo­gan and that she’ll be bet­ter equipped with back­coun­try skis in­stead of the snow­shoes she had last year.

“The dif­fi­culty will be the cold, the soli­tude, the fact that I have to bring ev­ery­thing I need my­self,” she said. “I have to do this on my own to test my own lim­its and, some­times, it’s bet­ter to be alone than to be in bad com­pany.”

Scott Ste­wart, vis­i­tor safety spe­cial­ist at Klu­ane Na­tional Park where Mount Lo­gan is lo­cated, said an av­er­age of 35 people a year over the last five years have tried to climb it dur­ing peak sea­son between mid-May and mid-June.

The odds of reach­ing the top stands at about 50-50.

“If a climber’s ob­jec­tive is to (reach the) summit, then it’s less than half of par­ties that are suc­cess­ful at that,” Ste­wart said.

Ste­wart said a 15-year-old girl from Bri­tish Columbia be­came the youngest climber to reach the top of Lo­gan when a team led by her fa­ther hit the summit last year.

The three big­gest ob­sta­cles to reach­ing the top, Ste­wart said, are the re­mote­ness, the weather and the al­ti­tude.

“Mount Lo­gan is Canada’s high­est moun­tain at ap­prox­i­mately 5,959 me­tres, so al­ti­tude is cer­tainly a fac­tor that lim­its the suc­cess rate,” he said.

Weather is a big fac­tor — win­ter con­di­tions ex­ist year-round and tem­per­a­tures reg­u­larly drop to -40 C, even dur­ing peak climb­ing sea­son. Storms can last days or weeks and winds in ex­cess of 160 kilo­me­tres an hour are com­mon.

“Once a climb­ing party is in there, it re­ally is an iso­lated, re­mote area within which to take a trip,” Ste­wart added.

And with re­spect to climb­ing in ice fields, there are al­ways chal­lenges like crevices, avalanches and serac fall — glacial ice that can fall without warn­ing.

Richard said she’s well aware of the risks. One of her dear friends and climb­ing part­ners, Arvid Lahti of Nor­way, died in 2015 while they were climb­ing Mount Rainier in Wash­ing­ton.

She said it gave her pause for thought and that she took it easy for a cou­ple of years.

PAUL CHIASSON THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

If Monique Richard con­quers Canada’s high­est peak at nearly 6,000 me­tres, she will be the first woman to summit the Yukon moun­tain solo.

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