Jun 03

Rich’s camp bottom left, and yes those are absolutely massive crevasses in front.

Note on photos: It was so cold Tobin’s camera never worked the entire day, and mine would freeze up periodically. Many of the photos are a bit soft because my viewfinder and my automatic focus was frozen (so I just had to put the focus near infinity and hope for the best).

Summit day – Tobin and I wake at 6am. The last 2 nights have been torture. As soon as I lie down and try to relax the subtle suffocation begins. Breathing faster to get more oxygen in, the mind begins to obsess about breathing and the lack of oxygen.  My mind can’t distract itself by daydreaming of better days, because it doesn’t seem to have the ability to hold a thought or image. When I wake I have a splitter headache and immediately pop some advil. The condensation inside the tent has created 1cm thick surface hoar on our sleeping bags. The weather is perfectly clear, but it is probably the coldest morning I’ve ever had to operate in.  2 merino undershirts, my ultra-light puffy and my light down jacket are all compressed under my slim-fitting Gore-tex shell. My liners are frozen and refuse to conform to my boot shells. Jon graciously warms them in his sleeping bag while I finish packing.  Soon we’re skate-skiing across the vast expanse of the summit plateau. The route starts to climb and traverse above and below seracs on the flanks of the west summit. Without Rich’s route description, we’d have no idea whether the east, west, or main summit is highest. They all look so similar.

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May 30

Logan Basecamp

So we were at the base of Canada’s highest mountain with no map, no route description, no idea of how many camps were possibly needed, or how long it might take (had a malfunctioning GPS with a tiny screen).  All I knew for sure was that my gloves were pathetic, my down jacket wasn’t full of enough down, my sleeping bag was over 15 years old, my TLT6 liners were unproven in extreme cold, and my 35L pack could barely fit my sleeping bag.  All my gear worked fine at -15C, but -55C with wind-chill seemed a bit unreasonable. But changing gear wasn’t an option, so I focused my attention on strategy. With the Inreach, we got weather forecasts, number of camps, camp elevations, and how long the average tourist took on Logan. It was something like 16 days, which didn’t really help us since we only had 5 days until the next major storm came in.

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May 27

 Logan 07

Extraordinary circumstances . . .” was the phrase I seemed to mutter, when we pulled the plug on our first mission. We knew that this area didn’t break world-snowfall records, but this was ridiculous.  Back at camp we formulated a plan B and C.  Plan B was to call the pilot and get the hell out (not a bad option considering the state of the crevasses). Plan C was to head to higher ground. We chose the stick it out.  We were relatively low in elevation, so conditions might improve as we headed up onto the icecap. Furthermore, Mt Logan is just around the corner (35 to 40km away), and as Canada’s highest peak (5,959m – 19,550ft) it might hold some snow somewhere on its flanks. If all else failed we would at least be able to escape via the King Trench landing zone (near the base of Logan), which is at 9,000ft and frequented by our pilot.

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May 24

St. Elias Expedition: Part 1

By Trevor 2014, Yukon Comments Off
Logan 01

Jon trying to figure out how much beer he can fit.

Since there are only 35 million Canadians in the world’s second largest country, you could probably say that the opportunity for adventure is higher than anywhere else in the world. With this in mind, I decided to stay in my own country for my yearly expedition. There are many ways to have an adventure (this trip report will be proof of that), and finding areas that haven’t been explored with skis is my favourite. Jon pulled an objective from a hazy memory bank, but after spending the Autumn searching in vain for any photos that would confirm the quality of the area (I guess it was too remote!), we quickly switched focus when Tobin spotted some lines on Google Earth.  I contacted the pilot in the area, and was pleased to hear that no one had ever landed a plane there. So the ingredients for our adventure had been chosen: 3 weeks in an unskied zone in the St. Elias.

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Feb 20

The world’s largest mountain (Mt Logan) on the left, and the double summit of McArthur on the right.

All photos were taken with Fuji Provia slide film. Consequently, most photos are unedited. I was using a Nikon FM2 camera and Ptor was using a little Minox. Thanks for the photos Ptor.

This season certainly hasn’t been memorable for the right reasons. But it’s these low years that make you truly appreciate the glory of previous years.  This lack of snow reminds me of the 2005 season.  I might have skied 5 times that season before fate had me in Golden in early April.  Walking into my friend Nevada’s house, I was immediately nervous of her dinner guest who had a certain ‘presence’ (to put it mildly). Introductions were soon underway and my suspicions were correct.  The mystery man was none other than Ptor Spricenieks. After some time the conversation settled on Mt. Logan, and Nevada’s bid to solo the East Ridge and place an important Tibetan Peace Vase high on the mountain.  With mischief in her eyes she asked, ”Why don’t we all fly in together and the two of you can ski some peaks together.” Neither Ptor nor I had visited the range and were instantly hooked.  I’ll always remember Ptor’s next words as his eyes bore through my very soul, “Can you ski?”  I had just finished a year of skiing 6000 and 7000m peaks in the Himalaya, often solo, so yes I was pretty sure I could ski. Luckily Nevada saved me from an embarrassing explanation of my skills and assured Ptor that I was capable.  I don’t remember much else from that surreal night, but we agreed to meet back in Golden in a month’s time.

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Jan 08

A subsidiary peak of Mount Logan (Canada’s Highest Peak (19,551ft) and Earth’s largest mountain), McArthur is situated in the St.Elias Range of the Yukon. Peaks like McArthur are so dwarfed by Logan’s massiveness, that all sense of scale is lost. Lines that look small, would be considered huge anywhere else in the World. The first ascent was in 1961 via the North Ridge. In 2005, Ptor Spricenieks and I chose this line for our attempted first ski descent of the mountain. Memories have faded, but I believe that we began with an early afternoon start and we’re back at maybe 5 am. Day light lasted until we reached the summit at midnight, and the sun slowly began to rise around 3am. We skied without headlamps at the darkest hour, but we definitely took our time negotiating the various cruxes. The visual highlight, was the ‘greatest sunset of all time’ due to forest fires raging in Alaska. Here are some pics.

The line

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