Lucania: Hard Lessons Learned, Home Bound in the St. Elias Range
January 31, 2018
Despite being well-positioned within 4000 ft of the summit stocked with 14 days of food and fuel, having double and triple carried 9 km up and down on a ridge with a total of 8000 ft gain and loss, the team had to call it quits.
It became impossible to stay warm at night after their sleeping system progressively iced up, leaving the team dangerously vulnerable to freezing. After a big meal, snow fort creation, clear skies and settled down winds, the biting cold still lingered in their tent. They made it all the way back to base camp early yesterday.
Having to land far from their preferred drop-off locale threw a wrench into the plan at the get-go, leaving their intended routes no-go’s, and only physically demanding alternatives. A shred of hope lingered at the fly-in that the Washburn route up Lucania could still be climbed. On day one, they determined it completely impassable; a misfortune to behold.
The enormous glacial superhighways heavily scarred with crevasses run past several ridges of rock and ice, and at alternating elevations. The duo spent 12 days traversing into this vertical realm, only realizing from the top that they could have skied it in 4. Mt. Steele wasn’t in the initial plan, and the routes up left all to the imagination. With peaks sculpted by wind, and winter weather frustrating all attempts to accurately predict the glacial surfaces, they scaled them the long way with heavy loads.
Photo: Landing site, Kluane National Park and Reserve, YT. Shot on team camera.
Enter in another key player of this great land: daily weather extremes. These ice fields, part of the largest glaciated region outside of the poles and Greenland, are fed by huge storms barreling off the Gulf of Alaska. Combined with high mountain environment and rapid weather changes with little to no warning, it’s anybody’s guess. Dupre and Marceau were caught off guard with wind storms and unexpected down time. Screaming across the tent just to communicate in hurricane force winds puts a damper on the psyche, with chills to the core.
13 days of isolation in these regal surroundings will teach you a thing or two. The team will return from this rarely explored landscape having learned about the St. Elias Mountains and the Kluane National Park and Reserve. They now know the raw weather first hand, the frozen topography and true physical scale of the Range. They hope to be back for a second attempt with these learnings, tweaked equipment and gear systems. The team awaits to fly-out, weather permitting, today. Stay tuned for stellar photos, videos and first-hand accounts.
Thank you again to their sponsors for the support in the Lucania: A Frigid First Expedition.