Mount Louis
2682m (8800ft.)

Located in the Forty Mile Creek Valley southwest of Mount Brewster. Sawback Range, Banff Park, Alberta
Latitude 51; 12; 55 Longitude 115; 40; 40, Topo map 82O/04

Panorama viewpoint: Anthracite. Can be seen from Highway 1

Named in 1886. Stewart, Louis B. DLS (Louis surveyed in Banff Park in 1904 with his father, George Stewart, the first Park Superintendent. He travelled in the Rockies with Arthur P. Coleman in 1892 and 1903. Later Louis became a professor at the University of Toronto.) Official name.

First ascended in 1916 by A.H. MacCarthy, guided by Conrad Kain. Journal reference AJ 32-68, App 17-18, CAJ 9-32.

Photo: Looking west-northwest to Mount Louis from the Trans-Canada Highway at the former site of the Town of Anthracite, 10.5 km east of Banff
More photos

Other Information
Photo: Looking north to Mount Louis from Cory Pass (courtesy Bennett Wong)

At 2682 metres, the mountain is not a high one nor does it have a glacier or snowfield. It is Louis's classic profile and vertically dipping, smooth faces which give the mountain its appeal and the summit its sense of remoteness and inaccessibility. Following the first ascent of the mountain in, the now legendary guide Conrad Kain looked up at the peak and said to his client, "Ye Gods, Mr. MacCarthy, just look at that; they never will believe we climbed it."

During the summer of 1916, Kain and Albert MacCarthy had planned to spend a day horseback riding and while in the vicinity of Mount Louis, undertake a "preliminary reconnaissance." However when Conrad began searching for a route on the lower cliffs, MacCarthy followed him up and this "preliminary reconnaissance" developed into the first ascent of the mountain.

The vertically dipping limestone of Mount Louis is Devonian in age. What makes the mountain so special are the extremely steep cliffs which surround the peak. From all angles including the one from Anthracite the mountain appears, at least to those who are not "technical" rock climbers, to be un-climbable.

Mount Louis is one of a group of three peaks which are part of the Sawback Range. They are composed of rock layers which were, of course, originally horizontal but are now oriented vertically. Mount Edith is the southernmost of the group of three but is hidden behind Mount Norquay when viewing Mount Louis from Anthracite. To the north of Louis lies Mount Fifi, somewhat similar to Louis but shorter and with less steeply sloped sides. In the background between Louis and Fifi is a more gently sloped portion of the Sawback Range.

Mount Louis is most striking in the winter when all the surrounding mountains, including the one behind it, are covered with snow but Louis's vertical cliffs remain bare, producing a dramatic contrast.

Mount Edith, Mount Louis, and Mount Fifi were all named one day in 1886 when Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, and his wife were making a cross country trip on the recently completed Canadian Pacific Railway. Louis Stewart, the park superintendent's son, took Lady MacDonald's "attendent", Edith Orde, and her dog Fifi hiking to Edith Pass. The pass provides views of the three peaks and a park surveyor named them after the two hikers and the dog.

Climbing Routes
Kain Route (Normal Route) III 5.6/7
A famous climb put up in a very casual manner while Kain was accompanying MacCarthy and some friends on a "day's picnic to view the scenery". A testimony to Kain's ability! It is now a very popular route to the top of one of the more striking mountains in the area. The hardest climbing is at the very end. If the weather breaks, downclimbing the route is reasonable for experienced parties. In fact, some parties actually use this as the descent route. It has been climbed in two hours but most parties take a little longer. The first ascent was done in 4 hours. However, don't underestimate this route: the number of bivi walls in the upper half of the climb attests to the number of parties who either overestimated their ability or underestimated the difficulty of the route. Dougherty, Selected Alpine Climbs page 64

Homage to the Spider III 5.8
This route is named in tribute to Walter Perren, "the Spider of Zermatt", who pioneered the summit variation on the Kain route by seeking out the best limestone. There are about 8 pitches of steep climbing on some of the best rock found on the mountain. It's an aesthetic line, well worth the extra 20 minutes of approach. The climb ascends the steep face on the east side of NE ridge of the mountain. Dougherty, Selected Alpine Climbs page 66

Gmoser Route III 5.8
A very impressive ascent for its day and one of the best moderate alpine rock routes in the Banff area. The rock is typically clean and the standard is reasonably consistent (5.5-5.6) except for a steep corner system in the lower third. 5.7/8 climbers will find the crux a good challenge. It combines with the best climbing on the Kain Route and is a fitting approach to the Perren variation. Go do it - a very enjoyable day out. Dougherty, Selected Alpine Climbs page 66

Kor/Fuller III 5.10d
Takes the big groove/gully in the centre of the S face. The crux pitch is sustained and tiring when done free. Undoubtedly much easier at 5.8 A1! Dougherty, Selected Alpine Climbs page 68

Greenwood/MacKay III 5.7
Excellent for the grade; the position on the upper rib is superb. The lower gully section should be climbed as quickly as possible - it's a haven for falling rocks, though safer possibilities do exist. Dougherty, Selected Alpine Climbs page 68

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