American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Canada, British Columbia Coast Range, Mount Styx, Bella Coola Range, British Columbia, 1988

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1990

Mount Styx, Bella Coola Range, British Columbia, 1988. On August 28, 1988, Fred Beckey, Stimson Bullitt and I made the first ascent of Mount Styx (2713 meters, 8900 feet). The biggest obstacle to successful ascents in this region is the weather. Storms from the Pacific move in quickly and frequently. Our first attempt on this remarkably beautiful peak took place the year before, in 1987. We flew to Bella Coola from Vancouver. Veteran mountaineer and local resident, Frank Cook, generously provided transportation to the back country. After a bumpy, two-hour ride over old logging roads, we arrived at Purgatory Lake. Since the river was too deep and swift for a safe crossing, we paddled across the lake in two rubber rafts, carefully avoiding floating chunks of ice spewed by the hanging glacier nearby. After a short bushwhack, we proceeded up the forested north flank of the mountain. Traversing upward across slabby rock, interspersed with waterfalls and brush, we reached the north shoulder just before sundown and established our high camp. We planned to climb the remaining 3000 feet of glacier and steep rock the next day. That night, the weather broke. The descent was wet and unpleasant in the whiteout the next morning. On August 27, 1988, during a predicted “window” of good weather, the same team of three drove from Seattle to Vancouver and caught the plane for Bella Coola. We transferred our gear to a waiting helicopter and flew to the north shoulder of Mount Styx by midday. There were several hours of daylight left and so Bullitt and I proceeded up the glacier to reconnoiter a route through the crevasses and icefall. Beckey remained to set up camp. Early the next morning, we retraced our steps from the day before. The crux of the climb was crossing a rather complex bergschrund onto the imposing northwest face. This entailed a pitch of steep ice. The face was uncomplicated and allowed for quick upward movement via 40° snowfields and broken ribs of rock. The summit was reached early in the afternoon, just as another storm arrived from the Pacific.

Alex Bertulis

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