American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Yukon Territory, Mounts Hubbard and Kennedy and Tragedy on the Weisshorn

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1975

Mounts Hubbard and Kennedy and Tragedy on the Weisshorn. After the ascent of Mount McKinley, our Polish expedition changed its activities to the St. Elias Mountains. With the help of a helicopter, we established a new base camp on the Cathedral Glacier at 7500 feet and a high camp at 11,500 feet. From there Henryk Furmanik, Adam Bilczewski, Janusz Baranek and I on August 13 climbed Hubbard (15,015 feet), the last part being on the north ridge, and on August 15 ascended Kennedy (13,905 feet), the last part being on the west ridge. Just after the descent we were tied down by an uninterrupted ten-day storm at our Cathedral Glacier Base Camp. Then in beautiful weather on August 28, joined by Krzysztof Tomaszewski, we started to cross the 1700- foot-high icefall separating the Cathedral Glacier from the basin below the west slopes of the still unclimbed Weisshorn (11,620 feet). Jerzy Kalla remained in Base Camp to keep radio contact. We reached the basin that afternoon after a difficult and complicated climb. We immediately set out to attempt the unnamed peak (c. 11,500 feet) southwest of the Weisshorn but were forced by difficulties and the dark to put off the ascent. We bivouacked without tents near a lone ice block on the bottom of the basin. At 7:30 the next morning a great part of the snowfield above broke loose and a huge avalanche of snow blocks and loose snow flowed down. Bilszewski, Baranek and I retreated to the north side of the block. The avalanche front was some 30 feet high. It seemed to stop but the tongues of the avalanche flowed around the block, leaving only six feet of free space in the shadow of the block. We three found ourselves in that space. My foot was covered with compressed snow. Furmanik and Tomaszewski were covered. We immediately tried to excavate them, but it was impossible. All equipment was buried: ice axes, ropes, radio, even Bilczewski’s boots. The dangerous descent across icefield walls and crevasses was done without rope, Bilczewski in stocking feet. In the next days there were helicopter trips to the place of tragedy, but the unsuccessful action was finished on September 6.

Adam Zyzak, Klub Wysokogórski, Poland

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