American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, St. Elias Range, Yukon Territory

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1958

St. Elias Range, Yukon Territory. Members of the Sierra Club of California, Los Angeles Chapter, Jim Sutherland, Don Clarke, Bud Bingham, Barbara Lilley, and George Wallerstein, joined Bill Davis of the Colorado Mountain Club in Whitehorse August 3, 1957, for a month’s climbing in the St. Elias Range. By rented car and truck we transported our 1200 pounds of food and equipment from Whitehorse to Burwash Landing on the Alaska Highway. There we loaded most of this equipment into a bush pilot’s pontoon-equipped plane and airdropped it at three locations: at the head of Brabazon Glacier, at the source of the Klutlan River, and on a 13,000-foot plateau below Mount Wood. The third drop was never recovered. We were flown into a small lake near Klutlan Glacier. Three and a half days of hiking along Klutlan, Wood, and Brabazon glaciers brought us to our airdrop on the Brabazon, where we set up Base Camp at an elevation of about 8000 feet.

The first climb, of Peak 12,000 west of Base Camp, was made in a 14-hour day by circling behind the peak, threading through one icefall and bypassing a second on rock to reach the final snow slope leading to the summit. On the first day of a four-day trip we placed a high camp at 10,000 feet below Mount Craig (13,200 feet). On the next our attempt on that mountain by its east ridge was stopped by an ice cliff 200 feet below the summit. On the third, the steps already kicked in the deep powder snow up to the ridge helped us on a successful climb of Peak 13,500 on the same ridge and east of Mount Craig. On a three-day trip another high camp was placed on a 10,000-foot col east of Base Camp, overlooking a branch of Wood Glacier. From there we climbed the steep north ridge of Peak 13,800, south of the col and west of Mount Wood, breaking trail through one to two feet of powder snow. A climb was also made of Peak 11,500, north of the col, by its south ridge, knife-edged enough to warrant belays, à cheval climbing and the only use of crampons on the trip.

After returning to Base Camp, we abandoned it permanently and moved down the Brabazon and up Wood Glacier to the col east of Mount Wood on the Wolf Creek Divide. From here we ascended Peak 10,000 by its west ridge, but lack of time and deteriorating weather forced us to abandon an attempt on Mount Wood. Returning down Wood and Klutlan glaciers to the source of the Klutlan River, we recovered the airdrop there, which contained a rubber life-raft and jackets, and floated cold and wet on an occasionally thrilling ride down the Klutlan and White rivers to the Alaska Highway. We hitchhiked back to Whitehorse in time for our return flight home on August 31.

Barbara Lilley

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