American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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Mountain Exploration In Alaska

  • Feature Article
  • Author: Alfred H. Brooks
  • Publication Year: 1914

The great complex of ranges forming the North American cordillera, which for upwards of fifteen hundred miles has maintained a northwesterly trend, on entering Alaska makes an abrupt bend to the west and then to the southwest, as if to meet the northeast extension of the Asiatic continent. Alaska is then the great hinge-line of the two continents, and its ranges tie together the mountain systems of the old world and the new. (See Diagram, page 2).

This great southwesterly bend is the topographic expression of deep-seated earth structures. The same trend line is expressed by the southern seaboard of the Territory, which sweeps as a great crescent around that part of the northern Pacific known as the Gulf of Alaska. This striking physiographic and tectonic feature is all important to an understanding of the origin of Alaska mountains, as well as their relation to the ranges of America on one hand, and to Asia on the other. The geology of the Alaska cordillera is too imperfectly known to permit of a final statement on the cause of these great structural trends. It is now generally believed that the trend lines are caused by deep-seated movement of the earth’s crust, caused by a thrust from the Pacific ocean toward the land. Whatever the cause and direction of the movement, it is one that haslong been persistent; for the axes of folding in the oldest as well as in those of the more recent strata are, in general, parallel. The entire cordillera of Alaska has been more or less affected by this movement, but the crescentic sweep is most pronounced in the southern ranges of the system. There is some evidence of another and older system of folding paralleling the north Arctic seaboard, and, if such a system exists, it was probably produced by stresses developed through a movement from the Polar sea toward the land mass. These deep-seated movements have resulted not only in the folding and dislocation of the component strata of the high ranges, but also in the elevation of the land relative to the sea.

Like most areas of high relief Alaska’s mountains are, geologically speaking, young. They mark areas in which elevation has been too rapid to be offset by the destructive effects of erosion by water and ice. A measure of the possible rapidity of this uplift is obtained from the fact that the earthquake of 1899 caused a local elevation of forty-four feet in the shore line of Yakutat bay.

The high altitudes of the Alaska mountains are specially striking, because in this province the destructive forces of erosion are especially severe. Great variations in temperature, high winds, and, in the coastal zone, abundant precipitation and excessive glaciation all unite rapidly to reduce the high peaks and crags.

Geographic Features

While most of Alaska falls within the cordillera of North America, it is by no means all mountainous. Within the cordillera province two systems of mountain ranges are recognizable, separated by a broad area of lesser relief. The southern group of ranges skirts the entire Pacific seaboard, forming a highland belt in southeastern Alaska not over eighty miles in breadth, but to the northwest widening out to over two hundred miles and then narrowing again in southwestern Alaska. This has been called the Pacific mountain system, and includes the Coast, St. Elias, Chugach, Aleutian and Alaska ranges, together with the Wrangell and Talkeetna mountains. The Pacific mountain system, while in general an area of high relief with numerous peaks ranging from 10,000 to 20,000 feet, is broken by many broad drainage basins and some lowlands. Several large rivers flow transverse to these ranges in narrow, steep-walled gorges. Of these the Stikine, Alsek, and Copper rivers are the largest. The great Susitna river basin also lies within the Pacific mountain system, but its course is parallel to the dominating mountain axes and not transverse, as are the other streams.1

Beyond the inland front of this system the aspect of the country changes abruptly—rugged and snow-covered ranges and narrow steep-walled valleys give way to a broad rolling upland, broken by wide, flat, grass and timbered valley floors. Here (he inter stream areas are flat with a mesa-like form; hence the province has been called the Central platteau region. A few minor ranges and isolated rounded peaks rise above the general flat-topped upland, but these are merely minor features. This province stretches north and northeast for two hundred miles and to the southwest, where with decreasing altitude it approaches Bering sea, into which its waters are drained by the great Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers.

The Central plateau province merges on the north and east with the foothills of another series of ranges that form northwesterly extension of the eastern member of the Canadian cordillera, and hence are termed the Rocky mountain system of Alaska. Northern Alaska is but partially explored, and hence its physical features but imperfectly known. In general, there is a mountainous belt about a hundred miles in width composed of a number of east and west-trending ranges ranging from 4,000 to 8,000 feet in height (Pl. X). The northernmost of these fall off abruptly to a region of slight relief—the so-called Arctic slope of Alaska, identical in physiography and origin with the high plains of western United States and Canada.

Description of Ranges

The Pacific mountain system of Alaska includes all the highest ranges and peaks of the Territory and has been fairly well explored. It therefore merits closer attention here than does the Rocky mountain system, which is a far less prominent. topographic feature and about which there is but little detailed information.

The Coast range—the southernmost of the Pacific system— is a northern extension of the coast range of British Columbia. It enters Alaska with a northwesterly trend at Portland canal. Here it comprises a rugged highland belt with a mean altitude of from 5,000 to 7,000 feet and some fifty miles in width, within which lies the International Boundary. These mountains stretch northward parallel to the general trend of the Pacific shore line for some 500 miles and with a width of 50 to 80 miles. The mainland range is here separated from the open sea by the rugged Alexander Archipelago, which is threaded by the famous inland water route of southeastern Alaska.

The mountains for the most part rise abruptly from the water’s edge, in many places almost as sheer cliffs. In spite of the steepness of the slopes they are usually clothed with a dense growth of timber, among which hemlock and spruce are the most conspicuous and give the sombre green coloring so characteristic of the landscape. Near the southern boundary the timber line is some 3,500 feet above the sea, the higher altitudes being clothed in moss, which above merges into the lichen covered cliffs. Only here and there a peak towers above the limit of perpetual snow, which in southeastern Alaska stands at about 6,000 to 7,000 feet.

The Coast range is essentially composed of a great mass of granitic rocks injected into a series of sediments, whose upturned strata stretch along both the inner and outer margins of the range. The intrusion of this enormous body of igneous rock took place in Mesozoic times and was synchronous with similar intrusions found in the Coast range of British Columbia, the Sierra Nevada, and other mountains of the Pacific system. Earth stresses have fractured the granite into systems of joints and lines of dislocation. Erosion has followed these planes of weakness and as a result the valleys and fiords fall into more or less parallel systems. These valleys determined the direction of ice movements, and hence of glacial scouring.

