The Fist Ascents of August


In a time before accurate weather forecasting, cleared forest roads, technical climbing gear and trail maps these brave individuals driven by something deep within set out to climb some of the most iconic peaks in the country. August just happened to be the most popular time for many. We went through years of history, news clippings, lengthy articles, and contentious claims to bring you these unique stories. 

We fully acknowledge that these are the documented first ascents by europeans and many of these peaks were explored and possibly summited by the native people living in around these majestic peaks for thousands of years.

With that respect and understanding, let's dig in to what has been documented starting in early August and progressing through the month.



AUGUST 1, 1819

Brothers Robert and George Marshall, along with their friend and guide Herbert Clark, achieved a remarkable feat by becoming the first to conquer the 46 high peaks in an environment that may seem unfamiliar to today's hikers. Starting their quest on August 1, 1918, with the ascent of Whiteface Mt., they persevered through rugged terrains, unmarked trails, and vast expanses of forest scarred by logging and fires.

Their epic journey finally culminated on June 10, 1925, when they triumphantly reached the summit of Emmons. Their pioneering spirit and determination paved the way for countless others, as over the years, more than 7,000 people have followed their trailblazing path to become Adirondack 46ers, leaving an enduring legacy of exploration and adventure in the High Peaks region.



AUGUST 6, 1857

Thomas Dryer, founder of The Oregonian newspaper claimed to have been the first to summit Mt. Hood along with several other individuals on August 25, 1854 . However, Dryers account of the ascent which he published in the paper had many flaws, including citing the presence of volcanic vents at the summit. His claims have been disputed by many historians and is believed that he never reached the true summit but was several hundred yards short.

Three years later on August 6, 1857Henry Pittockat 22 years old would lead a team of four (L.J. Powell, William S. Buckley, W. Lyman Chittenden, and James Deardorff) to the summit of Mt. Hood via The Old Chute route. Pittock’s description of the mountain and landmarks helped bolster his claim of being the first to reach the true summit. A member of Pittocks team would later publish an article in a rival paper disputing Dryers claim. Dryer shot back in an editorial disputing Pittocks story and so began one of the great beefs of the 19th century.

Did we mention that Pittock was employed by The Oregonian when he first summited the mountain? He would get the last laugh when he later became Dryers successor and took control of the newspaper in 1860. Pittock would climb the mountain three more times in his life and became a founding member of the Mazamas, a non-profit mountaineering educational organization founded in 1894 that is still climbing strong today. 

  • Thomas Dryer

  • Henry Pittock

  • Henry Pittock in 1894

The founding Mazamas climb in 1894

A great video from our friends at OPB dives into the history of climbing Mt. Hood in depth and the amazing accomplishments of the women and men of the Mazamas.



AUGUST 7, 1870

On August 7, 1932 Raymond Welch became the first one legged person to climb Mt. Washington. This may not be your classic first ascent story but we thought it was impressive and deserved recognition. Raymond lost his leg and hip in a childhood sledding accident and due to the loss of his hip he was unable to wear a prosthetic leg.

He would rely on a crutch and cane during his climb. He made the ascent to the summit via the Cogwheel Railway and completed the climb in four hours and fifteen minutes. He would go on to climb the mountain again on July 2, 1933 this time up Tuckerman Ravine.

For those wondering, the first true documented climb was in early June 1642 after a 18 day journey by Darby Field and his team. 

  • Raymond Welch at the summit

  • NYT Article

  • Cogwheel Railway



AUGUST 10, 1890

Inspired by Van Trump who first reached the summit in 1870, Fay Fuller would become the first woman to make the ascent on August 10, 1890. The twenty year old journalist and teacher from Yelm, Washington would reach the summit accompanied by Van Trump, Hazard Stevens and two others. She used charcoal to blacken her face on the climb to protect herself from the sun, wore goggles, a thick flannel bloomer and boys shoes.

The group left from Camp Muir at 4:30am and would reach the summit at 4pm. Having reached the peak so late in the day the group decided it was best to spend the night at the summit. They would shelter in an ice cave which had been formed by steam vents as well. At 6:30am the next morning the group successfully descended down icy slopes through gale winds. Fay would go on to be a founding member of the Washington Alpine Club and the Mazamas. Mount Rainier's Fay Peak is now named after her.


Fay would go on to be a founding member of the Washington Alpine Club and the Mazamas. Mount Rainier's Fay Peak is now named after her.

  • Fay Fuller

  • Mazama women, 1896



August 11, 1898

On August 11, 1898  William Owen, Franklin Spalding, Frank Petersen, and John Shive would be the first to document their climb to the summit via their own route, now known as the 5.4 Owen–Spalding Route.

Who reached the summit first is still up for debate and shrouded in controversy. In July 1872, Nathaniel Langford, James Stevenson and members of the 14-person Hayden Expedition claimed to have summited the Grand Teton. However, when Willam Owen and his expedition reached the summit some 26 years later they saw no sign of a previous ascent. This was odd since members of the Langford and Stevenson expeditions typically built cairns at the summit. After reviewing Langfords description and sketches of the climb many believe it matches that of The Enclosure, a side peak of the Grand Teton. 

  • Owen - Spalding Route, 1898

  • William Owen, John Shive, Frank Petersen at the summit

Although we may never definitively know who was first to reach the top, we do know Owen and Spalding were the first to document their summit. A plaque commemorating their ascent would be placed on the summit in 1929 only to be stolen in 1977, further adding to the controversy. 

  • Owen (middle) and the plaque commemorating his first ascent.

  • Owen at 64 years old, Grand Teton summit, August 1925


Explore Part 2 to learn about the first ascents of August that took place after the 11th through the end of the month.

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