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Title: The Ascent of Denali (Mount McKinley) - A Narrative of the First Complete Ascent of the Highest - Peak in North America
Author: Stuck, Hudson, 1863-1920
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE ASCENT OF DENALI

(MOUNT McKINLEY)

A NARRATIVE OF THE FIRST COMPLETE ASCENT OF THE
HIGHEST PEAK IN NORTH AMERICA

BY

HUDSON STUCK, D.D.

ARCHDEACON OF THE YUKON


ILLUSTRATED


NEW YORK

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

1918



[Illustration: Ice Fall of nearly four thousand feet, by which the upper
or Harper Glacier discharges into the lower or Muldrow Glacier (page
39)]



COPYRIGHT, 1914, BY CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

Published February, 1914



    BOOKS BY HUDSON STUCK, D.D., F.R.G.S.

    PUBLISHED BY CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS


    VOYAGES ON THE YUKON AND ITS TRIBUTARIES

        A Narrative of Summer Travel in the Interior of Alaska
        Illustrated. 8vo                      _Net_ $4.50

    "His book is a worthy contribution in a fascinating field of
    natural and geographical science as well as an entertaining record
    of highly expert and continually risky exploration."

    --_Phila. North American._

    THE ASCENT OF DENALI (MT. MCKINLEY)

        Illustrated. 8vo                      _Net_ $1.75

    "A wonderful record of indomitable pluck and endurance."

    --_Bulletin of the American Geographical Society._

    "Its pages make one wish that all mountain climbers might be
    archdeacons if their accounts might thus gain, in the interest of
    happenings by the way, emotional vision and intellectual outlook."

    --_New York Times._

    TEN THOUSAND MILES WITH A DOG SLED

        A Narrative of Winter Travel in Interior Alaska
        Illustrated. 8vo                      _Net_ $1.75

    "One of the most fascinating and altogether satisfactory books of
    travel which we have seen this year, or, indeed, any year."

    --_New York Tribune._

    "This startlingly brilliant book."--_Literary Digest._



TO

SIR MARTIN CONWAY

ONE OF THE WORLD'S GREATEST TRAVELLERS AND CLIMBERS WHOSE FASCINATING
NARRATIVES HAVE KINDLED IN MANY BREASTS A LOVE OF THE GREAT HEIGHTS AND
A DESIRE TO ATTAIN UNTO THEM

THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED WITH RESPECT AND ADMIRATION



PREFACE


Forefront in this book, because forefront in the author's heart and
desire, must stand a plea for the restoration to the greatest mountain
in North America of its immemorial native name. If there be any prestige
or authority in such matter from the accomplishment of a first complete
ascent, "if there be any virtue, if there be any praise," the author
values it chiefly as it may give weight to this plea.

It is now little more than seventeen years ago that a prospector
penetrated from the south into the neighborhood of this mountain,
guessed its height with remarkable accuracy at twenty thousand feet,
and, ignorant of any name that it already bore, placed upon it the name
of the Republican candidate for President of the United States at the
approaching election--William McKinley. No voice was raised in protest,
for the Alaskan Indian is inarticulate and such white men as knew the
old name were absorbed in the search for gold. Some years later an
officer of the United States army, upon a reconnoissance survey into the
land, passed around the companion peak, and, alike ignorant or careless
of any native name, put upon it the name of an Ohio politician, at that
time prominent in the councils of the nation, Joseph Foraker. So there
they stand upon the maps, side by side, the two greatest peaks of the
Alaskan range, "Mount McKinley" and "Mount Foraker." And there they
should stand no longer, since, if there be right and reason in these
matters, they should not have been placed there at all.

To the relatively large Indian population of those wide regions of the
interior of Alaska from which the mountains are visible they have always
borne Indian names. The natives of the middle Yukon, of the lower three
hundred miles of the Tanana and its tributaries, of the upper Kuskokwim
have always called these mountains "Denali" (Den-ah'li) and "Denali's
Wife"--either precisely as here written, or with a dialectical
difference in pronunciation so slight as to be negligible.

It is true that the little handful of natives on the Sushitna River, who
never approach nearer than a hundred miles to the mountain, have another
name for it. They call it _Traléika_, which, in their wholly different
language, has the same signification. It is probably true of every great
mountain that it bears diverse native names as one tribe or another, on
this side or on that of its mighty bulk, speaks of it. But the area in
which, and the people by whom, this mountain is known as Denali,
preponderate so greatly as to leave no question which native name it
should bear. The bold front of the mountain is so placed on the
returning curve of the Alaskan range that from the interior its snows
are visible far and wide, over many thousands of square miles; and the
Indians of the Tanana and of the Yukon, as well as of the Kuskokwim,
hunt the caribou well up on its foot-hills. Its southern slopes are
stern and forbidding through depth of snow and violence of glacial
stream, and are devoid of game; its slopes toward the interior of the
country are mild and amene, with light snowfall and game in abundance.

Should the reader ever be privileged, as the author was a few years ago,
to stand on the frozen surface of Lake Minchúmina and see these
mountains revealed as the clouds of a passing snow-storm swept away, he
would be overwhelmed by the majesty of the scene and at the same time
deeply moved with the appropriateness of the simple native names; for
simplicity is always a quality of true majesty. Perhaps nowhere else in
the world is so abrupt and great an uplift from so low a base. The
marshes and forests of the upper Kuskokwim, from which these mountains
rise, cannot be more than one thousand five hundred feet above the sea.
The rough approximation by the author's aneroid in the journey from the
Tanana to the Kuskokwim would indicate a still lower level--would make
this wide plain little more than one thousand feet high. And they rise
sheer, the tremendous cliffs of them apparently unbroken, soaring
superbly to more than twenty thousand and seventeen thousand feet
respectively: Denali, "the great one," and Denali's Wife. And the little
peaks in between the natives call the "children." It was on that
occasion, standing spellbound at the sublimity of the scene, that the
author resolved that if it were in his power he would restore these
ancient mountains to the ancient people among whom they rear their
heads. Savages they are, if the reader please, since "savage" means
simply a forest dweller, and the author is glad himself to be a savage a
great part of every year, but yet, as savages, entitled to name their
own rivers, their own lakes, their own mountains. After all, these
terms--"savage," "heathen," "pagan"--mean, alike, simply "country
people," and point to some old-time superciliousness of the city-bred,
now confined, one hopes, to such localities as Whitechapel and the
Bowery.

There is, to the author's mind, a certain ruthless arrogance that grows
more offensive to him as the years pass by, in the temper that comes to
a "new" land and contemptuously ignores the native names of conspicuous
natural objects, almost always appropriate and significant, and overlays
them with names that are, commonly, neither the one nor the other. The
learned societies of the world, the geographical societies, the
ethnological societies, have set their faces against this practice these
many years past, and to them the writer confidently appeals.

