The Logan Mountains, 1960
William J. Buckingham
THE INTERIOR of the Yukon Territory and the western portion of the Northwest Territory of Canada is a vast wilderness studded with mountain ranges, few of which have attracted much attention in climbing circles. No doubt this neglect has been due to the inaccessibility of these mountains, the lack of knowledge about them, and their comparatively low altitudes. The one area that has seen a certain amount of mountaineering activity is the Logan Mountains. The name “Logan Mountains” is used generally to refer to the rather loosely connected ranges which lie along and just to the east of the Yukon-Northwest Territory boundary, between the headwaters of the South Nahanni and Frances Rivers. The area of greatest interest centers about Brintnell Lake, extending about 25 miles to the north and 50 miles to the south of it. This portion of the range is essentially a vast, spectacularly glaciated, granite batholith. Metamorphic and sedimentary rocks occur in a few scattered locations and form a few important groups of peaks. The mountains support a multitude of small remnant glaciers, and there are several extensive icefields. Most of the peaks are between 8000 and 9000 feet high, but the relief is great—over 6000 feet above the main valleys ; timberline generally occurs at about 3500 feet.
The earliest detailed exploration of the Logan Mountains was done by the Harry M. Snyder Expedition in 1937. They traveled up the South Nahanni to Virginia Falls by boat and then by airplane to Brintnell Lake, where they undertook a preliminary survey of the areas near the lake. They ascended a few minor eminences in the course of this work but attempted no significant peaks. In 1952 the Yale Logan Expedition was landed at Brintnell Lake; they explored much of the country between the Brintnell River and the Fish Kettle River. During the course of their explorations they climbed nine peaks, mostly around the head of the Fool’s River. The third major expedition to enter the area was in 1955. Their activities centered mainly around the great icefields forming the source of the Brintnell River and the spectacular cirques on the north side of the Brintnell valley. They succeeded in climbing eighteen summits, including Mount Sir James MacBrien, the highest peak in the vicinity of Brintnell Lake. (See A.A.]., 1956, 10:1, pp. 81–89.)
In spite of the fact that each of these expeditions had enthusiastically confirmed the discoveries of the previous ones—namely, that here are some of the finest mountains in North America, a compact range of jagged spires and towering granite walls offering routes of every conceivable difficulty—the Logans were not visited again until 1960.
In mid-June, Stuart Krebs, Mason C. (“Pat”) Hoadley, Stanley Shepard and I met at Jenny Lake, Wyoming, and began a leisurely drive northwards. Stopping for a few days’ climbing here and there, we arrived in Watson Lake, Yukon Territory, on June 28. The following afternoon, pilots of the B.C.-Yukon Air Service transported us in two de Havilland Beaver aircraft to Brintnell Lake, 150 air miles to the north. As we flew north, the low forested hills around Watson Lake gradually gave way to higher, rounded and barren mountains. Finally, as we went over a low pass, there thrust into view a startling array of wild spires and peaks. Within half an hour, the plane was settling onto the smooth, milky water of Brintnell Lake, just a few miles below the immense hulk of Mount Harrison Smith, which rises from the valley in a 5000-foot sweep of slabs and smooth, exfoliated walls.
We were landed on a little peninsula near the northwest corner of the lake, where we were surprised to find a large government survey party camped. Unloading our half-ton of supplies and equipment and bidding farewell to our pilots, we set about hanging a large cache of food between two trees and then made camp for the night in a mossy little clearing.
Next morning, with provisions for ten days, we packed up into the high basin northeast of Mount Harrison Smith, the so-called “Cirque of the Unclimbables,” actually a series of four small cirques, each ringed by sheer, smooth-walled spires. Somehow we turned upwards out of the Brintnell valley too early, and after many hours of battling alder, rain and mosquitoes, Stu, Pat and I reached the level floor of the basin late in the evening. Exhausted, we merely rolled out our sleeping bags in a convenient boulder cave and dozed off.
We were awakened early as Shepard staggered into camp, after having spent the night out. Now, in the sunlight, the surrounding peaks appeared slightly less foreboding than they had in the gloomy half-light of the previous evening. Nevertheless, we could see few feasible routes on the flawless granite faces and most of the summits appeared quite inaccessible. The floor of the basin in which we were camped was a rolling carpet of thick moss and heather with small streams meandering through it and great, angular blocks scattered randomly about—“Tombstone Meadows” we called it.
