LOGAN MASSIF

Posted on: December 1, 2005


Taking advantage of a lean snowpack, this spring Dave Dornian and I brought single-push tactics to the Logan Massif in Canada's Yukon, producing new technical alpine routes on the northeast face of Dak Peak (approx. 3950m; a subpeak of Catenary Peak, 4100m), and on the north face of Mt. McArthur (4300m).

Despite consistently bad weather (without a clear period of longer than twenty hours) that contributed to rescues and a fatality on other parts of Logan, on our third attempt, we made the first ascent of Dak Peak's, May 29-30, 2005, via Flowers For Blaise (1200m). This fine route began up a narrow ice chute that drains the center of the face and eventually exits to the right of the serac band fringing the upper ridgeline. At a midnight brew stop in the middle of the face, while we hunkered on a butt-sized rock horn, the stove tipped over. Two liters of water poured down Dornian's leg as the pot fell to the bottom of the mountain. The next two hours were spent melting eight liters, two tablespoons at a time, on the remaining pot lid.

Near sunrise the ubiquitous stormy weather moved in, so they took a slightly shorter snow line weaving directly to the top of the face, to the right of their intended ice gully. We then descended the northeast ridge, postholed back to our skis at the base of the route and returned to our tent twenty-seven hours after leaving. We named the route for the flowers found growing from a crack just above the bergschrund and for Dornian's dog, which had passed away earlier in the spring.

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Two days later a rising barometer lured us onto the striking line that sweeps up the center of the previously unclimbed north face of Mt. McArthur (4344m). Crossing the bergschrund at 8:30 a.m. on June 2, with seventeen ice screws, we began simulclimbing the glass-hard, spindrift-tempered ice. After stopping only once to stand and melt snow to refill our hydration bladders, we continued through the night and the next day. Consistently sixty degrees or steeper, the route required an incredible 1850 vertical meters of brutal frontpointing with no more than thirty meters anywhere on the face where we could actually put our feet into snow.

Then, rising winds and plummeting temperatures turned the final waterfall gully to the summit icefield into a torrent of spindrift that required five more pitches of suffering to reach the final summit pyramid. Even after more than ten trips to the St. Elias, Alaska and Patagonia, I'd never seen clouds move so fast. We finally fought our way out to the top of the face twenty-five hours after starting. With visions of a four-day storm brewing, we headed down immediately, leaving 100 meters of easy snow climbing to the top. Descent through a serac barrier and down the complex north ridge of McArthur in heavy snow and whiteout conditions took a further thirteen hours. Dornian and I believe Some Kind Of Monster is the longest ice climb in North America. The climb required an estimated fifty sixty-meter ropelengths.

The McArthur/Catenary complex is to Mt. Logan what Mt. Hunter is to Denali—directly above base camp, steeper and with less altitude concerns—without the crowds and with endless new route possibilities. There are your own monsters waiting.

Joe Josephson, Bozeman, Montana



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