Mt. Eon 1921 Dr. Winthrop Stone, President of Purdue University, and his young wife Margaret attempt an unguided first ascent of Mt. Eon, second highest peak in the southern Rockies after nearby Mt. Assiniboine They climb to within feet of the summit when Dr. Stone unropes, calls, I can see nothing higher, then hurtles past Margaret to his death 800 feet below. Winthrop and Margaret Stone attended the Jubilee Camp of the Alpine Club of Canada in 1920 and climbed Mt. Assiniboine; Margaret was one of the first women to do so. From it’s slopes they planned their ascent of Mt. Eon for the following summer. The Alpine Club Journal for 1920 includes Dr. Stone’s article, Amateur Climbing, which extols the excitement and challenges of unguided climbing by experienced amateurs like himself. His account of their ascent of Mt. Assiniboine was published in the 1920 Journal of Mazama, a mountaineering club based in Oregon. Margaret Stone descended nearly to tree line before becoming trapped on a ledge from which she could neither ascend nor descend. She survived without food, water, or shelter from the freezing nights until her dramatic rescue seven days after the death of her husband. When the Stones failed to return to the Walking Tour Camp at Mt. Assiniboine and a preliminary search didn't locate them, help was sent for to Banff. Guides Rudolph Aemmer and Bill Peyto traveled to Mt. Assiniboine in one grueling forty mile day and headed up the search. The Stone's route was not anticipated, they had circled to the southern slopes before ascending. The search party had almost given up hope when they heard Margaret's call for help. Rudolph carried her off the mountain over his shoulder to tree line then she was rafted down Marvel Lake to Trail Centre where she recuperated. A larger party headed by Conrad Kain later located and retrieved the body of Dr. Stone, completing a first ascent of Mt. Eon at the same time and including his name on the note in the Summit Cairn. These are the facts of a mysterious and inspiring story which continues to resonate through the years.
Mt. Eon 2009 Since the rescue of Margaret Stone from an isolated ledge on the southern slopes of Mt. Eon we have lost our innocence. In 1921 the Canadian Rockies was still wilderness, the difference between land within and adjacent to the National Parks speculative. Today every inch of Canada is known mapped, accounted for. In the autumn of 2008 my son, Sebastian Hutchings, told me about his trip to Mt. Eon from the south, shocked by the development he encountered in what he assumed was a remote wilderness area. In August 2009 we returned together to photograph. Mt. Eon’s glacier draped north facing slopes regard Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park, a virgin expanse of mountain, lake and forests. It’s south slopes face an island of Crown Land bordered to the west and south by Kootenay National Park, to the north by Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park, and to the east by Banff National Park. In 1921 the south slopes of Mt. Eon, where Winthrop and Margaret Stone made their ascent, regarded a wilderness of forest, peaks, and wild mountain rivers. Today these same slopes overlook clear cut logging, a magnesite strip mine and many undeveloped claims beneath the slopes of Mt. Eon. The tragic and triumphant events on Mt. Eon in 1921 occurred at a cusp and mark a turning point. In 1920 the road from Calgary to Banff was completed bringing cars into the National Parks for the first time. In 1923 the Windermere Highway opened, the first highway built within the Parks. Today the road to Mt. Eon travels along the Trans Canada to Castle Junction, south on the Windermere Highway (now Highway 97), up Settler’s Road through Kootenay Park, leaves the Park, and up the Cross Mitchell Service Road which is used by both Baymag Mine and local logging operations. A dirt road follows Aurora Creek beneath the south slopes of Mt. Eon and a hiking trail over Marvel Pass leads into Assiniboine Provincial Park. Bordering the Wild investigates the interface between wilderness, unpopulated but developed natural areas, and modern landscapes of resource management and agriculture which comprise so much of Canada today.