After setting up the tents and generally organizing our camp, we set off to explore the upper part of the valley. Climbing to a high talus bench on the east flank of Mount Sir James MacBrien, we obtained a fine view of the entire group of peaks, especially the peaks of the Third Cirque— “Parrot Beak Peak” and its neighbors, precisely sculptured pillars and buttresses sweeping skyward in graceful, unbroken lines. But still no obvious routes could be found, save the 1955 party’s route on Sir James MacBrien. Awed and a bit discouraged, we returned to camp with considerable doubts as to what success we might have with these mountains.
An unsuccessful attempt on Mount Sir James MacBrien was followed by a day of intermittent rain. In the afternoon we made a brief reconnaissance of the First and Second Cirques, climbing to the crest of the great heap of debris which constitutes a single terminal moraine for the two small glaciers in the respective cirques. The results of this little stroll were encouraging—ledge and crack systems were detected on several peaks, and careful scrutiny evolved a few possibly continuous routes.
We arose early on July 4, but remained in camp several hours as storms repeatedly swept across the peaks. Finally, we set out for “Huey’s Spire,” the eastern summit of the ridge dividing the Second and Third Cirques— fairly low, but one of the prominent features as seen from our camp. Climbing to its western base in the Second Cirque, we ascended slabs and mossy cracks to gain a wide shelf spiralling around the south face to the east ridge, from which easy rock led to a subsidiary eastern summit. We climbed and rappelled down a deep chimney to the west, and then traversed out on narrow ledges onto the very exposed north face. The climbing soon became difficult and it began to snow, but after a couple of hard pitches, easy climbing continued to a second sub-peak. Once more we climbed down and traversed across the north face, behind huge, loose flakes to the west side of the summit block, from which the small flat summit was easily gained. On the descent, we climbed and rappelled to the notch between the two eastern sub-summits, and via three rappels to the south, rejoined the spiralling shelves of the ascent route.
After another day of rain, we left camp very early with the intention of attempting one of the high peaks at the head of the First Cirque. Unfortunately, we became separated in the moraine, and by the time we were reorganized, it was getting late and the beautiful weather was deteriorating rapidly. Shepard, who was not feeling well, returned to camp; he was able to climb on only a couple of occasions thereafter. The remaining three of us then turned our attention to “Terrace Tower,” the sharp little spire on the east end of the ridge separating the First and Second Cirques.
Turning up into the Second Cirque we climbed steep snow slopes and rotten shelves on the north face to gain the large snowy plateau east of “Terrace Tower.” The remainder of the climb up the east, then the north and finally the east faces of the summit tower was completed in a blizzard, accompanied by frightening views of the neighboring peaks glimpsed through occasional rifts in the clouds of blowing snow.
The following day we climbed “Crescent Peak,” the principal summit on the ridge forming the east wall of the “Cirque of the Unclimbables.” Uncertain weather delayed our departure until late morning, but we were able to make rapid progress across the maze of great tumbled talus blocks east of camp and up a shallow, slabby, southwest-facing couloir to its termination along the edge of an indistinct rib. We climbed the rib for a short way to a difficult wall, and then moved left into a gully where a steep, mossy slab led to a bench below the large snowfield on the upper part of the mountain’s west face. Finding the snow deep and soft, we traversed right and followed the southwest ridge—pleasant scrambling alternating with level corniced sections—to the final summit cornice. Once again, it was beginning to snow, and we did not linger on the summit. Happily, we found the upper snowfield to be just solid enough for a long sitting glissade; the return to camp was uneventful.
The ninth was designated a rest day. In the afternoon, Shepard climbed the easy south ridge of “Trident Peak,” a little metamorphic peak of reddish slate lying on the ridge between Sir James MacBrien and “Crescent Peak.”
