MacCarthy, Albert H.
(1876-1956)

Albert (Mack) MacCarthy was born in Ames, Iowa in 1876 and was educated in both Ames and Des Moines. He then entered the US Naval Academy at Annapolis and graduated in 1897. MacCarthy served ten years in the US Navy and saw action in the Spanish American War. He was discharged in 1907 at the age of thirty-one with the rank of lieutenant commander.

On May 30, 1905 MacCarthy married Elizabeth (Bess) Larned and in 1909 Bess discovered mountaineering in the Canadian Rockies. Two years later Mack followed suit by making his first ascent of Mount Daly in the Waputik Icefield. Thus began Mack’s passion not only for mountaineering but his love of Canada. After Mack and Bess made a pack train journey through the Bow Valley from Castle Mountain to Windermere in British Columbia they bought a ranch in the foothills and named it Karmax where for many years it was their summer headquarters.

MacCarthy joined the Alpine Club of Canada in 1911 and in August 1912 made the first ascent of the Strathcona Matterhorn, christened Elkhorn Mountain, the second highest peak on Vancouver Island. This ACC trip was organized by Colonel William (Billy) Washborough Foster but led by Edward Oliver Wheeler. Included in the party were Edward’s father and founder of the Alpine Club of Canada Arthur Wheeler, the photographer Herbert Otto Frind, D.A. Gillies. A.R. Hart, L.C. Wilson, Reverend J.R. Robertson and F.A. Roberston.

The following year on July 31, 1913 MacCarthy teamed up with Conrad Kain and Billy Foster and made the first ascent of Mount Robson. Although MacCarthy’s alpine experience was limited at that time, his fitness and unique abilities made him a force to be reckoned with.

After the ACC Upper Yoho Camp in 1914, MacCarthy received a telegram from Kain offering him his guiding services. MacCarthy quickly accepted the offer and on August 10 they made the first ascent of Mount Farnham, which by one climbing party was considered “absolutely unclimbable.”

In 1915 MacCarthy again hired Conrad Kain and made numerous first ascents in and around the Purcell Mountains: Mount Ethelbert, Commander Mountain, Jumbo Mountain, Mount Peter, Mount McCoubrey and Spearhead Peak, as well as several second ascents. At the end of the season MacCarthy made a solo first of Mount Sally Serena.

Again in 1916 MacCarthy employed Kain on a full time basis. They made the first ascent of Mount Louis and in the Bugaboo Range claimed ascents of Howser Spire and the difficult Bugaboo Spire. MacCarthy again hired Kain in 1917 and they made an ascent of Mount Hungabee with Bess MacCarthy, who became the first woman to climb this impressive mountain.

For many years the MacCarthy’s attended the ACC camps and made numerous climbs throughout the Rockies but Mack’s climbs with Conrad Kain became fewer with his increasing experience.

Finally, MacCarthy’s crowing glory came in 1925 when he led a team that made the first ascent of Canada’s highest peak Mount.Logan. MacCarthy reached the summit on June 23 with Billy Foster, Fred Lambert, Allen Carpe, Norman Read and Andy Taylor, and the epic story of their climb and return to civilization has become a landmark in Canadian mountaineering history. Following the Mount Logan climb MacCarthy was made a Honourary Member of the Alpine Club of Canada.

During the depression years of the 1930’s MacCarthy made some major changes in his business affairs and “took back” a property he once owned called Carvel Hall near Annapolis, Maryland. He spent much of his remaining years there due to the close proximity to his other love - the sea.

MacCarthy’s health began to decline in the 1940’s, however, his physical endurance never eluded him and he continued to attend ACC camps until 1952 when he was seventy-six years old. Albert MacCarthy died at Annapolis on October 11, 1956 at the age of eighty.

[Courtesy Lindsay Elms]

Sources:

Arthur O. Wheeler. The Alpine Club of Canada in Strathcona Park. The Canadian Alpine Journal Vol. 5. 1913.

Phil Dowling. 1975. The Mountaineers: Famous Climbers in Canada. Edmonton. Hurtig Publishers.

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