       *       *       *       *       *

This preface must bear a grateful acknowledgment to the most
distinguished of Alaskans--the man who knows more of Alaska than any
other human being--Peter Trimble Rowe, seventeen years bishop of that
immense territory, for the "cordial assent" which he gave to the
proposed expedition and the leave of absence which rendered it
possible--one more in a long list of kindnesses which have rendered
happy an association of nearly ten years. Nor can better place be found
for a tribute of gratitude to those who were of the little party: to Mr.
Harry P. Karstens, strong, competent, and resourceful, the real leader
of the expedition in the face of difficulty and danger; to Mr. Robert G.
Tatum, who took his share, and more than his share, of all toil and
hardship and was a most valuable colleague; to Walter Harper,
Indian-bred until his sixteenth year, and up to that time trained in not
much else than Henry of Navarre's training, "to shoot straight, to speak
the truth; to do with little food and less sleep" (though equal to an
abundance of both on occasion), who joyed in the heights as a
mountain-sheep or a chamois, and whose sturdy limbs and broad shoulders
were never weary or unwilling--to all of these there is heartfelt
affection and deep obligation. Nor must Johnny be forgotten, the Indian
boy who faithfully kept the base camp during a long vigil, and killed
game to feed the dogs, and denied himself, unasked, that others might
have pleasure, as the story will tell. And the name of Esaias, the
Indian boy who accompanied us to the base camp, and then returned with
the superfluous dogs, must be mentioned, with commendation for fidelity
and thanks for service. Acknowledgment is also made to many friends and
colleagues at the mission stations in the interior, who knew of the
purpose and furthered it greatly and held their tongues so that no
premature screaming bruit of it got into the Alaskan newspapers: to the
Rev. C. E. Betticher, Jr., particularly and most warmly.

The author would add, perhaps quite unnecessarily, yet lest any should
mistake, a final personal note. He is no professed explorer or climber
or "scientist," but a missionary, and of these matters an amateur only.
The vivid recollection of a back bent down with burdens and lungs at the
limit of their function makes him hesitate to describe this enterprise
as recreation. It was the most laborious undertaking with which he was
ever connected; yet it was done for the pleasure of doing it, and the
pleasure far outweighed the pain. But he is concerned much more with men
than mountains, and would say, since "out of the fullness of the heart
the mouth speaketh," that his especial and growing concern, these ten
years past, is with the native people of Alaska, a gentle and kindly
race, now threatened with a wanton and senseless extermination, and
sadly in need of generous champions if that threat is to be averted.



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                      PAGE


  I. PREPARATION AND APPROACH                                     3

  II. THE MULDROW GLACIER                                        25

  III. THE NORTHEAST RIDGE                                       53

  IV. THE GRAND BASIN                                            80

  V. THE ULTIMATE HEIGHT                                         92

  VI. THE RETURN                                                117

  VII. THE HEIGHT OF DENALI, WITH A DISCUSSION OF THE
  READINGS ON THE SUMMIT AND DURING THE ASCENT                  141

  VIII. EXPLORATIONS OF THE DENALI REGION AND PREVIOUS
  ATTEMPTS AT ITS ASCENT                                        157

  IX. THE NAMES PLACED UPON THE MOUNTAIN BY THE AUTHOR          180



ILLUSTRATIONS


  Ice fall of nearly four thousand feet by which the
  upper or Harper Glacier discharges into the lower
  or Muldrow Glacier (photogravure)                  _Frontispiece_

                                                             FACING
                                                               PAGE

  The author and Mr. H. P. Karstens                               4

  Tatum, Esaias, Karstens, Johnny, and Walter, at the
  Clearwater Camp                                                 8

  Striking across from the Tanana to the Kantishna               12

  One of the abandoned mining towns in the Kantishna             14

  Denali from the McKinley fork of the Kantishna River           16

  Entering the range by Cache Creek                              18

  The base camp at about 4,000 feet on Cache Creek               20

  Some heads of game killed at the base camp                     22

  The Muldrow Glacier. Karstens in the foreground                26

  Ascension Day, 1913                                            30

  Bridging a crevasse on the Muldrow Glacier                     32

  Hard work for dogs as well as men on the Muldrow Glacier       34

  The Northeast Ridge shattered by the earthquake in July, 1912  48

  Cutting a staircase three miles long in the ice of the
  shattered ridge                                                52

  The shattered Northeast Ridge                                  56

  Camp at 13,000 feet on Northeast Ridge                         60

  A dangerous passage                                            64

  The Upper Basin reached at last. Our camp at the
  Parker Pass at 15,000 feet                                     72

  Above all the range except Denali and Denali's Wife            76

  Traverse under the cliffs of the Northeast Ridge to enter
  the Grand Basin                                                82

  First camp in the Grand Basin--16,000 feet, looking up         84

  Second camp in the Grand Basin--looking down, 16,500
  feet                                                           86

  Third camp in the Grand Basin--17,000 feet, showing the
  shattering of the glacier walls by the earthquake              88

  The North Peak, 20,000 feet high                               90

  The South Peak from about 18,000 feet                          94

  The climbing-irons                                             98

  Denali's Wife from the summit of Denali (photogravure)        102

  Robert Tatum raising the Stars and Stripes on the highest
  point in North America                                        104

  The saying of the Te Deum                                     106

  Beginning the descent of the ridge; looking down 4,000
  feet upon the Muldrow Glacier                                 122

  Johnny Fred, who kept the base camp and fed the dogs
  and would not touch the sugar                                 128

  "Muk," the author's pet malamute                              136

  Approaching the range                                         164

  Map showing route of the Stuck-Karstens expedition
  to the summit of Mt. Denali (Mt. McKinley)        _End of volume_



THE ASCENT OF DENALI



CHAPTER I

PREPARATION AND APPROACH


The enterprise which this volume describes was a cherished purpose
through a number of years. In the exercise of his duties as Archdeacon
of the Yukon, the author has travelled throughout the interior of
Alaska, both winter and summer, almost continuously since 1904. Again
and again, now from one distant elevation and now from another, the
splendid vision of the greatest mountain in North America has spread
before his eyes, and left him each time with a keener longing to enter
its mysterious fastnesses and scale its lofty peaks. Seven years ago,
writing in _The Spirit of Missions_ of a view of the mountain from the
Pedro Dome, in the neighborhood of Fairbanks, he said: "I would rather
climb that mountain than discover the richest gold-mine in Alaska."
Indeed, when first he went to Alaska it was part of the attraction which
the country held for him that it contained an unclimbed mountain of the
first class.

Scawfell and Skiddaw and Helvellyn had given him his first boyish
interest in climbing; the Colorado and Canadian Rockies had claimed one
holiday after another of maturer years, but the summit of Rainier had
been the greatest height he had ever reached. When he went to Alaska he
carried with him all the hypsometrical instruments that were used in the
ascent as well as his personal climbing equipment. There was no definite
likelihood that the opportunity would come to him of attempting the
ascent, but he wished to be prepared with instruments of adequate scale
in case the opportunity should come; and Hicks, of London, made them
nine years ago.

[Illustration: The author and Mr. H. P. Karstens.]