The most striking features of this part of Alaska are the deep fiords penetrating the Coast range. These are steepsided trenches, whose walls in many places rise abruptly from tide level and are continued far below the surface of the sea. Portland canal, marking the southeast boundary of Alaska, nearly 100 miles in length, is the longest of the mainland fiords. It traverses almost the entire width of the Coast range. Lynn canal penetrates the mainland for some eighty miles, and is extended to the open sea by Chatham strait, which traverses the coastal islands in an almost straight course for over 150 miles. These two connecting bodies of water are remarkable in that they form a straight body of water over two hundred miles in length. A valley extends from the head of Lynncanal to the famous Chilkoot Pass, which was traversed by so many of the Klondike gold seekers. Another reaches to the White Pass, which is crossed by the only railroad as yet giving access to the Yukon basin.

The fiords were first developed as a valley system along lines of weakness in the bedrock, then deeply scoured by ice, and at the same time depressed below tide level so that an invasion of the sea took place. In this manner was formed that great system of inland waterways that stretches along the Pacific seaboard, a distance of a thousand miles, from Puget sound to Glacier bay.

Near the head of Lynncanal the Coast range passes inland behind the St. Elias range, that for some 300 miles presents its rugged slopes to the sea. The range is bisected by the Alsek valley, cast of which lie the Fair weather mountains and to the west the St. Elias mountains proper. The Fair weather mountains rise from a rocky coast line, in some places almost sheer from the sea. They include a number of high peaks such as Mt. Fair weather (15,399 feet), Mt. Perouse (10,756 feet), and Mt. Crillon (12,727 feet). These peaks stand forth in dazzling whiteness, for here the snowline is but 3,000 to 4,000 feet above the sea. Numerous glaciers take precipitous courses from the Fair weather mountains to the coast, where they discharge directly into tidewater. The Fair weather mountains constitute one of the least known ranges in Alaska. While their southeast base is washed by the waters of Glacier bay, known to tens of thousands of tourists, and their crest line is less than 20 miles from the sea, yet so forbidding is the coast line that they have been visited only by the engineers who located the international boundary among their rugged summits.

At the Alsek valley the mountain front retreats from the shore line and forest-covered coastal plains, and foothills intervene between the base of the range and the sea. Here the crest line stands from 10,000 to 15,000 feet above tidewater with numerous higher peaks, culminating in St. Elias (18,024, feet) and Mt. Logan (19,539 feet). The whole range takes its name from its principal mountain (Pl. VIII), which is closely interwoven with the history of Alaska. Its snowy summit was the first part of Alaska seen by Vitus Bering when he discovered this part of the continent in 1741. It was also chosen to mark the international boundary, and was long believed to be the highest peak in the northwest part of the continent. St. Elias was also the first of Alaska’s mountains to be scaled, a feat accomplished only after numerous attempts extending through some fourteen years. Mt. Logan, which is 20 miles farther inland and on the Canadian side of the boundary, is probably some fifteen hundred feet higher than St. Elias, and not even its slopes have been visited. Adjacent to St. Elias are a number of high peaks, such as Mt. Vancouver (15,676 feet), Mt. Hubbard (14,950 feet), and Mt. Cook (13,755 feet), none of which have been climbed.

What is known of the geology of the St. Elias range indicates that it is made up of closely folded and dislocated sediment. These strata arc more or less altered rocks of Paleozoic and Mesozoic age. Flanking the southern margin of the range are some Tertiary strata, which north of Controller bay and eastward as far as Mt. St. Elias include some valuable coal measures. Igneous rocks have been injected into the strata of St. Elias range in considerable masses. The higher peaks all probably mark the position of such intruded masses. The greater resistance to erosion of these igneous rocks over the adjacent sediments accounts for their present relief. Glaciation has played an important part in the sculpturing of these mountains but the valleys are still ice filled, so that the character of relief is obscured (Pl. V).

The St. Elias range as a whole has been geologically recently elevated. The elevation at Yakutat Bay has already been referred to, but the existence of sea beaches on the slopes of St. Elias 5,000 feet above the sea is even stronger evidence of this upward movement. These beaches contain shells of organisms belonging to the same species as are found in the nearby waters of the Pacific.

Though St. Elias was long described in the literature as a volcano, the exploration of its slope dispelled this fallacy. No volcanoes are known in the range, except a small one near the northern front and close to the international boundary. Here a small vent was discovered by the boundary engineers several years ago. The ejecta of this little crater had been known for many years, for they are found as a stratum underneath the soil in the upper Yukon basin over an area of probably 30,000 square miles.

To the west the St. Elias range merges into the Chugach mountains which form the coastal barrier (Pl. Vb) as far as Prince William Sound, with a mean altitude of from 6,000 to 8,000 feet. The valley of the Copper river lies transverse to this range (Pl. IV)1 and only along its deep trench have these mountains been well explored. Here the mountains are readily accessible through a railroad leading from Cordova into the copper fields. From Valdez a wagon road, now occasionally used by automobilists, leads over Thomas Pass in the Chugach mountains. This range includes many peaks from 8,000 to 12,000 feet in height. These stand out little above the main crest line and are not conspicuous features.

At the western end the Chugach mountains swing southward and are continued by the Kenai mountains (Pl. IIa). This range rises steeply from the fiorded eastern coast line of the Kenai peninsula to altitudes of from 4,000 to 6,800 feet. The highland belt has a width of thirty to sixty miles with numerous sharp crest lines, in part separated by broad valleys, in part filled by ice and snow. On the west the mountains fall abruptly to a flat-topped upland which stretches through to Cook Inlet. Geologically, as well as topographically, the Kenai mountains are a continuation of the St. Elias and Chugach ranges.

The Kenai mountains rise on the east from an irregular coast line, encompassing many bays, and are therefore readily accessible. In spite of this fact, though mapped by the Geological Survey, they have been relatively little visited. Exception to this statement should be made for the mountains of the northeastern part of the peninsula, which is annually visited by many big game hunters. It is traversed by a railroad from Seward and contains a mining population.

The mountains lying west of Cook Inlet and along the Alaska peninsula are of different character from those described above. Here the relief is less, and the crest lines mo e subdued. Many of the prominent peaks are active or extinct volcanoes. The name Aleutian range has been given to the general highland belt which forms the backbone of the Alaskan peninsula and whose northern terminus coalesces with the southeastern part of the Alaska range. In general it is characterized by prominent peaks distributed along a northeast-southwest axis, connected by crest lines of no great

altitude. The range is broken into mountain groups by broad, low gaps and separates the drainage into Bering from that into the Pacific. Mount Iliamna (10,017 feet) and Mt. Redoubt (10,198 feet), both active volcanoes, are the most prominent peaks of the northern part of the range, here called the Chigmit mountains. At Cape Douglas is another group of mountains 6,000 to 7,000 feet high. In the same axes, but 75 miles to the southwest, lies Katmai volcano, known for its violent eruption of June 6-8, 1912. Still farther to the southwest are innumerable other volcanic peaks, of which Shishaldin (9,387 feet) and Tsanotski (8,088 feet) on Unimak Island are best known through their volcanic activity. The little explored Aleutian chain contains many extinct and several active volcanoes.

