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There’s a Movement to Protect This Untamed Canadian Mountain

Backcountry enthusiasts are hoping Mount Waddington and surrounding areas will soon become a protected area

Canada has 48 national parks, of which none are located in B.C.’s Coast Range. There’s now a push to protect Mount Waddington and the surrounding peaks and glaciers. Waddington is highest peak entirely within B.C.’s borders at 4,019 metres, although the taller Mounts Fairweather and Quincy Adams share the border of B.C. and Alaska.

The Waddington Range stands at the heart of the Pacific Ranges, a remote and extremely rugged set of mountains and valleys. Access is difficult and finding good skiing and climbing conditions can be challenging.

Longtime B.C. climber John Baldwin has written a letter to John Horgan, the premier of British Columbia, asking two things: to deny any current tenure applications in the area and designate the areas of the Waddington/Whitemantle Ranges and Homathko Icefield as non-motorized areas; and to give them protected status. “The proposed area is a prime candidate for wilderness designation due to its exceptional wilderness values and recreation opportunities,” said Baldwin.

An online petition states that among Canada’s most beautiful and storied great mountain areas, Waddington is the only area of high icefields left in the Pacific Ranges that has not been given away as commercial tenure.

A proposed park would create a world class mountain wilderness area that would consist of some of the most spectacular mountains in Canada, contain some of the largest non-polar glaciers and icefields in the world, and protect a heavily glaciated landscape of untouched, rugged mountain wilderness that is absolutely world class and is not currently represented in BC..’s park system.

The Federation of Mountain Clubs of B.C. released a statement saying, “With Canada considering increasing protected areas to 25 per cent by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030 from a current 12.1 per cent, these wilderness areas would be prime candidates as national parks.” And that they encourage everyone to review John Baldwin’s proposal and to support this initiative.

Watch a ski expedition through the Homathko area

The second ascent of Mount Waddington

In 1942, when legendary American climber Fred Beckey was 19, he and his brother Helmy made the second ascent of Mount Waddington. The first ascent took 16 attempts over two decades. Fritz Wiessner, who had nearly climbed K2 in 1939, and Bill House made the first ascent in 1936.

Beckey’s ascent of Waddington is still considered one of the most impressive accomplishments in Canada by two teenage climbers. They spent nearly two months in the wilderness, skiing and climbing new lines. An excerpt from Beckey’s story in the American Alpine Journal reads:

By 4 o’clock I had changed to tennis shoes with felt pullovers and we rapidly mounted the slabs of the upper face. The pullovers adhered well to the rock when wet and could be removed quickly for more friction on dry rock. Rock climbing was a pleasant relief from the ice work below. In 2 hours the base of the final 500-ft. rockwall was reached, Helmy leading across two steep snowpatches. Ice-axes and one pair of boots were left behind here. Crampons had been cached lower down. I decided to attempt a face route slightly to the right of the chimney climbed by Wiessner and House. Difficulties immediately increased as we started up the nearly vertical wall. For 300 ft. wet slabs and difficult pitches, with a few overhangs mixed in, were climbed. Many pitons were used for safety on this wall, which was no place for one who suffered from acrophobia. The most difficult pitch was a traverse on a vertical face with very delicate holds followed by a wet high angled slab with few useful holds. I had luckily noticed the wet slab from below and redonned my felt pullovers, for one couldn’t hope to stick on the wet slab in tennis shoes.

Several times ice fragments broke off the summit ridge and thundered down the chimneys to our left. I was inwardly glad we weren’t in their paths. A short traverse brought us to a vertical chimney, the same one climbed by Wiessner, that led to the narrow snow-covered summit ridge. At 8.30 p.m. the second ascent of Waddington was made. A wonderful view rewarded us, but little time could be had for rest. The match-can register in the cairn was found and then we hurriedly left the summit at sunset. Our chosen bivouac spot was a ledge 150 ft. beneath the summit. Anchored to pitons, only a can of sterno and the reliable tentsack kept away the cold. Darkness soon enveloped the distant peaks and glaciers. The icy summit of Waddington could be seen just above, jutting into the starry sky. The stillness was shattered only by an occasional rock fall.

Video: Ascent of Waddington