[Sidenote: Members of the Party]

Long ago, also, he had picked out Mr. Harry P. Karstens, of Fairbanks,
as the one colleague with whom he would be willing to make the attempt.
Mr. Karstens had gone to the Klondike in his seventeenth year, during
the wild stampede to those diggings, paying the expenses of the trip by
packing over the Chilkoot Pass, and had been engaged in pioneering and
in travel of an arduous and adventurous kind ever since. He had mined in
the Klondike and in the Seventy-Mile (hence his sobriquet of "The
Seventy-Mile Kid"). It was he and his partner, McGonogill, who broke the
first trail from Fairbanks to Valdez and for two years of difficulty and
danger--dogs and men alike starving sometimes--brought the mail
regularly through. When the stampede to the Kantishna took place, and
the government was dilatory about instituting a mail service for the
three thousand men in the camp, Karstens and his partner organized and
maintained a private mail service of their own. He had freighted with
dogs from the Yukon to the Iditarod, had run motor-boats on the Yukon
and the Tanana. For more than a year he had been guide to Mr. Charles
Sheldon, the well-known naturalist and hunter, in the region around the
foot-hills of Denali. With the full vigor of maturity, with all this
accumulated experience and the resourcefulness and self-reliance which
such experience brings, he had yet an almost juvenile keenness for
further adventure which made him admirably suited to this undertaking.

Mr. Robert G. Tatum of Tennessee, just twenty-one years old, a postulant
for holy orders, stationed at the mission at Nenana, had been employed
all the winter in a determined attempt to get supplies freighted over
the ice, by natives and their dog teams, to two women missionaries, a
nurse and a teacher, at the Tanana Crossing. The steamboat had cached
the supplies at a point about one hundred miles below the mission the
previous summer, unable to proceed any farther. The upper Tanana is a
dangerous and difficult river alike for navigation and for ice travel,
and Tatum's efforts were made desperate by the knowledge that the women
were reduced to a diet of straight rabbits without even salt. The famine
relieved, he had returned to Nenana. The summer before he had worked on
a survey party and had thus some knowledge of the use of instruments. By
undertaking the entire cooking for the expedition he was most useful and
helpful, and his consistent courtesy and considerateness made him a very
pleasant comrade.

Of the half-breed boy, Walter Harper, the author's attendant and
interpreter, dog driver in the winter and boat engineer in the summer
for three years previous, no more need be said than that he ran Karstens
close in strength, pluck, and endurance. Of the best that the mixed
blood can produce, twenty-one years old and six feet tall, he took
gleefully to high mountaineering, while his kindliness and invincible
amiability endeared him to every member of the party.

The men were thus all volunteers, experienced in snow and ice, though
not in high-mountain work. But the nature of snow and ice is not
radically changed by lifting them ten or fifteen or even twenty thousand
feet up in the air.

A volunteer expedition was the only one within the resources of the
writer, and even that strained them. The cost of the food supplies, the
equipment, and the incidental expenses was not far short of a thousand
dollars--a mere fraction of the cost of previous expeditions, it is
true, but a matter of long scraping together for a missionary. Yet if
there had been unlimited funds at his disposal--and the financial aspect
of the affair is alluded to only that this may be said--it would have
been impossible to assemble a more desirable party.

Mention of two Indian boys of fourteen or fifteen, who were of great
help to us, must not be omitted. They were picked out from the elder
boys of the school at Nenana, all of whom were most eager to go, and
were good specimens of mission-bred native youths. "Johnny" was with the
expedition from start to finish, keeping the base camp while the rest of
the party was above; Esaias was with us as far as the base camp and then
went back to Nenana with one of the dog teams.

[Sidenote: Methods of Approach]

The resolution to attempt the ascent of Denali was reached a year and a
half before it was put into execution: so much time was necessary for
preparation. Almost any Alaskan enterprise that calls for supplies or
equipment from the outside must be entered upon at least a year in
advance. The plan followed had been adopted long before as the only wise
one: that the supplies to be used upon the ascent be carried by water as
near to the base of the mountain as could be reached and cached there in
the summer, and that the climbing party go in with the dog teams as near
the 1st March as practicable. Strangely enough, of all the expeditions
that have essayed this ascent, the first, that of Judge Wickersham in
1903, and the last, ten years later, are the only ones that have
approached their task in this natural and easy way. The others have all
burdened themselves with the great and unnecessary difficulties of the
southern slopes of the range.

[Illustration: Tatum, Esaias, Karstens, Johnny and Walter, at the
Clearwater Camp.]

It was proposed to use the mission launch _Pelican_, which has travelled
close to twenty thousand miles on the Yukon and its tributaries in the
six seasons she has been in commission, to transport the supplies up the
Kantishna and Bearpaw Rivers to the head of navigation of the latter,
when her cruise of 1912 was complete. But a serious mishap to the
launch, which it was impossible to repair in Alaska, brought her
activities for that season to a sudden end. So Mr. Karstens came down
from Fairbanks with his launch, and a poling boat loaded with food
staples, and, pushing the poling boat ahead, successfully ascended the
rivers and carefully cached the stuff some fifty miles from the base of
the mountain. It was done in a week or less.

[Sidenote: Equipment]

Unfortunately, the equipment and supplies ordered from the outside did
not arrive in time to go in with the bulk of the stuff. Although ordered
in February, they arrived at Tanana only late in September, just in time
to catch the last boat up to Nenana. And only half that had been ordered
came at all--one of the two cases has not been traced to this day.
Moreover, it was not until late the next February, when actually about
to proceed on the expedition, that the writer was able to learn what
items had come and what had not. Such are the difficulties of any
undertaking in Alaska, despite all the precautions that foresight may
dictate.

The silk tents, which had not come, had to be made in Fairbanks; the
ice-axes sent were ridiculous gold-painted toys with detachable heads
and broomstick handles--more like dwarf halberds than ice-axes; and at
least two workmanlike axes were indispensable. So the head of an axe was
sawn to the pattern of the writer's out of a piece of tool steel and a
substantial hickory handle and an iron shank fitted to it at the
machine-shop in Fairbanks. It served excellently well, while the points
of the fancy axes from New York splintered the first time they were
used. "Climbing-irons," or "crampons," were also to make, no New York
dealer being able to supply them.

One great difficulty was the matter of footwear. Heavy regulation-nailed
alpine boots were sent--all too small to be worn with even a couple of
pairs of socks, and therefore quite useless. Indeed, at that time there
was no house in New York, or, so far as the writer knows, in the United
States, where the standard alpine equipment could be procured. As a
result of the dissatisfaction of this expedition with the material sent,
one house in New York now carries in stock a good assortment of such
things of standard pattern and quality. Fairbanks was ransacked for
boots of any kind in which three or four pairs of socks could be worn.
Alaska is a country of big men accustomed to the natural spread of the
foot which a moccasin permits, but we could not find boots to our need
save rubber snow-packs, and we bought half a dozen pairs of them (No.
12) and had leather soles fastened under them and nailed. Four pairs of
alpine boots at eleven dollars a pair equals forty-four dollars. Six
pairs of snow-packs at five dollars equals thirty dollars. Leather soles
for them at three dollars equals eighteen dollars; which totalled
ninety-two dollars--entirely wasted. We found that moccasins were the
only practicable foot-gear; and we had to put _five_ pairs of socks
within them before we were done. But we did not know that at the time
and had no means of discovering it.

