American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Yukon Territory, Boundary Range, Coast Mountains, Traverse of the Taku-Whiting Divide

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1997

Coast Mountains, Traverse of the Taku-Whiting Divide. Jan Palaty, Steve Sheffield, Dave Williams and I spent four weeks traversing the Taku-Whiting Divide on skis in April and May. From Juneau we took a floatplane to the confluence of the Taku and Wright Rivers, several miles inland from the mouth of the Taku River. We skied alongside the Wright River to the lake at the base of the Wright Glacier. The lake was partially unfrozen but we were able to outflank it along the south shore. Once we gained the Wright Glacier travel was fairly straightforward with only minor crevassed sections to circumvent.

We reached our first and only food cache on the third day of the trip. This was located about 10 miles above the snout of the Wright Glacier. From a base at the food cache we climbed the following peaks west of the Wright Glacier: Peak 6882* via the east face and south ridge, Peak 6134 via the north side, Peak 6443 via the southwest side. We also attempted Mount Fremont Morse but were turned back short of the summit.

We continued up the Wright Glacier, crossing into British Columbia. Our packs were now much heavier as we were carrying 21 days of food for the rest of the trip. The upper part of the Wright Glacier is a ski mountaineer’s paradise with numerous peaks that can be climbed or approached on skis. From two different base camps we climbed the following peaks: Peak 2200* (grid reference 970787), Peak 2160 (014793), Peak 2240 (031727), Peak 2280 (039692), Peak 2120 (966655) and Peak 2080 (987648). Our packs now much lighter, we continued on the traverse. From the head of the Wright Glacier we descended a steep headwall to reach the gentle glacier feeding the Sutlahine River. A huge climb on rock-hard snow the next day took us up Peak 2040 (174743) in the next mountain group eastward. Continuing eastward we climbed the outstanding peaks southwest of Tunjony Lake, Peak 2304 and Peak 2345, as well as the lesser Peak 2040 (208750).

On Day 16 and 17 bad weather confined us to our tents. The weather continued to be poor the next day. We felt like making some progress so we bypassed the next mountain group by traveling in a lightly forested valley to the north. In the valley spring had begun and we had some interesting moments skiing along partially snow-covered beaver dams.

We regained the alpine east of North Chechidla Creek and traversed this range in a southerly direction. We climbed Peak 2200 (427624), Peak 2110 (403599) and Peak 2384 (381588). From near Peak 2384 we dropped eastward into an unnamed valley. We followed this valley southward, enjoying views of the impressive north face of Peak 2470. From this valley we made a long side trip to climb the attractive pyramidal Peak 2346 located 14 kilometers northeast of Whiting Lake.

The final leg of our traverse led eastward toward the mine and airstrip at Bearskin Lake. In this range we climbed Peak 2629 south of Tatsamenie Lake. On day 27 we descended to the mine. The crew there was very friendly and fed us a very hearty lunch before we were picked up for a flight back to Juneau.

This ski traverse connects with a north-south traverse of the Stikine Icecap (from the Great Glacier to Bearskin Lake) that Sheffield, Williams and I, along with three others, completed in 1993. This provides a continuous alpine traverse, mostly on glacier between the Stikine and Taku Rivers.

Markus Kellerhals, Alpine Club of Canada

*Elevations from American maps in feet, Canadian maps in meters.

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