American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Boundary Peaks, Denver and Meade Glaciers, Southeast of Skagway

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

Boundary Peaks, Denver and Meade Glaciers, Southeast of Skagway. Twenty straight days of misery were spent by our party on the upper Denver and Meade glaciers from August 19 to September 7. In five horrible days, Ron Miller, Margaret Piggott, Mike Wiley and I reached in a white-out a point on the Denver Glacier that we hoped was at the foot of Boundary Peak 109. We made camp as the first real storm moved in. After three days of blizzard, August 27 broke clear and sunny at ten A.M. Above us was Peak 109- With renewed enthusiasm we climbed its rocky north-northwest ridge, over the north peak and south into a steep notch and then on to the highest point of snow on the 6930-foot south peak for a first ascent. Mike had to return home and we then saw him off the glacier to combat the wilderness for the next several days by himself. That same afternoon we climbed a beautiful 7100-foot peak with a 100-foot rock tower at its summit, down whose eastern and northern aspects cascaded a broken glacier. It is located 2½ miles south of Peak 109. We climbed the steep rock and snow west-northwest ridge. The following day, August 28, we headed north from camp to climb an easy Canadian peak (7150 feet), a mile east of Peak 109. From its south side on the Denver Glacier, we climbed to a high saddle on its southeast ridge and up this long easy rock crest to the top. August 29 was another typically fine day, heavy overcast and light snow. We retraced part of yesterday’s route and crossed a low saddle on P 7150’s east ridge and from there plodded hour after hour to the east-northeast across an endless white Sahara at 5500 feet towards the 7000-foot peak 4½ miles east of Peak 109- We finally reached its virgin summit at five p.m. via the rocky west ridge. On August 31 in threatening weather we left camp for Mount Bagot (also officially designated as Boundary Peak 107). The government boundary description says the mountain "has three rocky summits or peaks. The west and middle peaks are slightly higher than the east peak, and the west one is divided into two peaklets, of which the eastern one is the boundary peak; elevation 7155 feet.” Although it does not specifically, say so, one would expect the boundary point to be the highest. We gained the north buttress at 4700 feet, nearly its lowest point to the Meade Glacier. After continuing up the buttress and crossing a rocky 5800-foot knoll, we traversed up and right on Bagot’s northwest face to the west ridge. A long rock scramble took us over the west peaklet and on shortly to the boundary point on the east peaklet. To our disbelief, 200 yards away and somewhat higher was the middle peak, the true summit, separated from us by a sharply broken and pinnacled ridge. Careful Brunton pocket transit readings showed the middle peak to be 10 feet higher and in Canada. It was five p.m., we were soaking wet from the rain, nearly numb with the driving wind, and yet we went on. We traversed and descended steep rotten rock on the southeast face, crossed the schrund, and with no trouble reached the higher middle peak at seven p.m. Now came our problem. Rather than reclimb the rotten southeast face, we traversed down around the mountain to regain the west ridge. In thick white-out and darkness, we bypassed the narrow snow finger going up to the ridge and found ourselves hopelessly trapped by cliffs, an icefall, darkness and miserably cold weather. In a survival-size snow cave which it took four hours to dig, we fought off numbness for hour after hour in our cramped positions, waiting for first light to travel. When light came, we had to drive each other to get going, found the snow finger and in six hours of rainy travel got back to camp, where we collapsed for two days in terrible weather. Ron had apparently frostbitten his feet in the bivouac and now had a bad case of emersion foot. For five days he had to force himself, step by step, on hideously painful feet, to follow us across glaciers, down rocks out to civilization. Thanks to medical care the only permanent injury will be inability to withstand cold.

Kenneth C. Carpenter

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