North

Quebec woman calls for rescue after historic summit of Mount Logan

It was hard work for Monique Richard to reach the summit of Canada's highest mountain last month, becoming the first woman to do so in a solo trek. It was even harder coming down.

'I wanted to come back alive,' said Monique Richard, the first woman to solo climb Canada's highest mountain

Monique Richard, the first woman to solo climb Canada's highest mountain, was only on the summit for 10 minutes before beginning her descent to camp. On the way, she became lost, dehydrated and exhausted. (Monique Richard )

Suffering from dehydration, exhaustion, and exposure, Monique Richard was forced to call for help on her descent off Canada's highest mountain on the weekend.

The Montreal climber made history last Wednesday, when she became the first woman to summit Mount Logan, on a solo trek.

"For me, I'm satisfied, and I wanted to come back alive," Richard said on Sunday from Haines Junction, Yukon.

She was rescued by helicopter on Saturday evening, at an elevation of about 5,500 metres. Mount Logan, in Yukon's Kluane National Park, is 5,959 metres high.

Richard, thrilled to have finally made it, only stayed at the summit for 10 minutes. Clouds in the distance were rolling in and she was worried about the weather turning bad.

On her way back to camp, the batteries in her GPS died and she became lost. She didn't find her way back to her camp until 1 a.m. — exhausted, cold and dehydrated.

"I realized my limit is at the end," said Richard.

Richard ran into two other climbers who then assisted her a few hundred metres down the mountain in order to be low enough for a helicopter rescue.

High-altitude rescues 'extremely difficult'

"It's extremely difficult to operate a helicopter at those altitudes and the weather only allowed a very narrow window in which to safely and successfully respond to the operation," said Scott Stewart, visitor safety coordinator for Kluane National Park.

Two members of a specialized rescue team from Banff National Park were deployed to Kluane to assist with the rescue. The Kluane rescue team is not capable of performing technical, high elevation rescues.

According to Stewart, there is usually about one major high altitude rescue each year in Kluane.

More and more people are attempting to climb Mount Logan. In the last five years, about 35 people a year have attempted the climb. The success rate is 50 per cent, according to Stewart.

He said the remoteness, the altitude, extreme weather, and technical hazards such as crevasse and serac falls are what makes Logan so challenging.

Richard faced many of these challenges herself — even falling into a crevasse shortly before summitting. That accident shook her deeply.

Richard is now resting in Haines Junction, Yukon, after spending 19 days on Mount Logan. Richard said she is happy with her climb, but has no plans to return to the mountain. (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada)

"It's very dangerous and very difficult for the mind and the body," said Richard.

Winds on the mountain can reach up to 160 km/h, and temperatures can drop well below zero even in summer.

Richard had to abandon her backpack and equipment on the mountain in order to be rescued by the helicopter.

Abandoned equipment from other climbers was something she said she noticed on the climb.

Now, Richard plans on resting before traveling around Yukon for a vacation.

She does not plan on climbing Mount Logan again.

With files from Claudiane Samson

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