Wrangell/Saint Elias National Park. The 1996 spring and summer season in the Wrangell/Saint Elias National Park proved to be one of the most productive mountaineering periods ever for Ultima Thule clients, personnel and friends. In early April, Ruedi Homberger, Reto Ruesh, Tom Evans and Paul Claus tore up the slopes with multiple Piper Super Cub-assisted first ski descents. Later, I joined the group to help with Cub skiing customers and though the weather dictated several days of tree skiing, we snagged several awesome 6,000-foot first descents in the Goat and Granite Creek drainages.
During the third week of April, Paul, Ruedi and Reto continued to ski and climb spring waterfall ice. Their best achievement came on April 17 with a Super Alpine (Piper Super Cub, that is) ascent of an unclimbed and unnamed 11,500-foot peak at the head of Canyon Creek, which Paul dubbed “Ultima Thule Peak.” Leaving the lodge at 4 a.m. the boys flew to the peak, climbed 5,000 feet of steep snow and ice to a tiny summit, then returned to the lodge by 2 p.m.
Other notable ascents include the first ascent of a 13,000-foot border peak just south of Mount Bear by Ruedi Homberger, Christine Kopp, Peter Stadler, Stefen Wyss and Paul Claus on May 11; a one-day ascent of the northwest ridge of Mount Blackburn, by Peter Stadler and Christine Kopp on May 15; a traverse of Mount Logan by four Czech climbers starting from the AlCan Highway in Canada, climbing up the east ridge and down the King Trench, where they built a raft and floated 40 miles to Ultima Thule’s lodge on the Chitina River, only to be greeted and escorted back to Canada by the RCMP and U.S. Customs officers for not returning the borrowed car they left near Kluane; the first ascent of Mount Anderson, by Danny Kost and Ruedi Homberger, on May 1; and on June 9, a solo climb of Mount Huxley by Paul Claus after landing at 11,500 feet on its western flank.