A new route up Mount Logan, Canada

Mount Logan, at 5,959 m (19,551 ft), reigns as Canada’s highest peak and the second highest peak in North America, second to Mount McKinley, and has had, to date, one of the great unclimbed walls on the North American continent.

Mount Logan from the southwest

That was until early-May, 2010, when two men, Yasushi Okada and Katsutake ‘Jumbo’ Yokoyama, both from Japan, climbed the 2,500-meter (8,200′) wall alpine-style over three long days, and then continued to the east summit of Logan at 5,900 meters (19,357′), before descending via the extremely long east ridge.


Okada traversing on Day 3, high on the route.
UKC News, 19 May 2010
© Katsutaka Yokoyama

Logan is a double challenge because of its extreme weather. On the high 5,000 m plateau, air temperature hovers around −45 °C (−49 °F) in the winter and reaches near freezing in summer with the median temperature for the year around −27 °C (−17 °F). A temperature of −77.5 °C (−108 °F) was recorded in 1991. Minimal snow melt leads to a significant ice cap, reaching almost 300 m (984 ft) in certain spots.

On May 4, in good weather, Okada and Yokoyama started up the south wall, climbing the right-hand rib on the face, the only line not threatened by hanging glaciers. Above the steep ice and snow of the lower wall, they found a cache left in 2007 by Tackle, Smith, and Fabrizio Zangrilli. They then continued up and left into the steepest section of the face. Yokoyama said the crux was a 200-metre stretch of climbing with thin ice, loose rock, and M6 dry tooling.

Above this, the technical difficulty eased but the psychological pressure grew, despite mostly good weather. “The higher we climbed, the more confidence [we had] that rappelling on the same route is out of the question,” Yokoyama said, “because there were a lot of traverses, loose rock, and it’s simply big.”

They reached the east ridge at nearly 11 p.m. on their third day of climbing, and the following day completed the ascent up to the east summit, where they “decided to descend via the east ridge without hesitation,” Yokoyama said. Two other climbers had left fresh tracks along the ridge, which made the descent much easier than expected, but it was still a 30-kilometer walk back to base camp.

They follow in the footsteps of other intrepid adventurers. In 1922, a geologist approached the Alpine Club of Canada with the suggestion that the club send a team to the mountain to reach the summit for the first time. An international team of Canadian, British and American climbers was assembled and after a delayed start due to various hiccups, they finally got going in 1925.They began their journey in early May, crossing the mainland from the Pacific coast by train. They then walked the remaining 200 kilometres (120 miles) to within 10 kilometres (6 miles) of the Logan Glacier where they established base camp. In the early evening of June 23, 1925, Albert H. MacCarthy (leader), H.F. Lambart, Allen Carpé, W.W. Foster, N. Read and Andy Taylor stood on top for the first time. It had taken them 65 days to approach the mountain from the nearest town, McCarthy, summit and return, with all climbers intact.

The Alaska-Yukon ace climber Jack Tackle had attempted the south route twice over a 10-year span, getting about 3,000 feet up the wall both times. Although he still considers this line on Logan to be his “last great project” he helped the Japanese climbers with photos and advice.

In an email to Jack Tackle, on their return, Yokoyama wrote, “It’s too much honour for me to get such a great line and share this route with you. We named the route I-TO, which means thread, line, relationship, etc.”


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