McNerthney Pillar: First Ascent, 1986. Second Ascent, 2013

By Ben Kunz, 06 August 2013

  • DATE

    06 August 2013


    Ben Kunz


    Rock Climbing

Growing up directly on the Strait of Georgia on Northeast Vancouver Island, I stared at the panorama of the Coast Range across the Strait each breakfast. I watched those magnificent mountains appear each May above the waters—perfect images of forested slopes giving way to snow-capped summits. In the picture perfect Coastal British Columbia summers, my childhood friends and I would troll around on the beach collecting logs for homemade rafts. I would slip into day dreams of crossing the Strait and imagined climbing through their valleys, along their ridges and up to their peaks. By October, those magnificent mountains disappeared behind a blanket of clouds and mist. Rare clear winter days gave me magnificent glimpses of these white cloaked mountains rising above the turbulent winter sea. I’d like to believe that’s where my Waddington dream started!

On July 20th, 2013, Tim Halder, Joe Sambataro and I completed the second ascent of the McNerthney Pillar (ED 1/2, 5.10 mixed) on the north face of 13,185-foot Mount Waddington in the Canadian Coast Range, a full 27 years after its first ascent. This route was first completed by the McNerthney brothers, Pat and Dan McNerthney, back in 1986. Despite the appeal of this beautiful rock pillar and “providing far and away the most powerful climbing line of this face of Waddington,” it had yet to see a repeat ascent.  

Over three protracted days, the three of us climbed this amazing mountain, making the most of the long summer daylight. The challenging climbing provided plenty of adventure: loose rock, iced-up cracks, challenging route finding, complex glacier travel, tiny bivy ledges and abundant mixed climbing.

After Waddington, we explored the West Face of Biscupid Tower in the Stilletto cirque, potentially climbing a new route, and then visited the upper reaches of the Upper Tellot Glacier, sneaking in a climb of Serra One before returning to Sunny Knob for our helicopter flight out of the range.  

Don Serl classifies the Waddington Range as “one of world’s Great Ranges” and after this expedition, I can see why! The beauty, scale, complexities and remoteness of the range is staggering. Any trip into this range is guaranteed to generate a grand adventure!   

Ben Kunz


Ben Kunz’s passion for mountains has taken him from the intense world of software development at Microsoft in Seattle to the mountainscapes of Canada’s and Washington’s wilderness. A transplant from Canada’s Vancouver Island, B.C., Ben spends more time in the backcountry than anywhere else, and in summer he can often be found impelling Outward Bound students into new and challenging experiences in the North Cascades. As far as Ben’s own challenges go, he generally prefers to challenge himself through experiencing a variety of terrain over pure technical difficulty, a preference that has driven him to rocks and peaks across the globe several times over.

Ben currently balances his life between rock climbing, mountaineering, teaching, traveling and software engineering. His favorite climbing partner/gourmet cook? Easy—his loving wife, Lindsey!