All these matters were put in hand under Karstens's direction, while the
writer, only just arrived in Fairbanks from Fort Yukon and Tanana, made
a flying trip to the new mission at the Tanana Crossing, two hundred and
fifty miles above Fairbanks, with Walter and the dog team; and most of
them were finished by the time we returned. A multitude of small details
kept us several days more in Fairbanks, so that nearly the middle of
March had arrived before we were ready to make our start to the
mountain, two weeks later than we had planned.

[Sidenote: Supplies]

Karstens having joined us, we went down to the mission at Nenana
(seventy-five miles) in a couple of days, and there two more days were
spent overhauling and repacking the stuff that had come from the
outside. In the way of food, we had imported only erbswurst, seventy-two
four-ounce packages; milk chocolate, twenty pounds; compressed China tea
in tablets (a most excellent tea with a very low percentage of tannin),
five pounds; a specially selected grade of Smyrna figs, ten pounds; and
sugared almonds, ten pounds--about seventy pounds' weight, all
scrupulously reserved for the high-mountain work.

For trail equipment we had one eight-by-ten "silk" tent, used for two
previous winters; three small circular tents of the same material, made
in Fairbanks, for the high work; a Yukon stove and the usual complement
of pots and pans and dishes, including two admirable large aluminum pots
for melting snow, used a number of years with great satisfaction. A
"primus" stove, borrowed from the _Pelican's_ galley, was taken along
for the high work. The bedding was mainly of down quilts, which are
superseding fur robes and blankets for winter use because of their
lightness and warmth and the small compass into which they may be
compressed. Two pairs of camel's-hair blankets and one sleeping-bag
lined with down and camel's-hair cloth were taken, and Karstens brought
a great wolf-robe, weighing twenty-five pounds, of which we were glad
enough later on.

[Illustration: Striking across from the Tanana to the Kantishna.]

[Sidenote: Start]

Another team was obtained at the mission, and Mr. R. G. Tatum and the
two boys, Johnny and Esaias, joined the company, which, thus increased
to six persons, two sleds, and fourteen dogs, set out from Nenana across
country to the Kantishna on St. Patrick's day.

Travelling was over the beaten trail to the Kantishna gold camp, one of
the smallest of Alaskan camps, supporting about thirty men. In 1906
there was a wild stampede to this region, and two or three thousand
people went in, chiefly from the Fairbanks district. Town after town was
built--Diamond City, Glacier City, Bearpaw City, Roosevelt, McKinley
City--all with elaborate saloons and gambling-places, one, at least,
equipped with electric lights. But next summer the boom burst and all
the thousands streamed out. Gold there was and is yet, but in small
quantities only. The "cities" are mere collections of tumble-down huts
amongst which the moose roam at will. Interior Alaska has many such
abandoned "cities." The few men now in the district have placer claims
that yield a "grub-stake" as a sure thing every summer, and spend their
winters chiefly in prospecting for quartz. At Diamond City, on the
Bearpaw, lay our cache of grub, and that place, some ninety miles from
Nenana and fifty miles from the base of Denali, was our present
objective point. It was bright, clear weather and the trail was good.
For thirty miles our way lay across the wide flats of the Tanana Valley,
and this stage brought us to the banks of the Nenana River. Another day
of twenty-five miles of flats brought us to Knight's comfortable
road-house and ranch on the Toklat, a tributary of the Kantishna, the
only road-house this trail can now support. Several times during these
two days we had clear glimpses of the great mountain we were
approaching, and as we came out of the flat country, the "Sheephills," a
foot-hill range of Denali, much broken and deeply sculptured, rose
picturesquely before us. Our travel was now almost altogether on
"overflow" ice, upon the surface of swift streams that freeze solidly
over their riffles and shallows and thus deny passage under the ice to
the water of fountains and springs that never ceases flowing. So it
bursts forth and flows _over_ the ice with a continually renewing
surface of the smoothest texture. Carrying a mercurial barometer that
one dare not intrust to a sled on one's back over such footing is a
somewhat precarious proceeding, but there was no alternative, and many
miles were thus passed. Up the Toklat, then up its Clearwater Fork, then
up its tributary, Myrtle Creek, to its head, and so over a little divide
and down Willow Creek, we went, and from that divide and the upper
reaches of the last-named creek had fine, clear views not only of Denali
but of Denali's Wife as well, now come much nearer and looming much
larger.

[Illustration: One of the abandoned mining towns in the Kantishna.]

[Sidenote: The Faces of the Mountain]

But here it may be stated once for all that the view which this face of
the mountains presents is never a satisfying one. The same is true in
even greater degree of the southern face, all photographs agreeing with
all travellers as to its tameness. There is only one face of the Denali
group that is completely satisfying, that is adequate to the full
picturesque potentiality of a twenty-thousand-foot elevation. The writer
has seen no other view, no other aspect of it, comparable to that of the
northwest face from Lake Minchúmina. There the two mountains rise side
by side, sheer, precipitous, pointed rocks, utterly inaccessible,
savage, and superb. The rounded shoulders, the receding slopes and
ridges of the other faces detract from the uplift and from the dignity,
but the northwestern face is stark.

One more run, of much the same character as the previous day, and we
were at Eureka, in the heart of the Kantishna country, on Friday, 21st
March, being Good Friday.

We arrived there at noon and "called it a day," and spent the rest of it
in the devotions of that august anniversary. Easter eve took us to
Glacier City, and we lay there over the feast, gathering three or four
men who were operating a prospecting-drill in that neighborhood for the
first public worship ever conducted in the Kantishna camp. Ten miles
more brought us to Diamond City, on the Bearpaw, where we found our
cache of food in good condition save that the field-mice, despite all
precautions, had made access to the cereals and had eaten all the rolled
oats.

Amongst the Kantishna miners, who were most kindly and generous in their
assistance, we were able to pick up enough large-sized moccasins to
serve the members of the party, and we wore nothing else at all on the
mountain.

[Illustration: Denali from the McKinley fork of the Kantishna River.

Showing the two peaks of the mountain, the one in the rear and to the
left (the South Peak) is the higher.]

[Sidenote: Timber-Line]

Our immediate task now lay before us. A ton and a half of supplies had
to be hauled some fifty miles across country to the base of the
mountain. Here the relaying began, stuff being taken ahead and cached at
some midway point, then another load taken right through a day's march,
and then a return made to bring up the cache. In this way we moved
steadily though slowly across rolling country and upon the surface of a
large lake to the McKinley Fork of the Kantishna, which drains the
Muldrow Glacier, down that stream to its junction with the Clearwater
Fork of the same, and up that fork, through its canyon, to the last
spruce timber on its banks, and there we made a camp in an exceedingly
pretty spot. The creek ran open through a break in the ice in front of
our tent; the water-ousels darted in and out under the ice, singing most
sweetly; the willows, all in bud, perfumed the air; and Denali soared
clear and brilliant, far above the range, right in front of us. Here at
the timber-line, at an elevation of about two thousand feet, was the
pleasantest camp of the whole excursion. During the five days' stay here
the stuff was brought up and carried forward, and a quantity of dry wood
was cut and advanced to a cache at the mouth of the creek by which we
should reach the Muldrow Glacier.

