American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, First Ascents in the Romanzof Mountains, Eastern Brooks Range

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1959

First Ascents in the Romanzof Mountains, Eastern Brooks Range. The first climbing done by members of the IGY McCall Glacier Project was a 1700-foot scramble up the south slope of nearby “Mount MacVicar” on May 20, 1957 by the late Dr. Richard C. Hubley and Robert W. Mason only three weeks after the station had been parachuted onto the glacier. MacVicar (8760 feet) is typical of many peaks in the area whose southwesterly slopes are extremely wasted by weathering while the north and east sides remain steeper and ice-fluted.

On May 24, 1958 Charlie Keeler, Austin Post, and Mason set out to climb the most imposing mountain among the six sentinel peaks that contain the McCall Glacier. “Mount Hubley,” as the peak has been named for our project leader who had died at the station in October 1957, is a long, gently sloping ridge of ice and granite culminating in a small, sharp rock-summit at 8915 feet. The approach to this climb involved only a short two mile walk into a cirque adjacent to that of the camp.

Recent mapping of the area by the U.S.G.S. revealed the exciting fact that Mount Michelson (latest altitude: 8855 feet), the most prominent massif in the entire range, which had been climbed for the second time on September 7, 1957 by Keeler and Mason, could no longer be reckoned the highest peak north of the Yukon. (See A.A.J., 1958, pages 93–95, for account of its first ascent.) Instead, a snowy pyramid we called “Mount Leffingwell,” visible nine miles to the south of our camp, had been determined as the highest, at 9050 feet. Accordingly, during a slack period in station duties which permitted three of the five members to take a few days off, three of us made, on July 18, a day’s march nine miles south, across three glaciers to the head of a third. Before we had even settled into our tent to escape a steady rain, Austin Post made a solo ascent up the boulder- littered slope of the range’s second highest peak, “Mount Arey” (9000 feet) . The following morning Post, Keeler, and Mason climbed Mount Leffingwell through a miserable combination of rotten and falling shale, rain, snow, and fog. We eagerly descended, broke camp and trudged home satisfied with a good trip and mediocre climbing.

The Brooks Range, because of its scant snow cover, small-scale relief and generally poor rock, offers few serious climbing problems. The mountains themselves, however, are a spectacular network of serrated ridges and many “matterhorns” laced with valley glaciers.

Robert W. Mason

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