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North America, Canada, St. Elias Range, Donjek Glacier, First Ascents

Donjek Glacier, first ascents. On June 1 Jonathon Wakefield and I flew into the Donjek Glacier, where we made first ascents of eight peaks around the East Donjek Glacier, a spur off the head of the main Donjek. Geoff Hornby and I had researched the area for our 2002 expedition, but circumstances beyond our control prevented our accessing the correct area. We had researched American, Canadian, and British alpine journals and believe the peaks still unclimbed prior to our 2005 visit. Named peaks included Donjek 3,4, and 5. Others peaks were identified by spot heights.

On June 2 we climbed Peak 3,390m via the south face, finding generally uniform 45° steepness, with snow on hard glacier ice. Our route took a rightward-rising line to a small col between the main and lesser summit. At the col we turned west along the easy ridge to the summit. The round-trip took five hours.

After several days of heavy snow, on June 6 we climbed the north face and glacier to the col between Donjek 3 (3,650m) and Donjek 4 (3,700m), and climbed both peaks. We arrived back in camp after 11 hours’ climbing.

On June 8, via the southwest ridge that falls from the summit, we climbed Peak 3,480m, taking 8 hours 40 minutes round-trip.

The next day we climbed Peak 3,330m via the southeast ridge, weaving between outcrops and finding climbing up to 55° and 60°. Eight hours after leaving, we returned to camp.

We then moved camp closer to Donjek 5 (3,610m) and on June 12 climbed it via the west face and north ridge. A small couloir, breaking through the lower rock bands, linked the lower and upper faces and offered climbing to 55° to gain the foot of the widening main upper face. Six and a half pitches, most at 50° but rising to over 60° near the top, took us to the main ridge, a knife-edge rising to the summit, which we climbed in five short pitches. Steep faces dropped off on three sides from the pinnacle-like summit of what was the crown jewel of our trip. Ten hours round-trip.

Heavy snow dumped the next day, but in a four-hour trip from camp on June 14, we ascended Peak 3,390m via the east face and south ridge, with easy climbing, never steeper than 40°.

The following day we climbed Peak 3,560m. The lower east face led to a higher ridge, which led directly to the summit. From the foot of the face, we made a diagonal ascent up 50° slopes to the foot of a rock buttress. We followed the base of the rock diagonally left for two pitches, turned the buttress, and climbed diagonally right to the buttress top (and the base of the steepening ridge) in another two pitches. Two more pitches along a sharp 55° ridge took us to the summit, and we returned to camp after a five-hour round-trip.

All our climbing was on snow and/or ice. What little rock we encountered was poor, broken, and generally worth avoiding. We used snowshoes on all glacier work and the approach to each route. We were able to snowshoe all the way to a high point on the col between Donjeks 3 and 4 before changing to crampons. On all other routes we changed to crampons on the glacier at the foot of the route. We descended our lines of ascent.

We thank the Mount Everest Foundation and The British Mountaineering Council for their great help and support of this expedition.

Glenn Wilks, U.K.