So far, we had had a measure of success with a few of the smaller peaks, but the higher summits appeared as forbidding as ever. Since it was time to make an all-out attempt to discover whether their defenses were as impregnable as they seemed, on July 10 Stu, Pat, and I decided to attempt “Mount Flattop.” We walked through the jumble of morainal debris into the First Cirque, cramponed up the bare tongue of the dwindling glacier there onto its level upper basin. Rising out of this basin in a 2000-foot sweep of vertical rock, the east face of “Flattop” offered no hint of a route. The only possibility remaining was to gain the col on either the north or the south of the peak and to continue by the respective ridge to the summit ; of the two, the northern col looked considerably more accessible. A series of three precariously attached snow patches leading up into the great concave wall below the col offered some hope. We climbed avalanche-scoured snow slopes to the small bergschrund, which was crossed with some difficulty onto a fragile corner of the lower snow patch. Steep and fluted, these little snowfields, alternating with short sections of rock, nevertheless provided enjoyable going up the lower part of the face. Above, the rock was more broken than expected, and a complicated route was worked out up and diagonally leftward along little shelves and cracks to the knife-edged col north of the peak. As we approached the col, our spirits were high, but we had little reason for optimism—the 300-foot summit tower was most imposing and, yet once more, it had begun to snow. The north ridge rose in three steps, the first of which was climbed without appreciable difficulty. Then we traversed for two rope-lengths, out across the steep and frightfully exposed east face on a system of tiny flakes and thin ledges and then climbed flakes and a shallow corner to regain the crest above the second step. We climbed the final step directly, a sequence of difficult moves and followed the narrow, flat, snow-covered summit area to its highest point at the southern end. Here we erected a small cairn, ate a quick lunch, and were awed and a little horrified by the view of “Mount Proboscis” to the south. The descent was accomplished by a long and miserable sequence of rappels on wet and unruly ropes, with occasional sections of scrambling. It was late, and we were cold and tired when we reached camp.
Though the following morning started with rain, it cleared by noon. We retraced Shepard’s route to the summit of “Trident Peak” and then continued northwest along the ragged ridge to “Ziegeberg,” an easy granitic peak just northeast of Mount Sir James MacBrien.
Stan was feeling well enough to join us when we set off early the next day for an attempt on “Mount Meringue,” the graceful snow-bedecked high peak at the head of the Second Cirque. We rapidly reached the great, oval snow basin of the Second Cirque, and climbed left up snow and exposed ledges to gain the low col in the southeasterly ridge of the mountain, separating it from “Bustle Tower.” The narrow, gradually steepening ridge was followed for some distance to a steep, smooth step. Here a fortuitous snow-covered ledge led right, into the east face of the peak, where we climbed a succession of easy chimneys before being forced back towards the ridge. A short but difficult lichen-covered wall was surmounted, after which a bit of scrambling placed us on the upper snowfields. The remainder of the climb was a tiresome slog through waist-deep snow except for two steep, icy chimneys through rock bands. The summit ridge was a curving knife-edged arête of frozen, wind-packed snow, providing a jolly finish to the climb. With the hour not yet late and the weather so fine, we decided to continue on and climb “Phenocryst Spire,” the westerly and slightly higher of twin rock peaks on the north wall of the Second Cirque. We descended the northeast ridge of “Mount Meringue,” rappelling over two large vertical rock steps, to the high, snowy bench between the two peaks, and then climbed the west ridge of “Phenocryst Spire.” Access to the second main step on the ridge was blocked by a great detached flake, which necessitated a thin traverse on the north and a wide span across the intervening gap, whence the step itself was climbed in a nearly vertical jam crack. Above, alternate rock and snow led to the cylindrical summit block, where a shallow groove on the south side provided two long pitches on small nubbins and flakes. A direct descent into the Second Cirque was then made from the foot of the ridge by means of a steep snowfield and gully, necessitating but one long rappel.
From “Mount Meringue” we had observed that the western side of “Parrot Beak Peak” apparently offered a route of no great difficulty, although arduous and complicated to approach. Thus, after a rest day, we ascended through breaks in the cliffs of the headwall of the Fourth Cirque to “Cassiope Col,” the broad saddle between Mount Sir James MacBrien and “Ziegeberg.” Descent to the north was on high-angle, snow- covered slabs of dubious security. Turning west, we continued down morainal debris to a large, green lake, at whose southwest end a sizable glacier discharged. Traversing along the south edge of the lake on unstable, mossy talus was slow, but once we gained the glacier at the upper end of the lake, progress was much easier. We had barely reached a point below the west face of “Parrot Beak Peak,” however, when we were caught in a heavy downpour, which ended climbing for the day. Reascending “Cassiope Col,” we nearly met with disaster as a cornice high above broke loose, precipitating an impressive avalanche which missed us by inches and obliterated our tracks of a few moments before.
