By Vincent Larochelle, Canadian ski patroller and mountaineer
Beast. There is no other word for this mountain. At 5959m, Mt. Logan is Canada’s highest mountain, second only to Denali in North America. Some call it the world’s most “massive” mountain. Going up the King’s Trench Route with my partner Alison Criscitiello, we sometimes conjectured on how many jumbo jets could fit in some of the crevasses we saw. “50”, I remember thinking to myself as I skied across a sagging snow bridge. I chose not to share this rather grim thought with Ali.
We spent two weeks going up that mountain, trudging and carrying over a hundred of pounds of food, fuel and gear up ice falls and crevasse fields, waiting out storms that dropped meters of snow at a time, and persevering through temperatures as low as -40 degrees Celsius.
It’s hard to describe how one feels standing at the top of this mountain, other than short on oxygen. We had the whole mountain to ourselves, an incredible but terrifying thought. Looking over towards the west, I could see hundreds of kilometers away, past the mystifying Malaspina glacier and into the Pacific Ocean.
Then, something incredible happened. My meditation on the top of Logan was interrupted by the crackle of my BC Link radio. A voice comes through, crystal clear. I intercepted communications from an icefield camp some 40-50 kilometers away from the summit.
With a trembling voice I shared and described the view from the top of Canada to an astonished audience. I couldn’t believe that this little two-way radio gadget was capable of so much, and I couldn’t believe either that it was still at full battery after 2 weeks of use and abuse in temperatures as low as -40. Wherever I go, so too shall those BC Link radios #sendandreturn!
Alison recounts their full expedition in “Adventures to the Edge of the Earth”:
“Lucky with weather at the start, we carried to C1 the day we flew into Base Camp and continuously carried and moved up to C3 in 6 days, when a storm stopped us. The two of us got pummeled and buried for a week, when it finally broke. The guided team of 8 took the opportunity to get off the mountain; we took the opportunity to go up to Prospector Col and see if avalanche conditions would allow us to reach the summit plateau. Pleasantly surprised, we did a massive single carry up and over Prospector Col, and made our high camp beneath Russell Mountain. Because of the snow conditions after the storm, we cached our sleds and risked taking minimal food over the col. The priceless help of my friend who sent stellar weather forecasts while we were on the summit plateau allowed us to pick an ideal summit day (and saved us from gratuitous suffering). We waited one day and one night in high winds at our high camp, and left in the wee frigid hours for the summit. We took a high route, up and over West Peak, which was fun and relatively straightforward to navigate. We descended West Peak to the saddle with the true summit, and I took a fairly steep line up the northwest face to the top. With a bluebird day on the summit, we were able to see the Pacific Ocean, Denali, and the swirling Malaspina Glacier.”
“We descended to Base Camp directly from the summit (this comes highly not recommended), another storm on our heels. I would have ideally stopped back at our high camp to eat and rest, but prioritized getting down and off the mountain before the next storm hit. This was a tough decision, weighing risks that were hard to measure against one another. The descent offered as much of a test as the ascent. We were running on nothing through the night in temperatures unsuitable for our -40 boots and equipment. #sendandreturn.”
Photo Credits: All Photos taken by Alison Criscitiello.