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Commander Group (Jumbo Group)
Parent Area: Purcell Mountains
 

Area: 178 sq km.Location: Located West of Farnham Creek, E of Glacier Creek North Fork, and S of the Starbird Glacier. Includes the Egytian Peaks which form the ridge north of Jumbo Pass which separates upper Jumbo Creek and Glacier Creek North Fork. Terrain: The rock of the Northern Purcells (in which the Commander group is located) is ancient, having formed around 1.5 billion years ago as part of the Purcell Supergroup in the Columbia Basin portion of the Cordillera. Geologists assign the rocks of the Northern Purcells to the old Cryptozoic Age, part of the Late Precambrian period. The only life on earth at that time was algae. The rock consists of red and green mudstones, gray limestone, sandstones, and grits that were deposited on the old margin of Laurentia, ancient North America. As the Northern Purcells formed, the rocks became metamorphic and highly deformed under the intense heat and pressure. The result is the mainly quartzite, argillite, and limestone rocks that form the peaks of the area. The quartzite was the key ingredient which gave the rocks a their high erosional resistant characteristics.

The group is home to Jumbo Mountain which is the second highest in the Purcell Range, although at one time it was assumed to be the highest. It also contains Karnak Mountain, which is the third highest in the Purcell Range, and most of the peaks are near or above 10,000' feet in elevation. It is part of the Main Uplift of the Purcell Range, and the tectonic movements created intense heat and pressure. The heat made the rock more elastic, and the pressure caused the rocks to be folded, faulted, and squeezed upward, forming the high peaks and structures seen today. Because the rock was mainly quartzite and was more elastic from the heat, it had the strength to prevent it from collapsing as it was pushed upwards. This led to the high rugged peaks in the area today, in which vertical relief of over 2000m is not uncommon, and helped to form the steep valleys lush with forest cover typical of the group. The largest glacier in the group is the Commander Glacier, but smaller glaciers and snowfields are quite common, and the Starbird Glacier borders on the NW end of the group. The rock quality in the group itself is variable and consists mainly of friable sediments. There are however more firm outcropping's of Granite, but typically rock quality ranges from reasonably firm to horribly loose. History: Although the group itself is much harder to get into than some of the areas the First Nations saw first, it is most likely there were the first to see the peaks of the Commander Group. They most likely would have went up the Jumbo Creek drainage and saw the S/W aspect of the group. They may have also ventured up Farnham Creek while exploring the Horsethief Creek drainage, although this would have been done by a very small party.

The first white man to visit the group may have been David Thompson, or Thomas Starbird. Starbird was the first permanent settler in the Horsethief Creek valley and was the first white man to discover the Lake of the Hanging Glacier. E.W. Harnden and various others who accompanied him were the first climbers to start venturing into the Main Uplift, and may have seen the group around the same time as Starbird, but he was the first to discover the Lake, so Harnden et al would not have ventured up that way. However, Harnden and his party were the first ascenders of Mount Monica in 1911 which was the first prominent ascent in the group, and they also ascended the W peak of the Guardsmen in 1913. Considering how close they were, it is hard to believe they were not the first to bag Commander, Jumbo, and Karnak.

Between 1915 and 1916 a team composed of the MacCarthy's and Conrad Kain bagged the three prizes of the range, Commander, Jumbo, and Karnak. In the winter of 1919 Conrad Kain made an impressive solo ascent of Jumbo Mountain from Farnham Creek in 4.5 hours. Conrad Kain was also on the first ascent party of the Cleaver. In the summer of 1928 the ACC had a summer camp at the confluence of Horsethief Creek and the Creek that drains the Lake of the Hanging Glacier. It was called Thunder Camp and parties from this camp were the first acsenders of Granite Peak, Mount Maye, and others in the area. An ACC Party climbed and named Camp Peak, which is part of the Stockdale Group.

Between 1960 and the early 1970's the rest of the major peaks were climbed, and particularily notable was the presence the legendary Fred Beckey in 1971, who with J. Rupley were the first ascenders of the steep E face of the Lieutenants. In July of 1973 J. Jeglum and C. Wagner were the first ascenders of all the Egyptian Peaks.

Top Trips
Tagging Some 11,000ers: A Trip to the Commander Group Doug Brown
Monica Meadows in Summer Doug Brown
Lake of the Hanging Glacier Trail then and now Klaus Haring
Twice Burnt on Mount Monica Sandra McGuinness
Jumbo Mountain on Skis Jeff Volp
Finally Mount Monica Sandra McGuinness
Toby to Forester 6 days on skis Justin Vance
How to Get to Starbird Pass Sandra McGuinness
Jumbo Pass from Jumbo Creek Kevin Altheim
Lake of the Hanging Glacier Kevin Altheim
More Trips

Top Photos
Jumbo and Karnak Doug Brown
East Face of Mt. Monica Doug Brown
Mount Maye and Commander Doug Brown
Commander and the Commander Glacier Doug Brown
Mount Amen-Ra from Monica Meadows Sandra McGuinness
The Cleaver and the Guardsmen Doug Brown
360 Degrees of Freedom: A Purcell Panorama Doug Brown
No Better Place on Earth: Camp Below Mount Monica Sandra McGuinness
The Commander Group Sandra McGuinness
The Inexplicably Named Granite Peak of the Southern Purcells Sandra McGuinness
More Photos

Alpine Journal Articles
Paper Maps