American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, British Columbia, Mount Stalin, Northern Rockies

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

Mount Stalin, Northern Rockies. The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) Canadian Rocky Mountains Expedition spent over six weeks in the mountains around Wokkpash Lake, which is 25 miles south of Mile 403 on the Alaska Highway. The range was little known, except to trappers and hunters, and had never before been climbed. The principal peaks, reaching 9500 feet in height, are Mounts Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin, and there are hundreds of other peaks of comparable height. The unusual features of the expedition were that it was probably the first of its kind to be mounted by a single infantry regiment and the first to consist mainly of Other Ranks (enlisted men—Editor) instead of officers. The leader was Captain M. F. R. Jones and the deputy leader, Major John Biginell. The other four from the regiment were Sergeant Roy Lemon, Corporals Harry Rogers, Philip Hassett and Brian Holmes. We were driven up the highway in Canadian Army transport to Mile 403, where we began the walk into the mountains. The team now included Lieutenant Colonel S. W. Archibald, ex-C.O. of the 3rd Bn. Royal Canadian Regiment, which is affiliated with the Royal Fusiliers; Colonel Archibald is a practicing surveyor from London, Ontario, and as such was able to make a contribution to the scientific and topographic work of the party. He brought with him an old Cree Indian survey assistant called Sam Chappise. The walk-in occupied 2½ days of hard back-packing with 60 to 70 pound loads through thick bush and up the gravel flats of Wokkpash Creek. On July 23 we reached the chosen site of Base Camp at the head of the Lake. On the 24th the heavy stores and food were flown in by a Beaver float plane of the B.C.-Yukon Air Service. On our training climbs we encountered the principal hazard of mountaineering in the Rockies, loose rock. The first peak (9000 feet; 4 miles east of the south end of Wokkpash Lake) was so dangerous in this respect that we called off the attempt 750 feet from the summit. After that we concentrated on snow and ice peaks, after first training the four Other Ranks in snow and ice techniques. Thus commenced a series of ascents, of which, out of 16 attempts, 13 were successful. Nearly all the peaks required an approach march of several hours, largely through very rough country. One march also involved the crossing of a swift and icy glacial river, an experience so impressive that we decided it would be impracticable to reach Churchill or Roosevelt Peaks, since this would involve crossing even bigger rivers. We therefore concentrated on the fine peaks surrounding Wokkpash Lake, culminating in the Wokkpash Ice Field and Mount Stalin. Our hardest climb—achieved at the second attempt—was on a fine ice peak which we have named "Fusilier Peak” (9000 feet; 7 miles northwest of Mount Stalin). This involved a long glacial approach and a final climb up a 400-foot ice wall of between 50° and 60°. To get on this wall at all we had to cross a wide crevasse and cut steps up vertical ice on the far side safeguarded by ice pitons to reach the higher upper lip. Despite its lack of experience the whole party managed this impressive place with great steadiness. Our highest peak was probably Mount Stalin itself, a big snowy mountain involving rather more hard work than actual difficulty. We also climbed "Merchant Taylors Peak” and "Mercers Peak” (both 8500 feet; 3 miles southeast and east of Mount Stalin respectively). West of Wokkpash Creek we climbed "Mount Devereaux” and "White Spur” (both 8500 feet; 4 miles north and 1 mile northwest of Mount Stalin); and east of the same stream "Spyglass Peak” (8500 feet; 4 miles northeast of Mount Stalin), "Red Ridge” (2 peaks) (7500 feet; 2 miles southeast of southern end of Wokkpash Lake), "White Ridge” (7000 feet) and "Long Mountain” (8500 feet; 1 mile and 3 miles east of the center of Wokkpash Lake respectively). Apart from the climbing, nearly 200 plant and 60 rock specimens were collected and Colonel Archibald undertook the triangulation of some of the higher peaks of the area.

M. F. R. Jones, Army Mountaineering Association

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