American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Yukon Territories, Mount Vancouver, Northeast Ridge

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1976

Mount Vancouver, Northeast Ridge. The 1975 M.I.T. Outing Club Expedition assembled in mid-June at Haines Junction. We consisted of Cliff Cantor*, Bob Dangel, Paul Ledoux, Rob Milne*, Hal Murray, Bob Walker, John Yates and me as leader. We conversed briefly with a Japanese party that had just completed an ascent of the north side of Mount Vancouver, a route we had considered as a possible alternative if we found the northeast ridge impractical. On June 16 in the evening, we were transported in three helicopter loads to a strikingly beautiful location near the base of the northeast ridge at 4800 feet on the Hubbard Glacier. The ridge above us rose in a series of steps to a snow-covered peak at 10,600 feet, above which it widened and became easier, merging with the main summit mass at 11,500 feet. We planned a high camp just beyond P 10,600, from which we felt we might push to the summit in one day. Climbing at night to obtain better snow conditions, we explored route possibilities and established Camp I above an active icefall which guarded a large, amphitheater-like basin on the south side of the ridge. From here, we were able to reach the 8200-foot plateau on the ridge with relative ease, occupying Camp II on June 22. We fixed 1100 feet of rope below the plateau to facilitate load carrying. Above the plateau, the ridge rose in three steps to P 10,600, the first step being the most difficult. This was a triangular-shaped face of rock and snow with sharp edges and steep, snow-filled gullies. On the night of June 24, Murray and I climbed up the right side of the face and on to the corniced, knife-edged ridge beyond while Ledoux, Milne, Walker, and Cantor fixed 1600 feet of rope up the central gully. On the night of June 26, following a snowstorm, Murray, Yates, and Cantor fixed 500 feet of rope along the knife-edged ridge, while Walker, Milne, and I fixed another 1000 feet up the central gully of the second step and climbed on over easier terrain to the summit of P 10,600. On the night of June 27, all of us packed loads to Camp III just beyond P 10,600, the rapid progress made possible by virtue of the fixed rope. The night of June 28 was clear and calm. Carrying only bivouac gear, we passed one final ice pitch on the ridge, then intersected the main summit mass up which we climbed with ease. We reached the north summit (15,825 feet), the highest, at about nine A.M. on June 29. The descent was tiresome and slow, but we finally reached Camp III after 17 hours of climbing. By the morning of July 3, we were all back in Base Camp, having removed our fixed ropes and equipment. Dangel and Milne flew back to Haines Junction with most of the climbing gear on July 5, while the rest of us donned skis and shouldered packs for an overlandreturn via the Hubbard and Kaskawulsh Glaciers. We covered 68 miles of spectacular glacial terrain during the next seven days, arriving back at Kluane Lake on July 11.

Barton DeWolf

*Recipients of American Alpine Club Climbing Fellowship grants.

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