MT. EDITH CAVELL    11033 ft.  /  3363 m
Location:  Alberta, Canada
      
52.6664 N   118.065 W

Sections

Mt. Edith Cavell – Overview
History of Mt. Edith Cavell
Mt. Edith Cavell Trailhead
Approaching the Routes
Climbing Season on Mt. Edith Cavell
Climbing Routes on Mt. Edith Cavell
Conditions and Weather in Jasper National Park
Red Tape, Fees and Legalese in Jasper National Park
Camping and Backpacking in Jasper National Park
Hazard Warning and Mountaineering Accidents
Edith Louise Cavell
Mt. Edith Cavell - Miscellaneous Information
Mt. Edith Cavell Acknowledgements and Photo Credits
page one
Mt. Edith Cavell - Overview

Mt. Edith Cavell is located in the Athabasca River and Astoria River valleys of Jasper National Park, east of Verdant Creek. The Edith Cavell Region lies along the Continental Divide between Yellowhead Pass and Fortress Pass. It is west of the Athabasca River and northeast of the Canoe River (now flooded and called Canoe Reach). An impressive 3363-metre peak, Mt. Edith Cavell is named after a British nurse executed during World War I for her part in helping Allied prisoners escape occupied Brussels. A narrow 17 km road brings visitors close to the mountain's awesome North Face, an area famous for interesting moraines, the Cavell Meadows, alpine flowers and spectacular views of the Angel Glacier.

This mountain has one of the most photographed of the famous north faces in the Canadian Rockies. This face demands a lot of respect in spite of its relatively moderate rating, due to its size and the fact that it is so rarely in good condition. During dry years, the rockfall can repel all attempts as normally snow-covered talus areas become exposed. During wet years, wet snow and verglas on slick quartzite can be deadly. Warm weather makes the climb dangerous due to snow and rock fall, and cold temperatures make the technical face more difficult to climb. Its famous Angel Glacier, which hangs over a 300-meter cliff on the North Face, is visible from Cavell Meadows and can often be seen calving off as tons of ice explode and thunder down the north face into the basin.

Mount Edith Cavell is one of the dominant peaks of Jasper National Park. Located near the northern end of the Icefield Parkway and rising to an elevation of over 11,000 feet, it is one of the highest mountains in the park. It is a short drive away from the town of Jasper and is visible for many miles from the southeast, and to Jasper and beyond on Highway 16. From Jasper townsite, the mountain has a distinctive profile and the steep cliffs of its north face are always highlighted by snow that freezes to the glacier-carved strata angling gradually down to the west. The climbing routes are fairly accessible and can be done in one long day. There are several different routes as well as variations on the mountain which should only be attempted by experienced and competent mountaineers.
        Mt. Edith Cavell, one of the most prominent peaks in the Jasper area, seen from the Yellowhead Trail
History of Mt. Edith Cavell

In 1872 Reverend George Grant first saw this mountain from the Athabasca River Valley, north of present-day Jasper. He referred to it as, "a great mountain, so white with snow that it looked like a sheet suspended from the heavens." The mountain was referred to as "La Montagne de la Grande Traverse," by the French-Canadian voyageurs of the early nineteenth century, who used nearby Athabasca Pass as a fur trade route. Once they passed the mountain on their journey to Athabasca Pass, they left the main valley and began the long trek to the Continental Divide. Later the peak became known as Mt. Fitzhugh and then Mt. Geikie, The mountain was officially named Mt. Edith Cavell in March of 1916, just five months after the execution of civilian war hero Edith Louise Cavell by German forces during World War I. In 1924 a road was built up the Astoria River valley to beyond Cavell Lake, allowing access to the base of this impressive peak.

This famous Canadian mountain was first climbed in 1915 by A.J. Gilmour and E.W.D. Holway

Photo by Ian Bergeron
         The North Face of Mt. Edith Cavell, seen from the trailhead on Cavell Road in Jasper National Park
The Mt. Edith Cavell Trailhead

Getting there is half the fun. The old parkway (Highway 93A), built in the 1930's by hundreds of men left unemployed during the Great Depression, winds through the Athabasca Valley along the river. The Cavell Road, starting at kilometer 13 along the old parkway, is a twisting, turning 13 km route through sub-alpine forests to the slopes of Mt. Edith Cavell.

Reaching the trailhead
Turn south onto Highway 93A from the Icefield Parkway 7.5 km south of Jasper, before the parkway crosses the Athabasca River. Follow 93A for 11.7 km, where the Cavell Road branches to the right just past the Astoria River bridge. The Cavell Road is normally open from early June until mid-November. This season will vary from year to year, depending on the amount of snow on the road. The Cavell Road is paved, but it has some very rough sections of broken pavement and several tight, narrow switchbacks. Motorists must leave their trailers or motorhomes at the parking lot at the start of the road, as motor homes and buses over seven meters (22 feet) long will be unable to maneuver around the steep hairpin turns, or find a place to turn around. Allow at least forty-five minutes of driving time to reach the trailhead from Jasper townsite.

A close up view of the north face of Mt. Edith Cavell is visible after a short hike to Cavell Meadows. The trailhead, which also offers a great view of the peak, is by the parking lot at the end of Mt. Edith Cavell road. For those simply wanting to hike the area, the trail to the meadows is 3.8 km one way, rising 370 metres (1,200 ft) to 2,135 metres (7,000 ft). The Canadian Rockies Trail Guide describes the trail in detail.
    Left:  The Angel Glacier, moments before a large section collapsed;  Right: North Face of Mt. Edith Cavell
Approaching the Routes

All routes are approached from the paved parking lot where the Cavell Road ends at the base of the mountain. The approach to the North Face routes is short, direct and obvious. Point of entry will vary, depending on the line taken up the face. Watch for rock and icefall, and check locations of debris piles at the base to determine which line looks most suitable for you. To approach the East Ridge from the parking lot, follow signs for Cavell Meadows. When the trail makes a switchback into the trees, take the moraines and climb talus and snow slopes to the col at the base of the ridge. There is some exposed scrambling at the top eastern end of the basin at the bottom of a small outlying ridge to your left, just before you turn right to gain the bottom of the East Ridge. To approach the West Ridge, find the trail at the western end of the peak and follow it around the “back side” of the mountain until it begins to climb at the base of the ridge, followed by a scramble up to the ridge crest.
                                      The Angel Glacier on Mt. Edith Cavell, seen from Cavell Meadows
Climbing Season on Mt. Edith Cavell

The mountain can be climbed year round, but the main climbing season runs from June until late September. Very few ascents are made of this peak in winter due to brutally cold temperatures, frequent storms and visibility problems, unstable snowpack, and avalanches. If that’s not enough, Mt. Edith Cavell is a pretty lonely place in the winter due to accessibility problems – the road closes once snowfall makes it impassable. It is not plowed, snowmobiles are not allowed and the only way in is to ski or snowshoe in up the winding, switchbacked road, which is sometimes hit by slides and avalanches. However, plenty of cross-country skiers do make the trip in. The distance to the trailhead from Highway 93 is approximately 17 km.

Even summer climbs can be subjected to storms and winter conditions, which have resulted in dumps of snow a foot deep on the highway in the valleys (during the month of July), heavier snowfalls at higher elevations, and even occasional frostbite injuries to climbers during the summer months. I have met one unfortunate climber who lost nearly all of his fingers to frostbite injuries suffered during a September storm. Winter conditions and spring avalanches often continue right into June.
  Left and Center:  Two images of the East Ridge of Mt. Edith Cavell;  Right:  The Angel Glacier on a rainy day
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