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North America, Canada, Canadian Rockies, Roosevelt-Churchill Group

Roosevelt-Churchill Group, Northern Rockies. During late July and early August, Rich Gnagy, Barbara Lilley, Alex McDermott, Mike McNicholas, Marcia Wallerstein and I visited the group of unclimbed peaks west of Fort Nelson, British Columbia, and just south of the Alaska Highway. Except for prospecting, the area had apparently been first explored during the war since the only named peaks are Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin. Mount Stalin and several other peaks in the Wokpash Valley were climbed in 1960 by an expedition led by Capt. R. Jones of the Royal Fusiliers. (A.A.J., 1961, 12:2, pp. 390-1.) Prior to entering the mountains, Marcia and I made inquiries at Fort Nelson and flew a reconnaissance flight over the area. Thus the existence of a new copper mine, air strip and several cat roads was revealed. On July 23, all six were flown to the miner’s air strip on Churchill Creek by Bob Veale of Northern Air Services. The following day we set up a camp a few miles south of Mount Roosevelt, which we climbed via snowfields and an easy rock scramble. After a ride down to Delano Creek in the miners’ truck and a day of rain, we set up a side camp about three miles east of Peak 9381. The attempt to climb the peak the next day failed due to the combination of a late, wet start, a long route, and continuing snow showers. After a rest and showers at the miners’ camp, two food caches were placed by helicopter (cost: $130 per hour) and a camp was set up at a meadow near the pass between Churchill Creek and the Gataga River. During the next two days, peaks of about 8900 and 9100 feet, south and north of the pass were ascended by class-3 snow and rock routes. Camp was then moved to the second food cache just west of Mount Churchill (Marmot Meadows), from which Churchill was climbed via the easy slabs of the northwest ridge. The next six days were spent walking first south to the Gataga River and then eastward over a pass to Tuchodi Lake. From a camp ten miles west of Tuchodi Lake an attempt was made to climb a peak of about 9600 feet, but a late start after a night of rain and snow combined with continuing snow showers and the long distance to the peak proved to be too discouraging. On Friday, August 12, a float plane piloted by Steve Villers of Northern Air Services brought everyone out to Fort Nelson. A few comments on the area around Mounts Roosevelt and Churchill are probably in order since the area has not been visited by climbers from the American Continent before. There are still a number of worthwhile unclimbed peaks near the head of Delano Creek, Peak 9381, and in the area west of Tuchodi Lake. We found most of the peaks to be easier to climb and much safer than are the rivers to cross. August or even September are preferable for travelling rather than June or July. Two geological points are worth noting. An enormous rockslide was discovered in the Gataga drainage about 20 miles west of Tuchodi Lake. It was reported to have come down in 1964, possibly as a result of the Good Friday earthquake. The numerous small glaciers in the area give a distinct appearance of stagnation. This is probably due to the combination of cold dry winters and cool wet summers resulting in low rates of both accumulation and ablation.

George Wallerstein