Some Questions and Answers
If I don't answer your question in this document or in any of the others, or you can't find the answer, please feel free to email me at email@example.com.
- Who did you go with and how do you know them?
I went north with Mike Bennett and Bob Nodelyk. I met Mike at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana when I was a graduate student and he a professor. We had done two trips up north before, along with sport climbing in Thailand and a few alpine excursions around the Pacific Northwest. Mike and Bob knew each other from their common home city of Vancouver, where they climbed together in locales such as Squamish. I met Bob through Mike.
- How did you find out about the area?
The answer has a long history behind it. John Grant, a mutual friend, grew up in a mining town named Cassiar. This town no longer exists as the mine has long since shut down. But when it did exist it, Cassiar was in the far north of British Columbia and John spent time doing family trips in some of the surrounding areas, like Atlin Provincial Park. When Mike and he met in college at the University of British Columbia, their common interest in the outdoors drew them back north. There is a standard, though trail-less, traverse of Mount Edziza Provincial Park, which is located east and south of where we were. They did the traverse with another friend and then came back for another, nearly fatal, trip on the Chutine River, located to the west of Edziza. For the third trip, I joined the crew for a second, much longer traverse of Mount Edziza Provincial Park and the Spectrum Range. On these two traverses, we had noticed the impressive set of mountains lying to our west, across the drainage of Mess Creek. In 2002 we hatched the idea of traversing from Arctic Plateau (the jumping off point for the second traverse) down into Mess Creek, up into those mountains, and across to Yehiniko Lake, complete with a climb of Mount Hickman for kicks. This unrealistic goal was attempted, not very successfully, and can be read about here.
I had had enough of such things and went on to spent the next few summers doing long distance hiking. However, Mike and John returned in 2003 with another friend and actually got through on the traverse between the two lakes. Their epic, and very unpleasant, adventure hasn't been written up. The stories they tell make me glad I spent the summer hiking the Pacific Crest Trail instead. The summer of 2004 saw the same crew back for more, though with a trip much more focused on climbing. They flew into Yehiniko Lake and out of it and managed to get three first ascents, including one via a snow and ice route on White Rabbit. I was hiking on the Appalachian Trail and the Great Divide Trail.
In the winter of 2006-7 Mike and I began to hatch plans for another trip up north, this time to traverse the Scud Glacier. During the 2003 and 2004 trips, the Scud had provided a convenient passage at the start and end of the trips. There were many mountains along it that hadn't been climbed and, as far as we knew, the glacier had never been traversed.
- Where did you go?
See this page for some maps of where we went.
- How do I get to Tatogga Lake?
Tatogga Lake is a small resort south of Iskut (and Dease Lake) on the Cassiar Connector (HWY 37), one of the two road routes to Alaska. However, the only facility there is the Tatogga Lake resort, whose existence is sure to end soon. However, North Pacific Seaplanes will almost certainly continue flying out of there. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org. To get to Tatogga Lake, drive HWY 1 from Vancouver to Cache Creek, where you'll hop on HWY 97 for the drive north to Prince George. From Prince George, get back on HWY heading west, through the towns of Smithers and New Hazelton. At Gitwanka (spellings vary), take HWY 37 north for many kilometers to Tatogga Lake.
- How do I get to Yehiniko Lake?
Definitely fly with Doug at North Pacific Seaplanes. However, you can also take a jet boat out of Telegraph Creek for several hours down the Stikine River. There is a hunters trail that runs from the Stikine to Yehiniko Lake, though I don't know much about it.
- How do can I get out from the Stikine?
We elected to arrange for a jet boat from Telegraph Creek to pick us up near the mouth of the Scud on the Stikine River. This cost $900, which is rather a princely sum for a 2.5 hour boat ride. The operator can be reached at: Stikine River Song. We later found out that Doug, our pilot at North Pacific Seaplanes, could actually land and take off on the river where we came out. The flight would have been cheaper than the boat.
- How far did you travel? How many days were you out?
This was a climbing trip, not a hiking trip, and so the distance we covered is pretty inconsequential. But, one estimate might be on the order of about 120 kilometers. We were out for a total of 20 days, including the day in and day out. The drive to and from Vancouver takes 2 days each way.
- What sort of gear do I need to something similar?
Well, you should really know the answer to this if you are going. However, to sketch a broad picture, you'll need basic glacier gear, including harnesses, ropes, pickets, and the ability to perform a crevasse rescue. You'll need solid camping gear as the weather can get rough. This is not a place for tarps or three season tents. You'll want a reliable, white gas stove. You'll need solid boots to haul the loads and cross the rivers. You'll need maps and the ability to read them and work with them in conjunction with a compass and GPS. You'll want a satellite phone for emergencies.
- What maps did you use?
We used maps fromClover Point Cartographics. The maps are exceptionally good and carry much information on them. They are available in different scales and make navigation much easier than the large scale 1:50,000 topos that the Canadian government puts out. Moreover, the government maps have not been updated in some time and global warming has caused glaciers to move about, in some cases my more than a kilometer.
- What kind of food did you bring? How did the food drop work?
We dried our own dinners using a dehydrator that you can buy in any store, and them vacuum sealed them using a similar machine. Some of the dinners were standard things like chili and beef stew, but we had some variety with chicken curry and a bulgur wheat dish that I made. We started every dinner with 2 liters of soup, which helped keep us warm and provided needed salt and liquid. Sometimes we had 4 liters of soup. After dinner we had a bar of chocolate to split. We fortified every dinner with olive oil. For breakfast we had really awful Pu-Erh tea. I had homemade Hudson Bay Bread while Mike and Bob had store bought bars or oatmeal. Lunches consisted mostly of energy bars and nuts, thought we also had cheese and sausage. Bob had an immense amount of fruit leather that his mother had made, and an only slightly less immense amount of Snickers and Landjaeger.