The geology of the Aleutian range is relatively simple, a broad arch of Mesozoic sediments, complicated in places by minor folds and dislocations, forms the main structural feature of the range. Through this igneous rocks have at many places broken to the surface. This igneous material has been piled up around craters as volcanic lavas and ashes. In the Aleutian Islands the sediments forming the arch are below sea level and only the volcanic material is visible. Here and there masses of granite have invaded the sediments and some of the older volcanics. Glaciation has played only a minor part in the sculpturing of these mountains.

Just west of Mt. St. Elias the main range is bifurcated, the northern branch trending northwesterly to encompass the Copper river valley and to join the eastern end of the Alaska range. This mountain mass is but little explored, but is known to include one high unnamed peak, possibly exceeding 15,000 feet in altitude. The southern branch parallels the coast, like the Chugach mountains already described. Within this angle lies the Wrangell group, occupying a roughly circular area (Pl. III). The Copper river sweeps around their northern and western flank, while the Chitina drains their southern slopes. These mountains consist of a rugged group of dissected volcanoes, Mt. Sanford (16,208 feet) being the highest, and are built up of volcanic ejecta on a high base formed by a broad trough of Mesozoic sediments. Mt. Wrangell (14,005 feet) is the only active volcano in the group. Mineral wealth has attracted the prospector and miner to both slopes of the Wrangell mountains, and the entire group has been mapped by the Geological Survey. The southern flank is now readily accessible by the railroad that traverses the lower Copper river valley (Pl. IV).

The Alaska range1 is a rugged mountain mass which sweeps as a great crescent around the Susitna and Copper basins, constituting, for the most part, the watershed between the Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea. Trending northeastward from the unexplored region near Lake Clark, the range continues to bend to the east as far as Delta river, where the axis of the mountains takes a southeasterly direction and is contained in the so-called Nutzotin mountains as far as White river. The axis of this range, which has a parabolic form, is between 500 and 600 miles in length, and the range is from 50 to 80 miles wide. In the southern part of the range the peaks are from 5,000 to 8,000 feet in altitude. When traced northward and eastward, the crest line is found to maintain an altitude of 7,000 to 10,000 feet to the vicinity of Mentasta Pass, beyond which it is continued by the Nutzotin mountains at a lower altitude. Its longitudinal extent, breadth, and mass make the Alaska range one of the most prominent mountain chains of the continent. It is both higher and broader than the Sierra Nevada and of greater relief and extent than the Alps of Europe.

The region lying between Cook Inlet and Lake Clark, about 80 miles wide, has been little explored, but is known to be of high relief. These comparatively unexplored mountains stretch northward for a hundred miles and probably include a number of high ridges trending north and south, separated by rather broad valleys and with peaks 8,000 to 9,000 feet high. From Cook Inlet the eastern face of these mountains can be seen as a rather abrupt scarp, which rises to a summit level covered with snow and is broken by a number of glaciers discharging into a stream flowing into Cook Inlet. Mount Spurr, 11,069 feet high, is the most prominent peak in this mountain mass, but it properly belongs in the Aleutian range. In the headwater region of the Yentna there is a break in the Alaska range, and several passes from 2,900 to 3.0 feet high afford easy routes of travel between Cook Inlet and the Kuskokwim.

The Alaska range maintains the same general character to a point 100 miles northeastward from the Skwentna basin. Here the inland slope rises abruptly from the gravel-floored plateau to the crest of the range, not more than five to ten miles distant from the mountain front. The crest line, a high, serrated ridge 7,000 to 10,000 feet high, joins a series of dominating peaks, including Mount Dall (9,000 feet), Mount Russell (11,600 feet), and the two giant peaks Mount For- aker (17,000) and Mount McKinley (20,300 feet) (Pl. IX). East of the crest line are other high peaks, which probably attain altitudes of 10,000 to 15,000 feet. Here valleys of the southeastward-flowing streams reach far back into the mountains and are, as a rule, filled with glacial ice well out toward the Susitna lowland. These glaciers form the most extensive ice sheets of inland Alaska. The valleys of the westward-flowing streams are short and are only in part filled with glacial ice.

That part of the range which lies between the head of the Chulitna (the west fork of the Susitna) and the Tanana valley includes a mountainous area in which at least three subordinate ranges can be recognized, with an aggregate width of nearly 100 miles. The broad valley of the Nenana, traversing two of these ranges, is connected by a broad, low gap— called Broad Pass (2,400 feet)—with the valley of the Chulitna, a stream that flows south.

The range is continued in a southeasterly direction by a broad mountain mass. Here the peaks are from 8,000 to

10.0 feet in altitude with the exception of Mount Hayes, whose snow-capped summit stands about 13,940 feet above sea level. From Delta river, which traverses the entire range, to Mentasta Pass the mountains are unbroken, and their snow-covered crest line averages probably 7,000 to 9.0feet in altitude. Mentasta Pass is a broad, flat depression, 3,000 feet high. From Mentasta Pass the range finds its continuation to the southeast as far as White River in the Nutzotin mountains, which embrace a rugged area 100 miles in length and 40 miles in width. The mountains stand at elevations between 7,000 and 8,000 feet (Pl. I), but above this level rise several peaks that are 9,000 to 10,000 feet high.


To sum up briefly, the structure of the Alaska range is that of a synclinorium, broken by many minor and probably also by some larger faults. Thrust faulting has taken place along the western arm of the syncline, probably accompanied by very considerable dislocation of strata, to be measured in thousands of feet if not in miles. Some of the granitic stocks in the range are in part bounded by faults of considerable throw, which are parallel to the larger axis of the intrusion.

The range is of recent uplift, like the other high mountains of Alaska. After its dissection through water erosion its slopes were buried in glacial ice, while only the peaks and crests stood above the ice-cap. Many glaciers radiated out from this ice mass and deeply scoured the valleys heading in the range.

Glaciers and Glaciation

The grandeur of Alaska’s glaciers has often been depicted. Within the territory are the largest ice-sheets on the continent, and the fact that many discharge directly into the sea adds much to their magnificence (Pls. V and VIb). It is not always realized by the casual traveller that Alaska’s glaciers are practically limited to the Pacific mountain system, and chiefly to the seaward slope of these mountains. There are some glaciers which discharge along the inland margin of the system, and a few small glaciers have been found among the higher peaks of northern Alaska. All these are insignificant compared with the stupendous development of ice in some of the coastal ranges.

