American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Mount Dall Attempt, Alaska Range

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1971

Mount Dall Attempt, Alaska Range. In 1902 after a spectacular expedition up the Yentna River, during which he sighted the 8756-foot peak, Alfred Hulse Brooks named Mount Dall in honor of Henry Healy Dall (1845-1927): “one of the foremost students, explorers, writers and authorities on Alaskan matters.” Dall can be seen from Anchorage on an infrequent day when it is clear near the peak, the mountain being situated close to appropriately named Rainy Pass. In March, 1966, during one of those rare spells, an Anchorage party consisting of P. and D. Crews, R. Wilson, Lowell Thomas, Jr. and G. Wichman flew to an unnamed glacier east of Mount Dall and set up Base Camp at 5000 feet. In excellent weather they moved up the southeast ridge but retreated from unstable snow conditions. For years Vin and I had eyed the peak in our bold ambition to climb every named peak in south-central Alaska. In April, 1970 Steve Hackett, Ned Lewis and I flew in under the Weather Bureau’s promise of prolonged good weather. None of the first-attempt party could join us. Don Sheldon flew us to the 1966 landing site. That same day, April 25, we advanced to 6500 feet, put up camp and reconnoitered the southeast ridge. In retrospect we should have kept on going that night, but we did not start in earnest till the next morning when ominous clouds commenced to hang around. What had been described in 1966 as incredibly rotten rock proved to be conglomerate with treacherous pebbles baked in loosely. We advanced up the ridge and reached a vertical rotten section, which gave us a choice of the south face or a chute on the east. The chute had no promise of reliable anchor points and so we committed ourselves to the south face, on which Steve did magnificent leads, finding in the mess good cracks and niches to hold pitons. After another hour’s advance – to 8000 feet – the weather deteriorated so much that we abandoned our efforts and descended in a hurry. We reached Base Camp in a total white-out, lucky to find food and equipment before it got irretrievably buried. In this damned spot we sat for days, our tents turning into subterranean dwellings. After five days Sheldon managed to get in and out with difficulty. We planned to go back as soon as all three would be free, but publicity got others interested before we could arrange another assault.

Grace Hoeman, M.D.

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