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Katie Gardner (Courtesy Whyte Museum, M67 Box 7 Album 4)

Katie Gardner

(1885-1974) Katie Gardner completed thirty-three first ascents in the Canadian Rockies. More than any other lady. Only three men, other than professional guides, exceeded her total. Katherine Gardner arrived for her first season of climbing in the Canadian Rockies in 1929, traveling alone on the CPR. However she was no stranger to climbing and exploration. The daughter of a distinguished British climber who was the first to reach the summit of Mount Elbruz in the Caucasus, she had often accompanied him on his annual climbing trip to the Alps. Upon her arrival in Banff she contacted Walter Feuz, the youngest of a family of alpine guides brought over from Switzerland by the CPR, and together with two packers they explored the country between the Bow Valley and Crowsnest Pass making five first ascents and climbing Mount Assiniboine as well. Impressed by the guiding services of Feuz as well as finding the area to her liking (in particularly the opportunity for first ascents), she returned the next two seasons as well. Always accompanied by Feuz, she completed a total of fourteen first ascents in the Kananaskis area. Ken Jones, who has been a guide in the Rockies since the 1930''s and currently resides in Nanton, remembers meeting Katie at Shadow Lake in Banff National Park. He was to lead Miss Gardiner and two friends on an ascent of Mount Ball and initially wondered what he had gotten himself in for as his client was very clumsy on the trail and looked "as though she could trip over her own shadow." To Ken''s relief, however, she was very capable when the trail was left behind and the rock climbing began. In subsequent years Katie continued climbing in Canada, visiting the spectacular Bugaboo area of the Purcell Range in 1935 with Ken Jones and Walter Perren. When in their fifties, Katie and guides Edward Feuz jr and Christian Hasler jr climbed Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Rockies and considered a very difficult ascent. Upon their return to Lake Louise when it was suggested that it must have been a tough climb, Ed Feuz replied, "Hard?, Why with Katie Gardiner along, it was a piece of cake." To some extent Katie competed for first ascents with another outstanding lady climber of the 1930s, Georgia Engelhard. Georgia completed 32 first ascents in the Selkirk and Rocky Mountains and Katie, 33. [Additional Information: Smith, Cyndi. "Off the Beaten Track". Lake Louise: Coyote Books, 1989]