Tag Archives: climbing

Walter Harper Day

Walter Harper

Today, 7 June, is the first Walter Harper Day. Harper, whom I have written about on here before, is one of my favorite historical Alaskans.

It was on this day in 1913, when Harper became the first known person to stand on the summit of Denali.

Harper tragically died at the age of 25, along with his young bride, Frances Wells Harper, with the sinking of the Princess Sophia in 1918.


Cooler thoughts


The ice climbing wall at UAF; Camera: Leica M3, Lens: 135mm, Film: Fuji Superia 800

With the extension of these unusually warm temps here in Interior Alaska, let’s go back to this past March, when snow was on the ground, and the UAF students were climbing the ice wall on campus.


Mount Everest

It’s a long way from the days of Mallory and Hillary:


Traffic jam at the top of the world; Photo credit: Project Possible/AFP/Getty Images

I’m absolutely fascinated by the recent photo to come from the summit of Mount Everest. Over 100 climbers, queued up in a line, in the death zone of Everest, waiting to summit. The death toll on Everest has reached 11 this year, as a result.

A record number of permits, 381, to climb the world’s tallest peak were issued. Which means at least double that number, if not closer to triple, were on the mountain, since guides and sherpas are not included in the permit number.

Also, the window of good weather was extremely small compared to most years, so everyone was forced to summit basically at the same time. Waiting in a line, using up oxygen, stepping over dead bodies that had been left behind, all while trying to combat exhaustion in the death zone.

The entire concept, just spins my head. The desire to climb Everest, I get, although I’ve never really had that great burn to do so. We’ve reached the point where we wait in a line at the roof top of our planet, for what? To take a selfie? Thank about it: One couldn’t take a picture from the summit without people in it! I live in Fairbanks so that I can avoid lines. I walk out of the post office if the line has more than three people in it. I realize, I’m the odd duck on this planet, but I can not imagine my extreme disappointment, if I climbed Everest, only to be forced to endure a conga line before summiting.

One has to ask about the skill level of so many climbers. Are they experienced climbers, or thrill seeking amateurs on a selfie hunt? Peter Beaumont wrote in The Guardian that climbing the world’s tallest peak “has become a trophy experience.” I have to admit, I agree with him.

What would George Mallory think about The Mountain now?


Leave it to the Sourdoughs

I love the sourdough reference:

“In the spring and summer of 1910, as (Hiram) Bingham sat in New Haven sifting through the evidence about Vilcabamba (Peru) … the newly self-described explorer would have found it almost impossible to pick up a newspaper without reading about one expedition or another. (Dr. Frederick) Cook and (Robert) Peary were feuding publicly over who had reached the North Pole first. Norway’s (Roald) Amundsen sent England’s (Robert Falcon) Scott a telegram announcing that he planned to beat him to the South Pole. And a group of amateur “sourdoughs” shocked the mountaineering world with their claim to have climbed the north summit of Mount McKinley, fueled by doughnuts and hot chocolate.”

from: “Turn Right at Machu Picchu” by Mark Adams

Alaska Sidenote:

Frederick Cook claimed, in 1906, to have been the first to summit Mt McKinley. His claim has since been discredited.

Fake Peak

Noted explorer and photographer (among other trades) Bradford Washburn, later proved that none of the photographs that Cook took on his 1906 McKinley Expedition had been taken anywhere near the summit. In fact, the peak in the photo above, which Cook claimed was Denali’s summit, is now known as Fake Peak.

The four locals, Tom Lloyd, Peter Anderson, Billy Taylor, and Charles McGonagall, which became known as “The Sourdough Expedition”, attempted the North Summit in 1910, while carrying a spruce pole. Two of the Sourdoughs did make the summit. Their claim was not believed until 1913, when another team climbed the North Summit, and found the spruce pole that the Sourdoughs had erected near the top. The team of sourdoughs had absolutely no climbing experience whatsoever.

A special shoutout to Mr Mark Adams. Love the book so far. Don’t forget your second pair of socks.