The Canadian Press
MONTREAL–A Quebecer has become the first woman to climb to the top of Canada’s highest mountain in a solo trek, her agent said yesterday.
“Monique just reached the summit,” Francois Masse said in an e-mailed message to The Canadian Press, referring to Monique Richard.
Richard had to deal with harsh weather, equipment woes, and delays in her ascent of the 5,959-metre Mount Logan in Yukon’s Kluane National Park.
Parks Canada said there is no record in its data stretching back to the late 1800s of any woman having reached the summit in a solo climb.
The Montreal mountaineer, who began the trek May 15, found herself Tuesday at one of the camps along the King’s Trench route, about 800 metres from the summit–waiting for a window of good weather.
“Tonight I sleep at 5,144 metres,” Richard said in a brief exchange with The Canadian Press.
“Wow! 815 metres to go. Awesome. I am so lucky.
“Tired. Burned face but still smiling.”
Weather always was going to be a major factor: winter conditions exist year-round and temperatures regularly drop to minus-40 C, sometimes even during peak climbing season.
Storms can last days or weeks and winds in excess of 160 km/h are common.
Parks Canada said the weather has come as advertised this climbing season.
“It has been somewhat unseasonably cold, with mountaineering groups reporting minus-30 C temperatures even at this time of year, but this is not far from normal,” the department said yesterday.
Parks Canada warns all climbers that the three biggest obstacles to reaching the summit are the remoteness, the weather, and the altitude.
Richard described her first night on the mountain as “weird and uncomfortable.”
She also faced various issues: a torn tent and a stove that wouldn’t work until it suddenly did. She also was stuck at the second camp for nearly a week because of whiteout conditions.
On Tuesday, she said she slept “above the clouds” in a bivouac–a temporary camp without any cover.
Masse was keeping tabs on Richard every few hours and said before she reached the summit she was in good spirits.
“She’s had two whiteouts since she flew out and that was her biggest fear,” he noted.
“But it’s full speed ahead.”
A pair of Quebec climbers were several hundred metres behind her to give her a measure of reassurance, Masse added.
Climbing in ice fields is fraught with challenges like crevices, avalanches, and serac fall–glacial ice that can fall without warning.
Before leaving, the experienced climber, who has ascended some of the world’s most challenging peaks, estimated the entire trek would take 22 days.
Richard’s plan is to take a slow, two-day trek down–but that still leaves her several days ahead of schedule.
“Take secure routes,” Richard wrote before reaching the peak. “Rest, lots of rest. 25 steps and rest.
“Having the time of my life,” she added. “The mountain is all mine. No one around.”