American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Yukon Territory, Mount Manitoba, First Ascent

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1993

Mount Manitoba, First Ascent. During the 1967 Canadian Centennial Celebration, a range of unclimbed peaks was found in Kluane National Park and given the name of the Centennial Range. Twelve were named after the provinces and territories of Canada, and a further one was called Mount Centennial. The largest peak in the area, on the border with Alaska, was named Good Neighbor Peak in recognition of the friendly relations between the USA and Canada. The Alpine Club of Canada spear-headed an ambitious attempt to climb all these peaks by organizing an enormous expedition of over 60 climbers, who were transported into this remote area by plane and helicopter. The expedition was a tremendous success with many fine first ascents. Five of the peaks, including Mount Manitoba, were not climbed, mainly because of bad weather and dangerous conditions encountered during the nearly 24-hour daylight in July. (See Canadian Alpine Journal, 1968, and Expedition Yukon, edited by Ed. M. Fisher, 1972. The Canadian Alpine Journal, 1992 has a fine summary article about climbing in the St. Elias Mountains, which includes this area.) On May 17, 1992, in the 125th year of the Canadian Confederation, climbers from the Manitoba section of the Alpine Club of Canada made the first ascent of Mount Manitoba. We eleven members were dropped off by ski plane on the Logan Glacier at 60°48'N, 140°29'W, on May 9. We traveled six days to reach Base Camp at 60°57'N, 140°47.7'W along a previously untraveled route along the Logan, Walsh and Prairie Glaciers. (The 1967 party was dropped by helicopter close to the base of the mountain.) We first crossed to the Walsh Glacier, continued for three days on the south and then the north side of the Walsh Glacier and finally ascended seven kilometers for two days up the inappropriately named Prairie Glacier, which is anything but flat. Base Camp was in a stunningly beautiful location at the junction of four glaciers and surrounded by Mounts Centennial, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan (still unclimbed) and Alberta. The first attempt at night on May 15 in bad conditions almost ended in disaster when four of the party were swept down the slope for 300 feet by an avalanche. They tumbled head-over-heels over old hardened avalanche debris but only one person was injured, a broken rib. The successful attempt started from Base Camp at five P.M. on May 16, again in light snow. After we waited four hours in a snow cave, the weather cleared and we started ascending a prominent couloir on the southwest face at 10:30 P.M. This is probably one of the routes attempted in 1967. The couloir led straight to the summit, but the last pitch was very steep with dangerous sugar snow held in place by a thin sun-melted crust. The successful climbers were Tibor Bodi, Dr. Robert France, Pat Dillistone, Jeffrey Aitchison and I. A second attempt on the same route was turned back by dangerous accumulations of snow in the couloir.

Peter W. Aitchison, Alpine Club of Canada

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