American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Yukon Territory, St. Elias Mountains, Mount Logan, Hummingbird Ridge, Thunderbird Variation Attempt

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1996

Mount Logan, Hummingbird Ridge, Thunderbird Variation Attempt. Simon Abrahams, Jim Hall, and Nick Lewis flew into Logan in two flights. On May 9, we skied around to below the east side of Logan via the Water Pass and dumped a cache of food for our proposed descent down the East Ridge. The next night we returned to our main depot on the Seward and spent the next day sorting gear and food. That night we left our skis and remaining food at this depot and set off on our walk around to the bottom of the Hummingbird, climbing a line to the right of the icefall that was almost out of the way of serac fall, and sheltered from the avalanches coming off the crest of the Hummingbird by an overlapping rock buttress. Over 1000 meters of insecure snow and ice passed with some airy moments. We stopped at three in the afternoon, carved a site for the tent under the protective wall of a crevasse and spent the rest of the day rehydrating. Next day we carried on up the rest of the icefall and traversed across a broad shelf which separates the icefall from the upper ice-face. 55° to 60° hard ice under a thin veneer of snow slowed our progress, but we continued moving together, sticking a screw or nut in every so often. By one in the morning we'd emerged out of a narrow mixed gully and carried on up the steep slopes leading to the crest of the Hummingbird. We bivied on individual bum-ledges.

The next morning, Jim unclipped one of his shellboots from the belay and as he was putting it on, the boot shot out of his hand down the face. It soon dawned on us that we had to get down, and fast. Jim wore one of Nick's neoprene overboots over his remaining inner boot and managed to tie his crampon on. We rapped about 2,500 feet and stuck the tent beneath a stable serac, which kept us clear of the avalanches pouring down the upper face. It snowed all day, depositing a foot of new. We cut up a Karrimat to provide extra protection for Jim's foot and set off down the icefall that night. The top slopes were loaded and as we set foot on them large cracks appeared, but the slopes stayed put. We made a few raps over some bergschrunds and then decided that in the storm our only routefinding option was to head straight down. We ended up in the main avalanche runnel right in the middle of the icefall, which, though massively exposed, at least gave us good ice for our stakes. Our rap anchors used up, we went off retrievable ice-screws for nigh on 20 raps, the last few of which went straight under the immense overhanging seracs at the snout of the icefall. The ice was poor in this area and the screws flexed badly as they were weighted. We got back on the ground and stumbled out of the debris fan, carrying on a safe enough distance before we put up the tent. That night, the 19th, we walked back to our main depot in one go. Jim was finding the walking fine and his foot was really toasty due to the extra EVA foam and the bending movement allowed by not having a shell boot. It soon became apparent that Jim's disability wasn't as bad as was originally thought. He suggested that we go ahead with our proposed ski-out: sixty miles down the Seward, Hubbard and Kaskawulsh glaciers followed by a couple of days slogging down the Slims River. With 10 days food and 15 of fuel remaining we set off. It was Tuesday, May 23. The next coupie of days consisted of traveling in white-out conditions. On June 1, we covered the remaining 13 miles down the trail.

Nick Lewis, Alpine Climbing Group

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