It should be said that the short and easy route by which that glacier is
reached was discovered after much scouting and climbing by McGonogill
and Taylor in 1910, upon the occasion of the "pioneer" attempt upon the
mountain, of which more will be said by and by. The men in the Kantishna
camp who took part in that attempt gave us all the information they
possessed, as they had done to the party that attempted the mountain
last summer. There has been no need to make reconnoissance for routes
since these pioneers blazed the way: there is no other practicable route
than the one they discovered. The two subsequent climbing parties have
followed precisely in their footsteps up as far as the Grand Basin at
sixteen thousand feet, and it is the merest justice that such
acknowledgment be made.

At our camp the Clearwater ran parallel with the range, which rose like
a great wall before us. Our approach was not directly toward Denali but
toward an opening in the range six or eight miles to the east of the
great mountain. This opening is known as Cache Creek. Passing the willow
patch at its mouth, where previous camps had been made, we pushed up the
creek some three miles more to its forks, and there established our base
camp, on 10th April, at about four thousand feet elevation. A few
scrubby willows struggled to grow in the creek bed, but the hills that
rose from one thousand five hundred to two thousand feet around us were
bare of any vegetation save moss and were yet in the main covered with
snow. Caribou signs were plentiful everywhere, and we were no more than
settled in camp when a herd appeared in sight.

[Illustration: Entering the range by Cache Creek.

The Muldrow Glacier flows between the peak in the background (Mt.
Brooks) and the ridge just below it.]

[Sidenote: Game and Its Preparation]

Our prime concern at this camp was the gathering and preserving of a
sufficient meat supply for our subsistence on the mountain. It was an
easy task. First Karstens killed a caribou and then Walter a
mountain-sheep. Then Esaias happened into the midst of a herd of caribou
as he climbed over a ridge, and killed three. That was all we needed.
Then we went to work preparing the meat. Why should any one haul canned
pemmican hundreds of miles into the greatest game country in the world?
We made our own pemmican of the choice parts of this tender, juicy meat
and we never lost appetite for it or failed to enjoy and assimilate it.
A fifty-pound lard-can, three parts filled with water, was set on the
stove and kept supplied with joints of meat. As a batch was cooked we
took it out and put more into the same water, removed the flesh from the
bones, and minced it. Then we melted a can of butter, added pepper and
salt to it, and rolled a handful of the minced meat in the butter and
moulded it with the hands into a ball about as large as a baseball. We
made a couple of hundred of such balls and froze them, and they kept
perfectly. When all the boiling was done we put in the hocks of the
animals and boiled down the liquor into five pounds of the thickest,
richest meat-extract jelly, adding the marrow from the bones. With this
pemmican and this extract of caribou, a package of erbswurst and a
cupful of rice, we concocted every night the stew which was our main
food in the higher regions.

[Illustration: Some heads of game killed at the base camp.]

[Sidenote: The Instruments]

Here the instruments were overhauled. The mercurial barometer reading by
verniers to three places of decimals was set up and read, and the two
aneroids were adjusted to read with it. These two aneroids perhaps
deserve a word. Aneroid A was a three-inch, three-circle instrument, the
invention of Colonel Watkins, of the British army, of range-finder fame.
It seems strange that the advantage of the three-circle aneroid is so
little known in this country, for its three concentric circles give such
an open scale that, although this particular instrument reads to
twenty-five thousand feet, it is easy to read as small a difference as
twenty feet on it. It had been carried in the hind sack of the writer's
sled for the past eight winters and constantly and satisfactorily used
to determine the height of summits and passes upon the trails of the
interior. Aneroid B was a six-inch patent mountain aneroid, another
invention of the same military genius, prompted by Mr. Whymper's
experiments with the aneroid barometer after his return from his classic
climbs to the summits of the Bolivian Andes. Colonel Watkins devised an
instrument in which by a threaded post and a thumb-screw the spring may
be relaxed or brought into play at will, and the instrument is never in
commission save when a reading is taken. Then a few turns of the
thumb-screw bring the spring to bear upon the box, its walls expand
until the pressure of the spring equals the pressure of the atmosphere,
the reading is taken, and the instrument thrown out of operation
again--a most ingenious arrangement by which it was hoped to overcome
some of the persistent faults of elastic-chamber barometers. The writer
had owned this instrument for the past ten years, but had never
opportunity to test its usefulness until now. So, although it read no
lower than about fifteen inches, he took it with him to observe its
operation. Lastly, completing the hypsometrical equipment, was a
boiling-point thermometer, with its own lamp and case, reading to 165°
by tenths of a degree.

Then there were the ice-creepers or crampons to adjust to the
moccasins--terribly heavy, clumsy rat-trap affairs they looked, but they
served us well on the higher reaches of the mountain and are, if not
indispensable, at least most valuable where hard snow or ice is to be
climbed. The snow-shoes, also, had to be rough-locked by lashing a
wedge-shaped bar of hardwood underneath, just above the tread, and
screwing calks along the sides. Thus armed, they gave us sure footing on
soft snow slopes, and were particularly useful in ascending the glacier.
While thus occupied at the base camp, came an Indian, his wife and
child, all the way from Lake Minchúmina, perhaps one hundred miles'
journey, to have the child baptized. It was generally known amongst all
the natives of the region that the enterprise was on foot, and
"Minchúmina John," hoping to meet us in the Kantishna, and missing us,
had followed our trail thus far. It was interesting to speculate how
much further he would have penetrated: Walter thought as far as the
glacier, but I think he would have followed as far as the dogs could go
or until food was quite exhausted.

[Illustration: The base camp at about 4,000 feet on Cache Creek.

The Muldrow Glacier flows between the ridge in the background and the
peak just beyond it.]

Meanwhile, the relaying of the supplies and the wood to the base camp
had gone on, and the advancing of it to a cache at the pass by which we
should gain the Muldrow Glacier. On 15th April Esaias and one of the
teams were sent back to Nenana. Almost all the stuff we should move was
already at this cache, and the need for the two dog teams was over.
Moreover, the trails were rapidly breaking up, and it was necessary for
the boy to travel by night instead of by day on his return trip. Johnny
and the other dog team we kept, because we designed to use the dogs up
to the head of the glacier, and the boy to keep the base camp and tend
the dogs, when this was done, until our return. So we said good-by to
Esaias, and he took out the last word that was received from us in more
than two months.

[Sidenote: McPhee Pass]

The photograph of the base camp shows a mountainous ridge stretching
across much of the background. That ridge belongs to the outer wall of
the Muldrow Glacier and indicates its general direction. Just beyond the
picture, to the right, the ridge breaks down, and the little valley in
the middle distance sweeps around, becomes a steep, narrow gulch, and
ends at the breach in the glacier wall. This breach, thus reached, is
the pass which the Kantishna miners of the "pioneer" expedition
discovered and named "McPhee Pass," after a Fairbanks saloon-keeper. The
name should stand. There is no other pass by which the glacier can be
reached; certainly none at all above, and probably no convenient one
below. Unless this pass were used, it would be necessary to make the
long and difficult journey to the snout of the glacier, some twenty
miles farther to the east, cross its rough terminal moraine, and
traverse all its lower stretch.

