Here there be Giants: The Rockies and its Climbers
The Rockies were once considered as the cure for most medical ailments suffered by patients in the U.S. The clean air and stunning vistas drew visitors from far and wide and today they keep coming but for different reasons. The Rockies epitomize the rugged beauty of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho and, for many, they simply have to be climbed.
History of the Rockies
This mountain range was once home to the Native American tribes of Lakota, Crow and Shoshone. The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 brought explorers to the area and later, a migration of people flooded into Colorado and southern Wyoming. With this new interest in the Rockies, the USA began signing treaties to expand settlements, building forts and developing gold mining in the area. The Lakota, Cheyenne and other tribes became depleted after many wars with the settlers, in which the U.S rather shamefully ‘purged’ the western frontier of its indigenous people. Towards the end of the 19th Century, miners and farmers were enjoying their new status in the west.
Along with mining, timber and livestock were central to economic success in these states and cities began to grow to provide support to the flourishing industries. Post World War II, visitors came to the Rockies to see the beautiful National Parks for themselves and tourism is the economic backbone of Colorado and Wyoming today.
Climbers who Changed History
The Rockies, like other mountain ranges around the globe, attracted pioneers who wanted to be the first to ascend to their summits. The mountaineer’s story is a potted history of attempts and successes, and it remains fascinating to follow, wherever the challenge arises. There is something really poignant about scaling the peaks of these giants and the men that achieved this are a force to be reckoned with. The great mountaineers such as Edmund Hillary and Joe Simpson changed history and became legends for their climbing in the Himalayas and their stories are well documented. The Rocky Mountains also hold a great appeal for mountaineers, and have always done so. Mount Elbert in Colorado has an elevation of 14,433 feet and is the tallest peak, whilst Pikes Peak also attracts hikers. Perhaps the most impressive fact about the Rockies is that it is made up of over 100 different ranges and these stretch from New Mexico to Canada, forming the backbone of the mid west, and making up a total length of around 3000 miles.
Brian Greenwood is a legend among Rocky climbers. He was born in England and journeyed to Canada in the 1950s, where he joined the Calgary Mountain Club. Greenwood began to establish new routes through the Rockies, particularly on Mount Yamnuska, where he adventured along the Corkscrew, Belfry and Red Shirt routes. He established a route on the Tower of Babel in 1957 at Moraine Lake and the following year climbed Mount Alberta in one day. In the early sixties, Greenwood completed Mount Edith’s North Face, Mount Babel’s North Ridge and Deltaform. Many believe that his finest achievement was conquering the East Face of Mount Babel, which he did in 1970. Greenwood was awarded the Summit of Excellence Award in 1995 in recognition of his achievements.
Don Vockeroth is a great mountaineering pioneer from the 1960s, establishing some of the most challenging routes in the U.S such as Yamnuska. Vockeroth climbed Mount Biddle and Mount Goodsir and the northeast of Howse Peak. He became a successful mountain guide for the Alpine Club of Canada and was also a recognized member of the Calgary Mountain Club. Vockeroth was respected for his world-class achievements and he now explores the northern Rockies on ski expeditions.
Urs Kallen, from Switzerland had many first ascents on the Rockies such as CMC Wall and Yellow Edge on Yamnuska. He also managed first ascents on Mount Fay, Mount Patterson, Mount Athabasca and Mount Victoria in the late 60s and early 70s. Now in his 60s, Kallen remains an enthusiastic climber and traces his own footsteps on routes such as Red Shirt that he trod some 40 years ago.
Chic Scott is another legend of the Rocky Mountains, who continues to travel and write about his climbing experience today. Scott has inspired many climbers as he made a number of winter ascents that were firsts, as well as establishing great routes for climbers to come, such as the North East Ridge of Mount Stephen and Ship’s Prow in Canmore. Scott was also a renowned international climber and led expeditions to the Himalayas. He created the idea for the Banff Mountain Film Festival and his slideshows of his mountaineering techniques are legendry.