American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Yukon Territory, Mount Hubbard

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1981

Mount Hubbard. Andy Williams of Alcan Air had said that we should not be distressed to see clear weather at Kluane Lake and still not be able to fly because of bad weather in the mountains proper. His warning kept recurring in our minds as we basked in the sun on Kluane Lake from May 18 to 24. By 3:30 P.M. on May 24 Peter Hoose, Linda Letourneau, John Murphy, Tim Neale, Tracy Sheer and I were busy setting up camp and sorting gear at 6400 feet on the Cathedral Glacier, which was to serve as Base Camp. En route, Hoose and I were landed at 7800 feet on the south arm of the Kaskawulsh Glacier where we placed a ten-days’ food and fuel cache for our return ski trip. We began the ascent of the lower icefall of the Cathedral about noon on the 25th. Camp II was established that evening at the base of the upper icefall at 8400 feet. The third day, in deference to the extreme heat beneath the cloudless blue skies, which were to continue for 13 of the next 14 days, we delayed leaving camp until six P.M. We found the route through the west side of the upper icefall to be straightforward and fast. We established our high camp at 10,500 feet, beneath the large snow bowl leading east toward Mount Kennedy. On May 27 we left about noon for what was an unsuccessful 9½-hour round-trip attempt to reach the summit of Kennedy. We were able to reach a prominent bergschrund 400 feet below the summit on the south face of the summit pyramid. On May 29, after a day’s rest, we started back up the bowl above us to look at a route we had seen two days before which led between high sérac fields on the northwest face of Mount Hubbard and disappeared toward the north ridge of Hubbard (first climbed by Poles in August, 1974). Turning left out of the bowl between Hubbard and Alverstone, we ascended the moderately steep ramp which threads its way between overhanging séracs, crossed a large, open bergschrund, and soon found ourselves on the east- west-trending plateau which rises to the west to meet Hubbard’s north ridge. Twenty minutes later we stood on Hubbard’s summit (15,015 feet). The following day was spent sitting out a small St. Elias storm. On May 31 we descended to Base Camp. On June 2 we packed our sleds and began the traverse to the Kaskawulsh. We skied 12 miles to place camp at 5000 feet on the Lowell Glacier just at the base of a small feeder glacier which bounds the south side of Ulu Mountain. The next day we skied 11 miles, placing camp west of the Cascade Icefall at 4500 feet near the south entrance to a prominent north-south-oriented pass. The pass was only moderately steep and after two hours we skied out onto the upper Lowell and headed across the glacier to a northwest- southeast-trending pass leading onto the upper Dusty Glacier and the bowl at the head of the south arm of the Kaskawulsh. After 8½ miles we camped at 6300 feet three miles east-southeast of our objective canyon. On June 5 we skied six miles to the pass onto the Dusty Glacier. Camp was placed at 8200 feet at the summit of the pass. The next morning brought an easy three-mile ski down to the 7800-foot cache on the south arm of the Kaskawulsh. June 7 was our last full day on the glacier. Peter Hoose and I went for a climb on the ridge which lies north of Pinnacle Peak. Viewed from our camp, looking west, there are two ridges, a south and a north ridge, which give access to a series of aligned summits along the major ridge. We selected the easternmost summit (10,000+ feet). We approached its north ridge by skiing the ramp and bowl leading to its south-southwest side, which enabled us to ski to within 800 feet of the summit. We finished the climb by scrambling up 400 feet of loose scree before using crampons for the final 400 feet of corniced ridge. Phil Upton in Alcan Air’s Helio-Courier picked us up early on the 8th.

James E. Eason, Mountaineering Club of Alaska

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