Seven Days in the St. Elias Range, British Columbia

After a day of waiting out drizzle in Yakutat, the weather cleared enough to allow Kurt Gloyer of Gulf Air to fly us into basecamp three kilometers south of Mt. Vern Ritchie (approximately 50 km SSE of Mt. Kennedy). Three flights from Yakutat and a shuttle flight to move the two Kolffs from the Kluane brought the eight-strong "Groupo Silas" together on 7/3/95. Our most notable climbs during a week of excellent weather were the apparent first ascents of Mt. Duff, Mt. Wade, and "Saddlehorn Spire" (the striking peak noted by Walt Gove in AAJ 1984 (p. 99) directly east of Mt. Vern Ritchie) and the apparent second ascent (after Gove and Loren Adkins) of Vern Ritchie. The area was beautiful, with good views of St. Elias, Cook, Hubbard, and Fairweather, an excellent panorama of Russell and Nunatak Fjords, striking views of the border peaks, and great skiing. The rock ranged from fine to the worst in our collective experience. The last two of us flew out late on July 10, just before the weather returned to its more normal, stormy state.

Climbing details: Peak 1920m+ (59 52' 12", 138 37' 25") dubbed the "Snowdome" by Kolff and Kolff on 7/3 via W face; an attempt on the East Peak of Mt Duff (SE ridge) was abandoned (due to loose, exposed 4th class rock) by Cummings, Weld, and Wild on 7/3; Peak 1880m+ (59 50' 46", 138 39' 18") dubbed "Mt. Expectant" by Cummings and Weld on 7/3 via S ridge, repeated by Ellsworth and Talbott on 7/5; Peak 2040m+ (59 51' 0", 138 35' 3") dubbed "Independence Peak" by Cummings, Ellsworth, Talbott, and Weld on 7/4 via NE ridge; Peak 2000m+ (59 51' 11", 138 34' 56") dubbed "Lady Finger" by Cummings, Ellsworth, Talbott, and Weld on 7/4 via W face; Peak 2000m+ (59 51' 29", 138 35' 32") dubbed "Cherry Bomb" by Cummings and Weld on 7/4 via S face; Peak 2255m+ (59 52' 39", 138 43' 23") dubbed "Nothing Came to Mind" by Grubenhoff, Kolff, Kolff, and Wild via E face on 7/4; Mt Duff (border peak 174, 2186m) by Cummings, Kolff, Kolff, and Weld via SW ridge (50 degree snow, 2 pitches of solid but dirty mid-class 5 rock to crest, then a loose class 3-4 ridge scramble) on 7/5; Peak 2240m+ (59 53' 23", 138 37' 6") dubbed "Saddlehorn Spire" by Grubenhoff and Wild via S ridge (55 degree snow, solid class 3-4 rock) on 7/5; Mt Vern Richie (2440m+) by whole party via S ridge on 7/6; Peak 2040m+ (59 51' 6", 138 40' 2") dubbed "Mt Trundle" by Cummings, Ellsworth, Grubenhoff, and Weld due to the very loose rock on the exposed, low 5th class summit pitch, accessed via SE face on 7/7; Mt Wade (border peak 173, 2430m) by Kolff and Kolff (over 1800m+ col at 59 48' 3", 138 36' 37"; dropped 300m; climb to upper plateau involved a difficult bergshrund with 25m of 80 degree snow and 140m of steep, loose mixed climbing; SE ridge of summit pyramid had one pitch of 55 degree snow, then class 3 rock) on 7/9. All climbs are believed to be first ascents except for Mt. Vern Richie. Personnel: David Cummings, Al Ellsworth, Sam Grubenhoff, Adam Kolff, Kees Kolff, Greg Talbott, Dan Weld, Silas Wild (leader).