American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Yukon Territory, Mount Logan, South-Southwest Ridge

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1980

Mount Logan, South-Southwest Ridge. After four unsuccessful attempts, the south-southwest ridge of Mount Logan was climbed in June by Alan Burgess, Jim Elzinga, John Laughlan and me. After fifteen miserable, wet days at Kluane Lake, we were finally flown by fixed-wing plane and chopper to the large south cirque of Logan, between our buttress on the left and the Hummingbird Ridge. Base Camp was set up at 9000 feet where we acclimatized for two days and placed bets on the timing of the next avalanche. We climbed the initial 2500-foot couloir during the short arctic night to dodge the rockfall. A camp was established on a 55° ice slope at the head of the gully just short of the first major difficulties. A rock band gave some interesting problems up to F8 and led on to a Peruvian-type ridge with mushrooms, bottomless snow, poor belays and a lot of swearing and cussing. The climbing was never extreme but the going was slow and tedious. Finally at 14,000 feet we stumbled across the previous stopper on the route. First A1 Burgess and I shoveled a way up a nearly vertical trough of powdery fluff, then John Laughlan led, fell, and led again through a rotten band of rock (F8+), the site of last year’s accident which had left Jim Elzinga with a slight dent in his head. We waited for two hours while A1 traversed 30 feet of vertical, bottomless snow with 2000 feet of gravity pulling down on him. The weather turned awful while we struggled up the easy but horrendously dangerous snow-and-ice slope below the crux rock band. Camp VI was perched at the head of the big snow slope, two platforms having been hacked out of the ice on a small rib running down from the rocks. Two nights later, still waiting for decent weather, all hell broke loose; a small slide came down from the rocks, ripped through one tent, burying A1 and throwing me down the face for a small, unwanted ride. Two hours later, with the tent mended, scared silly and braced against the wall, we couldn’t decide whether there was more snow inside or outside the tent. The weather allowed us to pack up. Jim broke trail again with his usual burst of energy. John led into the thick of the rock band while A1 and I retrieved the ropes and ferried the packs. Although the temperature had sunk to unbearable levels, we hacked out a ledge to sit down, but it was too cold to stay. A1 led off through mixed ground. His crampons broke and the rock leaned back. Toes got numb; the body weakened. A crevasse at 17,000 feet became home. One day more, but a long one. We all left the summit ridge to walk up a wind-protected snow slope. At 18,000 feet A1 and I struck straight up the col. John and Jim went right along the summit plateau. Nobody really knew where the summit was. At eleven P.M. on June 30 after 15 days, A1 and I reached the summit during a spectacular and fitting sunset. John and Jim went on to the top the next day. We all descended the normal route on skis and were even able to make an epic of that. Mount Logan never gives up.

Raymond Jotterand, Alpine Club of Canada

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