American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, British Columbia, Coast Range Mountains, 1953

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1954

Coast Range Mountains, 1953. The Coast Range of British Columbia has long had a reputation for the magnificence of its mountains. It has equally long had a reputation for the severity of the approaches to these mountains. The classic pioneering, backpacking ventures of the Mundays attest to the difficulty of the terrain for even highly competent and skilled bush travelers. Maneuvering an expedition into this country with horses, as Hall and his companions did on several occasions, was a time-consuming and no less arduous accomplishment. The recent Harvard and Sierra Club expeditions have supplied added evidence to these hard facts: he who would enter the Coast Range must expend an undue proportion of sweat and time in breaching the lowland wilderness defenses. It was therefore an event of more than casual interest when the 1950 Sierra Club expedition affected an airplane landing on Dumbell (Ghost) Lake, at the true left ridge above the Tellot River, and, within one day, reached timberline at Nabob Pass on the Tiedemann—Tellot Divide. This accomplishment demonstrated that one of the outstanding climbing regions of Canada was now readily accessible without the necessity of a time-consuming, involved, and difficult ground approach.

For several years the party had been considering the feasibility of a trip to the Coast Range. This year plans matured to fruition. The entire project was keyed to the use of an airplane to get us in and out of the region as well as to drop supplies and equipment at a high elevation on Tellot Glacier. After some correspondence with the Queen Charlotte Airlines, arrangements were made for a chartered plane to fly four members of our party in to Dumbell Lake on July 12th, then similarly to fly the other four in and to make the air drops at the base of Dragonback Mtn. on July 19th, and finally to evacuate the entire party on August 13th.

Sterling B. Hendricks, Don Hubbard, Alvin E. Peterson, and Jim Bullard composed the advance guard. Weather delayed their flight until the 13th, but by late afternoon the four had been landed on Dumbell Lake. The bush between Dumbell Lake and Nabob Pass is mild, and at the upper end of Tellot Creek the valley is open and flats and gravel bars are plentiful. In little more than one day of backpacking Nabob Pass was reached and a camp established. In the ensuing days, there were several minor skirmishes with the rises just west of the pass. On the 16th the party crossed the Tellot Glacier above the lower icefall and ascended the prominent ridge rising northward from the geographical left edge of Tellot Glacier to the summit. Whether this peak was Mt. McCown or Mt. Williams is still undetermined.

The advance group left Nabob Pass, moved up Tellot Glacier, and set up a high camp on a rock outcrop (ca. 9800 ft.) about one mile below Mt. Dragonback. Here they awaited the plane.

The remaining four: Arthur C. Lembeck, Ken Karcher, Jane Showacre, and Arnold Wexler, assembled in Vancouver and, on the morning of July 19th, boarded a little Norseman plane. In two hours flying time the party was transported from a major city to the wilderness fastness of Dumbell Lake, by-passing the hardships of ground travel. Showacre and Wexler then assisted in the aerial drops.

Three days later, they united forces at high camp. On the 20th, the advance party had explored the upper névés and made the double ascent of Mt. “S” and the West Peak of Mt. McCormick on the Radiant—Cataract Divide. In spite of poor visibility and freezing temperatures, Hendricks, Hubbard, Bullard, Peterson, and Showacre climbed Mt. Tellot on the 23rd. The following day the entire party ascended the East Peak of Dentiform while Lembeck, Hubbard, and Bullard also climbed the West Peak. On the 25th, there was a division into two parties. Hendricks, Hubbard, Peterson, and Bullard first ascended Mt. Argiewicz, then climbed the East Peak of McCormick. Lembeck, Showacre, Karcher, and Wexler traversed the Dragonback and Eaglehead massif.

In anticipation of a trip to the Scimitar Glacier region, Hendricks, Hubbard, and Wexler set out on the 27th to investigate the feasibility of descending to the Scimitar by way of Radiant Glacier. The big uncertainty was the Upper Radiant Icefall. They found that they were able to force a scenic route through the center of this jumbled ice mass. Then they circled around to the north of Mt. “S” and Mt. McCormick, crossed the beautiful upper névé of the west branch of Cataract Glacier, and returned via a steep ice slope between Shand and McCormick.

On this same day, Lembeck, Showacre, and Bullard executed a fine technical climb up the highest of the Upper Claws.

On the 28th, Hendricks, Hubbard, and Bullard on one rope, and Lembeck, Showacre, and Wexler on another rope, climbed Serra I via the Stilleto—Serra Col. This peak offered some very pleasant continuous rock work. The following day, Lembeck and Wexler ascended both Argiewicz and “S” while the others strolled up Mt. Shand.

Two days of dubious weather permitted some relaxation and preparation for the next phase of activities. Breaking camp on August 1st, the party descended to Scimitar Glacier by way of the Radiant. By the 2nd, they had established themselves on the Scimitar, near the base of Dissension Icefall and directly across from Mt. Hickson.

On the 3rd, eager to see some new country, Lembeck, Bullard, and Wexler ascended Dissension Icefall to Parallel Glacier, crossed the upper snowfield, and climbed the peak to the immediate north of Mt. Geddes. This they called Mt. Haworth, in memory of their friend and climbing companion who lost his life several years ago on Mt. Citadel in the Selkirks. Meanwhile, the others circled around the south of Hickson and then ascended its main summit.

The next day, while Lembeck and Wexler relaxed in camp, the others traversed Mt. Serendipity, the peak just south of Mt. Threshold above Scimitar Glacier.

On the 6th the party trekked down the Scimitar to its confluence with Cataract Creek and turned up the latter. From a camp behind the true left lateral moraine, Hendricks, Hubbard, Karcher, Showacre, and Peterson strolled up to Mt. Sepia on the Isolation—Shiverick Divide.

At this time of the year, Cataract Glacier was in bad shape. With some luck, they managed to bridge all crevasses and return to high camp on the 8th. Then, the following morning, they descended the Tellot Glacier to Nabob Pass. The lakes, the mountain scenery, and the flora combined to make this one of the prettiest spots they had ever visited. One day, Hubbard, Karcher, and Bullard climbed Serpentine (rising just east of the pass) by way of the prominent snowfield and south arête. On another day, Lembeck and Wexler made the ascent up the southwest face immediately below the main peak.

The party’s climbing was now at an end. On the 12th, they returned to Dumbell Lake. Late in the afternoon of the 13th, two de Havilland Beaver aircraft evacuated them to Vancouver.

This was a memorable trip. The weather had been favorable, the climbing excellent and enjoyable, and the country beyond compare. What more could one ask of a mountain holiday?

Arnold Wexler

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