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North America, Canada, St. Elias Range, Kluane National Park Reserve, McArthur Peak, Hugh in Europe and Night Shift; Mt. Logan Attempt

McArthur Peak, Huge in Europe and Night Shift; Mt. Logan, attempt. In early May, Jesse Thompson, Rich Searle, and I, Joe Josephson, flew with Andy Williams from Kluane Lake, Yukon, to the south face of McArthur Peak, which shares a base camp site with the popular East Ridge route of Mt. Logan. Our first objective was to repeat the 1992 Statham/Kay 6,000' mixed route, AstroFloyd, and then climb anything else that looked good. Due to a light snow year and unseasonably warm weather, we couldn’t find ice in the AstroFloyd couloir. To its left, and right of the 1988 Friesen-Scott-Wallator route, was the last major unclimbed buttress on the south face.

An attempt on May 9 ended after six hours in a snowstorm, but we started up again in the early hours of May 11, with a stove, a rope, a small rack, gooey food substitutes, and no bivy gear. We started up an obvious weakness east of the true ridge but on the left side of the buttress. We climbed moderate gullies of ice and snow for several thousand feet to the ridge proper. Another 1,000' led to a short à cheval section on rock at about 10,500'. Several hundred feet higher we came to what proved to be the route-finding crux—a 500' section climbed by an exposed traverse on the east side followed by a tight chimney on a large block. Another steep snow section led back to the ridge. Here we roped for the first time, for an exposed pitch around the west side of a rock horn to a knife-edge snow ridge, then up a gully and a rock wall on the left (5.5). A second pitch, up a gully and snow face, led to a short step into a chimney and a good slab on the left (5.6). To avoid rock towers above, we rappelled into the large gully to the east and climbed to a prominent col and then up to a small rock step at about 11,360', where we brewed and napped for four hours. We continued up a long, glaciated ice ridge we dubbed the “Jessewand.” Near the top we traversed left under rocks to a hard-ice gully leading to the summit ridge at about 13,470' (6,100' elevation gain, 14 hours of climbing).

Due to the late hour and a building storm, we passed on the unclimbed ridge leading to the East Summit (14,134', perhaps five hours away). We immediately headed down the East Ridge, which required complicated route finding, especially after dark. After about six hours we stopped for a miserable open bivy in -20° cold and swirling snow. At sunrise we continued more easily down the ridge to an obvious rock tower (great bivy site). We rappelled from a single hex just below the ridge, on the east side of the tower. Lots of down climbing and about eight rappels led to the bottom of the avalanche-prone gully (5,600' of descent in the gully). This was followed by time-consuming route finding through the icefall to the flat glacier. The round trip took 35 hours. This route, which we called Huge in Europe; the1988 route, which is the best-looking line on the face; and several buttresses to the west are excellent: all are long yet relatively moderate and doable in either a multiday or single-push style.

The next day brought a four-day (brief for the St. Elias Range) storm, followed by one good day, during which Rich left with minor frostbite, and another four-day wind storm. Jesse and I then spent two days skiing via Water Pass to the unclimbed south-southeast buttress of Mt. Logan. Off the end of the main buttress are two subridges ending in the Seward Icefield. We ascended the west side of the east subridge. Warm temperatures and hateful isothermal snow made the climbing very slow. After half a day climbing and a bivy, we climbed a subpeak, with classic moderate cornice climbing, followed by a mixed section that exacted routefinding on poor rock to avoid a steep step on the ridge proper.

Moving together, we traversed 400' into a long gully (5.6). We climbed the gully to a more moderate mixed face, which led to a false summit and a comfortable bivy below a large rock. More corniced climbing led to a summit at about 9,600'. The ridge beyond, which leads to the main Logan massif, featured large, rotten rock towers with little snow stuck to them. Since the traveling was slow and we had only one rope with a minimal rock rack, we bailed, down climbing a major gully to the east. We dubbed the peak “Wolf Bird Peak” in deference to the Warbler and Hummingbird ridges to the left. We think this was the second ascent of this peak, and the ridge beyond remains unclimbed, despite several determined efforts over the last few years. We dubbed this the “Raven Ridge”; it is the biggest of the few unclimbed ridges on Mt. Logan.

Andy Williams then flew Jesse and me to the north side of McArthur Peak, where we climbed a major variation to the classic North Ridge route. Starting at 8:00 p.m. on the 24th we climbed on the left side of the northwest face, on a lower-angled mixed face. Climbing together through several short mixed sections (5.5), we reached the north ridge proper after about 10 hours of superb, moderate climbing. A brilliant 45° ice/snow arête led for 600' to a short step littered with fixed gear and ropes from the handful of ascents the route has had. This short section proved to be the crux, with near-vertical snow/ice and an awkward move around a large rock. The pitch ends on a large flat spot that would be a brilliant tent site. Easy glacier walking led to the broad col between the East and West Summits, from which we went to the slightly lower East Summit, making what we think is only the second ascent. We descended the normal North Ridge route and were able to cut back on the lower ridge to slopes leading directly to base camp below the north face (24 hours round trip). We called this variation Night Shift and recommend it as alternative to the snow-slogging North Ridge.

Joe Josephson, Calgary Mountain Club