MOUNT SAINT ELIAS – Trip Report
Mt St Elias Summit and Sea Expedition: The highlight was getting to the bottom and climbing back up, epic !!!!
Mt St Elias at 18008ft and 12 miles from salt water offers the biggest drop of any mountain from
summit to sea in the world. In June 2010 Canadians Marcus Waring, Ryan Bougie, and myself went
to attempt the SW ridge Harvard route and to descend on skis as much of the mountain as we could.
Although parts of this route have been skied and climbed, from my research no one has completed the
entire route both up and down. Most recently in 2008 an expedition heavily funded by Red Bull did
summit and skied most of the mountain to within 600 ft msl but it was over 2 expeditions and they did
not ascend the part from the sea to their base on the Haydon shoulder.
On June 6 we were landed by Paul Claus on the Haydon Shoulder at 9750 ft where we set up
“base” camp. The first week we were able to summit (June 10) the mountain and descend 2/3 on skis
to our base. On the upper mountain we utilized a high camp at 13200ft. Above our route deviated slightly
from the Harvard route by going far climbers right on the south face where we found better snow
conditions for a potential ski.
Back at “base” we spent a week waiting for the perpetual cloud sandwich to reveal the lower
mountain. On June 18 we made a break for it. Onsite route finding down the mountain proved to be a
challenge. As best we can tell we followed the Harvard route including the reported lose shale ridge
down to a wonderful grassy camp at 3500ft. From “Grass” camp we descended onto the Tyndall
Glacier. Somewhere at 2300 ft the guide book shows a base camp and landing area. This was used by a
few previous expeditions but is very melted out now. I had found no descriptions on how to reach Icy
Bay from here down. We chose to continue along the glaciers edge. At 1500 ft the snow ran out and
we abandoned our skis. At about 1000 ft the route went to ugly alder-wacking. At one point we found
ourselves staring over a 750 ft cliff at the sea below. We then continued alder- wacking up and over a
small hill and scrambling down steep rocky slopes to Icy Bay.
With the Tyndall glacier calving off right in front of us, bear prints in the sand and no humans for
miles this was idylic wilderness at it's best. We spent 3 hours, made a big fire from an endless supply
of drift wood and roasted NY strip steaks and Marshmallows! The bottom we decided was the
highlight of our trip. To avoid some alder-wacking we chose a slightly different route back to our skis.
We ascended a gully to a ridge at 2500ft where we were able to cruise across an open glacier and snow
fields. This may be a better route especially if there was any hope of skiing to the sea.
The final ascent back to base was not without epic. Ascending the shale ridge at 6000 ft I touched a
loose rock and fell back ward. I rag dolled violently 100 feet to a stop in scree. My whole upper body
felt like a gang of thugs had beaten me with bats, A flap of skin was open under my left eye and I found
out later I had sustained a compression fracture of my lower Lumbar L2. The guys took part of my
load and we continued up. Above the shale ridge at 7800ft we made camp and I rested and waited for
flyable weather. On june 23 the weather improved and we ascended to our Base and flew out with
Alaska Grade 4+, 18008 ft vertical of climbing, apx 10-12 miles each way.
Peter Inglis, Telluride, CO with Canadians Marcus Waring and Ryan Bougie, Whistler CAN.