Burkett Needle (L) and Mt Burkett (R) from the air...
The Southeast panhandle of Alaska is a labyrinthine landscape of massive islands, wandering straits and mysterious mainland mountain ranges. The regionís independent fishing communities are few and far between, connected by complex networks of seaborn ferries and propeller driven air fleets that give the area a frontier feel, where opportunities abound, and the stakes are high.
Along the still disputed Canadian border, just over 100 miles southeast of Juneau, lies a massive network of ice-choked valleys and slicing granite spires known as the Stikine Ice Cap. Summits in this part of the world are not terribly high, and perhaps this has doomed the region to relative obscurity, but what these peaks lack in height they make up for in Napoleonic aggression. Home to such fearsome sights as the Devilís Thumb, Burkett Needle, and the Catís Ear Spires, the Stikine Ice Cap is brimming with possibilities.
This region is known for its uncooperative weather, so any expedition should prepare accordingly. Precipitation is extreme, due to the coastal proximity, and dense fog is pervasive. Ascents in this region have been made at all times of year, though mid to late summer ascents are the most common.
Home to a robust economy based on fishing, logging, and the seasonal Cruise Ship industry, the quaint Scandinavian village of Petersburg, AK provides all the amenities and the perfect jumping-off point for an adventure on the Ice Cap. Alaska Airlines offers service to Petersburg from Seattle and other major Alaskan cities. From Petersburg, air travel to the ice cap can be arranged via TEMSCO Helicopters, Inc www.temscoair.com. Be advised air travel is extremely constrained by weather conditions. Lodging, food & cooking fuel are readily available in town, but climbing-specific equipment is not available. The local city park offers reasonably priced camping for those awaiting a ďThumbís Up DayĒ for air transport.
Another option for the pure of heart (or light of wallet) is to arrange boat transport to the toe of the Baird Glacier and ski/trek up onto the ice cap.
The Direct East Ridge is the route immortalized in Steck & Roper's "Fifty Classic Climbs of North America". Though an excellent climb, the route is anything but 'direct', as it replaces a few hundred yards of steep snow with half a day of rock climbing. The route gains the East Ridge at the lowest point at which its steep rock buttresses first protrude through the surrounding snow slopes, rather than climbing steep snow on the SE face to gain the ridge higher up.There is some confusion over th...[more]Browse More Classics in AK