American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Climbing Along the Richardson Highway

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1956

Climbing Along the Richardson Highway. Thirty-one members of the Iowa Mountaineers drove in August 1955, to the Castner Glacier area, one of the most accessible in Alaska. The group reached Castner Creek about 45 miles from Big Delta on August 22. Shortly after our arrival it started to rain, and it continued to rain or snow for seven days with hardly a let-up. The previously arranged air support was impossible in such weather, and on August 23 and 24 large parties carried food and supplies nine miles up the Castner Glacier where we camped the second night. Driving snow drove us back to the Castner Creek camp late the next day, and on August 26 we evacuated this camp leaving 300 pounds of food safely wrapped in plastic bags and housed in tin boxes on the glacier. We pitched a temporary camp at the Army Arctic Indoctrination Camp at Black Rapids (2,314 feet), where we were permitted to dry out our duffel. In the rain on August 27 a party of eight climbed Gunnysack Peak (ca. 5,500 feet) a half mile east of camp. The next day Hans Gsellman, Hans and Hubey Schlapschi ascended a major snow peak of about 7,800 feet northwest of the Black Rapids Glacier and on its right bank, apparently a first ascent. After crossing the army suspension bridge over the Delta River and ascending the glacier about five miles, they turned sharply to the right and followed the narrow snow ridge to the summit. The ascent took nine hours. On August 29 a party led by Joe Stettner and John Ebert drove down the Richardson Highway to Isabel Pass and hiked up the Gulkana Glacier to near its head. Because the army road leading to the snout of the glacier was under water, the unanticipated long hike to the base prevented our trying any of the fine peaks in this area. On August 30 a party under Joe Stettner’s direction drove south to Phelan Creek just south of Rainbow Mountain. From Phelan Canyon, two miles east of the road, they ascended the peak to the right via the long narrow ridge. They traversed four false summit humps before reaching the highest point. No record of previous ascents was found. A cairn and mountain register were placed on the summit (ca. 5,600 feet). On the same day a party of 11 led by John Ebert and Hans Gsellman traversed a major peak to the left (southeast) of the Black Rapids Glacier. Seven miles above the Delta River crossing we turned sharply from the glacier to the east and ascended over moraines and up a canyon about a mile to a snow col. The route then led up a steep snow slope on the right to the main snow ridge and the summit, a mile away. There was no sign of previous ascents. We left a rock cairn and a metal register on the summit, which, according to available maps, appears to be about 8,000 feet. We called it “James Peak” in honor of the youngest expedition member, seven-year-old James Ebert. We descended the west snow ridge about a thousand feet and then glissaded down a series of snow slopes to a narrow canyon which we followed to the right to the Black Rapids Glacier. We arrived at the Delta River at about 9:00 P.M. in a heavy downpour. This ended our climbing.

John Ebert

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