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The Kootenay Mountaineering Club

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Mt. Jeldness

Peter Oostlander, September 24, 2011 - 1405 m (4610 ft)

This mountain lies between Big Sheep Creek and Swehaw Creek near Rossland, BC. and was renamed Mount Jeldness in 1967, after Olaus Jeldness, a colourful character and Norwegian mining engineer, who arrived in Rossland in 1896.

View down the valley on Jeldness south slope
South facing slope below the summit of Jeldness
Olaus Jeldness
Olaus Jeldness

According to the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame, Jeldness organized the first recorded Canadian ski competition at Rossland in 1897. He won this first downhill on Red Mountain on March 6, 1897. Early racing might be considered a free-for-all and clearly dangerous by today's strict safety standards as the racers all started together at the summit, hurling themselves down the mountain to the finish line on the main street of town. The racers controlled their speed by using their single long pole as both a rudder and brake, choosing their own route down the mountain. Jeldness was instrumental in creating the Rossland Winter Carnival which began in 1898. Included in the carnival were competitive events which included a race called the Canadian Champion Ski Race which descended 2,000 vertical feet. He won this event as well as another, the first Canadian Championship Ski Jumping contest. He would repeat his successes, now called the Dominion Ski championships., winning both Downhill and Jumping events in 1899 and 1900, his last year of competition. In the autumn of 1898, he organized the clearing of three separate downhill runs and organized and formed what was, arguably, the first ski club in Canada. The "Spirit of Red" Society is raising funds for the creation of a bronze statue of Olaus Jeldness, near the former bank of Montreal in downtown Rossland.

In the Fall of 2010, the KMC organized an outing to this low elevation summit, but ran into the some bluffs and cliff bands on the South East side, and the summit was not reached. I felt that the KMC needed to finish the job and added the mountain to the 2011 summer trip schedule. There were just two of us up to the task; club member Daniela Gadotti and I drove down the historic Old Cascade Highway down to Sheep Creek, where we parked the car. The Old Cascade highway was completed in 1922 and was the only connection to Christina Lake and the Boundary before highway 3 was extended in the early 60's.

In most cases when we go on a hiking trip, we drive as high as possible and start out. This was the exact opposite, we drove up to the high point on the road and then down into the valley at 2200ft.

A Google earth map photo I brought along gave us a clue how to approach the summit, by walking 1.5km to an intersection of a gas and power line. This is the start of an obvious North-South drainage that leads more or less directly to the summit. We energetically scampered up the west side of this drainage on the steep slope under sunny skies. We then crossed it about half way up to the East side and arrived at the false summit in two hours.

As the slope faces directly south and the valley temperature was in the 30C degree range, we felt we were baked and fried up there. The landscape was desert like with few trees and dry shrubs and grasses, since there had been no appreciable rain in two months. We added a summit register to the small summit cairn, containing a brief description of Jeldness and soldiered on to the actual summit, about 500m further north, where we had lunch. The views were somewhat interesting towards Santa Rosa and Old Glory peaks and the Sheep Creek valley below. I took some photographs of my friend's Jeff's property below, since he had driven me to the mountain the week prior, to scope it out.

We then descended down the East side of the gulley and to our surprise this offered a continuous grassy descend pretty much right to the bottom. Well, that was easy! We had to stop several times to drink our water, and the two litres I brought along disappeared by the time we arrived back at the car after 4 1/2 hours.

Since we had some time left over, we drove to Jeff’s property further up Sheep creek where the original Ben Shaw homestead still stands. Daniela freshened up in the cold and energizing creek, just above a newly built beaver dam and I refilled my now empty water bottles. After Jeff gave us a tour of his little paradise, we drove back up the 26km road to the Rossland Museum. An interesting day with good company!