American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Coast Mountains, Princess Mountain, Northeast Buttress

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2004

Princess Mountain, Northeast Buttress. Fred Beckey planned our gathering, and we flew into the Monarch Icefield in early August. Matt Perkins, David Parker, Bill Pilling, Fred, and I set up a camp below the west face of Monarch Mountain. The following morning we set off, without Fred, to explore a possible direct east-to-west route toward Princess Mountain. Matt had seen a photo of a buttress that appeared unclimbed and worth investigating. Fred was nursing a rib injury from a trip the week before. He elected to rest until he was feeling more fit to climb. As always, though, we were rewarded with his unique humor.

The next day the rest of us crossed the pass that Dudra and Broda had traveled in the early 1950s en route to climbing Monarch, then headed west again to an easy-looking mountain with an elevation of approximately 9,100'. There was a pass on its south rib, and we ascended the rib by walking. There was no sign of human travel on the mountain, so David and I made a cairn on top. We called this mountain The Turtlehead. There was a mountain to the south we called Flat Top Mountain—over 9,000', with horrible-looking rock and a large, north-facing, low- angle glacier. Flat Top looked nice but would not be an objective for this trip.

The next day we crossed the Dudra-Broda pass again to The Turtlehead and explored west, toward Princess Mountain. We did not know what to expect but encountered only snow slopes, with some crevasses but no icefalls. This shortcut eliminated much time that might have been used traveling north to the main body of the Monarch Icefield.

We camped below the eastern side of Princess Mountain, and the following morning headed onto its northeast buttress, through crevasses and a rotten-snow ‘schrund. The four of us climbed mixed terrain, steep snow, ice, and good rock to the summit of Princess. I estimate the difficulty at about 5.5, steep snow and ice, with a little mixed climbing.

On our descent, possibly due to the year’s low snowfall, we encountered very different conditions from what Dudra described 50 years before. From the main summit we had to downclimb a pitch of 4th class rock and then traverse and climb to the west snow summit. We descended the Dudra-Broda ascent route on the north arête, then continued south and east to reach camp after sundown. This proved to be a good idea, as opposed to descending snow and ice faces directly, since parts of those descents would have left us above huge crevasses impassable without a parachute or glider. We retraced our route back to Monarch Mountain the next morning.

Ray Borbon, Kaskade Trad Klan

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