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North America, Canada, Northwest Territories, The Cirque of the Unclimbales, Logan Mountains

The Cirque of the Unclimbables, Logan Mountains. Jamie Farrar and I repeated Buckingham’s 1960 routes with minor variations on Terrace Tower, Crescent Spire, and Sir James MacBrien. After abandoning one attempt on the south face of Phenocryst Spires, we returned to climb a large dihedral which splits the face between Phenocryst and the high point between it and Huey’s Spire. Nine long pitches of primarily crack climbing led to a gap on the narrow ridge between Huey’s and Phenocryst. The final pitch to the ridge was an appealing variety of jams, laybacks, and face-climbing. Four pitches along the ridge led to the high point which we had seen from below. Here we discovered a cairn built by a previous party. Nine rappels, utilizing fixed pins, and 500 feet of down-climbing brought us to the moraine above the glacier. One afternoon Bill Putnam and I climbed a snow couloir which led to the ridge joining Harrison-Smith and West Cathedral Peak. This is a finger-like slope near the upper end of the first cirque, separated by a broad rock rib from What-Notch. Averaging 45° at the bottom, the slope steepened to about 60° near the top. Climbing on glacial ice or ice mantled with a couple of inches of snow, we moved continuously the entire way, except near the top where we belayed from inside several crevasses. We attained the ridge and a nearby high point in three hours of climbing. Upon later inspection we believe this to be the summit ofthe fourth Pentadactyl Spire, previously unclimbed. The precipitous nature of the surrounding terrain forced us to down-climb our ascent route. Using our three ice screws judiciously, we descended 18 pitches without mishap in just over three hours. Later in August (we were there from the 10th to the 26th), Mark Kremen and I repeated Buckingham’s route on Meringue. On our final day of climbing, Farrar and I did the second ascent of the southeast ridge of Sir James MacBrien, a spectacularly situated climb, requiring one pitch of aid and offering some superb crack and slab climbing.

Doug Burbank