Mt. Proboscis, Southeast Face, Original Route (and Variation), Free Ascent
North America, Canada, Logan Mountains
In late July, with help from American Alpine Club grants, Emily Stifler, Lorna Illingworth, and I helicoptered to the base of Mt. Proboscis in the Cirque of the Unclimbables, Northwest Territories. We spent 25 days in the area and flew out on August 21, after a 20" snowfall ended our climbing. Our objective was to free climb the full Southeast Face (a.k.a. Original Route), first climbed by Jim McCarthy, Royal Robbins, Layton Kor, and Richard McCracken in 1963 (VI 5.8 A4). In 2001 Jonny Copp and Josh Wharton freed the Costa Brava variation (VI 5.12- R) to the Original Route, which takes a detour from pitches 5-8 and 12–16 [confirmed by Wharton; Copp’s AAJ 2002 feature article includes only brief mention of this ascent—Ed.].
After a stymied ground-up effort on the Original Route, we free-climbed the Costa Brava variation to the summit ridge and then, separately, spent four days inspecting, cleaning, bolting and finally freeing pitches 5-8 of the Original Route at 5.12R. To the best of our knowledge, this section had not been repeated since the 1963 first ascent. With permission to add bolts from the first ascensionists, we placed anchor stations above pitches 6 and 7, and added five bolts on the crux pitches: two on pitch 7 (5.11R) and three on pitch 8 (5.12R). We placed a total of nine 3/8" bolts in solid rock. We gave pitch 8 an R rating due to a hollow section of rock and the consequently long distance between the first and second bolts. The climbing is relatively steep and atmospheric with cracks and knobs. I led the crux pitches free on August 17 and the next day the summer weather promptly turned to fall, bringing a deep blanket of snow. It’d be great for someone to free these pitches as part of a continuous ascent of the Original Route.
Since returning from the Cirque we have spoken with Jim McCarthy. We now believe we did not follow the Original Route above pitch 11. Rather, we continued on the Costa Brava line, which traverses leftward along a grassy ledge for pitch 12 and then up a corner system for the remaining four pitches to the summit ridge. Jim's guess is that following their line would add two pitches of 5.10-5.11.
A full expedition report with topo is available in the 2011 Canadian Alpine Journal. We also kept this information as well as a journal of stories, photos, and videos at cirqueladies.wordpress.com.