American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies, Coast Range, Mt. Saugstad

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1952

Mt. Saugstad. Mt. Saugstad (about 11,000 ft.*) is in the Coast Range of British Columbia, some 13 miles S.E. of the small fishing and lumbering town of Bella Coola. The Mundays and Henry Hall visited the area in three different years and carried out a thorough reconnaissance, but were prevented by adverse conditions from making the ascent.1 In the summer of 1951, with better luck, John Dudra, of Vancouver, and I were able to reach the summit.

The approach to the peak from Bella Coola consists of a ten-mile ride up the Bella Coola River road to Snootli Creek and then a ten- mile fight through brush S. to Snootli Creek Pass (4500 ft.). Saugstad is two miles S. of this pass, across the headwaters of Noch Creek, which drains W. We took a day and a half to reach the pass—struggling with the brush, feeling grateful to the grizzly bears whose fresh paths sometimes aided us, wondering at the same time what to do if we met one face to face—and then a half-day to trudge the two miles across the headwaters of the creek to a high camp (7300 ft.) on the N.W. ridge.

Early the next morning we began the climb, keeping to the ridge. It was reasonably easy. From about 9000 ft. to the summit, there was glare ice on the rock; but it was not thick enough to cause much trouble.2 The weather was perfect. In a little over four hours we were on the summit. Needless to say, fine peaks could be seen all around, especially to the S. Peaks just a few miles to the S. appeared very interesting and perhaps approachable by a trail that is rumored to lead up the Nootsatsum River, a tributary of the Bella Coola. One shaft-like peak W. of S. Bentinck Arm also kept catching my eye. It is not very high, but it might yield some good climbing.

Our confidence inflated by early success on the main objective, we decided to go on to the N. peak of Saugstad, located half a mile from the true summit, along the N. ridge. The obvious route lay along the saddle that led from our perch to the N. peak. But the hour was late, and we retreated to high camp. On the following day we travelled across the two glaciers on the N.W. side of the mountain and attained the N. ridge on the N. side of the N. peak. Keeping to the ridge, but moving out on either face whenever we had to, we slowly gained altitude. There began to be some doubt about the venture: spectacular exposure, quite touchy climbing, threatening weather, shortness of time, smallness of party. At 4.00 P.M., however, we reached the top and hastily constructed a cairn. Then we hastily descended. The glacier was reached at dark.

We spent the next two days in luxury, admiring the peaks from the lower altitudes, consuming quantities of food and returning to civilization. We ate like horses on a balanced diet of two lbs. of food per man per day, with almost 70% (by weight) edible without cooking. During the struggle to the Bella Coola, the brush of Snootli Creek seemed as dense as ever.


* This altitude has been reported by Mr. Hall to be about 9625 ft.—Ed.

1 See W. A. Don Munday, “Bella Coola Mountain,” C.A.J., XXV (1937), 41-9; “Among the Bella Coola Mountains,” C.A.J., XXVI (1938), 39-48; “Mt. Saugstad,” C.A.J., XXVII (1939), 16-19.

2 On this ice Dudra’s Tricounis held up better than my Bramanis. Considering the trip as a whole (brush, rock, snow), I should say that the Tricounis had a slight advantage, not significantly great.

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