On the 11th April Karstens and I wound our way up the narrow, steep
defile for about three miles from the base camp and came to our first
sight of the Muldrow Glacier, some two thousand five hundred feet above
camp and six thousand, three hundred feet above the sea. That day stands
out in recollection as one of the notable days of the whole ascent.
There the glacier stretched away, broad and level--the road to the heart
of the mountain, and as our eyes traced its course our spirits leaped up
that at last we were entered upon our real task. One of us, at least,
knew something of the dangers and difficulties its apparently smooth
surface concealed, yet to both of us it had an infinite attractiveness,
for it was the highway of desire.



CHAPTER II

THE MULDROW GLACIER


Right opposite McPhee Pass, across the glacier, perhaps at this point
half a mile wide, rises a bold pyramidal peak, twelve thousand or
thirteen thousand feet high, which we would like to name Mount Farthing,
in honor of the memory of a very noble gentlewoman who died at the
mission at Nenana three years ago, unless, unknown to us, it already
bear some other name.[1] Walter and our two Indian boys had been under
her instruction.

At the base of this peak two branches of the glacier unite, coming down
in the same general direction and together draining the snows of the
whole eastern face of the mountain. The dividing wall between them,
almost up to their head and termination, is one stupendous, well-nigh
vertical escarpment of ice-covered rock towering six thousand or seven
thousand feet above the glacier floor, the first of the very impressive
features of the mountain. The other wall of the glacier, through a
breach in which we reached its surface--the right-hand wall as we
journeyed up it--consists of a series of inaccessible cliffs deeply
seamed with snow gullies and crusted here and there with hanging
glaciers, the rock formation changing several times as one proceeds but
maintaining an unbroken rampart.

Now, it is important to remember that these two ridges which make the
walls of the Muldrow Glacier rise ultimately to the two summits of the
mountain, the right-hand wall culminating in the North Peak and the
left-hand wall in the South Peak. And the glacier lies between the walls
all the way up and separates the summits, with this qualification--that
midway in its course it is interrupted by a perpendicular ice-fall of
about four thousand feet by which its upper portion discharges into its
lower. It will help the reader to a comprehension of the ascent if this
rough sketch be borne in mind.

[Illustration: The Muldrow Glacier. Karstens in the foreground.]

The course of the glacier at the point at which we reached it is nearly
northeast and southwest (magnetic); its surface is almost level and it
is free of crevasses save at its sides. For three or four miles above
the pass it pursues its course without change of direction or much
increase in grade; then it takes a broad sweep toward the south and
grows steep and much crevassed. Three miles farther up it takes another
and more decided southerly bend, receiving two steep but short
tributaries from the northwest at an elevation of about ten thousand
feet, and finishing its lower course in another mile and a half, at an
elevation of about eleven thousand five hundred feet, with an almost due
north and south direction (magnetic).

A week after our first sight of the glacier, or on the 18th April, we
were camped at about the farthest point we had been able to see on that
occasion--just round the first bend. Our stuff had been freighted to the
pass and cached there; then, in the usual method of our advance, the
camp had been moved forward beyond the cache on to the glacier, a full
day's march. Then the team worked backward, bringing up the stuff to the
new camp. Thus three could go ahead, prospecting and staking out a trail
for further advance, while two worked with the dog team at the
freighting.

[Sidenote: Crevasses]

For the glacier difficulties now confronted us in the fullest degree.
Immediately above our tent the ice rose steeply a couple of hundred
feet, and at that level began to be most intricately crevassed. It took
several days to unravel the tangle of fissures and discover and prepare
a trail that the dogs could haul the sleds along. Sometimes a bridge
would be found over against one wall of the glacier, and for the next we
might have to go clear across to the other wall. Sometimes a block of
ice jammed in the jaws of a crevasse would make a perfectly safe bridge;
sometimes we had nothing upon which to cross save hardened snow. Some of
the gaps were narrow and some wide, yawning chasms. Some of them were
mere surface cracks and some gave hundreds of feet of deep blue ice with
no bottom visible at all. Sometimes there was no natural bridge over a
crevasse, and then, choosing the narrowest and shallowest place in it,
we made a bridge, excavating blocks of hard snow with the shovels and
building them up from a ledge below, or projecting them on the
cantilever principle, one beyond the other from both sides. Many of
these crevasses could be jumped across by an unencumbered man on his
snow-shoes that could not have been jumped with a pack and that the dogs
could not cross at all. As each section of trail was determined it was
staked out with willow shoots, hundreds of which had been brought up
from below. And in all of this pioneering work, and, indeed,
thenceforward invariably, the rope was conscientiously used. Every step
of the way up the glacier was sounded by a long pole, the man in the
lead thrusting it deep into the snow while the two behind kept the rope
always taut. More than one pole slipped into a hidden crevasse and was
lost when vigor of thrust was not matched by tenacity of grip; more than
once a man was jerked back just as the snow gave way beneath his feet.
The open crevasses were not the dangerous ones; the whole glacier was
crisscrossed by crevasses completely covered with snow. In bright
weather it was often possible to detect them by a slight depression in
the surface or by a faint, shadowy difference in tint, but in the
half-light of cloudy and misty weather these signs failed, and there was
no safety but in the ceaseless prodding of the pole. The ice-axe will
not serve--one cannot reach far enough forward with it for safety, and
the incessant stooping is an unnecessary added fatigue.

[Sidenote: Heavy Hauling]

For the transportation of our wood and supplies beyond the first glacier
camp, the team of six dogs was cut into two teams of three, each drawing
a little Yukon sled procured in the Kantishna, the large basket sled
having been abandoned. And in the movement forward, when the trail to a
convenient cache had been established, two men, roped together,
accompanied each sled, one ahead of the dogs, the other just behind the
dogs at the gee-pole. This latter had also a hauling-line looped about
his breast, so that men and dogs and sled made a unit. It took the
combined traction power of men and dogs to take the loads up the steep
glacial ascents, and it was very hard work. Once, "Snowball," the
faithful team leader of four years past, who has helped to haul my sled
nearly ten thousand miles, broke through a snow bridge and, the
belly-band parting, slipped out of his collar and fell some twenty feet
below to a ledge in a crevasse. Walter was let down and rescued the poor
brute, trembling but uninjured. Without the dogs we should have been
much delayed and could hardly, one judges, have moved the wood forward
at all. The work on the glacier was the beginning of the ceaseless grind
which the ascent of Denali demands.

[Illustration: Ascension Day, 1913.]

How intolerably hot it was, on some of these days, relaying the stuff up
the glacier! I shall never forget Ascension Day, which occurred this
year on the 1st May. Double feast as it was--for SS. Philip and James
falls on that day--it was a day of toil and penance. With the mercurial
barometer and a heavy pack of instruments and cameras and films on my
back and the rope over my shoulder, bent double hauling at the sled, I
trudged along all day, panting and sweating, through four or five inches
of new-fallen snow, while the glare of the sun was terrific. It seemed
impossible that, surrounded entirely by ice and snow, with millions of
tons of ice underfoot, it _could_ be so hot. But we took the loads right
through to the head of the glacier that day, rising some four thousand
feet in the course of five miles, and cached them there. On other days a
smother of mist lay all over the glacier surface, with never a breath of
wind, and the air seemed warm and humid as in an Atlantic coast city in
July. Yet again, starting early in the morning, sometimes a zero
temperature nipped toes and fingers and a keen wind cut like a knife.
Sometimes it was bitterly cold in the mornings, insufferably hot at
noon, and again bitterly cold toward night. It was a pity we had no
black-bulb, sun-maximum thermometer amongst our instruments, for one is
sure its readings would have been of great interest.

