American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Mount Iliamna, Chigmit Mountains, Aleutian Range

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1960

Mount lliamna, Chigmit Mountains, Aleutian Range. During the week of June 1 to 7 Helga Bading, Erik Barnes, Gregg Erickson, and I made the first ascent of Mount Iliamna (10,016 feet), following two unsuccessful attempts by other parties in 1958. The Iliamna Volcano, the second highest peak of the Aleutian Range, is about 100 miles south of Anchorage. We were dropped by pilot Widgeon at Chinitna Bay and spent one and a half days fighting alder brush, wading waist deep streams, killing mosquitoes and avoiding bears until we had walked about 10 miles up West Glacier Creek. From there we walked up Umbrella Creek and the lower Umbrella Glacier. On an exposed rock cleaver at 3700 feet we made our climbing camp. The weather had been overcast during most of our approach and from the previous days’ weather trends we felt that our best time for climbing the mountain would be at night. Knowing that there is no real darkness in Alaska in June, we left camp at 6:30 P.M. and climbed into a 5000-foot ceiling under the false assumption it would lift with us. Almost the entire climb, including the brief stop on the summit, was made with virtually no visibility. The climb alternated between floundering through waist-deep snow while probing for crevasses, plodding up endless crusted slopes and navigating from memory from aerial photos. We dropped off trailmarkers for the return. The highest point was reached at 2 a.m. June 4 amidst snow flurries, an estimated 25 mph wind and a temperature of 20°. Our descent was uneventful. When we left climbing camp to descend, we got our first view of Iliamna. We rafted down West Glacier Creek to avoid the alder brush and arrived at Chinitna Bay half a day ahead of the scheduled rendezvous with our airplane.

Paul B. Crews, Mountaineering Club of Alaska

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