American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, California Mount St. Elias Expedition

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1973

California Mount St. Elias Expedition. Arriving at Kluane Lake on June 9, Bill Feldmann, David Gladstone, Richard May, Charles Ringrose, Timothy Tracey and I had by June 13 been landed by ski-wheel plane at a Base Camp at the junction of the Jeannette and Seward Glaciers (6200 feet), had carried supplies to Jeannette Col and arranged two airdrops on the Newton side. Following the route of the 1971 Hall party, we ascended the five-mile snow slope to Jeannette Col (9000 feet), then descended steep snow on the south side to set up Camp I at 8000 feet on June 13. (To avoid cliffs, route of descent begins several hundred feet southeast of the low point of the Col, drops straight for the first 600 feet—fixed rope would be helpful—then goes right diagonally down to the glacier.) After some bad weather, Camp II was established on June 17 by our first airdrop at 7000 feet. From here, we descended to the Newton Glacier (6000 feet) by passing directly below the ridge extending southwest from Mount Jeannette and continued up the Newton to place Camp III in the uppermost icefall at 7500 feet on June 20. Then, unable to find a route through above this point, we retreated to 7000 feet and ascended the glacier between the east and southeast ridges of St. Elias, setting up Camp IV at 8700 feet on June 21. From this camp, we crossed the east ridge and descended to the main Newton about half a mile above the upper icefall, where on June 25 we recovered our second airdrop (8600 feet). The only obstacle on this route was a 30-foot icy overhang on the north side of the ridge, where it was necessary to place a fixed rope for climbing and hauling packs. On June 26, passing through the avalanche danger zone of the upper Newton basin between midnight and four A.M. (time of least activity), we carried camp and five-days’ food up steep snow slopes and through an intricate crevasse field to Russell Col where Camp V was set up (12,300 feet). After waiting out a three-day storm, all six expedition members reached the summit of Mount St. Elias (18,008 feet) on June 30 via the Abruzzi Ridge route in a 23-hour round trip climb from the Col. We descended from Russell Col on July 1, again traveling by night through the avalanche area and after climbing the fixed rope and hauling packs up the overhang, dropped down to a campsite at 7000 feet. Then, in continuing good weather, we crossed Jeannette Col and returned to Base Camp on July 3; we were picked up by our glacier pilot the next day.

Barbara Lilley

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