American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Probable Cornice Collapse, Weather, Yukon Territory, Saint Elias Range, Mount Logan

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1988

PROBABLE CORNICE COLLAPSE, WEATHER

Yukon Territory, Saint Elias Range, Mount Logan

On May 10,1987, a party of six was flown into the Seward Glacier on the base of the Hummingbird Ridge. Four of the party crossed the glacier and climbed Mount Augusta. The other two, Dave Cheesmond and CatherineFreer, began working on the Hummingbird Ridge of Mount Logan. Later, the Mount Augusta party came back to the base camp and were flown to the east ridge of Mount Logan. They climbed it, and were flown back to Kluane Lake.

On May 20, Andy Williams, the pilot, talked with Cheesmond and Freer at their base camp. They said that they would not be in further radio communication as they were leaving their radio in base camp, and setting off to climb the Hummingbird Ridge with 16 days of food. Their next radio contact was to be about June 7. There was a flight into the Icefield Ranges on June 2, but the weather prevented further flights until June 14. Meanwhile, there was no radio contact with Dave and Catherine.

On June 14, three park rangers flew into the Icefields as far as the east ridge of Mount Logan, but clouds prevented them from going to the south side. They talked to climbers who had been unsuccessful because of massive amounts of snow. One climber even remarked that the fresh snow was so deep that he was afraid of drowning on the ridge.

On June 15, at 0500, they were able to fly to the south side of Mount Logan, and found a tent and two packs hanging from a part of the Hummingbird Ridge known as the Shovel Traverse, at 4000 meters. They also found some fixed line strung along the ridge, and visited the base camp on the Seward Glacier at 2000 meters. They searched both sides of the ridge and the proposed descent route, but there were no signs of life. A sled and ski poles were found near the ascent route. Another search was carried out the next time weather permitted, on June 20, but nothing more was found.

On June 23, a Jet Ranger helicopter flew to the ridge with park rangers and a friend of Cheesmond and Freer who had climbed with them on K2. The tent had been blown apart since the previous sighting, and any contents emptied. The packs were still there and an ice tool was visible. The climber said that the remainder of the traverse was desperate climbing, and that Cheesmond and Freer would not have attempted it without the equipment still at the site. Nothing could be seen in the outrun gullies. The plateau of the mountain was meanwhile searched by a Twin Otter, again with no success.

Finally, back at Kluane Lake, grim realization set in; the friends who had come up returned home and the search was called off. (Source: Lloyd Freese, Kluane National Park)

Analysis

A great amount of fresh snow fell during the time of this expedition. It appeared that large chunks of cornices had collapsed from the Shovel Traverse. Perhaps the climbers were swept away with one of these. (Source: Lloyd Freese, Kluane National Park)

This ANAM article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.