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North America, Canada, British Columbia, Northern Monashee Mountains

Northern Monashee Mountains, 1952. This summer, Sterling B. Hendrick, Donald Hubbard, and I spent three weeks climbing and exploring in the northern end of the Monashee Mountains of British Columbia.

We chartered a plane to fly supplies and equipment over the mountains and to drop them at two suitable locations., On the morning of July 22nd, we flew from Kamloops, B. C., in a 1928 Junkers float plane, up the North Thompson River, across the mountains, made drops on the Serpentine-Dominion Névé and on “Pancake Glacier” to the South, visually surveyed the area from aloft, selected a suitable way into the country, and then returned to the base.

The following day, we traveled by Canadian National Railroad to Gosnell. There we shouldered packs, followed a logging road over a shoulder into the valley of Moonbeam Creek, and then “bushed” up the true right side of the stream. The actual travel time was roughly a day and a half, with an extra day spent in dehydrating men, clothes, and equipment after some wet weather. A camp was established at timberline.

After entrenching ourselves on the mountain slope, we climbed to the Serpentine-Pyramid Neve to recover our northernmost air drop. This was done on a day of mist and clouds and limited visibility. The bundles were covered with new snow and scattered over a one-mile radius. With persistent searching and probing, we recovered all of them.

The first ascent was made on Tuesday, July 29th. We climbed a peak which was reputed to be the highest in the range. It was an easy climb, up a rocky ridge to a lower summit, down to a col and up a snow slope to the main peak. We christened the mountain “Dominion Peak.” It had an elevation of about 10,350 feet. To the south, however, there were obviously higher peaks.

The next climb entailed an attempt on “Mt. Monashee,” which appeared to be the highest summit in this immediate cluster of mountains. The only problem in reaching the top (ca. 10,650 feet) was a bergschrund followed by a 50-foot, 50-degree pitch of soft avalanching snow on bare ice. From the top of “Monashee,” we saw a fine peak to the immediate north. Since the day was still young, we decided to traverse across to it. There were some nasty pitches of slabby, loose rock, but these were soon passed and the summit gained. On the top, we found a natural cairn which “out- colossaled” anything ever built by Colossal Enterprises. It is a gigantic rock formation so like a ceremonial Japanese gate that we named this peak “Mt. Torri.”

On August 1st, we set out on a cross-country jaunt to see if we could reach Mt. Hallam, some 25 to 30 miles to the south. Three days later, after crossing a succession of ridges and valleys, cols and streams, we reached the snout of Foster Glacier, which drains the northern slopes of Hallam Massif. The less said about the bush and the back-packing the better. We had our usual share of the ardor of cross-country mountain travel and the necessary low-level evils that go along with high peaks, snow, and ice.

The next day, we set out to climb Hallam. Across the glacier was interposed an interesting icefall. A route was devised up the true right edge to the upper catchment area. To get to Hallam, it was necessary to traverse two intervening peaks, “Mt. Deception” and “Mt. Milton.” Except for the descent from “Milton” to the Milton-Hallam col, the climbing was relatively easy. This descent, however, brought its moments of intense concentration as we worked our way down some loose, disintegrating steep schist, which to the south dropped some 2000 feet to a big cirque area.

Some steep-looking summit slabs on Hallam resolved themselves into a simple rock scramble, and we were on top.

After the Hallam climb, we retraced our steps to our Moonbeam Creek base camp, stopping halfway at “Pancake Flats” to climb “Mt. Pancake,” which rose just to the South of “Pancake Flats.”

On August 11th, on our way across the Pyramid-Serpentine Neve, we took time out to climb M. Lempriere. This was just a walk up the southern snow slopes. On the top, we found the remains of a camp which a survey party had left in 1949. Scattered about were bedroom slippers, torn trousers, used-up batteries, tin cans, pots, pans, candles, and a conglomeration of odds and ends which must have taken a fantastic amount of effort and energy to backpack up to the top. The next day, we began our journey down Moonbeam Creek and, the following morning, emerged on to the railroad track in the North Thompson Valley to pick up a train back to civilization.

In all, we made eight ascents, seven of which were first ascents and one, Mt. Lempriere, a third.

Arnold Wexler