The vast inter-mountain region is entirely without glaciers or permanent snowfields. Therefore perpetual ice and snow are characteristic of only a small part of Alaska. Indeed all Alaska’s ice and snowfields comprise not over 20,000 square miles, or less than four per cent of its total area.

Though of small total area, the glaciers furnish the most striking features of the landscape in the coastal mountains. The traveller skirting the Pacific seaboard sees spread before him vast piedmont and valley glaciers, some of which end in bold ice cliffs from which bergs are discharged. As his eye sweeps the higher altitudes many alpine glaciers are viewed, either tributary to the lower level glaciers or drained by milky torrents that carry the icy waters and debris to the sea. A climb to the higher summits will reveal vast fields of ice that fill the inter summit and ridge areas. Russell, who viewed such an ice field from the upper slopes of Mt. St. Elias, describes it as

A vast snow covered region limitless in expanse, through which hundreds and probably thousands of barren angular peaks project. There was not a stream, not a lake, not a vestige of vegetation in sight. A more desolate or more utterly lifeless land one never beheld. Vast smooth surfaces without crevasses or breaks stretched away to seemingly limitless distances, diversified only by jagged and angular mountain peaks.

If the traveller passes the coastal barrier by way of one of the transverse valleys, such as that of the Copper river, great glaciers will be seen discharging either directly into the river or into tributary streams. Beyond the coastal barrier glacial phenomena are less pronounced, but some large ice sheets are found (Pl. Ib). On the inland slope of the Pacific mountain system only small glaciers are present and beyond the mountain front are entirely absent. As already noted only a few small glaciers occur in the Rocky mountain system of northern Alaska.

The distribution of the Alaska glaciers is the result of the interaction between climate and relief. Moisture-laden winds from the relatively warm Pacific waters, sweeping against the cold high summits of the coastal ranges, precipitate their moisture in the great névé fields that nourish the glaciers. Beyond the coastal barrier the winds are relatively dry and the precipitation is light. For example: along the military road from Valdez to the summit the snow fall is about fifteen feet; at Copper Center, beyond the Chugach mountains, it is less than three feet. Again, in the lower Copper river valley snow-falls of thirty feet are recorded; while at Chitina, beyond the mountains, it is less than three feet. The lower mountain passes and transverse valleys afford a free passage to the moisture-laden winds, so that these, like the Chilkoot Pass and the Alsek and Copper valleys, are margined with glaciers.

Not everywhere is the coast separated from the interior by mountains high enough to cause a complete precipitation of the moisture-laden winds. Thus the winds sweeping over the Chugach mountains lose only a part of their moisture and are still able to deposit great snowfields on the higher Wrangell mountains, lying over a hundred miles from the sea. Again, the broad depressions of Cookinlet and the Susitna valley permit the coastal winds to carry their moisture to the Alaska range 100 to 200 miles from the sea (Pl. Ib). This high barrier, however, effectually shuts off the snow from the inland province and prevents even the inland slope of the mountains from having any but small glaciers.

These facts go to prove that the presence of glaciers in Alaska is to be accounted for by purely local conditions. They must not be confused, and cannot be coordinated, with the causes of the general continental glaciation of geologically recent times. Alaska’s glaciers are then in no sense a remnant of the great North American continental ice sheets. This is true, in spite of the fact that during the glacial period Alaska glaciers may have been of far greater extent than they are at present, though it remains to be proven that the conditions favoring continental glaciation were also favorable to the development of the mountain glaciation of Alaska. In any event it is certain that at a time when much of the northern half of the continent was covered with ice a large part of inland Alaska was ice-free.

It will be evident from the above that Alaska glaciers center around certain high mountain masses which are exposed to the moisture-laden winds of the Pacific. These loci of glacial development are marked by ice and névé fields of greater or lesser extent lying at high altitudes within these lofty ranges. In these great reservoirs of ice and snow the larger glaciers have their source, while many smaller ones originate in glacial cirques which are independent of the larger ice fields.

The large ice-fields of the high ranges are in part smooth expanses of ice extending for many miles, broken only here and there by nunataks, or by ridges and peaks. Within these fields the ice is often uncrevassed, and the direction of movement is not always apparent except near the margin. This type of glacier forms a more or less well defined ice-cap, comparable in some ways to that of Greenland. Only a part of the mountain ice-fields are of this type. Others are made up of a well defined valley system, deeply buried in ice and separated by jagged ridges and peaks. This type, except for its deeper burial in ice, is in no sense different from the valley and alpine glacier system found at lower altitudes.

The largest of these ice and snow reservoirs in Alaska is that of the unexplored parts of the St. Elias range. It is estimated that the high ranges extending from Glacier bay on the east to St. Elias on the west include from 8,000 to 10,000 square miles which is buried in perpetual ice. The surface of this ice-field probably varies from 5,000 to 10,000 feet in altitude. This great sea of ice pours through numerous gaps and valleys to the ocean and to the Copper and Alsek rivers. It is the source of the great piedmont glaciers between Yakutat and Controller bays. The largest of these, the Malaspina and Bering, have a united area of over 2,000 square miles. In addition to these the St. Elias range gives rise to innumerable smaller glaciers (Pl. V).

Similar ice and snow fields occur in the Chugach mountains both east and west of the Copper valley. These highlands are unexplored, but their total area of snow and ice probably aggregates some 1,500 to 2,000 square miles and they have a mean altitude of 5,000 to 6,000 feet. In them are the famous Childs and Miles glaciers of the Copper valley, as well as those tributary to Prince William sound.

The Wrangell mountain ice-fields are probably third in size of those in Alaska, with an area of probably 800 to 1,000 square miles and a mean altitude of from 5,000 to 10,000 feet. They seem to be more of the buried valley filling type than are those of St. Elias mountains. Here the upper reaches of the valley glaciers that radiate out from the mountains are connected by through glaciers. The whole forms a system of glacial highways separated by ridges and pinnacles and centering on the higher peaks, such as Blackburn, Wrangell, and Regal.

One of the best examples of a mountain ice-cap is that of the Kenai peninsula. This has been described to the writer by Mr. R. H. Sargent, who has mapped its margin, as a great dome of smooth ice, broken only by a few peaks that rise above it. The surface falls away from a central axis having an elevation of 5,500 to 6,000 feet to about 3,000 feet, where it breaks into the many valley glaciers. It has not been completely surveyed, but its area is probably between 800 and 1,200 square miles.