It was a pity, also, that we had no means of making an attempt at
measuring the rate of movement of this glacier--a subject we often
discussed. The carriage of poles enough to set out rows of them across
the glacier would have greatly increased our loads and the time required
to transport them. But it is certain that its rate of movement is very
slow in general, though faster at certain spots than at others, and a
reason for this judgment will be given later.

[Illustration: Bridging a crevasse on the Muldrow Glacier.]

[Sidenote: The Fire on the Glacier]

The midway cache between our first and last glacier camps was itself the
scene of a camp we had not designed, for on the day we were moving
finally forward we were too fatigued to press on to the spot that had
been selected at the head of the glacier, and by common consent made a
halt at the cache and set up the tent there. This is mentioned because
it had consequences. If we had gone through that day and had established
ourselves at the selected spot, a disaster that befell us would, in all
probability, not have happened; for the next day, instead of moving our
camp forward, we relayed some stuff and cached it where the camp would
be made, covering the cache with the three small silk tents. Then we sat
around awhile and ate our luncheon, and presently went down for another
load. Imagine our surprise, upon returning some hours later, to see a
column of smoke rising from our cache. All sorts of wild speculations
flew through the writer's mind as, in the lead that day, he first
crested the sérac that gave view of the cache. Had some mysterious
climber come over from the other side of the mountain and built a fire
on the glacier? Had he discovered our wood and our grub and, perhaps
starving, kindled a fire of the one to cook the other? Was there really,
then, some access to this face of the mountain from the south? For it is
fixed in the mind of the traveller in the north beyond eradication that
_smoke_ must mean _man_. But ere we had gone much farther the truth
dawned upon us that our cache was on fire, and we left the dogs and the
sleds and hurried to the spot. Something we were able to save, but not
much, though we were in time to prevent the fire from spreading to our
far-hauled wood. And the explanation was not far to seek. After luncheon
Karstens and the writer had smoked their pipes, and one or the other had
thrown a careless match away that had fallen unextinguished upon the
silk tents that covered the cache. Presently a little wind had fanned
the smouldering fabric into flame, which had eaten down into the pile of
stuff below, mostly in wooden cases. All our sugar was gone, all our
powdered milk, all our baking-powder, our prunes, raisins, and dried
apples, most of our tobacco, a case of pilot bread, a sack full of
woollen socks and gloves, another sack full of photographic films--all
were burned. Most fortunately, the food provided especially for the
high-mountain work had not yet been taken to the cache, and our
pemmican, erbswurst, chocolate, compressed tea, and figs were safe. But
it was a great blow to us and involved considerable delay at a very
unfortunate time. We felt mortification at our carelessness as keenly as
we felt regret at our loss. The last thing a newcomer would dream of
would be danger from fire on a glacier, but we were not newcomers, and
we all knew how ever-present that danger is, more imminent in Alaska in
winter than in summer. Our carelessness had brought us nigh to the
ruining of the whole expedition. The loss of the films was especially
unfortunate, for we were thus reduced to Walter's small camera with a
common lens and the six or eight spools of film he had for it.

[Illustration: Hard work for dogs as well as men on the Muldrow
Glacier.]

[Sidenote: Camping Comfort]

The next day the final move of the main camp was made, and we
established ourselves in the cirque at the head of the Muldrow Glacier,
at an elevation of about eleven thousand five hundred feet, more than
half-way up the mountain. After digging a level place in the glacier and
setting up the tent, a wall of snow blocks was built all round it, and a
little house of snow blocks, a regular Eskimo igloo, was built near by
to serve as a cache. Some details of our camping may be of interest. The
damp from the glacier ice had incommoded us at previous camps, coming up
through skins and bedding when the tent grew warm. So at this camp we
took further precaution. The boxes in which our grub had been hauled
were broken up and laid over the whole portion of the floor of the tent
where our bed was; over this wooden floor a canvas cover was laid, and
upon this the sun-dried hides of the caribou and mountain-sheep we had
killed were placed. There was thus a dry bottom for our bedding, and we
were not much troubled thenceforward by the rising moisture, although a
camp upon the ice is naturally always a more or less sloppy place. The
hides were invaluable; heavy as they were, we carried them all the way
up.

So soon as we were thus securely lodged, elated when we thought of our
advance, but downcast when we recalled our losses, we set ourselves to
repair the damage of the fire so far as it was reparable. Walter and
Johnny must go all the way down to the base camp and bring up
sled-covers out of which to construct tents, must hunt the baggage
through for old socks and mitts, and must draw upon what grub had been
left for the return journey to the extreme limit it was safe to do so.

Karstens, accustomed to be clean-shaven, had been troubled since our
first glacier camp with an affection of the face which he attributed to
"ingrowing whiskers," but when many hairs had been plucked out with the
tweezers and he was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse and the
inflammation spread to neck and temple, it was more correctly attributed
to an eczema, or tetter, caused by the glare of the sun. So he was not
loath to seclude himself for a few days in the tent while we set about
the making of socks and mitts from the camel's-hair lining of the
sleeping-bag. Walter's face was also very sore from the sun, his lips in
particular being swollen and blistered. So painful did they become that
I had to cut lip covers of surgeon's plaster to protect them. Then the
boys returned with the sorry gleanings of the base camp, and the
business of making two tents from the soiled and torn sled-covers and
darning worn-out socks and mittens, was put in hand. Our camp looked
like a sweat-shop those days, with its cross-legged tailormen and its
litter of snippets. In addition to the six-by-seven tent, three feet six
inches high, in which we were to live when we left the glacier, we made
a small, conical tent in which to read the instruments on the summit.
And all those days the sun shone in a clear sky!

[Sidenote: Amber Glasses]

Here, since reference has just been made to the effect of the sun's
glare on the face of one member of the party, it may be in place to
speak of the perfect eye protection which the amber snow-glasses
afforded us. Long experience with blue and smoke-colored glasses upon
the trail in spring had led us to expect much irritation of the eyes
despite the use of snow-glasses, and we had plentifully provided
ourselves with boracic acid and zinc sulphate for eye-washes. But the
amber glasses, with their yellow celluloid side-pieces, were not a mere
palliative, as all other glasses had been in our experience, but a
complete preventive of snow-blindness. No one of us had the slightest
trouble with the eyes, and the eye-washes were never used. It is hard
for any save men compelled every spring to travel over the dazzling
snows to realize what a great boon this newly discovered amber glass is.
There is no reason anywhere for any more snow-blindness, and there is no
use anywhere for any more blue or smoked glasses. The invention of the
amber snow-glass is an even greater blessing to the traveller in the
north than the invention of the thermos bottle. No test could be more
severe than that which we put these glasses to.

