American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Coast Mountains, Coast Range B.C./AK, First Complete Ski Traverse

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2002

Coast Range B.C./AK, first complete ski traverse. From Feb. 2 to July 17, 2001, we traversed the spine of the Coast Range Mountains from Vancouver, B.C., to Skagway, Alaska. The trip was 2,015 km. in length, and was done primarily on skis.

The Coast Range is a very rugged range that receives a lot of precipitation, and thus is very heavily glaciated. Many of the sections of our route had been traveled before by such explorers

as Dave Williams, Markus Kellerhas, John Baldwin, John Clark, and others. However, the 400 km section from Bella Coola to Terrace, as well as sections near the Iskut River, Stikine River, and Whiting River had not previously been traversed.

The route, following the major icefields, peaks, landforms, or towns, was: Mistys, Garibaldi Divide, Pemberton, Lillooet, Homathko, Klinaklini, Monarch, Bella Coola, Tweedsmuir Divide, Mt. Atna, Terrace, Shames Mountain, Kinskuch, Cambria, Salmon Glacier, Eskay, Hoodoo Mountain, Choquette Glacier, Great Glacier, Devil’s Thumb, Sheppard Peak, Wright Glacier, Taku Glacier, and Juneau Icefield. We finished the route by hiking the Chilkoot Trail to the headwaters of the Yukon River.

The whole route was traveled in a self- propelled manner except for the crossings of the Iskut River, Stikine River, and the Whiting River. Twenty four food caches were prepared, nine of which were placed by helicopter or ski plane.

We climbed 14 peaks en route, including first ascents of Stadium Peak and Peak “Such A Long Journey.” As well, we made four attempts on the Devil’s Thumb, but were not successful—blaming it on the limitations of our lightweight ski gear. Numerous steep slopes, icefalls, glaciers, and other obstacles were encountered and negotiated—the trip was a mountain traverse.

Initially four people started: Dan Clark, Vance Culbert, John Millar, and myself. After one month, while skiing down to the Homathko River, Dan Clark was badly injured in a fall and could not continue on the trip. Kari Medig continued with the group as a new fourth member from the Klinaklini Glacier to Terrace. In Terrace, Kari departed, and Lena Rowat joined as the new fourth. On the Stikine River, Cecelia Mortensen joined as a fifth, traveling all the way to Skagway. From the Taku River to Skagway, Heather Culbert also joined us.

Highlights included repeated bathing in icy rivers and glacial ponds, being tent-bound and food deprived for four days on the Klinaklini Icefield, cracker crumb wars, seeing the south face of Monarch Mountain, traveling the Cambria and Juneau Icefields in whiteout conditions unable to see anything, negotiating the avalanches through the “Wicked Valleys,” skiing bare glacial ice, shoulder stands, and enjoying the wilderness of southeast Alaska and northwest B.C. Living as a small contained group with little outside contact for five months was a challenge in itself.

Thanks to the Shipton-Tilman Award (W.L. Gore), the Canadian Himalayan Foundation, and other private companies for assistance.

Guy Edwards, Canada

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