We packed most of our food into 3 55 liter dry bags and then re-enforced them with duct tape for the air drop. The drop worked perfectly and we had very few broken bags. The worst casualty seemed to be my sesame sticks, which pretty much turned to dust on impact. I would highly recommend using this method for anyone doing a food drop on a snowfield. Mike found it far superior to the box method he had used on a previous trip. We would recommend using 2 bags, one inside the other, for added security.
- What kind of snow and ice protection did you bring?
We had a total of four pickets and six ice screws. Each of us had at least one picket and 2 screws at any time. Additionally, we each had a standard mountain axe and two ice tools. We never used the ice tools except for pounding in pitons or as deadman for the tent. The only time a picket was used was on the ascent of Doormouse.
- What kind of rock protection did you bring?
We brought a set of DMM nuts, #1-10 along with a small selection of medium sized cams. Additionally, we had nine pitons to pound. In retrospect, we should have brought a few more pitons to pound, though we only ended up using 2 of them.
- What kind of tent did you bring?
We had a well used, well loved MEC Northwind tent. This is a 2+ person, four season tent that fit three people comfortably. Most of gear had to sleep outside under the safety of a tarp. This is the fourth trip up north for the Northwind and it is still holding strong. However, if MEC or another company wants to donate a new tent to us for future expeditions, we would certainly take it.
- What kind of stove did you bring, and how much fuel?
We used a MSR Whisperlite along with 1 and 2 liter pots. The Whisperlite is very reliable and is easily repaired and maintained in the field. We had zero problems with it. We toted along 8 liters of whitegas, but needed only half that as we found many sources of melting snow from which to gather fresh water.
- Who are these Hardmen of 1967?
The Hardmen of 1967 are four Americans: Vern Ainardi, Steve Hodge, Steve Sickles, and Jim Wilson. They made the only known climbing excursion into the area for climbing, other than, of course, ourselves, John, and Volker. Jim Wilson wrote about their experience in the article, "First Ascents in the Coast Range of British Columbia", published by the journal of the Mazamas. They flew in and out of Yehiniko Lake and approached the Scud via Quattrin Creek. As they didn't do an air drop, they carried their gear and climbed their gear and food up the valley to the col in stages. During their time, they climbed Ambition, Endeavour, and Dokdaon, along with three other un-named peaks (which they, of course, named). They also gave White Rabbit its name. They, too, experienced some unpleasant weather, which kept them from trying the west ridge of White Rabbit. After flying out, two of them went on to climb in other areas of Canada. Two hitch hiked south to Seattle.
- Who took the photos?
We all did. Most of the photos are from me. Ones that are slightly smaller are from Bob. Mike's are about the same size as mine and can easily be distinguished by those in the know of camera gear. Mike's have a much different look than mine as he was using different gear and frequently a polarizer. Rather than give photo credits, which would disrupt things, I chose to have a cleaner presentation. I used a Nikon D70 with a 18-70mm lens. Mike had a Canon 5D with 24-105mm and 100-400mm lenses. Bob had a small point and shoot digital camera.
- I'm looking at a map and can't find a lot of the names you use, like White Rabbit and Quattrin Glacier. Why is that?
The reason is simple: Most of the terrain isn't officially named. White Rabbit is a name the Hardmen of '67 gave to the prominent mountain, though they didn't climb it. Quattrin glacier is the source of Quattrin Creek, which is on the map. There are very few official names: Scud, Dokdaon, Ambition, and Endeavour. Also, unless you look at a very small scale, local map, the only thing you'll find that is named is the Stikine River.
- Why did you put yourself through all of that?
Well, that is a good question and I wish I had a good answer for it. There is something special about going to a truly wild place for an extended period of time, a place where man really is only a temporary visitor, a place where there isn't any infrastructure, where help isn't around the corner, where the foot of man hasn't gone before. There is also an ego reason: The trip is a big accomplishment for me and completing it definitely boosts my ego. Though this really isn't a good thing, it is a fact. Answering the Why is a very difficult thing to do. A better question to ask is, "Would I do something like that? What would I get out of it?". That is, you should go for your own reasons, not for mine.
- Did you have a good time?
Another good question. And once again I wish I had a good answer. Looking back with the distance of time, I am happy that I went to the Scud. There were days filled with tremendous joy, days when I didn't want to be anywhere other than where I was, doing exactly what I was doing. There were days when I just wanted to disappear and re-appear somewhere else, doing anything else. There isn't an easy Yes or No answer to be had. I am not actively planning on going back up north to do such a trip next year. I will, however, return to the north at some point in my life. It is just too good to ignore.
- What if something had gone wrong? How risky is such a thing?
We carried a satellite phone, which was mostly worthless. We were on the Globalstar system and they were having problems with their satellites, making a phone call next to impossible. At least it was until the last day, when the problem seems to have been fixed. We were a long, long way from help, however, and had to be as self sufficient as possible. Even if we could have gotten a phone call out to get help, it would have been several days in reaching us. The risk level is significantly higher than, say, climbing Denali, where help is probably a matter of hours away and there are many people around to give aid.
- What else is up there to climb?
Well, just about everything. Dokdaon is the most climbed mountain now, at it has seen exactly 2 summits. Some of the bigger, sexier peaks (i.e, those with names) include Mounts Hickman, Hoole, and Henken. Hickman got climbed via a helicopter ride by Fred Beckey in the 1960s. The other two have never been climbed. Ambition and Endeavour have been climbed once each, and by their easiest routes. The mountain near Doormouse that we called The Castle has not seen an ascent. Further toward the ocean, massive Mount Ratz has been climbed once, I believe.