North America, Canada, British Columbia, St, Elias Range, Lowell Peak, West Ridge

Publication Year: 2008.

Lowell Peak, West Ridge. Dave Hesleden and I visited the St. Elias Range planning to climb a route on either Pinnacle Peak (3,714m) or Lowell Peak (3,630m). We flew onto the Lowell Glacier from Kluane Lake on May 1 and made a camp at ca 2,000m, where we could easily access both mountains. Unusually high winter and spring snowfall meant that all aspects of all peaks were seriously avalanche-prone. We abandoned an attempt on the south pillar of Lowell Peak when the slope beneath us slid while we approached the berg-schrund.

By chance, a long ski tour the next day gave us a view of Lowell’s west ridge, which is more of a pronounced rib. More to the point, it looked like a safe line, and, facing into the prevailing wind, there was less chance of windslab. We climbed it the day after (May 8) in a 12-hour roundtrip from base camp. There was 1,400m of ascent, initially on skis, then along a horizontal ridge carrying skis, then skiing across a snow bowl, and then climbing the rib itself. The climbing was straightforward but hard work—initially 45° waist-deep snow, followed by Scottish III climbing on loose snow and rotten ice to the easier summit slopes. The weather then deteriorated and we continued to the corniced summit in a whiteout.

Lowell Peak was first climbed by Canadians Larry Stainier and Rodden McGowan on May 7,1993, by the east face and north ridge (AAJ 1994, pp. 154-155). Like most parties climbing in this area, they were based on the South Arm of the Kaskawulsh Glacier, to the north of Pinnacle Peak. We believe ours was the second ascent of the mountain.

The south pillar of Lowell Peak remains a fine climbing target. There are numerous icy lines up the steep buttress rising to the summit or the runnels to its left. Our route of ascent would make the easiest descent back to the Lowell Glacier.

Simon Richardson, Scotland, AAC

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