Thanks again to Mammut for enabling this incredible journey to the north of Canada, to climb Canada’s most wintery peak: Mt. Logan via the King’s trench. For more information on the Mammut website about the trip and all the individuals involved, please go here.
We embarked on this journey by meeting in Whitehorse on May 23, 2012 at this fine establishment:
Where we continued to ‘overeat’ in hopes of burning a few calories on the glacier. We also, supplied ourselves with lots of fuel and a few last minute groceries – the ‘heavy’ food like cheese, butter and expedition bread.
This evening also marks the change in our daily sleep patterns with the midnight sun keeping our energy high until at least 1 am for most of the rest of the trip.
The next day we were taken in a 15 passenger van to Kluane Lake (courtesy of Up North Adventures) after registering with Parks Canada and getting a safety briefing on the hazards that are exceptional on Mt. Logan, like avalanches, weak snow bridges over crevasses and cornices.
We did get to know the road between Haines Junction and Kluane Lake a bit, as we ended up waiting a week to fly in due to either high winds or white skies.
We were very lucky during our first week of waiting because most days – it was obvious that we were not going to fly. This allowed us to explore the local environment. We went biking, hiking, fishing, explored the beach of Kluane Lake and used the sauna.
Here is a little footage of our flight just before landing….
Sooo, Gery and I flew in late on June 1, but JR and JS weren’t able to fly in until early on June 3. Kenneth decided that his time was better spent exploring the wilderness of the Yukon and Alaska before his family came to join him later in the month.
We had a nice progression up to King’s col (Camp 2) where we would carry one day and move camp the next day from Base Camp (2750m) to Camp 1 (3260m) to Camp 2 (4105m).
We missed most of the teams that had flown in and out before we arrived, but we did get to spend a bit of time with Canada West Mountain school owner, Brian Jones and guides, Rich Prohaska and Tyler before they flew out. As well, we met a team of four, mostly from the Kootenays’, who summited (and got a bit of frostbite). The final team we met was from Alberta, when the four of them flew out, we were the only folks left on the mountain.
On about the fifth day of ‘work’, we decided to make a carry to camp 3 (4888m), as the weather was good and the next day was forecast to be ‘bad’. This was a difficult decision for JR, as he wasn’t feeling great, he was lower energy and suspected he might be getting sick. He chose to make the carry, and we moved at a very slow pace, but in hindsight, he probably got more sick due to the extra exertion and altitude.
We finally earned our ‘porridge’ and our rest day at King’s Col.
We awoke the next day with the plan of moving to camp 3, if JR was ok. He wasn’t. He felt worse and his pulse oximeter reading was 65, (down from the 80’s). He didn’t feel well enough to ski down either (a common symptom of the man flue). So with our handy dandy sat phone, we managed to coordinate a rescue from King’s col with Parks Canada. (Thanks to Andrew, the park’s rescue specialist)
Due to the altitude and cloud, JR flew out, but without much of his gear. We decided to retrieve the carry from camp 3. This decision was based on the fact that we felt JR might be very sick and need assistance from JS ASAP.
The trip between King’s col and camp 3 is spectacular due to the seracs and King’s Peak. We enjoyed fresh powder skiing, as well. We did have a ‘visitor’ at camp 3. A solo raven, sampled much of our food. (He visited us again at basecamp at the end of the trip)
The following couple days were spent sitting in camp at King’s Col- waiting for weather. During this time, we found out that our dear friend, JR, was okay. Thanks to Dr. Jeff Boyd, we had sent him off with the appropriate anti-biotics and he felt much better back at Kluane lake (after visiting the nursing station in Haines Jct.).
Now, we had the tough decision of what to do next. There were many teams prior to us that waited many days to fly in or out of the Quintino Sella Glacier. Based on fear of missing future engagements, the team decided to head back to basecamp and catch the first available opportunity to fly out.
We didn’t have a great weather forecast in our future and we did have a lot of unused fuel, uneaten food, and JR’s extra gear to get off the mountain, as well.
On the way down we heard an avalanche of ice and snow on the King’s Peak side, it was a tough day with heavy loads while Gery lead us with his GPS back down the mountain.
We ended up having to wait a few days back in basecamp. During this time, we exhausted our library (somethings were read twice) and Gery and JS enjoyed some ‘extreme’ couloir skiing close to camp.
Gery treated us to a workout facility in which we could work on our pullups.
Finally, less than eight hours, before our flight out of Whitehorse, we were miraculously whisked out of base camp, by Doug (the heli pilot) and back to Kluane Lake at 10pm. We enjoyed a cold beer while swatting at mosquitoes and packing up our stuff.
Our taxi ( Woody’s Limo +1-867-668-1676 ) arrived after midnight to take us to the Whitehorse airport, where we were just in time for our 6 am flight to Calgary on June 16!
We feel so lucky to of had such an adventure in the wilderness of northern Canada.
We especially want to thank Sian and Lance of Kluane Lake and the Icefields Discovery Tours who enabled the best trip possible and were amazing hosts despite it being possibly the WORST weather in 40 years!
Thanks again to Mammut for facilitating this fantastic adventure.
Gery Unterasinger organized us: myself and five strong men from Calgary who call themselves the White Clothed Peaks. We set off in a great weather window to summit the highest peak in Alberta. Mt. Columbia at 3747m.
We started by meeting in Lake Louise at 6:30 am, which got us skiing by 10 am. After competing with the Brewster Ice buses at the Athabasca Glacier.
We were happy to connect with Mark Klassen who showed us a ‘safer’ way to traverse through the three icefalls of the glacier- one of the cruxes of the route.
The rest of the trip had a lot of flatish glacier slogging. Where you could watch your dog run away 😉 I was grateful when I pulled up and saw the digging of our campsite — which meant I could unload the beast that was on my back.
We were blessed with some amazing weather, which made for fantastic cooking conditions and lifestyle photos at dawn and dusk.
Unfortunately, there was some suffering. Ground meat surface around the feet, elephantitis around the face and one suspicious case of altitude sickness cause some vomitting:
This is an example of me ‘being comfortable’ winter camping in perfectly reasonable temperatures:
The greatest rewards from this trip include: being with some quality folks who were giving it their ALL! and the amazing vistas to the west and to the north.
I must say that I think the greatest joy of the trip, other than the fragrance of our clothes, was the relief felt when the ‘rental’ boots came off!
I am very proud of these guys for enduring the suffering of rental equipment and naivety, but they survived a very physically challenging adventure and received the rewards of amazing scenery and a job ‘well done’!