Loci of ice and snow accumulation of smaller extent than those described above occur in higher parts of the Alaska and Coast ranges and in the Talkeetna mountains. All these give rise to valley glaciers, which thread their way down to lower altitudes until they reach the limits at which ice can be maintained. In addition to these main centers of ice accumulation there are many localities where single glaciers or groups of glaciers are to be found. Such is the case as far south as Portland canal, and to the southwest in the Alaska peninsula. Small glaciers are also found in the Rocky mountains of northern Alaska near the international boundary and in the headwater regions of the Kobuk and Noatak rivers.

The lower limit to which the glacier reaches is dependent both on the climate and on the supply of ice by which it is fed. Therefore the fact that a glacier reaches sea level does not indicate that the climatic conditions at its front are favorable to the accumulation of ice. The sea level margins of many of the Alaska glaciers lies in zones of luxuriant vegetation and heavy growth of timber, indicating comparative temperate climatic conditions. Their outer margins are evidence not so much of the local climate as of the conditions which prevail in the snowfields where they have their source.

Movement of Glaciers

As the present Alaska glaciers are but remnants of far more extensive ice sheets of the past, their general recession can not be questioned. Confirmatory evidence of this retreat is obtained by a comparison of the charts and descriptions of the early explorers of the coast line with those of the present day. Such a comparison shows that several bays and indentations, previously ice filled, have been opened to navigation during the past century. Of a more speculative nature is the evidence furnished by the distribution of the native tribes. When white men first visited the coast of Alaska the Thlinket natives had not long been established on Controller bay, which they reached by migration from the south east. It is probable that this migration was first possible when the great piedmont glaciers of the St. Elias range had retreated sufficiently from the coast to permit of the landing of canoes during the long open water journey from Icy strait to Controller bay. Bearing on the same subject are some of the Thlinket myths, in which reference is made to an ice barrier on the Stikine river.

More precise evidence on the ice movements is contained in the results of surveys and investigations of many Alaska glaciers during the past twenty-five years. The maps of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, the Geological Survey, and the Boundary Commission have delineated the ice fronts at different times. This work has been supplemented by intensive glacial studies of certain areas. Specially noteworthy among these studies are those of Mr. G. K. Gilbert along the Pacific littoral, of Prof. G. Frederick Wright, Prof. Harry Fielding Reid, Dr. F. E. Wright, and Prof. Lawrence Martin on Glacier bay, of the late Prof. R. S. Tarr and Prof. Lawrence Martin on Yakutat bay and Copper river, and of Professors Tarr, Martin and Grant on Prince William sound and Kenai peninsula. The investigations seem to prove that ice front recession is the normal present condition of Alaska glaciers. Exceptions to this are not uncommon in some of the areas studied in detail. Thus on Yakutat bay, Tarr and Martin have found very marked fluctuations in the positions of ice fronts. They observed some marked advance that took place within ten months in the years 1905-06. In this short period one glacier moved forward some 4,500 feet. On the other hand another glacier, also on Yakutat bay, retreated nearly two miles within three years. Evidence of similar fluctuations, but of lesser magnitude, have been found in the study of other Alaska coastal glaciers. While the evidence points to a general recession of the ice fronts throughout Alaska, this is now, as in the past, being punctuated by advances. No definite statement is yet possible of the average rate of recession, which certainly has been slow. The causes of the fluctuations of the ice fronts is undetermined. Tarr and Martin have shown that the accumulative effect of the avalanches in the névé fields, caused by the earthquake of 1899, was probably the cause of the astounding advances of the Yakutat bay glaciers which took place in 1905-6. At present at least the earthquake explanation does not seem adequate to account for ice advances in other than the Yakutat bay region.

Whatever the cause of the local fluctuations the general recession of Alaska glaciers since this maximum extension is undoubtedly due to changes in climate. It is not improbable, however, that these climatic changes may have been comparatively local and not worldwide, as were those that caused the accumulation and disappearance of the continental ice sheets. For example, a lowering of the Aleutian Island barrier, bringing the warm waters of the Pacific into Bering sea, would probably cause a great increase of precipitation over inland Alaska. If at the same time the present mountains stood at a higher altitude, the conditions would probably be favorable for a far greater development of glaciers than at present. Thus it might be that such comparatively slight changes of land masses relative to the sea could account for Alaska’s extensive ice sheets of the past.

Former Extent of Glaciers

During the maximum extent of glaciation in Alaska the mountain masses described were, as now, centers of ice and snow accumulation. From these, ice masses radiated out in all directions but they were of much greater extent than the present glaciers. Many highland areas now without glaciers were then centers of ice accumulations. Thus there were several centers of local glaciation of very limited extent, but widely distributed, in the Yukon and Kuskokwim basins. Similar loci of glaciation occurred on Seward peninsula and near the eastern shore of Bering sea. Far more extensive than these was the ice accumulation in the Pacific and Rocky mountain systems. At this time the ice tongues were sent far out from the Alaska range into the Kuskokwim and Yukon basins. Cook inlet, Susitna, and Copper valleys were filled with glaciers. Ice from the Wrangell mountains probably overrode the Chugach mountains. Prince William sound was ice filled, and the southern limit of the ice was at least as far as Middleton Island, nearly 100 miles from the mainland. The St. Elias and Coast ranges were even more important centers of ice accumulation than the highlands described above and the fiords of southeastern Alaska were ice flooded as are some of those of Glacier bay today. From the Rocky mountains ice moved southward into the Koyukuk basin (Pl. VIIa) and northward well out of the Arctic plain, in places probably reaching the shores of the Polar sea. The Cordilleran ice-cap, whose center is in northern British Columbia, may have been contemporaneous with the Alaska ice sheets described above. If so, it coalesced with the St. Elias and Coast range ice masses and probably reached the coast through the stream-worn valleys such as the Stikine, Taku, and Alsek rivers. On the east it joined with the glaciers from the Rocky mountain system of British Columbia and Yukon territory. Tongues of the Cordilleran glacier reached far down the tributaries of the upper Yukon. Even during the maximum glaciation there was at least a third of Alaska which was entirely ice-free. It should also be noted that, even in the highland centers of glaciation, the high summits and ridges stood above the seas of ice. These icecaps were therefore comparable to the present ice-fields of the St. Elias range, though of far greater magnitude, and not to the continental ice-caps of glacial times.

