Climbing Mystery Mountain: Mt. Waddington


P. John Scurlock
P. John Scurlock

Mount Waddington is almost a nightmare in its grim inaccessibility, draped with plumes of huge, crumbling ice-feathers. -Don Munday

Don and Phyllis Munday first set their eyes on the 13,186 ft. peak in 1925 from Mount Arrowsmith, on Vancouver Island. Dubbed as “Mystery Mountain,” Mt. Waddington’s very existence was questioned before it was initially explored by the couple that same year. Though they made several attempts to climb the mountain and reached its lower northwest summit in 1928, the first ascent was made over ten years later by Fritz Wiessner and Bill House via the South Face in 1936.

The climb to the summit and back to base camp took over 23 hours. Grateful for good climbing conditions, the team followed a left branch of the couloir and reached a snow patch in the middle of the face. The final 1,000 feet of the South face were “sheer forbidding-looking rocks” according to Wiessner. It took the team 13 hours to reach the summit. Foregoing their original plan to descend via the North Face, Wiessner and House descended their original line, making it back to basecamp at two in the morning.

The first ascent had already been claimed, but the Beckey brothers climbed Mt. Waddington all the way from the ocean, an estimated 20 miles up the glaciers to even reach the base of the peak. The duo gained 7,000 vertical feet to complete the second ascent of the South Face in 1942.

Mount Waddington is a remote and highly sought after objective. Check back soon for recent ascents on this challenging mountain.