American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Yukon Territory, Mount Steele, North and South Gemini Peaks, Crag Mountain, P 10,478, Mount Sulzer, P 11,000, P 10,400, P 8590, P 8335 and Traverse from Kluane Lake, Yukon Territory to Chitistone River, Alaska

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 1993

Mount Steele, North and South Gemini Peaks, Crag Mountain, P 10,478, Mount Sulzer, P 11,000, P 10,400, P 8590, P 8335 and Traverse from Kluane Lake, Yukon Territory to Chitistone River, Alaska. Betty Fletcher, Markus Kellerhals, Peter Stone and I arrived at Kluane Lake on May 4. We approached Doug Makkonen of Trans North Turbo Air for placement of our food caches. When the weather cleared, he would come find us, pick one of us up and place the food caches. We set off. Doug in his helicopter located us on the evening of the third day and and placed the caches with Kellerhals. With packs on our backs, we had set off from the Alaska Highway at Kluane with a foot of new snow on the ground. We skied along a track into the bush that parallels the Donjek River for 10 or 15 kilometers. The days that followed found us sometimes skiing, sometimes sledding, sometimes walking, other times wallowing along the Donjek valley to the junction with Steele Creek. We skied up Steele Creek and onto the marginal moraines of the Steele Glacier. On May 14, we moved out onto the Steele Glacier and arrived at the foot of the east ridge of Mount Steele and our first food cache the next day. Six days later, we stood on the summit of Mount Steele (4975 meters, 16,322 feet). After a day’s rest at the camp at the base, we headed up the Hodgson Glacier. We crossed the next day to the Trapridge Glacier. Unfortunately we then had to descend to the rubbly Hazard Glacier before a gentle climb brought us to the junction with the Wood Glacier. A marvelous descent, below the icy flanks of Mount Wood, led us to the Brabazon Glacier. We skied up the Brabazon to the foot of a small, broken glacier lying below and east of the Gemini Peaks. We ascended this until it became a collapsing mass, spent a day storm-bound and then broke out once again into high country via a snow gully. That afternoon we climbed both North and South Gemini Peaks (3360+ and 3421 meters, 11,024+ and 11,224 feet). The next day, May 30, we arrived at the Nesham Glacier and our second food cache. The following day, we skied down the Nesham to the Klutlan Glacier. Back to ice and rubble, we made our way to Camp 23 below Crag Mountain. We ascended Crag Mountain (2793 meters, 9162 feet). The next day more skiing, in surroundings that can only describe the beginning of time, took us across the Alaskan border to our third and final cache. With ten day’s food and supplies, we continued through séracs, wandering past turquoise pools, until we got to vast tracts of smooth glaciers that if followed would lead to the base of Mounts Churchill or Bear. We left the Klutlan by heading north via a small unnamed glacier and reached the head of the Russell Glacier. We climbed P 10,478 from here and then descended 2000 feet. At last in the land of big, deep, safe snows, we spent the next couple of days peak-bagging. The first day saw us up Mount Sulzer (3330 meters, 10,926 feet) and the 11,000-foot peak three miles south- southeast of Sulzer. The following day, after a snowy start, Stone reclimbed P 10,478 and Kellerhals and I set off to climb P 10,400 seven or eight miles south of Sulzer, a marvelous looking peak. We climbed the east ridge to the summit, switching back and forth from one side of the corniced, haystacked ridge to the other, a short but breathtaking climb. On June 9, with crazy-carpet sleds in tow, we effortlessly glided eleven miles to the junction of the main branch of the Russell Glacier. From here it was easy traveling, under the watchful presence of Castle Mountain to Chitistone Pass, heather, color and smells. The following day dawned beautiful and although we were tired, we headed off and climbed P 8590 and P 8335, three miles south of the pass. On the 11th, we carried skis for all but 15 minutes. The hike down from Chitistone Pass to Chitistone Gorge was most definitely one of the highlights of the trip. Our senses responded to every smell, color and sound. The crossing of Falls and Toby Creeks provided some intensity to the final day, June 12. An ice bridge just below the Chitistone Glacier made crossing the Chitistone River easy. However, just five minutes after we were all across, the old ice collapsed. We stared at each other, knowing that this late in the season we should have gone up onto the glacier and not taken the chance. We crossed Toby Creek just before lunch and were picked up by Gary of McCarthy Air.

David E. Williams, Alpine Club of Canada

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