Glacial Erosion

Evidence of glacial erosion greets the Alaska traveller on every hand. Cirques and hanging valleys are among the commonest phenomena. The irregular floors of the fiords of southeastern Alaska are among the best examples of glacial scouring. On the islands of Alexander Archipelago are numerous rockbound lakes which have been formed by ice erosion. Deep glacial groovings are found along some of the rock walls of some of the fiords. On Portland canal are grooves from two to three feet deep, cut into granite walls. In these fiords ice erosion was probably at its maximum, for here the glacier was confined and was moved forward by a tremendous head of ice, being fed by the Coast range and possibly by the Cordilleran glaciers also. While these valleys, now fiords, were deepened and ground by ice action, they are not formed by glacial erosion. A well developed valley existed before the glacial epoch, and glaciation simply intensified the relief. Inland Alaska exhibits far less evidence of glacial scouring. This is in part because the ice masses were of less extent, and in part because the postglacial filling has mantled to a large extent the bedrock floor where the phenomena of erosion would be noted. There were, however, extensive drainage changes, caused by the advance and retreat of the ice in the Yukon basin, which will not here be discussed.

Older Epoch of Glaciation

The evidence in hand points to the conclusion that the maximum glaciation in Alaska is a comparatively recent phenomena, and that its causes are to be sought in local geographic conditions rather than in the widespread climatic changes that must be appealed to in explaining the cause of the continental ice sheets. If Alaskan glaciation is younger than the glacial epoch, it is pertinent to inquire what were the conditions in Alaska during Pleistocene times. The glacial Pleistocene climate must have left its impress in this northern field, as it has in other parts of the world. Assuming that the Alaskan glaciation described is recent, the question is raised whether there was not an older glacial period in the territory, corresponding to that of other parts of the world. Some evidence of such an older period of glaciation in Alaska has recently been found by Mr. A. G. Maddren in the Yakataga region and by Mr. S. R. Capps in the upper White river basin. Further evidence may be found which will permit of a more definite correlation of Alaskan glaciation with that of more southern latitudes.


Stellar, naturalist of the ill-fated Bering expedition that discovered Alaska, records the first landfall under date of July 16, 1741, as follows:

The land was at this place very lofty, and a range of mountains was observed of such altitude that it could be seen for sixteen Holland miles from the shore. I can not recall having seen so high a range in all Siberia and Kamtchatka.

This is the simple record of the first sight of Alaska and of one of its towering peaks, Mount St. Elias. Thus St. Elias was the first peak discovered and named in Alaska, and this event was the beginning of mountain exploration in the territory. It remained for Captain James Cook, nearly forty years later, to be the first to determine the position of Mount St. Elias with any degree of accuracy. Cook’s remarkably accurate profile was also the first graphic representation of this high peak. The voyage of this famous navigator was the first of a series of explorations along Alaska’s seaboard by many nations, which were to extend into the middle of the nineteenth century.

It is not worth while here to attempt a chronicle of when this or that mountain or range was first described. Suffice it to state that before the transfer of Russian America to the United States in 1867 every mountain range visible from the seaboard had been outlined and many of the higher peaks had been at least approximately located. Immediately after the transfer this work was accelerated by the Coast Survey, under the leadership of Prof. George Davidson and with the coöperation of such men as Dr. William H. Dall and Mr. Marcus Baker.

While thus the Alaska littoral had become well known, the great inland region was almost unexplored. The Russian traders had pushed their way up the Yukon for a thousand miles, had established themselves on the Kuskokwim and explored the Copper and Susitna rivers. Hudson bay agents, approaching from the Mackenzie river, had built Fort Selkirk at the mouth of the Pelly and Fort Yukon at the mouth of the Porcupine river. It remained for Robert Kennicott and William H. Dall, with their colleagues of the Western Union Telegraph Company, to tie together these frontier posts by their exploration of the middle Yukon. Exploration of the interior of Alaska was quiescent for many years after the transfer. Lieut Frederick Schwatka’s reconnaissance of the Yukon from Chilkoot Pass to the sea, in 1883, was the first governmental survey in the interior. The rather spectacular published account of this journal magnified its results beyond its merits. It followed a route to Fort Selkirk already used by at least a hundred prospectors, while below that point the river had been well known for nearly two decades. Far more important, though less well known, was the exploration of Lieut, (now Major) Henry T. Allen, U.S.A. Allen ascended the Copper river and was the first to map the Wrangell mountains, naming many of the higher peaks, He crossed the Nutzotin mountains to the Tanana and was the first to survey the northern part of the Alaska range. He then ascended the Koyukuk river to the Arctic Circle and mapped the southern part of the Rocky mountains, which he termed the Endicott range (Pl. VIIa). With only a small party and very meager equipment Allen in a single season explored the margins of three of the greatest ranges of Alaska. In 1886-87 Lieut. G. M. Stoney, U.S.N., wintered on the Kobuk river and penetrated the Rocky mountains as far eastward as the Colville river. Three years later J. H. Turner, of the Boundary Survey, followed the international boundary across the Rockies from the Porcupine river to the Arctic ocean. In 1891 Lieut. Frederick Schwat- ka, U.S.A., and Dr. C. Willard Hayes, U.S. Geological Survey, made an arduous overland journey from Fort Selkirk on the Yukon, to the head of the White river, thence across Skolai Pass to the Copper river and down that stream to the sea. They thus supplemented and extended Allen’s survey of the Wrangell mountains. The same year E. J. Glave and Jack Dalton traversed the inland front of the St. Elias range as far west as Lake Kluane, and were the first to use pack horses in Alaska. Glave and Dalton had in the previous year made a daring trip down the Alsek, and hence were the first to traverse the St. Elias range.

The journeys above noted were perhaps the most important, from the standpoint of mountain exploration, of the many accomplished previous to 1898. But even at that date relatively little was known about the geography of inland Alaska. Mention should be made of the knowledge gained of the great Yukon basin by the indefatigable prospectors. This information was not very exact, nor was it usually available to the cartographers. It should be recorded however that between 1875 and 1895 Jack McQuestion, one of these pioneers, explored the Koyukuk; Arthur Harper and Al. Mayo, the lower Tanana, and Frank Densmore and Al. King, the north fork of the Kuskokwim. The exploration of Glacier bayby Mr. John Muir and Rev. S. Hall Young in 1879 was also the means of adding something to the knowledge of the Fair weather mountains and was the precursor of those studies which have added so much to the knowledge of Alaskan glaciers.