Another day of rain intervened before we could return to “Parrot Beak Peak.” It was still early morning when we reached the glacier above the green lake. When soft snow on the glacier made the going difficult, we moved left onto the eastern lateral moraine. Selecting a break in the lower cliff bands of the peak, we climbed a mossy, chockstone-filled couloir for several hundred feet and then made a long diagonal traverse to the right on narrow shelves to the breakable crust-covered talus slopes of the upper face. Finally, a section of rock led to the sharp notch between “Parrot Beak Peak” and “Tathagata Tower” to the south. Then, moving left over mixed steep ice patches and rock, we reached the broad, sculptured snow crest leading east to the summit, a sharp little rock tower. Arriving on the summit by mid-morning in better weather than any we had yet seen, we decided to try the two spires to the south. Back in the notch we attacked the north ridge of “Tathagata Tower,” first climbing a steep crack between the rock and a section of cornice to a belay spot. There followed a long, difficult pitch, a face climb on small holds ending in a jam crack, from which a short, wet and mossy friction pitch led to the summit. We scrambled down the south side to a 40-foot overhanging step, where we rappelled into the notch between the two towers, leaving the rope in place for the return. Then an exposed ridge, where we climbed over, under, and around dripping cornices, and some steep snow-covered slabs led us to the summit of “Lotus Flower Tower.” We retraced our steps to the summit of “Tathagata Tower,” from which a 150-foot rappel and some precarious scrambling placed us once more at the notch from which we had begun the ascent. We glissaded a long, icy couloir and made our way through the lower cliff bands back down to the glacier.
On July 17 we climbed Mount Sir James MacBrien. Instead of gaining the west ridge above the great lower cliff band, as on our previous attempt, we traversed far right to an ill-defined rib in the center of the upper south face. The rest of the climb to the heavily corniced summit involved little more than difficult scrambling. Shortly after leaving the summit, we were enveloped in a furious blizzard, and the descent was accomplished in a series of frantic dashes between sheltered overhangs during lulls in the storm.
This unfortunate turn in the weather precluded any climbing activity for the next five days, although on the 20th we made another trip to Brintnell Lake for supplies. We carried fairly large loads to the base of Mount Harrison Smith, where we cached twelve days of food, the rest being carried on up to our camp, giving us provisions there to last until the end of the month.
For some time it had been evident that of all the peaks in the “Cirque of the Unclimbables,” “Mount Proboscis” presented the greatest difficulties; since it now remained the only major unclimbed peak of the group, we focused our full attention upon it. Rising like the dorsal fin of some great prehistoric beast, it is an impressive sight when viewed from any angle. Its east face presents over 2000 feet of flawless, vertical boiler-plate. Separated from it by an obtuse, vertical corner is a scarcely less terrifying northeasterly face; the west face differs from the east only in being perhaps somewhat shorter. The unattractive north ridge, a knife-edge thickly coated with bulbous, succulent cornices, is accessible only by first climbing over “Flattop.“ Therefore, we concluded that our only hope lay in the south ridge, even though it had defeated an attempt by the 1955 party and we had not yet had an opportunity to study it carefully.
