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Two Mega All-Canadian Alpine Climbs Planned for 2021

The 2021 John Lauchlan Award recipients were announced on Feb. 13 at the Patagonia Banff store

Photo by: Bryce Brown @brycebrownimages of Mount Logan

Two teams will receive the John Lauchlan Memorial Award this year for attempts on big unclimbed mountain lines. The award has been given annually since 1997 to Canadian climbers.

An exploratory mission on Moun Logan’s east side will take place this summer with team members Maarten van Haeren, Ethan Berman and Peter Hoang. And an attempt to climb a monster arete in the Gitnadoiks River Provincial Park will also take place by Max Fisher, Ryan Van Horne, Michael Loch and Drew Leiterman.

The award had a record 16 applications from across Canada this year. It’s sponsored by Banded Peaks Brewing, Patagonia Banff, Alpine Club of Canada and many more.

History of Award

The first award was given in 1997 to Sean Isaac and the late Guy Edwards for their trip to Towers de Paine in Patagonia; and to Tim Pochay and Grant Statham for their trip to Kitchatna Spires in Alaska. Since then, dozens of Canadians have recieved the award, including Katie Holm in 2005 (now co-owner of Climb On in Squamish), Jon Walsh, Sean Easton, Jia Condon, Ian Welsted, Raphael Slawinski, Paul McSorley, Steve Holeczi, Eamon Walsh, Jen Olson, Lilla Molnar, Joshua Lavigne, Simon Meis, the late Anna Smith, the late Carlye Norman, Jason Kruk, Chris Atkinson, Kris Irwin, Max Fischer, Tim Banfield, Quentin Roberts and many more. Trips that were supported include to: Karakoram, Alaska, Patagonia, Peru, Himalayas, Greenland, Baffin Island and more.

John Lauchlan

The following biography was compiled from a variety of sources including an obituary published in Explore Magazine in April 1982.

John Lauchlan was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba on Sept. 12, 1954. The Lauchlan family settled in Calgary in 1966 after living in both Edmonton and Saskatoon. John attended Henry Wise Wood High School where art and music were a big part of his life. In this time he discovered mountain climbing, a passion that would soon dominate all his activities. When he graduated from high school in 1972, “…the direction of his life was well established. It would be climbing first and all other things as they fit.”

In the 10 years after high school, John was to become the undisputed leader of the mountaineering community. His climbs became more bold and he brought new meaning to the words possible and impossible. His intensity and commitment were incomparable to any Canadian climber before him.

John was a pioneer in setting new standards both nationally and internationally. In 1978, he made the first winter ascent of the 1,300-metre North Face of Mt Kitchener in Jasper National Park with Jim Elzinga. One year later, John and three others made a 16-day alpine-style ascent of the highly prized and unclimbed 3,000-metre southwest buttress of Mount Logan 5,959 m, Canada’s highest mountain.

John Lauchlan on Logan Photo Jim Elzinga

In the summer of 1980, with Dwayne Congdon, he represented Canada at the Rassemblement International, a bi-annual event held in Chamonix, France, that attracts two of the best climbers from each country. John and Dwayne succeeded in making the third ascent of the MacIntyre/Coulton Route on the Grande Jorasses, a route that had defeated many of Europe’s top alpinists. John went on to climb the North Face of Les Droites and to solo the Gabbaroux Couloir on Mt Blanc.

In Canada, ice climbing was one of John’s main interests and he led the movement towards new routes and bolder styles. His list of first ascents includes Takakkaw Falls, Pilsner Pillar, Slipstream and Nemesis (the first free ascent). In spring 1980, John led a four-man expedition to Nepal to establish a very technical new route on the south face of Ganga Purna, a 7,454-metre peak in the Annapurna area. This was a landmark ascent and to this day, ranks as one of the most difficult climbs Canadians have done in the Himalayas.

Climbing was not just a sport for John, it was his way of living life to the fullest; it provided a sense of understanding and a coming to terms with himself. He was constantly testing himself, pushing a little harder on the fine edge that seperates success from failure. Each time he came closer to realizing his full potential.

John was not only a world-class climber, he was a leader and a pioneer of new ideas. He was instumental in what would evolve into today’s Mountain Equipment Coop and he also helped developYamnuska Inc., now Canada’s largest mountain school.

John inspired everyone he met. He was a teacher, a climber and a leader of his generation. His death in an avalanche in the winter of 1982 left an incredible void in the Canadian climbing community. But in his lifetime he created a legend and he gave every climber a fearless example of what they can become. This, perhaps, was his greatest gift of all.

Lead photo: Bryce Brown @brycebrownimages of Mount Logan