First woman to reach Canada's highest mountain on solo climb almost lost her life
Peter Rakobowchuk, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, June 4, 2018 10:04PM EDT
MONTREAL -- The first woman to climb to the top of Canada's highest mountain in a solo trek says her biggest fear came when she fell into a dangerously deep crevice.
"That made me very afraid because no one would have known where I was," Monique Richard told The Canadian Press on Monday.
She began her ascent of the 5,959-metre Mount Logan in Yukon's Kluane National Park around mid-May.
The life-threatening incident occurred at about the halfway point of her expedition, which ended last week.
The Montreal mountaineer said she had taken off her skis for safety reasons, took several steps and fell into the crevice.
Richard, who was speaking while stopped by the side of a Yukon highway, said the fissure was at least 50 metres deep and that she fell more than a metre inside.
"I felt the void under my feet," she said. "But I was able to grab hold on the walls of the crevice, take my skis, put them across the crevice and use them to pull myself up with my arms."
"It felt like an eternity, but it probably lasted about 10 minutes."
Richard, 43, also had to deal with harsh weather, equipment woes and delays during her expedition.
"Mount Logan is known as being a very isolated mountain with incredible storms," she said.
"I spent one week in my tent waiting for the weather to improve because there was a big snowstorm -- and my tent even started to rip."
At one point, Richard was lost in a whiteout and thought about abandoning the climb because she was worried about the bitterly cold and windy weather.
"I had a lot of difficulty sleeping because the wind made an enormous amount of noise," she said. "I was afraid of losing my fingers and my toes because it was minus 40 with the wind. . .But I survived and I came back with all my parts."
She said she was even more determined this year after trying unsuccessfully last year to reach the mountain's summit with a climbing partner who encountered difficulties.
"This time, I was very motivated, (and) very well prepared -- mentally and physically."
Parks Canada says there is no record in its data stretching back to the late 1800s of any woman having reached the summit in a solo climb.
Last year, an Argentine climber was forced to abort her own solo climb of Mount Logan's east ridge when earthquakes triggered significant avalanches.
Richard said when she came down she was very exhausted and that her GPS and telephone had run out of battery power.
"I'm very tired right now because it was very intense, but I'm happy that I accomplished my goal," she added.
Her spokesman, Francois Masse, said late Monday that severe weather conditions as well as technological issues forced Richard to be airlifted by helicopter 48 hours after reaching the summit.
Richard is an experienced climber who has tested her limits on some of the world's highest mountains and has taken part in some 30 ascents since 2010.
With the help of guides and partners, she has conquered the world's highest mountains on seven continents, including Mount Everest in 2012.
She said she plans to spend the rest of the week vacationing in the Yukon before returning to Quebec on Saturday.
Richard has taken a month off her Canada Post job walking the mail route in the hilly Montreal enclave of Westmount.
She hopes to write a book about her experience "to inspire other people to go through other tests in life."