On July 23 we arose early to find the sky clear save for occasional wisps of cloud blowing across the peaks. Shepard was feeling better than usual and he joined us as we started off to try “Proboscis.” After cramponing up the tongue of the glacier in the First Cirque, we climbed left up a steep snow and ice chute to “What Notch,” the sharply incised, nearly hidden col between “Proboscis” and the “Pentadactyl Spires” to the east. We glissaded to the south onto a fragmentary glacier and then traversed along the base of the stupendous southeast wall of “Proboscis.” In order to reach the south ridge of the latter, we should first have to climb over “Mount Contact,” a little peak lying on the contact line between the granite rock and the metamorphosed sediments to the south. We paused on this subsidiary summit, for a mid-morning snack and a detailed examination of the proposed route on “Proboscis,” an awesome prospect indeed. Ropes were broken out on the descent to the intervening notch, at which point the real difficulties began. A moderate 30-foot pitch led to a secure belay behind a large rhomboid flake. A short and fantastically exposed piton traverse to the right gave access to a vertical crack up which, by means of a strenuous layback, we gained the sloping crest of the first step of the ridge. The second vertical discontinuity proved easier than it had looked; by climbing up a flake leaning against the step we reached a shallow groove leading up and to the right, where a move around the corner was followed by an easy slab to a belay. We then walked easily along the crest to the third step of the ridge. Smooth and massive, the only flaw we detected was an embryonic crack system up the center of its face. Six widely spaced, direct-aid pitons, a delicate mantelshelf onto a two-inch ledge, two more dubious knife-blade pitons for aid and some tenuous climbing on small nubbins, solved this problem, however. Before we were all up this pitch we were beset by a rapid succession of rain storms. After waiting for a couple of hours with no appreciable improvement in weather, we abandoned our attempt, leaving two fixed ropes in place.
It rained and snowed almost continuously for the next five days. Great, dripping shrouds of cloud shifted among the peaks, occasionally rising slightly, then settling in heavier than ever. On the fifth day the storm began to dissipate, and we retired early in anticipation of another assault on “Proboscis” the following morning. We left camp shortly after midnight on the 29th, but when we reached the broad, southern shoulder of “Mount Contact,” a low overcast was already obscuring the higher peaks. In order not to waste the day entirely, after a considerable wait we decided to climb “Cat Crest,” the low sedimentary eminence lying in the sharp angle of the Brintnell valley. We traversed across the southeast face of “Mount Contact” to a little col above the southern edge of the “Polymer Glacier.” After scrambling along a badly fractured ridge of black slate, we finally followed a set of cougar tracks up the final snow arête to the enormous, flat, summit plateau. By noon when we had returned to the shoulder of “Mount Contact,” the weather was so encouraging that we decided to continue the attempt on “Proboscis.” We quickly traversed over “Mount Contact,” then prusiking up the fixed rope and climbing the other sections, reached our previous high point by mid-afternoon.. Above the level knife-edged crest of the third step, we ascended the next vertical section by a short, icy traverse out onto the west face, which was followed by a long moderate pitch, slabs and laybacks to regain the sharp ridge. An à cheval section of ridge led to a little notch, above which there rose an imposing tower. This pitch proved to be the crux of the whole climb. Moving down and left out of the notch and onto the west face again, a 65° slab was climbed for 40 feet on tiny nubbins; a long traverse left into a corner, using cracks offset barely a quarter of an inch, and a delicate, nearly vertical section, gained the top of the tower. Beyond, the ridge continued as a series of sharp, barn roofs separated by little gaps. Constant care was necessary, and a fixed rope was left where we made a short rappel into one of the clefts, but no great difficulties were encountered. Finally some dangerously corniced sections of ridge and an easy bit placed us on the summit ridge—the corniced upper edge of a tilted oval snowfield, spectacularly overhanging the west face. After walking to the apparently highest point-, we built a small cairn at the south end of the summit ridge and began the descent. The upper sections were again slow but not hard. In rappelling the difficult sections below, it was necessary, in almost every case, to rappel off one or the other of the exposed faces and then pendulum across to the top of the next lower step on the ridge. It was after two A.M. when we finally arrived back in camp. This ascent was the high point of the expedition, and it certainly ranks among the most difficult rock peaks of North America.
After a well-deserved rest day, we climbed Mount Harrison Smith and “Middle Cathedral Peak.“ A steeply sloping snow-covered shelf ascends diagonally across the north face of the massif, between towering vertical cliffs, to the broad col between the two summits. We easily gained the lower, westerly end of this shelf but soon encountered a deeply indented, icy, avalanche-scoured gully. After belaying carefully across this for several hundred feet, we then continued along the upper edge of the shelf to a point directly below the summit of “Middle Cathedral Peak.” Here we turned upward and climbed the broken face above, an unpleasant combination of huge, rotten flakes, ice and unstable snow. Finally, a rock pitch of considerable difficulty placed us on the peak’s east ridge, just a short distance below the summit. We descended easily to the broad col to the east. Bypassing an intervening summit by climbing down a steep, rock chute on the south, we followed the west ridge of Mount Harrison Smith to its summit. The only difficulty encountered was the traverse on the north of the final gendarme of the ridge, where we found a piton, apparently left by the 1955 party. Descending via the snow band, we found snow conditions far worse than in the morning, and each step sent a sizable avalanche plummetting over the great cliffs below.
