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North America, Canada, St. Elias Range, Kluane National Park Reserve, Mt. Baird, First Ascent

Mt. Baird, First Ascent. In July and August, Dave Hildes, Jay Burbee (Canada), and I planned to join up the ridge of peaks that connect Mt. Augusta to Mt. St. Elias on the west side of the range. The reality, after delays and team and transport problems, was that we found ourselves dumped on the upper Seward Glacier with about ten days on our hands. Mixed weather with much whiteout frustrated attempts to weave through the icefalls at the base of the north ridge of Mt. Augusta. Jay, who had been on the same ridge the previous year after a successful Logan expedition, marveled at the contrast in snow conditions while wading chest-deep through this icefall. After attaining a high point of around 2900 meters, it dawned on us that we were just too late in the season to navigate this maze of seracs and chasms that barred a relatively straightforward route to the summit.

Hence, we attempted to push a route through the icefalls guarding the Augusta-Baird col. Being considerably gentler in slope, the climbing (with some interesting overhanging cruddy snow/ice climbing) gave way to a fine camp at the col (ca. 2800m) after a couple of days. From this position, a straightforward 40-to 50-degree snow slog in varied conditions got us up the East Ridge (Alaskan Grade III) of Mt. Baird (3550m) for the mountain’s first ascent. The final two pitches gave additional exciting climbing, but the summit arête was fortunately devoid of the cornices usually associated with exposed ridges on the west side of the range. From the summit, we continued along the west ridge and subsequently dropped onto the relatively safer east face to descend to camp at the col. With the weather deteriorating again, we backtracked down the icefall and headed back to our pick-up spot where, after a few frustrating days and some inspired (or desperate) radio repairs, our plane landed to claim us from impending winter. Short, sweet, and, compared to the usual epics, cheating?

Alun Hubbard, United Kingdom