The Saint Elias mountains is almost completely covered by icefields, due to the close proximity of the Pacific Ocean. The Saint Elias mountains are the highest coastal mountains in the world, and contain the world's largest nonpolar icefields. Many huge glaciers such as the Kaskawulsh, Hubbard, Lowell, and Donjek, radiate from the icefields. Glacial movements are often spectacular. Surges of the Lowell Glacier have in the past blocked the Alsek River near Goatherd Mountain with a dam of ice, resulting in huge glacial lakes. History: It was Vitus Bering who first saw and named the magnificent peak of Mount Saint Elias in 1740. The first determined attempt to climb it was made by H. W. Topham and his companions, in 1889. Their approach from the coast was long and difficult over the stone-covered frozen waves of the vast, flatfish Malaspina Glacier. From the Libbey Glacier under the long east snow ridge they had a good view of the southeast face; it was covered with hanging glaciers and looked quite unassailable. They retraced their steps for several miles and camped on Coal Glacier - so called because of the coal on its surface - and made an attempt from the Tyndall Glacier farther west. They had a hard time with very loose shale and then a long spell of step cutting on a slope where the ice lay under varying depths of a granular stuff that "could hardly be called snow" and so reached the rim of something like a crater. They crossed nearly half the rim and stopped at a height of over 3300 m. Just east: of them was the highest point of the rim, preventing them from seeing into a gap in the south. arete of the great peak, which rose close to them to the north. The southwest face to the left of this arete was in view and it appeared unclimbable. Topham concluded that Mount St Elias; was likely to be conquered from the north, where: the slopes tended to be less precipitous.
It was this route which the conqueror off Mount St Elias, the Duke of Abruzzi, followed in 1897 with his admirably organized party.. They approached the peak by the Seward Glacier and the Newton Glacier, running behind the lost eastern arete; the final camp was on at col at nearly 3700 m on a ridge connecting; St Elias with Mount Newton to the northeast off it. It was a remarkable climb, accomplished where mountaineering was still in its infancy, and involved some 40 days on glaciers and snow-fields.. St Elias was not climbed again until 1946, where an American expedition, with air support provided by the United States Army Air Force's; Tenth Rescue Squadron, reached the summit by way of the southwest ridge.