American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, St. Elias Range, Mt. Vancouver, Attempt, and Mt. Seattle, Ascent

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2000

Mt. Vancouver, Attempt, and Mt. Seattle, Ascent. On June 1-4 during a prolonged spell of unsettled weather, we had a minor epic trying to approach the East Rib of Mt. Vancouver (4812m) through the complex icefall guarding the route. We escaped in a dubious weather window with the aid of GPS waypoints. Cutting our losses, we opted to attempt Mt. Seattle (3069m), a complex mountain bigger and more serious than its height would indicate. The first and only previous ascent was by Fred Beckey and party in May, 1966, via the South- Southwest Ridge. We opted for the East Ridge to the North Summit, which forms the Alaska- Yukon boundary. This is the most direct route on the north side of the mountain, but the way is barred by a huge serac band near the summit ridge.

On June 7, we ascended from the glacier at 1100 meters via several unconsolidated snow mushrooms to a large ’schrund on the main ridge at ca. 1865 meters. On the ridge, facing the rising sun, snow conditions became dangerously slushy after about 8 a.m. and only consolidated after 1 a.m. The following day, we continued up exposed slopes with unnerving wind- slab that required snow stakes for upward progress to a second camp at 2480 meters. On June 9, we tackled the nerve-racking traverse below the seracs on mixed rock and hard ice. From the distinctively shaped North Summit, it was apparent that the South Summit is perhaps 30 meters higher. The intervening ground was not technical, but we had insufficient time for the three kilometers or so of undulating snow ridge. After a camp on the summit ridge, we reversed the route without mishap, reaching the glacier on June 11. Ours was a new route, the first ascent of the North Summit, and the second ascent (and first British ascent) of the mountain as a whole.

Paul Knott, United Kingdom

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