This brief review indicates the principal explorations of the mountainous districts of Alaska up to 1898, with the exception of certain feats of mountaineering to be referred to below. It will be noted that up to this time no systematic scheme of inland exploration had been adopted. While much had been accomplished, considering the means available, both by private enterprise and by various government agencies, there had been lack of coordination between the various expeditions, and at best the efforts to obtain knowledge of this great land were only spasmodic. When, however, upwards of fifty thousand people started northward under the spur of the Klondike gold excitement, the demand for maps and information about Alaska became urgent. It was then that the Government tardily made up for its long neglect of the territory. Funds were at once made available, and several departments of the Government were authorized to take up the exploration and mapping of the vast territory. The Coast and Geodetic Survey was able to expand its work, and the army was charged with the duty of trail-building and of making certain explorations. Of more importance to this writing was the work of the United States Geological Survey. It fell to this service to inaugurate systematic surveys of the inland region. These surveys have now been carried on for seventeen years and have yielded a wealth of information about the topography and geology of Alaska. Reconnaissance surveys have been extended over more than a quarter of its area of 586,400 square miles. In course of this work the inland front of the St. Elias range has been mapped and both slopes of the Alaska range as far west as Broad Pass. An exploration has been made of the western slope of the Alaska range, including the base of Mount McKinley. The mapping of Talkeetna, Wrangell, and Kenai mountains is almost complete. Much has been learned about the Chugach range,1 though its great snowfields as well as those of the St. Elias range still remain almost unexplored. The Rocky mountains of northern Alaska have been traversed by several expeditions, to the end that their general configuration is known.

The contoured maps1 show the position and form of many of the high peaks. Many altitude determinations have also been made, and while not of the same degree of accuracy as those based on detailed surveys, yet they are sufficiently close for the purposes of the mountaineer. From the standpoint of the mountaineer the work of the engineers of the International Boundary Commission is of even greater interest. The international tribunal of 1903 placed the boundary among the high peaks of the Coast and St. Elias ranges, and the task of locating and surveying the line in this wilderness of snow and ice, as well as tracing the line through to the Polar sea, fell to the engineers of a boundary commission. This work has been carried on to the present time and is now nearly completed. No surveys made on this continent presented more difficult tasks. With their heavy instruments on their backs, the engineers performed feats of mountaineering in an unexplored land that would be a severe test on the professional climber in regions of far greater accessibility. The results will all be presented in the reports of the Boundary Commission, but it may here be said that almost the entire Coast range has been explored and much data obtained regarding the St. Elias range.


The foregoing pages present in outline what has been accomplished toward the general survey of Alaskan mountains. It still remains to chronicle the results achieved by Alaskan mountaineers. The summit of St. Elias is only forty miles from tidewater and may be seen for over 200 miles at sea. Such a conspicuous feature naturally excited the interest of the many explorers who traversed the Alaska coast line. For this reason, and because St. Elias was long believed to be the highest peak in Alaska, it was the first to receive attention from the mountaineers. The first party, that of 1886, was composed of Lieut. Frederick Schwatka, U.S.A., Prof. William Libbey, of Princeton University, ard Lieut. Seaton-Karr, of the British army. With them was also Jack Dalton, one of the Alaska pioneers, traders, and prospectors. Landing was made at the mouth of Yahtse riveron July 17th, on a coast exposed to the full sweep of the Pacific. So little was known of the St. Elias region at that time that the expedition’s attempt to reach the summit was foredoomed to failure. However, a point 7,000 feet above the sea and sixteen miles from the coast was reached in the two weeks devoted to the land trip, and geographic data obtained that were of great use to subsequent explorers.

Two years later an altitude of 11,400 feet was attained by a party consisting of W. H. Topham, Edwin Topham and George Broca, Englishmen, and William Williams, an American. A third attempt was made in 1890 by I. C. Russell and Mark B. Karr, with six camp hands, under the joint auspices of the National Geographic Society and the U. S. Geological Survey, which, though unsuccessful, resulted in some important contributions to the geographic knowledge of the region. Russell and Karr would undoubtedly have reached the top, had not a severe storm forced them to retreat after waiting four days in rude shelters in snow banks on the upper slopes of the mountain without fuel and almost without food. Russell, nothing daunted by this experience, in 1891 again essayed the ascent under the same auspices. During this attempt he succeeded in reaching a height of 14,500 feet, but was again forced to return by severe storms. Russell’s two expeditions, besides the large amount of data collected in regard to the glacial history of the region, gave a fairly accurate map of the slope of the mountain. His determination of 18,100 feet for the height of the mountain proved to be remarkably accurate, considering the conditions under which it was made. As a matter of fact, J. E. McGrath, of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, in 1892 fixed the height of St. Elias at 18,024 feet. It remained for H. R. H. Prince Luigi of Savoy, Duke of the Abruzzi, following the route which Russell had explored and very largely the methods which Russell had recommended, to reach the summit of St. Elias. In 1897 he landed at Yakutat Bay, and with a a large, thoroughly well equipped expedition made his way across the forty miles of expanse of snow and ice which intervened between the coast and the base of the mountain, and on the 31st of July, five weeks after leaving tidewater, he reached the summit. Prince Luigi’s expedition was carefully planned, and he showed himself a capable leader as well as an experienced mountaineer. The report of the expedition contains much that is of geographic interest, hut is largely of value as a contribution to the literature of mountaineering. The same year as the Italian expedition Mr. Henry G. Bryant attempted the ascent of St. Elias. Unfortunately, circumstances compelled him to turn back before he reached the altitude of Russell’s highest camp.

Turning now to the conquest of Mount McKinley, the earliest printed reference to the high peaks of the Alaska range arc recorded in the log of the famous English navigator, George Vancouver. In May, 1794, while surveying the head of Cook Inlet, he obtained a good view of Mounts McKinley and Foraker and noted them as “distant stupendous mountains covered with snow and apparently detached from each other.” Though the Russians soon after this established themselves on Cook Inlet, they apparently were in no hurry to extend the surveys of the English navigator. Some explorations were made, however, and among these probably the most interesting was the ascent of Susitna river by Mate Malakoff in 1834. But if he gave any report of the high range which his eyes must have swept many times while he was dragging his clumsy boat up the river, it was not considered important enough to be embodied in Tebenkoff’s Altas of Russian America, published in 1852.

Of the existence of high mountains between the Kuskokwim and Susitna basins the Russians were doubtless aware, for Grewingk, who summarized the geography of Alaska in 1852, indicates on his map the axis of such a range, to which he gave the name Tchigmit mountains. But there are few references to them in Russian literature, and not one has yet been found which refers directly to the high mountain whose snowy summit is visible from tidewater on Cook Inlet. That this mountain was known to the Russians, however, is evidenced by their name for it—“Bulshaia Gora,” meaning- great mountain. Who it was that first noted this culminating peak of the continent will probably never be known. Possibly it was Doroshin, the Russian mining engineer, who named it while seeking gold on Kenai peninsula. In any event, it is certain that up to the close of the Russian occupation of Alaska there was practically on attempt, except that of Malakoff, to explore the region in its vicinity.

