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North America, Canada, Yukon Territory, Mount Steele Attempt

Mount Steele Attempt. Because the upper Chitina was too crevassed for a fixed-wing aircraft, we planned to land on the Walsh-Steele col. From there we would carry camps up the long, 10-mile southeast ridge of Mount Steele, traverse Steele and climb Lucania. Finally on May 3, after several attempts by plane were foiled by weather, Bob Dunbar flew us by helicopter to the col. From Base Camp we set up Camps I and II at 11,500 and 12,500 feet, relaying three times on skis. We traversed the 14,200-foot dome on crampons and set up Camp III at 13,500 feet on the dome’s northwest side. Because of weather and illness, it was not until May 18 that we made a summit bid on Steele. At 4:30 P.M. Bill McIntosh and I were still only at 16,150 feet and Ed Bennington and Rick Checkland were on the other rope 250 feet above us. The weather was deteriorating rapidly. Suddenly there was a frantic shout. The other two slid by us at fantastic speed down the 45° hard-packed slope. Incredibly Rick managed to arrest 200 feet below us, just short of a lip above the cirque a mile below. Luckily Rick suffered only two sprained ankles and Ed had two shiners. Ed’s axe had been torn from his wrist, but Rick’s was on a three-foot sling and thus was not torn off. We regrouped into one long rope of four to return to Camp III. We contacted Whitehorse by radio next morning and were flown out from Camp III the same day.

John G. Adler, Alpine Club of Canada