- 2880 m (9,450ft)
- First Ascent
- Naming History
Located in the Fraser River Valley, northeast of Red Pass and 4.5 km southeast of Mount Robson
Park: Mount Robson
Major Valley: Fraser
Ascent Party: M.M. Strumia
Named by: J. Monroe Thorington
Named for: Kain, Conrad (Originally from Austria, Conrad Kain was one of the most highly respected of the early guides in the Canadian Rockies.) (see biog.)
According to "Where the Clouds can go," Conrad Kain's autobiography/biography by J.M. Thorington, on July 16, 1911 Conrad was on the summit of Lynx Mountain with others in the 1911 Expedition to the Mount Robson Area. From this point there is an excellent view of the peaks encircling Resplendent Valley. According to George Kinney, "One in particular commanded attention. It rises from the centre of a snow massif, like a huge rock-finger pointing heavenward. On seeing it Conrad exclaimed, "Ach! That is my peak." So the snow covered mass was recorded as Mt. Kain and the great rock finger thereafter referred to as the "Finger of Kain."
Conrad later wrote while on a small peak, "As we spend 4-5 hours on every summit surveying, with which I have nothing to do, I use the time to write... I am seated on a sharp rocky ridge, with nothing about me but peaks... Not far away is Mt. Kain and the 'Finger of Kain,' of which I am very proud. The finger is an elegant rock-needle, reminding me of the Aiguille du Geant." (Where the Clouds can Go by Conrad Kain)
J.M. Thorington wrote, "The people at Red Pass Station do not know the name of Mount Kain, but call it Needle Peak because of the enormous hole that pierces it just northeast of the summit."
Conrad Kain: "A MOUNTAIN GUIDE OF RARE SPIRIT" (1883-1934)
Of all the mountain guides who came to Canada in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Conrad Kain is probably the one who is most respected. His autobiography entitled, "Where the Clouds can Go" is a classic of Canadian mountain literature and tells the story of his early, difficult life in Austria which was transformed when he came to Canada in 1909 to lead climbs at the Alpine Club of Canada's Lake O'Hara camp. Although credited with fifty first ascents, including Mount Louis, his most significant was Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies (please see Mount Robson) and one of the most spectacular mountains in the world, which he climbed in 1913 with Albert MacCarthy and William Foster.
Although renown as a leader, climber, and storyteller, Conrad Kain's personal attributes were the qualities for which he is most respected. A measure of the character of the man is the fact that he consistently attempted to give credit to Donald "Curly" Phillips and Reverend George Kinney who had come so close to the summit of Robson in 1909. Although Kinney was an experienced mountaineer, Curly Phillips was a novice, using a stick rather than an ice axe during the attempt. According to Phillips they reached, "(in mist and storm), an ice-dome fifty or sixty feet high, which we took for the peak. The danger was too great to ascend the dome."
Conrad Kain wrote of their efforts on the mountain, "They deserve more credit than we, even though they did not reach the highest point, for in 1909 they had many more obstacles to overcome than we; for at that time the railway, which brought us almost to the foot of the mountain, was then no less than 200 miles from their goal, and their way had to be make over rocks and brush, and we must not forget the dangerous river crossings."
As a professional mountain guide Conrad Kain laid out the methods by which a guide should gain and maintain the confidence of his party: "First, he should never show fear. Second, he should be courteous to all, and always give special attention to the weakest member in the party. Third, he should be witty, and able to make up a white lie on short notice, and tell it in a convincing manner. Fourth, he should know when and how to show authority; and, when the situation demands it, should be able to give a good scolding to whomsoever deserves it."
Sadly, Conrad Kain died at a young age, just six months after his fiftieth birthday. On that day he had completed his last difficult climb, another ascent of Mount Louis. In a letter to Charles Thompson, the respected outfitter Jimmy Simpson wrote: "Conrad gave every ounce of his best at all times. He would die for you, if need be, quicker than most men think of living. No matter what his creed, his colour, or his nationality, he was measured by a man's yardstick, no other. We shall all miss him."
Conrad Kain's gravestone carries the inscription, "A mountain guide of rare spirit."
[Additional information: "Where the Clouds can Go" by Conrad Kain]