Hickson, J.W.A.
J.W.A. Hickson (Courtesy Whyte Archives)
(1873-1956)

Joseph William Andrew Hickson was one of the few Canadians to take an active interest in mountaineering during the early part of the twentieth century. He climbed for five seasons in the European Alps, making some very difficult climbs such as the Grepon and the traverse of the Matterhorn. He made his first visit to the Rockies in 1909, at the age of 36. In Canada, his seventeen seasons in the Rockies and Selkirks netted 30 first ascents of major peaks, including Pinnacle Mountain, Mount St. Bride, Mount Chephren, Mount Sir Douglas, Mount Fifi, Mount Joffre, Mount Spring-Rice, Mount King Edward, Mount Fryatt, Mount Robertson, and Mount Moloch in the Selkirks. He also climbed fine new route on Castle Mountain's Eisenhower Peak. Hickson always climbed with guides, most often with Edward Feuz jr..

Hickson was born into a well-to-do family in Montreal in 1873. His father, Sir Joseph Hickson, was at one time president of the Grand Trunk Railroad. Young Hickson was educated at private schools and eventually received a PhD in Germany. His field of expertise was philosophy, metaphysics, and logic, and during his most active climbing years he was a member of the faculty at McGill University from 1901 to 1924. He was an eccentric man who had a "brilliant and independent mind and did not always agree with his associates, a fact which contributed to his rather early retirement."

Joseph Hickson wrote of many of his mountain adventures in the Canadian Alpine Journal, and for two years was its editor. From 1924-1926 he served as president of the Alpine Club of Canada. Though not naturally a strong man, he climbed until he was 57 years old. He remained a bachelor all his life and died in 1956 at the age of 83.

[courtesy Chic Scott; "Pushing the Limits"]

J.W.A. Hickson made some thirty first ascents with Edward Feuz jr. over a period of twenty-five years. The two climbed together often, Ed Feuz estimating that they climbed between two and three hundred mountains together, twenty-five of them first ascents. Feuz had great respect for his favourite client saying, "If you ever saw him walk down the street, you'd never think he was a mountaineer. He could hardly walk. Years ago a horse he was riding slipped and rolled over his leg and it never healed well. Physically, he was not strong either. But he had an iron will, and he was the most stubborn man I ever met; after all that's what gets you up mountains."

[See Hickson Peak]

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