American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, British Columbia, Homathko Snowfield, Coast Range

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

Homathko Snowfield, Coast Range. On July 27, 1957, Richard H. Beatty and I arrived in Princeton, B. C., where we met our friends Alistair Morrison and John Rucklidge, of Cambridge University, England, and with some difficulty continued by car to the head of Chilko Lake. From there we had arranged boat transportation to the end of Franklin Arm, 50 miles down the lake, but beyond we were solely dependent on backpacking. Ten miles of dense burned-over bush in the steep valleys of Dechamps and Nine Mile creeks and a high ridge and glacier still separated us from the deep north-south valley on the eastern edge of the snowfield. So great were the obstacles on this approach that it took us nearly two weeks to complete the two trips required to bring the necessary supplies into that valley.

Measuring about 15 by 20 miles, the Homathko Snowfield lies at 7000 to 8000 feet south of the Waddington group, between the Homathko and Southgate rivers. Although the highest peaks about its periphery, such as Mount Queen Bess (10,700 feet), and Mount Grenville (10,200 feet), have been climbed, the snowfield itself is difficult of access and has been penetrated only a very short distance on one or two occasions. Its undulating arctic-like surface is studded with nunataks and peaks, rising from a few feet to 2000 feet above it. From the basin-like snowfield numerous glaciers radiate between these outer peaks and fall into the great valleys surrounding it. After ascending to the snowfield by one of these glaciers, we established camp two miles in from its edge. After climbing a nunatak here, we continued across the snowfield and with one intermediate camp reached the large icefalls of Jewakwa Glacier on the western side, thus accomplishing the first crossing of the snowfield. We placed a cairn on a nearby nunatak and returned to the eastern edge by a more southerly route. Just inside the eastern rim we climbed a jagged peak of 9500 feet, which we called Cambridge Peak. The route lay along a ridge barred by many gendarmes. The passage of the largest of these, ably led by Morrison, involved the ascent of a chimney, followed by a climb partly within a vertical crack in a huge smooth monolith and a final exposed traverse across the face to regain the ridge. Shortly after this we had to leave the snowfield in bad weather without attempting more of the attractive peaks about us. Our time had been shortened by initial delays and Morrison and Rucklidge needed several days for scientific work. By completing a survey and measurements on a small cirque glacier, they hoped to supply evidence in support of the theory of Professor W. V. Lewis, of Cambridge University, concerning the movement of cirque glaciers by "rotational slipping.” During this time Beatty and I explored another valley joining Nine Mile Valley from the north. There we accomplished the ascent of our second virgin summit, a mountain of about 10,000 feet which we named Mount Dartmouth. Although technically easier than the previous peak, it was a rather long climb and entailed some interesting pitches, including a snow saddle inclining to 60° and a summit pyramid of steep and rotten rock with some exposure over an impressive north face. Soon after this climb time ran out and we returned up the lake on August 29.

George v. B. Cochran, M.D.

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