American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Interior Ranges, Battle Range, Southern Selkirks

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

Battle Range, Southern Selkirks. A party of 14, plus the notorious canine alpinist, Chugach, under the leadership of Bill Putnam, visited the Melville group of the Battle Range in August. Notable accomplishments were the reconstruction of the Glacier Circle hut, the first overland north-south high-country traverse of the southern Selkirks from Rogers Pass to the Melvilles, and several first ascents in the Battle Range, including the first ascent of the west wall of Mount Moby Dick. For logistic reasons the party was split into two main groups. On July 31 Arnold Wexler, David Michael, John Markel and I were ferried by helicopter to the headwaters of the south fork of Butters Creek. On the same day, eight others—Bill Putnam, Graham, Corky, Kim and Weegie Matthews, Davy Jones, Donald Daem and Jim Fitzgerald—were “choppered”, along with supplies and building materials, to Glacier Circle from Rogers Pass to join Lowell Putnam, Kevin Mitchell, “Craw” Boss and Andy Tuthill, who had previously crossed the Illecillewaet Glacier on foot from the Wheeler hut. Reconstruction of the Glacier Circle cabin proceeded from August 1 to 7. Members of the party also found time to climb Mount Topham and to make new ascents, or variations of old ones, on the east ridge of Mount Selwyn, the north glacier of Mount Augustine and on Mount Cyprian. On August 8 after the arrival of Sally Boy and Rob Wallace, ten members of the group, plus Chugach, set off southward for a rendezvous with the Butters Creek Party. We crossed the Deville névé the same day, went over a 10,000-foot notch along the summit ridge of Grand Mountain, then descended on the southeast side to camp on a moraine-covered bench on Grand Glacier midway in line to the summit of Mount Sugarloaf. On the 9th we traversed the summit shoulder of Sugarloaf, crossed high snowfields on the mountain’s southeast basin, thence to the Sugarloaf-Beaver col. and finally, after considerable difficulties, reached a campsite late in the day at timberline above Butters Lake. The next morning we crossed a saddle on the northeast spur of Mount Butters and descended to the south fork of Butters Creek, which we followed to the campsite at 5900 feet, occupied by our predecessors in the area. Meanwhile, the Butters Creek party, after constructing a strong camp and a helicopter landing site, had made a number of climbs. These included the first ascent and first west-east traverse of “Outrigger” (c. 9300 feet), the first ascent of the south ridge of Mount Ahab (10,240 feet) via an unnamed 9500-foot subsidiary summit, with an eventual traverse on the return over the top of Mount Butters (10,460 feet); the first ascent of “Mainmast” (9600 feet and principal summit east of Mount Pequod) and the first recorded ascent of “Foremast” (8800 feet), west of “Mainmast”. Wexler and Michael also put a new route up the northeast side of Mount Pequod, while Markel ferried supplies to the base of Moby Dick’s west wall. After August 10, when the combined party of fourteen was together, members of the group engaged in many climbs. Most notable by far was the four-day first ascent of the west face of Moby Dick (10,460 feet) by Jones, Markel and Wallace. Putnam, Matthews, Mitchell and Tuthill made the first ascent of “Mizzenmast” (c. 9300 feet) from a bivouac camp on meadows high above Butters Creek and the first east-west traverse of “Mainmast.” Kauffman, Daem and Mitchell scaled “Outrigger” from the east. Michael and Daem made the first ascent of “Oomoo” (9000 feet, east of “Outrigger” and west of “Foremast”). Putnam, Wexler and Michael reascended Pequod by the earlier route and made the first ascent of Moby Dick from the east. At the end of the trip, Putnam, Michael and Jones, from a bivouac camp at the north foot of Moby Dick, climbed the north glacier which descends from Mount Proteus (Ishmael), hydrographic apex of the range. While Putnam and Jones scaled Harpoon (c. 10,300 feet) Michael soloed to the summit of Proteus (10,600 feet) from which he brought back records of the 1947 first ascent by the Kauffman-Brewster party. Others made various climbs, among them “Typee” (c. 9500 feet), but generally repeated ascents which had previously been made.

Andrew John Kauffman, 2nd.

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