In the fall of 1878 Arthur Harper and Al. Mayo ascended the Tanana a distance estimated at 250 to 300 miles, which would bring them to the present town of Fairbanks. This was the first exploration of the Tanana by white men. They reported the finding of alluvial gold in the bars of the river and also that there was a high snow-covered mountain plainly visible to the south; this, of course, was Mount McKinley. Lieutenant Allen’s trip down the Tanana in 1885 has already been recorded. In 1889 another Alaska pioneer, Frank Densmore, with several others, crossed by one of the portages from the lower Tanana to the Kusko- kwim. About the same time Al. King, also a prospector, made the same trip. Densmore must have had a glorious view of Mount McKinley. Apparently it was his description of it which led the Yukon pioneers to name it Dens- more’s Peak, and as such it was known on the Yukon long before any one realized its altitude. The inland natives knew Mount McKinley under the name Denali, while the Susitna tribes called it Doleyka and the Cook Inlet natives, Traleyka. Thus it was that, long before Mount McKinley appeared on any map, it already had five names—Denali, Doleyka, Traleyka, Bulshaia Gora, and Densmore’s Peak. Though at least a hundred white men had seen it, no one seemed to realize its stupendous height, nor had any cartographer taken note of it.

While most of these pioneers paid small heed to Mount McKinley, one was of a different type. Mr. W. A. Dickey, a Princeton graduate and now a prominent mining man of Alaska, in 1896 made a prospecting trip up the Susitna river to what is now Indian creek. For days and weeks he was in sight of the magificent peak, which he named Mount McKinley. Carefully weighing all the conditions and distance, though without instruments, Dickey estimated the altitude of the mountain as being over 20,000 feet. His published accounts were the first description of the mountain printed. Two years later George H. Eldridge, of the U. S. Geological Survey, ascended the Susitna river and traversed the Alaska range through Broad Pass. Robert Muldrow, who accompanied him as topographer, determined the height of Mount McKinley and verified Dickey’s estimate of its altitude. In 1899 Capt. J. S. Herron, U. S. A., traversed the Alaska range, by a route from Cook Inlet, and also the great lowland at the head of the Kuskokwim. His contribution to the subject here discussed is the naming of Mount Foraker, of which he had a splendid view from Lake Minchumina. In 1902 the writer, in company with D. L. Reaburn, reached the north base of Mount McKinley and traversed the front of the range from the Kuskokwim to the Nenana. The fact that the members of our party were the first to set foot on the slopes of the highest mountain on the continent was widely circulated by the daily press and for the time being caused popular interest in the results of the expedition out of proportion to their importance. Among mountaineers an intense curiosity sprang up in regard to this new field of operations, and to satisfy the demand for information an article1 was published outlining briefly what appeared to be the most feasible routes to the base of the mountain. An approach from the inland slope was recommended as the best route, and a winter camp at the north base was advocated.

The first man to attempt the ascent of Mount McKinley was Hon. James Wickersham, then judge of the district of Alaska, now Delegate to Congress from the territory. He had already mountaineered on Mount Rainier. Moreover, his several years of judicial duties in Alaska, involving many long journeys both winter and summer, had equipped him with a fund of experience for overcoming the physical obstacles of this undertaking. Wickersham reached the north base of the mountain about the middle of June, and even with his inadequate facilities succeeded in attaining an altitude of about 10,000 feet.

About the time that Wickersham left the mountain to return to his judicial duties at Fairbanks the second party to essay the summit landed at Tyonek, under the leadership of Dr. Frederick A. Cook. This party included Robert Dunn, who had had considerable Alaska experience. The route of approach to the mountain and the method of travel accorded with the plans proposed by Mr. Reaburn and the writer, except in the one important particular of starting a month later, which foredoomed the attempt to failure. Two attempts were made to climb the mountain—one from the headwaters of Tatlathna River and a second apparently along the glacier traversed by Wickersham a few weeks before. On the second trial an altitude determined by aneroid barometer as about 11,000 feet was attained. The party returned to the coast by a remarkable journey through the heart of the Alaska range, a feat never before attempted. Doctor Cook again essayed the ascent of Mount McKinley in 1906. His party, including Prof. Herschel Parker, Belmore Browne, R. W. Porter, topographer, and Fred Printz, the veteran packer of the two previous expeditions, landed at Tyonek late in May and made its way up the Susitna. Part of the journey was made overland with pack train, part by water with a motor launch. The party spent most of the summer south of Mount McKinley in exploring the region tributary to the Susitna. They tried without success to cross the range at the head of the Yentna. The attempt to reach the summit from the south was equally futile, but the journey added much to geographic knowledge of the region.

In 1910 a party was organized at Fairbanks to attempt the summit. It included Thomas Lloyd, William Taylor, Pete Anderson, and Charles McGonogill, all Alaska prospectors and provided only with such equipment as their winter- bound town of Fairbanks would afford. These men were familiar with the region about the north base of the mountain and inured by long experience to the difficulties and hardships of Alaska winter travel. A base camp was established on the Muldrow Glacier on March 25, and from this supplies were advanced by the joint efforts of the entire party. Finally, on April 10th, Taylor, Anderson, and McGonogill made the final dash to the top. McGonogill turned back about 500 feet below the summit, but the other two not only scaled the north summit, but carried with them and planted on top a fourteen-foot flag pole. This was on the north summit, the lower of the two by at least 300 feet. Dr. Hudson Stuck, after describing this ascent, says: “This is the true narrative of a most extraordinary feat, unique—the writer has no hesitation in claiming—in all the annals of mountaineering.”

Prof. Herschel Parker and Mr. Belmore Browne have been the most persistent of the several mountaineers who have attempted the ascent of Mount McKinley. Their approach to the mountain from the east, which, while it very greatly enhanced the difficulties of the journey and thus consumed valuable time and energy that might have been directed to the actual ascent, yet furnished a large amount of geographical information about the heart of the Alaska range. The joint expeditions of these mountaineers with Doctor Cook in 1906 has already been referred to. In 1910 they extended this exploration by a journey over a glacier that discharges into the Chulitna and has its sources on the east slope of Mount McKinley. This brought them within about fifteen miles of the summit, their nearest approach. Nothing daunted by their hard experience, Parker and Browne organized a third expedition in 1912. This time they sledded their supplies up the Susitna and Chulitna nearly to Broad Pass, then turned westward and crossed the Alaska range. Following this difficult route, they reached the northwest base of the mountain on April 19. They now crossed the frontal spur of the mountain to the McKinley Glacier, thence up that glacier to its head, which was the route established by the Fairbanks party two years before. The highest camp was made at an altitude