American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, St. Elias Range, Kluane National Park Reserve, Mountaineering Summary and Statistics

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2006

Kluane National Park Reserve, mountaineering summary and statistics. During the 2005 climbing season 86 persons participated in 29 mountaineering expeditions, accounting for 1,535 person-days in the icefields of Kluane National Park.

As usual most expeditions were concentrated in the Mt. Logan area, with 17 parties attempting various routes on the mountain. Twelve expeditions attempted the King Trench route, while five attempted the East Ridge route. The mountain allowed only four expeditions to successfully reach either the main or east summit, with weather and time being the main obstacles. A huge storm, with over a meter of snow, and then extreme winds stranded climbing groups on the summit plateau during the latter part of May. A number of people came back with a new respect for the forces of nature in the St. Elias Ranges.

Other mountains that witnessed climbing this year were Mt. Vancouver (twice), Mt. Kennedy, Mt. Hubbard, Mt. Alverstone, Mt. Wood, Mt. McArthur, Mt. Badham, Mt. Queen Mary, Mt. Saskatchewan, and the Donjek Ranges. There were four ski-touring-specific expeditions into the icefields. Ski-touring is a wonderful lower-risk option for experiencing the Icefield Ranges of Kluane National Park.

Of note this year was the first ascent of the west face of Mt. Alverstone, by a pair of British climbers (one from the now-famous Touching the Void book and movie). Also, an American crew scaled a new route on the north face of Mt. McArthur. A couple of Czech climbers scaled Mt. Logan by the East Ridge route to the main peak, traversed the summit plateau, and descended the King Trench route, all in 11 days. A crew of skiers did a north-south traverse of the icefields from Kluane Lake to Yakutat, AK, and another couple of Swiss mountaineers/kayakers did a 41-day unsupported west-east traverse of the icefields from Cordova, AK, to the Alsek River and Dry Bay, AK. The latter crew failed to register for their trip and were dealt with accordingly by park officials. (Registration is mandatory for all overnight activity in Kluane National Park.)

One major search-and-rescue operation occurred during the climbing season. A group of climbers on Mt. Logan’s summit plateau lost much of their camp gear in a fierce storm. They were forced to huddle in a small snow hole and were saved from certain death when other members of their party were able to reach them and render assistance. Satellite phones carried by both groups allowed this to take place. The three men were evacuated from their location near Prospector Col (5,500m) by an international rescue operation consisting of personnel of the U.S. National Guard and Wrangell-St. Elias, Denali, and Kluane national parks. A high-altitude helicopter brought from Denali National Park facilitated the highly technical heli-sling operation. The three men suffered severe frostbite and have subsequently spent much time in hospitals.

On a sad note, a young Canadian woman was killed in an avalanche/fall on the East Ridge of Mt. Logan. The young woman had five years earlier been the youngest person to successfully climb Mt. Logan and was climbing it for her third time when the accident occurred.

Mountaineering in the Icefield Ranges of Kluane National Park is an inherently dangerous activity but with proper preparation and planning, most groups have positive experiences and return with memories that last a lifetime.

Anyone interested in mountaineering in Kluane National Park should contact: Mountaineering Warden, Kluane National Park, Box 5495, Haines Jct. Yukon, Y0B 1L0, CANADA. Phone 867 634 7279; Fax 867 634 7277; e-mail Kluane_info@pch.gc.ca and ask for the “mountaineering package”; or visit the Parks Canada web site: http: www.pc.gc.ca/kluane

Rick Staley, Mountaineering Warden, Kluane National Park

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