American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Burkett, Kates Needle and Other Ascents, Stikine Icefield

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1966

Burkett, Kates Needle and Other Ascents, Stikine Icefield. The Scottish- Canadian Coast Range Expedition finally consisted of Norman Harthill, John Denton, David Wessel, Kenneth Bryan, George Liddle, Edward Thompson and myself as leader. The area visited was the Stikine Icefield, lying west of the Stikine River. Glaciers run out to sea-level from peaks of 9000 to 10,000 feet of mixed ice and rock (both igneous and sedimentary, nearly always loose and badly shattered). Bad weather delayed for a few days our flight by helicopter into the heart of the mountains. During this period we decided to make Mount Burkett our first objective and to set up a Base Camp at the head of the Flood Glacier at 2800 feet. On July 17, when the weather permitted, this Base was established and a cache of food, fuel and equipment successfully dropped onto the icefield at 6400 feet. The poor weather prevented placing a second cache intended further north near to Ratz. From a high camp on the icefield, Cache Camp, Mount Burkett (9800 feet) was successfully climbed on July 25 by Bryan, Harthill, Liddle and Thompson after two earlier reconnaissance trips and bivouacs on the southeast flank. (All were first ascents except where noted.) The final route lay along the general line of the southeast ridge, following for 2000 feet the junction of rock on this ridge with steep ice and snow on the east face; the climbing was continuously severe. Cache Camp also formed the base for ascents of "Tent Peak” (8700 feet) northeast of Burkett, climbed on July 21 by Wessel, Thompson and me, and of "Talisker Peak” (9200 feet), climbed on July 29 by Bryan and Harthill. Both were moderate climbs. A minor ascent was also recorded of "Burkett Spur” (8200 feet) on the southeast flank of Burkett on July 20 by Wessel and me. From July 24 to 29, Denton, Wessell and I traversed 20 miles to the north of the region to attempt the southeast ridge of Ratz. (Beckey’s party climbed the mountain by the east ridge.) A short spell of bad weather cut climbing time to a minimum and prevented the climb from being pushed through. This ridge, although loose in sections, is most probably a feasible route for a strong rock party. Wessel also made a minor ascent: "Pulpit” (8300 feet), due east of Ratz on July 27. After evacuation of Cache Camp on July 30, climbs were made from Base Camp on Flood Glacier. On July 31 Wessel, Denton and I found Dominion Peak (7200 feet) a moderate but very pleasant climb. Bryan and Harthill made the second ascent of Kates Needle (10,005 feet) on August 1 from the head of Flood Glacier via a 4000-foot buttress with a bivouac just below the north ridge; this ridge to the summit was badly corniced and required severe ice climbing. Denton, Thompson and I climbed Mount Gilroy (9400 feet) on August 2 via the same 4000-foot buttress and its south ridge; we ascended steep ice to the summit cone and then descended by the west flank. Apart from the days that delayed the flight in and two short days of heavy cloud and storm, which gave the Burkett party a hazardous return to Cache Camp on the day following their ascent, the weather remained generally excellent through to the second week of August. A high pressure area that centered over the Alaskan Panhandle brought a departure from the notoriously poor weather of the area.

Derek Fabian, Scottish Mountaineering Club

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