Clutterbucks on Clutterbuck Mountain

by Dan Clutterbuck

Every year for the past 20 years my father, David Clutterbuck, has learnt a new sport. This year – to celebrate his 60th birthday – he decided to take up mountaineering. But rather than do his first outdoors climb on a simple slope in England, he opted to climb one of the most remote and inaccessible mountains in Canada’s British Columbia. Why? Because of its name – Mount Clutterbuck, which we discovered on this blog.

Named by the Canadian Government in the 1930s after an intrepid explorer, who wrote about British Columbia in the mid 1800s, Mount Clutterbuck lies in the centre of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy. There are no roads and even rescue helicopters are not permitted to land. Grizzly bears, brown bears, mountain lions and wolverines, along with elks, caribou, mountain goats and other prey, are the only inhabitants. The explorer after whom it was named wrote a wonderful account of the area in 1887, suitably named '1887 BC', which we read as we followed some of their footsteps. As soon as my father and I saw Mount Clutterbuck on, we were determined that we were going to climb it!

David and myself are both experienced walkers, having trekked previously in the Andes, Himalayas and other high altitude ranges. Yet just getting to the base of the mountain needed three days. For two of these, the bulk of our gear was carried on horseback – along with a chain saw to remove fallen trees from the path. For the third day, the ground was too rough for horses, so along with our two mountain guides, we were forced to “bushwhack” through boulder fields covered with a dense tangle of live and dead trees and alder bushes, with visibility in many places no more than two yards. The treacherous conditions were made worse by the heavy packs we were carrying, by the constant attention of vicious mosquitoes (David alone received around 200 bites on his back, through his clothing, that day) and the need to cross swollen, fast-flowing glacial rivers.

Base camp was beside a small, cold lake at the foot of Mount Clutterbuck’s glacier, a full kilometre beneath the summit. The ascent and descent took 13 hours of continuous effort. We set off in darkness, with head torches to guide our feet, and reached the edge of the glacier at dawn. After roping together for protection in case one of us fell into any of the crevasses, we forged ahead up the glacier. The last few hundred feet consisted of a steep rib of rock, which involved a combination of scrambling and full-on climbing - which is something David has never done outside of an indoor climbing wall. Finally, around 1pm, we achieved the summit and were sitting on the top of the world, both amazed and stunned that we had done it!

Many mountains in Canada have a summit register at the top, to record who has climbed it. Due to it's remoteness and technical difficulty, this mountain has only rarely been climbed and did not have such a register. In fact we could only find evidence of one other ascent (by the Kootenay Mountaineering Club). To record this - and our own substantial efforts in reaching the peak, we established a summit register and even left a flag with the Clutterbuck family cloth mark printed on it (the symbol printed on every bolt of cloth when our ancestors set up the first cloth mills in the UK’s West country, in the mid-1500s).

David says it was one of the toughest things he has ever done, and won’t be drawn about what he might do to celebrate his 70th!

To see a fabulous selection of the trip photos, please visit our online photo albums here and here.

If there are any other Clutterbucks out there who feel the inspiration to climb Mount Clutterbuck, I would be happy to discuss our trip and provide any advice where I can. (I can be contacted via my website at this link.)

In any case, a good place to start would be to get in contact with our guide - Matthew Reynolds (Box 1223, Jasper, Alberta, Canada,T0E 1E0 - Tel. (780) 852-5042). I can provide his email on request. As well, you can try contacting our outfitters at Findlay Creek Outfitters.

We highly recommend this trip to any budding mountaineers out there; it is one of the most stunning and remote mountains in Canada and, although technical enough to require a guide, well within the grasp of a moderately experienced hiker.

And we look forward to hearing from you.

Dan Clutterbuck and David Clutterbuck