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North America, Canada, Yukon Territory, Attempt on McArthur Peak

Attempt on McArthur Peak. June 7 found all six of us, Bill Dougal, Dick Wahlstrom, Lute Jerstad, Steve Johnson, Ron Priebe and me, at 8200 feet on the north ridge of the highest unclimbed peak in North America, McArthur Peak (14,400 feet). On June 8, under clear skies, three members started with heavy loads for Camp I, which we hoped to establish at 10,600 feet. After finding a sheltered spot at about that elevation, I stayed and dug a cave while the other two pushed a route higher up the ridge through knee-deep snow. Meanwhile the balance of the party moved up and we all spent a cramped night in the "ice grotto.” On June 9 we awakened to light snowfall but climbed up the ridge despite the weather. At about 12,000 feet the slope steepened and led to a knife-edge and eventually to the rock outcrop below the summit plateau (the highest point reached during the 1953 attempt). By this time it was snowing a blizzard. Lute and Dick managed to piton their way up the 100-foot, ice-filled, rock gully with the aid of ice screws in order to attach a fixed rope. Rappelling to the ridge, we all headed down through the storm, pleased with our accomplishment. The storm kept us at our cave at Base Camp for the next two days. On June 12 we waded up again through hip-deep drifts. At three p.m. we reached Camp I, dug out our cached supplies and rested before continuing our ascent to the base of the knife-edge where at six o’clock we set up camp. The next day we climbed the ridge up our fixed rope and onto the plateau. Though the weather soon closed in and by mid-afternoon we were in the midst of another blizzard, we did our best to find a route up the final summit pyramid but were forced back 300 feet below the top. On our descent Steve fell 70 feet into a hidden crevasse but was quickly rescued by the rest of the party. On June 16 and 17, once again in a storm, we moved up to 14,000 feet and dug a cave to wait for a clearing in visibility and another try, but we had no luck. By June 20 we had all been flown back to Kluane Lake and were on our way home.

Gary D. Rose