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Mt. Wood in the Yukon - First Winter Ascent
Timestamp Free: 2020.08.12 - 00:09:47
Ranges: North America Ranges / Pacific Cordillera Range / Saint Elias Mountains / Icefield Ranges
(9 days) Elevation Gain: 1863m
Participants: Pascale Marceau and Lonnie Dupre
Difficulty: 5: Technical difficulty did require us to pitch out three segments of the climb. Challenging crevasse complexities along most of the ridge. Crampons, rope, 2 mountaineering axes and some snow pickets were sufficient.
Inherent dangers included:
- Landing in uncharted territory at relatively high elevation (9,800ft) in a Piper Super Cub
- Roped travel on the lower part of the ridge climb because it was riddled with complex crevasses (crevasses, were mostly concealed, requiring extensive excavation to find a safe crossing which always involved spanning or jumping the crevasse – rarely snow or ice bridged). Crevasses continued throughout most of the climb, all the way to the summit.
- Exposed snow face climbing for three pitches. Mostly wind packed neve, some rime ice sections, no blue ice sections. Use of snow pickets required for running belays and belay anchors. A fall would be fatal (cliff crevasses) and self-arrest not possible due to steepness.
- Once onto the plateau we encountered a mix of easy neve crampon walking, at times some windblown ice or sastrugi snow, never any significant post-holing or avalanche prone slopes.
- Winter conditions were a hazards with straight temps of (-30C) and wind chills of (-50C). Visibility was generally good with few precipitation days, but wind storms and ground blizzards were common.
A first winter ascent of Mt. Wood via the east-northeast spur of its east face. It also made Pascale the first woman to reach the summit of a major subarctic peak in winter.
On March 11, 2019 at 3:10 p.m. PST, Lonnie Dupre and I reached the summit of Mt. Wood in wind chills of -45C.
[photo]MtWood_aerial.jpg[caption]An aerial photo of the east face of Mount Wood in the Saint Elias Mountains of Kluane National Park and Reserve in Canada's Yukon. Pascale Marceau[/photo]
We flew from Burwash Landing from our pilot's personal ranch on March 4th and landed on a spur arm of the Hodgson Glacier at 3,011m (9,800 feet) - very high for a Piper Super Cub. We immediately skied 500 meters, uphill from the landing and set up basecamp near the base of the mountain's east face.
[photo]Pascale_building_basecamp.JPG[caption]Pascale, building basecamp at the base of Mt.Wood. Lonnie Dupre[/photo]
We ascended the east face of the mountain along a ridge. On March 7th, we established Camp 1, which we called Happy Camp, at 3,420m (11,200 feet) after three precarious carries up the most technical section of our route. By March 9th, after two carries, we had Camp 2, High Camp, at 3,800m (12,500 feet) supplied. Our first summit bid on March 10 was thwarted by high winds and driving snow just a couple of hours from the top.
On the morning of the 11th, tired, disappointed, and with poor weather forecasted, we prepared to descend the mountain. But by 10:00 a.m. the weather appeared to be stabilizing, so we decided to make a light and fast push for the summit. With good traction over hard-packed snow, and with a significant part of the route already wanded from the previous day's attempt, we reached the peak of Mt. Wood in just over five hours, then descended quickly, grabbing gear at Camp 2 and scurrying on to Camp 1 in a race against darkness and forecasted storm. The next day, we cautiously worked our way back to...
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