Now having climbed all of the major peaks accessible from “Tombstone Meadows” and eager to try some of the spectacular peaks to the south, on August 1, we packed down to the main valley, and made camp at the foot of Mount Harrison Smith. Shepard returned to Brintnell Lake, where he remained throughout the rest of our stay in the mountains. With ten days’ food we started next morning up the Brintnell valley. From the outwash flats above the sharp bend in the valley we crossed the braided river and proceeded up the long moraine on the true right side of the steep Longwell Glacier tongue to a point where we could traverse onto the gentler upper part of the glacier and thence to camp on the Harlin Icefield.
Next day we continued along the eastern margin of the icefield to a little col where a small glacier spills over eastward into a minor tributary of the Fool’s River. The peak on the south side of the col, “Reconnaissance Peak,” involved about a thousand feet of scrambling on solid, erosion- pitted limestone. From the summit we obtained a fine view of sharp peaks lying between the two forks of the Fool’s River, a worthy objective for this last portion of the expedition. After returning to the col, we also climbed “Brintnell Peak,” the massive, sedimentary peak to the north. A long, tiring climb up loose scree placed us atop a subsidiary summit separated from the main summit by two deep gaps. Some precarious scrambling was necessary along this section of ridge, and it was late afternoon and raining lightly when we reached the summit. A rapid descent was made down a scree chute on the south, to the icefield. We quickly regained the col, donned our packs and started down the small glacier to the east. Below the glacier we continued down to the level valley of the western fork of the Fool’s River where we made camp in a grassy, forget- me-not-covered meadow.
This valley lies entirely in the sedimentary zone; its head presents a gentle, terraced karst terrain, with no surface drainage. Its eastern wall is dominated by two pyramidal limestone peaks, “Das Abendhorn” to the north and “Plymouth Peak” to the south, the latter situated on the divide between the Fool’s River and the Fish Kettle River. East of these peaks, the igneous rock resumes once more.
On August 4, above the lush meadows of the valley, we turned left into the deep cirque between “Das Abendhorn” and “Plymouth Peak,” heading for the attractive peak at the southeast corner, which we called “Das Nebelhorn.” Passing a lovely, green lake on the north, we cram- poned up a sinuous glacier to its upper névé basin. Crevasses near the top of the steep snow below the col between “Das Abendhorn” and “Plymouth Peak,” caused some difficulties. We climbed eastward out of the col, which is formed along the granite-sedimentary contact line. A traverse on south- facing snowfields led to the notch between “Das Nebelhorn” and “Zebra Spire,” a large tower on the northwest ridge of the former. A diagonal route across the west face of “Das Nebelhorn” was airy but not especially difficult, and led to the flat, narrow summit. On the descent, we also climbed “Zebra Spire” by its south ridge, a spectacular third-class scramble. Back at the col, we started up the east ridge of “Plymouth Peak.” Except for a section of loosely piled, cubical pebbles, the route was on steep, firm limestone, generally provided with an abundance of fine holds. Halfburied in the summit cornice, we found a small cairn left by the Yale expedition. The northwest ridge offered a quick and easy descent to the valley, and we were back at camp by early evening.
East of “Das Nebelhorn” is “Die Eisspitze,” one of the most beautiful peaks on the Fool’s River drainage. We ascended the glacier above the green lake again, this time climbing the névé above to the low col to the east. We descended the east side of this col with some difficulty to another small glacier, which we crossed to the base of the northwest ridge of “Die Eisspitze.” A steep, icy shelf was followed diagonally left to the center of the north face, where a thin veneer of frozen snow allowed us to kick steps up the 55° ice sheet to a sharp, false summit. The triple-pronged true summit was reached by a little knife-edge and some steep ice patches on its west face. Here again, we found one of the Yale expedition’s cairns. Considerable caution was necessary on the descent, as the snow was already softening and threatening to avalanche. We next climbed “Mandible Peak,” a small summit north of the col across which we had come earlier in the day. We crossed the glacier below “Die Eisspitze” and climbed a boulder slope and a steep snow chute to a notch in the peak’s east ridge, which was easily followed to the summit. From there we continued westward along the ridge to “Das Abendhorn.” Halfway, is a cluster of three sharp granite teeth, the central one of which we climbed by its east face ; an involved route was worked out traversing below the south side of the western tooth. The east ridge of “Das Abendhorn” was an easy scramble, except for a short vertical step, where the friable nature of the limestone justified the use of one piton. We descended by the long and somewhat difficult northwest ridge.
