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Northwest Summit of Murchison (Mu3) from Main summit # 9659

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Date: 1996.08.25
Vantage Point:
From the SE (highest) summit

Caption: The lower NW summit of Mount Murchison

PhotoDescr: See trip report #3574: Mount Wilson and glacier in the background.

As I suggest in this trip report, the historical record is somewhat muddled as to which of the two summits - NW or SE - is the highest and which of several parties therefore made the first true ascent:

"There is some controversy surrounding the first ascent, a controversy deriving from the fact that Murchison is, like so many peaks in the Rockies, a double summit. Both the NW and the SE summits, separated by 0.8 km, appear from several angles to be of equal height. J.N. Collie, H.E.M. Stutfield, G.M. Week, and the guide Hans Kaufmann undeniably made the first ascent of the NW peak in 1902. Since that time, the NW peak has been the summit that almost all parties have arbitrarily designated as the official and highest summit, perhaps because of the claim of first ascent of the peak made by the Collie party. It is in fact the easiest of the two summits to ascend and was for many years the only summit with a cairn and a register; the contents of the register suggest that most parties, including the Grizzly Group led by Don Forest, assumed the NW summit to be the true apex.

However, on a clear day it is quite obvious from either of the two summits that the SE apex is some 50-75' higher than the NW. Our party, consisting of Rick Collier, Reg Bonney, John Holmes, and Jerre Skvaril, confirmed this observation on August 25, 1996, by ascending both summits. We found no cairn on the higher SE summit, nor any other sign that human beings had ascended this point. Although it seemed a bit presumptuous, given the elevation and history of this peak, I later claimed in the Canadian Alpine Journal the first true ascent of Mt. Murchison for our group. I have heard since then, however, that at least one other party (John Martin, et al.) had climbed the SE summit prior to our ascent but had not reported it, nor left a record; I have not had any of these claims confirmed or denied. In any case, I believe our group was the first to ascend both summits."

However, I think it is pretty clear from this photograph that the SE summit -- the one from which this picture was taken -- is higher than its neighbour to the northwest.

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