National Geographic : 1948 Feb
First American Ascent of Mount St. Elias Drawn by Theodora Price and Irvin E. Alleman Mount St. Elias Rears Its Icy Crown Where Alaska's Panhandle Meets the "Pan" Vitus Bering, Danish navigator exploring for Russia, sighted Mount St. Elias from far at sea July 16, 1741. He was the first European to view North America's fourth highest peak, towering to 18,008 feet. The Harvard Mountaineering Club Mount St. Elias Expedition reached the summit July 16, 1946, 205th anniversary of Bering's discovery. Main map and inset show the first, second, and fourth of North America's greatest mountains: Mount McKinley (on inset), Mount Logan, in Yukon Territory close to St. Elias, and Mount St. Elias. Third-ranking summit is Mexico's 18,700-foot Citlaltepec. Capt. Roy Holdiman of the Tenth Rescue Squadron flew his plane from Anchorage to Yakutat one afternoon. In a preview flight over our mountain objective, we arranged sites and signals for the aerial delivery at three points of a ton and a half of equipment and supplies (page 245). Fragile items, such as radios, cans of gaso line, skis, and instruments, were to be para chuted. Food and unbreakables were stoutly packed for free-dropping (page 248). A local boatman, Tony Novatney, agreed to take us into Icy Bay, our jump-off point for the trek to St. Elias. With 3,000 pounds of back burden, we went ashore in a cold drizzle and waved a doleful farewell to the little craft put-putting back to civilization. We were on our own. Army Equipment Put to Test The Army Quartermaster Corps and the Army Air Forces had supplied us with a lavish assortment of clothing and equipment which we agreed to test. Much of the ma terial had been designed to take advantage of lessons learned during the war, but had not yet been thoroughly tried out in the field. In addition to a variety of alpine climbing, camping, and traveling gear, we "modeled" 11 kinds of cold-weather clothing (Plate VIII). More than three-fourths of our route would be over ice and snow, so we would have a golden chance to study effectiveness of equipment made for Arctic and alpine use. It proved a time-consuming exploit to move 2,000 pounds of equipment up to the final battle line under Mount St. Elias, after estab lishing caches for our return. Several trips were necessary between each camp to relay the stuff along. Five rough miles brought us to the Chaix Hills. From there we looked up over broken ice of the Tyndall Glacier to 11,921-foot Mount Haydon, an unclimbed summit whose slopes formed part of our route to the Saint. Tyndall Glacier interposed a heartbreaking barrier. The direct traverse we had planned proved impossible, for the river of ice was meshed with crevasses. To circumvent these we had to take a zigzag course, traveling several miles laterally for each mile of for ward progress.