American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Northwest Chugach

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1968

Northwest Chugach. The northwest Chugach is separated from the main range by an 8950-foot untraversed pass between the Marcus Baker and Matanuska glaciers. This elliptical segment of mountains measures 50 miles east to west and 25 miles north to south and contains several nameable 10,000-foot peaks (highest 10,955 feet) as well as one newly named one, Mount Sergeant Robinson (10,650 feet). However, the highest areas of these mountains have not yet been visited by mountaineers. Although the northern edge of this section of mountains has been known and partially mapped since 1898 and has allured many passers-by since the completion of Glenn Highway in World War II, the Matanuska River has drowned several persons and is an effective barrier to casual summer mountaineering. Bodenburg Butte (881 feet) and Lazy Mountain (3720 feet) at the western end of the ellipse are so easy that their climbs are unrecorded and Matanuska Peak (6119 feet), the first significant mountain eastward was climbed by 1938. (Babcock, Hackney, Ireton and a dog made the first winter ascent March 12, 1967). Kings Mountain (5809 feet) protrudes impressively enough from the northern edge of the range that at least two parties crossed the river to climb it in the 1940s, and more ascents have been made since a toll cable was installed by the lodge at its base. Its first winter ascent was made by Hackney and Ireton in a party led by Babcock on March 4, 1967. Winter mountaineering with the advantage of crossing the Matanuska River on the ice has just caught on this year. On February 12 my wife and I made the first ascent of Pinnacle Mountain (4541 feet) in this manner, our ascent being by the west ridge, and three attempts were made on Peak 8290, which at just six miles from Glenn Highway is the closest mountain over 8000 feet to any road in Alaska, but is, we believe, unclimbed despite the spurious claim of a hunting guide to have “been up their lotsa times and shot a goat right on top.” The best and highest climb yet made in these mountains was done July 3 by D. P. Johnston, John Samuelson, and Hans Van der Laan when they made the first ascent of “Skybuster” or “Ice Cream Cone Mountain” (8675 feet) by its northeast ridge, the highest mountain for a dozen miles in any direction. (See account below.) The only named summit in the group not yet mentioned is Mount Wickersham (7415 feet), which is unclimbed though easily accessible by the Matanuska Glacier, but many virgin peaks await worthy climbers and good names.

J. Vincent Hoeman

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