An unclimbed peak in our very own Canadian Rockies backyard! Exploration doesn't have to be a million miles away...
On April 2, 2018, at 5:10 p.m. PST, Minnesotan Lonnie Dupre and Canadians Pascale Marceau of Canmore and Vern Stice of Edmonton reached the summit of Jeannette Peak. At 3,089 meters/10,135 feet, it is the highest summit in the Selwyn Range, situated in the northern Canadian Rockies, in eastern British Columbia, Canada.
This peak was chosen because it was at the top of the list of unclimbed peaks in British Columbia due to its ultra-prominence, meaning it is a significant stand-alone peak. At just 45 kilometers southwest of Jasper, Alta., it is hard to believe that such peaks have remained unclimbed. After an extensive search of the Canadian Mountain Encyclopedia Bivouac.com, Canadian Alpine Journals, American Alpine Journals, and after speaking to local area guides, the expedition team found that there were no records of an ascent on this mountain.
This towering mountain peak has remained unclimbed until now likely due to its narrow avalanche-prone valleys and a perimeter of smaller knife-edge mountains at its base.
“To place steps and to pioneer routes up an unexplored mountain was truly an honour and an adventure. To add icing to the cake, we even had a wolverine visit our basecamp,” said Dupre.
Currently, the mountain has no officially registered name. On Bivouac.com, the mountain is named after the ill-fated USS Jeannette, an Arctic exploration ship that became trapped in sea ice from 1879 to 1881 in an effort to use the ocean current drift to traverse across the pole.
“As a young explorer, while researching sea ice drift for my North Pole expedition, I read The Voyage of the Jeannette by George W. De Long. Climbing Jeannette Peak seemed a fitting coincidence given my polar exploration background,” added Dupre.
The team set out to explore Jeannette Peak armed only with Google Earth printouts and the following description from Bivouac.com: “The peak is steep and rugged on the eastern face and has a steep glacier on the western slopes. It would be difficult to climb from any direction.”
Dupre and Marceau attempted the peak three weeks earlier but were thwarted on the northern ridge by a technical rock obstacle and risky avalanche conditions — a mere 120 meters from the summit.
Regrouping for a second attempt and adding a third teammate, mountaineer Vern Stice, the trio found success via the northwest shoulder and the western ridge. A mix of snow and rock led to a small summit plateau. With cold wind nipping at their faces and hands, the team only spent 15 minutes at the summit, eyeing a sea of lower neighbouring peaks spread out in all directions.
David P. Jones, one of Canada’s most accomplished and celebrated mountaineers and author of numerous guidebooks on British Columbia’s mountain ranges, commented:
“From my perspective, it seems fewer and fewer folk are willing to get off the beaten track and explore without the benefit of a guidebook — so it’s always great to see there are still a few skiers and climbers venturing into more remote areas of the mountains.”