The following day, Pat and I made an easy ascent via the south arête of “Marble Mountain,” a minor sedimentary peak north of “Das Abendhorn.”
We got an early start on August 7, planning to go down the Fool’s River to the junction of the two forks, then to follow up the east fork and climb at least one of the peaks there. However, after battling heavy bush, we changed our plans and instead climbed Mount Ida, a long grind up talus slopes on the south side. Centrally located and isolated, this peak commands a superb view of a large section of the range and gave us the opportunity to correlate our knowledge of the area.
The next day in order to study the region south of the Fish Kettle River, we climbed “Karst Mountain,” a peak about two miles due west of “Plymouth Peak.” We wandered leisurely up the valley, then right, across the jagged karrenfelder to a low, glacier-covered pass north of the peak. The summit was reached by cramponing up a sheet of glacial ice on the northwest face.
A day of heavy rain and fog followed, and on August 10 we started back towards Brintnell Lake, returning as we had come. We found the Brintnell River swollen to nearly a foot above its previous level. In attempting to cross, Stu was swept off his feet and barely managed to swim with his pack to the opposite shore. Pat and I managed to find a slightly shallower place to cross. After drying soaked gear, we continued down the Brintnell to our earlier campsite below Mount Harrison Smith. The next afternoon, we returned to Brintnell Lake. On the evening of August 13, we were met by our pilot and flown back to Watson Lake.
Nearly all of the major peaks on the Brintnell and Fool’s River drainages have now been climbed. However, the “Circjue of the Unclimbables” still offers a multitude of unclimbed routes which should provide a challenge to rock climbers for years to come. In variety and difficulty of potential routes, this single cluster of peaks is at least the equal of any of the more famous areas of North America. In the region south of the Fish Kettle River there are untold possibilities for ascents of virgin summits, and there are many important unclimbed peaks to the north and west of the Harlin and Flint Icefields. It is hoped that in the future this splendid range will receive more of the attention which it so rightly deserves.
Summary of Statistics
Area: Logan Mountains, Northwest Territories, Canada.
(All first ascents except where noted. All ascents made by Buckingham, Hoadley and Krebs unless otherwise noted.)
“Huey’s Spire,” July 4, 1960 (entire party).
“Terrace Tower,” July 5, 1960.
“Crescent Peak,” July 7, 1960.
“Trident Peak,” July 9, 1960 (Shepard) and July 11, 1960.
“Mount Flattop,” July 10, 1960.
“Ziegeberg,” July 11, 1960.
“Mount Meringue” and “Phenocryst Spire,” July 12, 1960 (entire party).
“Parrot Beak Peak,” “Tathagata Tower” and “Lotus Flower Tower,” July 16, 1960.
Mount Sir. James MacBrien, July 17, 1960, third ascent, new variation.
“Mount Contact,” July 23, 1960 (entire party). (First ascent in 1955.)
“Cat Crest,” “Mount Contact” and “Mount Proboscis,” July 29, 1960.
“Middle Cathedral Peak” and Mount Harrison Smith, July 31, 1960, third ascent, new route.
“Reconnaissance Peak” and “Brintnell Peak,” August 3, 1960.
“Das Nebelhorn,” “Zebra Spire” and “Plymouth Peak,” August 4, 1960, the last a second ascent by a new route.
“Die Eisspitze,” “Mandible Peak,” “Middle Tooth” and “Das Abend- horn,” August 4, 1960, the first a second ascent by a new route.
“Marble Mountain,” August 6, 1960, second ascent (Buckingham, Hoadley).
Mount Ida, August 7, 1960, second ascent.
“Karst Mountain,” August 8, 1960.
Personnel: William Buckingham, Mason C. Hoadley, Stuart Krebs, Stanley Shepard.