American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, The Howson Range

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1957

The Howson Range. In the angle formed by the Bulkley and Skeena rivers, in central British Columbia, there are a number of small compact ranges which rise to approximately the 9000-foot level. Since the deep valleys lie at about 2000 feet above the sea, their vertical relief is comparable to that of the mountains in the main chain of the Rockies. The Howson Range in Lat. 54° 25' N. and Long. 127° 45' W., with heavy glaciation for its altitude, is one of the most interesting of these.

I have now been on three short trips to this region where previous to 1954, none of the peaks had been climbed and the only exploration had been done by prospectors. There are a number of copper claims at the northern end of the range. In July 1954, Polly Prescott, Dave Wessel, Alex Fabergé, Rex Gibson, and Mrs. Gibson took 3½ days approaching the range via Telkwa River, using pack horses. Once established at our high camp, we were so dogged by bad weather and a late thaw that we only made one first ascent. We were, moreover, some eight miles north of the main peak. It was obvious that this was not the best approach, as it took too much time for trail travel in very rough country.

In 1955 a smaller party—Alex Fabergé, Dr. Iain Smart, Derek Boddy, Rex Gibson—flew in to Burnie Lake from Burns Lake in a chartered plane in mid-August. The weather, if anything, was worse than in 1954. We did, however, explore one large glacier and had a close-up view of the main Howson Peak, 9060 feet, from a high col about one mile away to the northeast. We worked out a practicable route to the south col, but we found Howson Peak plastered in new snow. The weather never really cleared until the day on which we were to leave, after which we suffered the frustration of wasting two perfect climbing days while waiting on the beach for the plane to come for us.

In 1956 we did a little better. Alex Fabergé and Rex Gibson were again in the party, and the other two members were Bob Schluter, of M. I. T., and Dr. John Strong, from Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia, who was on his first trip to Canada. This time we flew in from Lake Else, which is 17 miles from Terrace and is west of the Howson Range. We landed at the same spot on Burnie Lake, July 31, and next day set up a high camp at just about the 4000-foot level beside a small glacial lake. On August 2 we reconnoitered the west ridge, reached via the south col, but because we reached the west col only at 3:15 P.M., we returned to camp. A five-day spell of bad weather then intervened. On August 8, in clearing weather conditions, we made first ascents of some granite towers and reconnoitered the “Broad Glacier” leading over to the north col of Howson Peak. We made an attempt on the peak by the north ridge on August 9—a route selected from the air photos (verticals only, which gave little or no indication of the true vertical relief). This route definitely did not go. Bob and I, who went further than the others, reached a point at about 8500 feet on the north face, but were stopped by a number of towers which would have taken too long to circumvent. On August 10, a fine day, we made the first ascent of “Delta Peak” and again crossed previously unvisited glaciers. The plane came for us on time next day and we flew out in perfect weather. Howson Peak is still unclimbed!

E. Rex Gibson

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