American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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North America, Canada, British Columbia, Northern Selkirks

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1961

Northern Selkirks. On July 31 Colossal Enterprises reconvened near Downie Creek on the western side of the northern Selkirks. The party consisted of W. L. Putnam, W. Blesser, Paul Doherty, J. Williamson, W. Herlihy, J. L. Stackpole, S. J. Smith, H. Trapp, and B. G. Ferris, Jr. The purpose of the trip was to train and to pass on the qualifications of the participants for various grades of leadership as specified by the Leadership Committee of the Appalachian Mountain Club. The route went up Kelly Creek via horse trail to the snow which led to a col southwest of Carnes Peak. Beyond the col we had to cross an unsuspected valley before we reached the Carnes Glacier three days after starting. From this camp, an east-west traverse and first ascent was made of Phogg Peak (ca. 9000 feet on the east shoulder of Carnes and north of the col by Carnes Towers) and a second ascent was made of the South Carnes Tower. Carnes Peak was attempted by the south ridge but the first large gendarme presented more difficulties than we wished to cope with. The east ridge had two large clefts which deterred any attempts by that route.

At this camp, Blesser and Herlihy left the party for medical reasons, and the seven remaining climbed the second col south of the South Carnes' Tower and had a glorious glissade down the other side. A miserable bushwhack ensued followed by unsuccessful attempts to cross Dismal Creek by wading and by cutting two trees as fall-logs. A crossing was finally made two miles down stream on a natural fall-log and here’s where we camped. Another day was required to bushwhack up from the Creek to the Downie Lake area, where we had a fine camp by a clear rushing stream that appeared out of the rocks at the head of the cirque and disappeared into a cavern at the top of the cliffs we had ascended. From this camp, the second and third recorded ascents were made of Mount Baal. Mount Moloch was attempted by the northeast ridge but snow conditions at about 9500 feet, 100 feet below the ridge, forced a retreat. We then crossed over the pass southeast of Sisson. The first recorded ascent was made of Sisson (9688 feet) although a sardine can was located on the top. Camp was made at timberline on the drainage to Tangier Creek. The next day we camped at Tangier Summit, and the day after at Sorcerer Pass. On the afternoon of our arrival at Sorcerer Pass, Peak A (8950 feet) north of Sorcerer Pass was climbed and the projected route reconnoitered. The party had been on restricted rations since leaving the Carnes Group because of limited food supplies. Because of this and as a result of the reconnaissance, we decided to curtail our plans and increase the food rations. We pushed on the next day in the hope of hitting a continuation of a high ridge that would swing around the Alphabet Group to Downie Peak. In the process, we climbed Follie Peak (ca. 8500 feet). Views from here were not encouraging: sheer cliffs ahead and a tedious rock ridge to the left that turned away from the direction we wished to go. Back down we went to camp at timber- line. The next day we started for the Downie Creek Auto Court. We reached it four days later on August 18, but not until after we had rappelled down the last 60 feet of the cliffs which we had descended into the Sorcerer Creek valley, after we had bypassed a large forest fire, and after we had camped one night by sheer coincidence in the same spot where Putnam and his party had made their crossing of Downie Creek in 1956.

Benjamin G. Ferris, Jr. and William L. Putnam

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