Mount Waddington is the highest mountain in the Coast Range of British Columbia. It is an incredibly inacessable, remote, difficult mountain awash in unpredictable weather of the Central Coast Mountain Range. Consequently it is rarely climbed.
Known first as "Mystery Mountain," its very existence was questioned before it was explored and climbed. The enigma was solved in 1936 by Fritz Wiessner and William House. Since then "The Wadd" has become a must-do on many mountaineer's wish lists, and the small numbers of summiteers prove the stern test that is Waddington. With the long valleys and sweeping glaciers as a backdrop to this striking mountain, calling Waddington "a diamond in the rough" is a understatement. The shear beauty and remote location of this mountain give it two of many reasons to come here to such a wild place.
While the northeast face is the easiest route, it is still demanding and requires either a private flight (290km NW of Vancouver) up the 20km-long Tiedemann Glacier or an epic multi-week bushwack. The south face is a classic North American climb involving 800m of rock, snow, and ice (rated V, 5.7) after a multi-day approch via Knight Inlet and the Franklin Glacier. Another popular route is the NW ridge from Fury Gap.
The best way to approach Waddington is via helicopter service with Whitesaddle Air in Tatla Lake, BC.
Reach the head of Knight Inlet by boat or a flight from Vancouver or Campbell River. Attain the Franklin Glacier via logging roads, pass Icefall Point, and establish a base camp on the upper Dais Glacier (approximately 2000m elevation). Since the route up the (often sun-cupped) Franklin Glacier extends some 50km from Knight Inlet to the base of the south, expect the approach to take 4-6 days if on foot.
: "Fly in is readily available for this route. Landings can be made around 2000 meters on the Dais glacier under Trundler's Pt. This route has been climbed only 7 or 8 times depending on your definition."
The easy way to a base camp for this route is to hire a helicopter to take you to the upper Tiedemann Glacier. Proceed from Rainy Knob, up Bravo Glacier and its headwall to a high camp site, and then up Bravo and Spearman Cols to the summit pyramid.
An alternative approach is a classic Canadian bushwhack pioneered in 1934 by Ferris and Roger Neave and Cambell Secord. Their route from Tatlayoko Lake, down the Homathko River, and up the (long!) Teidemann Glacier took a good portion of 4 weeks!
There are no permits required to climb Waddington.
When To Climb
Inclement weather is likely to foil attempts on Mount Waddington in months other than July, August and sometimes early September. May has historically been good with safer glacier travel in skis.
References and ResourcesBooks
- "The Waddington Guide" (2003) by Don Serl [Elaho Publishing, Squamish, BC] (~$45)
- Subtitle is "Alpine Climbs in one of the World's Great Ranges" -- it covers more than Mount Waddington. Also available at the ACC National Office, Box 8040, Canmore, AB T1W 2T8
- "The Unknown Mountain" by Don Munday.
- A great accounting of early Waddington exploration. The book is a valuable resource for modern mountaineers because the Munday's spent so much time cataloging the details of the area and climbing Mount Waddington. It was out of print (first edition in 1948), but was re-published in 1975 by the Mountaineers (paperback) and as an expanded paperback in 1993 by Coyote Books.
- "Mt. Waddington: True alpine bliss on British Columbia's Mystery Mountain." Climbing Magazine (May 1, 1999) 185, p58.
- This article describes access and climbing routes for Waddington and other summits in the vicinity.
- 'Fifty Classic Climbs of North America" by Steck and Roper, Sierra Club Books, 1979.
- Has a good history of early exploration and ascents, some nice photos, and basic stats and beta.
- "Mountains of North America", by Fred Beckey
- Contains a few pages and pictures describing the 1942 ascent of the south face by Fred and Helmy Beckey (then teenagers!).
- 'Pushing the Limits - The Story of Canadian Mountaineering" (2000) by Chic Scott [Rocky Mountain Books, Calgary, AB]
- Climbing in North America' (1976) by Chris Jones [University of California Press, Berkeley, CA]
- Mountains of the Coast Range by John Baldwin
- The Waddington Map
- From the dealer's web site: "panelled fold-up map of standard size that covers the central guidebook region, the area of interest to at least 75% of range visitors. It is 1:25,000, in four-colour and stunning well done. It is tailored for climbers and skiers, and is an essential tool for any visitor to the Waddington area. (65cm x 100cm, updated June 2003, suggested Retail CDN$19.95)"
Here's a link to Tatla Lake and surrounding areas weather. Due to the mountain bieng very remote, weather cannot be anticipated fully until arrival into the area.
The Plummer Hut, which is run by the BC Mountaineering Club is located @ 51 22 N, 125 9 W. Offers shelter on a rocky outcrop above the Tellot glacier, mainly used for Tiedemann.
I eventually will detail each route that I know of, but for the time being here is a preliminary list:
Bravo Glacier Route IV, 5.6
- Most popular route. Long snow climb with route finding tests. Good mixed rock and ice climbing reported in SE Chimney of the main summit tower. Two bivouacs.
NW Ridge from Fury Gap IV
- Good low exposure/technical route but very strenuous line. Follows lower ridge up to the Angel Glacier which is North of the ridge. 1-2 bivouacs.
Cowboy Way IV, 5.9
- Steep water ice (WI3), and intimidating gullies on the right side of the upper SE face link up to the SE Ridge (Bravo Glacier Route). 3770 ft climb from near the right center face to Spearman Col.