American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Yukon, Kluane National Park Reserve, Mt. Walsh, Northwest Ridge, Spring Peak, Jekden Mountain

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1998

Mt. Walsh, Northwest Ridge, Spring Peak, Jekden Mountain. On May 27, Janez Ales and I flew to the Upper Donjek Glacier, just west of Mt. Walsh (4507m). We set up base camp at 3000 meters. The next day we climbed the standard West Ridge route on Mt. Walsh, a fairly straightforward snow and ice ridge. The most difficult section was around 4000 meters where the ridge narrowed to a steep ice-crest for a few hundred meters. In our very unacclimatized state the climb took 18 hours return. On the descent we left wands marking our route, as we planned to descend the west ridge if we were successful climbing the northwest ridge.

After our “warm-up” climb, we both needed a rest day. The following day, after we had recovered, we skied up “Jekden,” the 3756-meter snow peak west of camp. We had hoped for great views from this peak, but were unfortunately engulfed in clouds on the summit.

On the 31st we skied through Walsh Col and descended to the Spring Glacier. Here we nearly had a disastrous setback. Janez, who was skiing ahead, broke through a thinly bridged crevasse. He was able to stop his fall without weighting the rope; however, one of his skis continued down the crevasse. Fortunately he was able to downclimb and retrieve it. We continued to a camp on the first major eastern tributary of the Spring Glacier.

From this camp we climbed “Spring 1,” the 3976-meter peak east-northeast of Mt. Walsh, on June 2. We skied to the west side of the peak at about 3100 meters. We then ascended a steep ice couloir through a rock band to the southwest ridge, which we followed to the summit. The climb took 15 hours return from camp.

On June 4 we moved camp to the base of the 1800-meter northwest ridge of Mt. Walsh. We waited there several days, hoping for a break in the weather, which had now turned snowy. Finally on June 7 we set off just before sunset under promising skies.

The lower section of the northwest ridge is a broad snow slope, beginning at 25° and steepening to 45° near the top. Fortunately most of the new snow had avalanched off this section so we had fast cramponing on ice. The next section of the ridge is a narrow 1,5-km knife edge of snow and ice, a very enjoyable piece of climbing in a spectacular position. The sun rose on us as we front pointed along this section.

At 4000 meters the northwest ridge meets the north ridge. The remainder of the route followed the broad, snowy north ridge, over the north peak and finally to the main summit. This section of the route is very straightforward, but we found difficult traveling because of the deep drifts of semi-consolidated new snow. We reached the summit on June 8, 18 hours after leaving camp. The view was less spectacular than we might have hoped, as only Mt. Walsh and a few of the other higher summits projected above a layer of clouds.

The descent down the west ridge was also plagued by great deposits of new snow. We interrupted our descent with a few hours of attempted sleep, bivying in a partially filled crevasse. Early the next morning we continued down. Rather than descend the entire west ridge, we chose to downclimb the northern spur of the ridge, which led more directly back to our camp below the northwest ridge. Thirty-eight hours after setting out we arrived back in camp. On June 11 we flew out to Kluane Lake.

Markus Kellerhals, Alpine Club of Canada

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