We were now at the farthest point at which it was possible to use the
dogs, at our actual climbing base, and the time had come for Johnny and
the dogs to go down to the base camp for good. We should have liked to
keep the boy, so good-natured and amiable he was and so keen for further
climbing; but the dogs must be tended, and the main food for them was
yet to seek on the foot-hills with the rifle. So on 9th May down they
went, Tatum and the writer escorting them with the rope past the
crevasses as far as the first glacier camp, and then toiling slowly up
the glacier again, thankful that it was for the last time. That was one
of the sultriest and most sweltering days either of us ever remembered,
a moist heat of sun beating down through vapor, with never a breath of
breeze--a stifling, stewing day that, with the steep climb added,
completely exhausted and prostrated us.

[Sidenote: The Great Ice-Fall]

It is important that the reader should be able to see, in his mind's
eye, the situation of our camp at the head of the glacier, because to do
so is to grasp the simple orography of this face of the mountain, and to
understand the route of its ascent, probably the only route by which it
can be ascended. Standing beside the tent, facing in the direction we
have journeyed, the great highway of the glacier comes to an abrupt end,
a cul-de-sac. On the right hand the wall of the glacier towers up, with
enormous precipitous cliffs incrusted with hanging ice, to the North
Peak of the mountain, eight or nine thousand feet above us. About at
right angles to the end of the glacier, and four thousand feet above it,
is another glacier, which discharges by an almost perpendicular ice-fall
upon the floor of the glacier below.[2] The left-hand wall of the
glacier, described some pages back as a stupendous escarpment of
ice-covered rock, breaks rapidly down into a comparatively low ridge,
which sweeps to the right, encloses the head of the glacier, and then
rises rapidly to the glacier above, and still rises to form the
left-hand wall of that glacier, and finally the southern or higher peak
of the mountain.

So the upper glacier separates the two great peaks of the mountain and
discharges at right angles into the lower glacier. And the walls of the
lower glacier sweep around and rise to form the walls of the upper
glacier, and ultimately the summits of the mountain. To reach the peaks
one must first reach the upper glacier, and the southern or left-hand
wall of the lower glacier, where it breaks down into the ridge that
encloses the head of the glacier, is the only possible means by which
the upper basin may be reached. This ridge, then, called by Parker and
Browne the Northeast Ridge (and we have kept that designation, though
with some doubt as to its correctness), presented itself as the next
stage in our climb.

[Sidenote: Last Year's Earthquake]

Now just before leaving Fairbanks we had received a copy of a magazine
containing the account of the Parker-Browne climb, and in that narrative
Mr. Browne speaks of this Northeast Ridge as "a steep but practicable
snow slope," and prints a photograph which shows it as such. To our
surprise, when we first reached the head of the glacier, the ridge
offered no resemblance whatever to the description or the photograph.
The upper one-third of it was indeed as described, but at that point
there was a sudden sharp cleavage, and all below was a jumbled mass of
blocks of ice and rock in all manner of positions, with here a pinnacle
and there a great gap. Moreover, the floor of the glacier at its head
was strewn with enormous icebergs that we could not understand at all.
All at once the explanation came to us--"the earthquake"! The
Parker-Browne party had reported an earthquake which shook the whole
base of the mountain on 6th July, 1912, two days after they had come
down, and, as was learned later, the seismographic instruments at
Washington recorded it as the most severe shock since the San Francisco
disturbance of 1906. There could be no doubt that the earthquake had
disrupted this ridge. The huge bergs all around us were not the normal
discharge of hanging glaciers as we had at first wonderingly supposed;
they were the incrustation of ages, maybe, ripped off the rocks and
hurled down from the ridge by this convulsion. It was as though, as soon
as the Parker-Browne party reached the foot of the mountain, the ladder
by which they had ascended and descended was broken up.

[Illustration: The Northeast Ridge shattered by the earthquake in July,
1912.

The earthquake cleavage is plainly shown half-way down the ridge in the
background. The Browne Tower is the uppermost point in the picture. The
Parker Pass is along its base.]

What a wonderful providential escape these three men, Parker, Browne,
and La Voy had! They reached a spot within three or four hundred feet of
the top of the mountain, struggling gallantly against a blizzard, but
were compelled at last to beat a retreat. Again from their
seventeen-thousand-foot camp they essayed it, only to be enshrouded and
defeated by dense mist. They would have waited in their camp for fair
weather had they been provided with food, but their stomachs would not
retain the canned pemmican they had carried laboriously aloft, and they
were compelled to give up the attempt and descend. So down to the foot
of the mountain they went, and immediately they reached their base camp
this awful earthquake shattered the ridge and showered down bergs on
both the upper and lower glaciers. Had their food served they had
certainly remained above, and had they remained above their bodies would
be there now. Even could they have escaped the avalanching icebergs they
could never have descended that ridge after the earthquake. They would
either have been overwhelmed and crushed to death instantly or have
perished by starvation. One cannot conceive grander burial than that
which lofty mountains bend and crack and shatter to make, or a nobler
tomb than the great upper basin of Denali; but life is sweet and all men
are loath to leave it, and certainly never men who cling to life had
more cause to be thankful.

The difficulty of our task was very greatly increased; that was plain at
a glance. This ridge, that the pioneer climbers of 1910 went up at one
march with climbing-irons strapped beneath their moccasins, carrying
nothing but their flagpole, that the Parker-Browne party surmounted in a
few days, relaying their camping stuff and supplies, was to occupy us
for three weeks while we hewed a staircase three miles long in the
shattered ice.

[Sidenote: Glacier Movement]

It was the realization of the earthquake and of what it had done that
convinced us that this Muldrow Glacier has a very slow rate of movement.
The great blocks of ice hurled down from above lay apparently just where
they had fallen almost a year before. At the points of sharp descent, at
the turns in its course, at the points where tributary glaciers were
received, the movement is somewhat more rapid. We saw some crevasses
upon our descent that were not in existence when we went up. But for the
whole stretch of it we were satisfied that a very few feet a year would
cover its movement. No doubt all the glaciers on this side of the range
are much more sluggish than on the other side, where the great
precipitation of snow takes place.

We told Johnny to look for us in two weeks. It was thirty-one days ere
we rejoined him. For now began the period of suspense, of hope blasted
anew nearly every morning, the period of weary waiting for decent
weather. With the whole mountain and glacier enveloped in thick mist it
was not possible to do anything up above, and day after day this was the
condition, varied by high wind and heavy snow. From the inexhaustible
cisterns of the Pacific Ocean that vapor was distilled, and ever it rose
to these mountains and poured all over them until every valley, every
glacier, every hollow, was filled to overflowing. There seemed sometimes
to us no reason why the process should not go on forever. The situation
was not without its ludicrous side, when one had the grace to see it.
Here were four men who had already passed through the long Alaskan
winter, and now, when the rivers were breaking and the trees bursting
into leaf, the flowers spangling every hillside, they were deliberately
pushing themselves up into the winter still, with the long-expected
summer but a day's march away.

The tedium of lying in that camp while snow-storm or fierce, high wind
forbade adventure upon the splintered ridge was not so great to the
writer as to some of the other members of the expedition, for there was
always Walter's education to be prosecuted, as it had been prosecuted
for three winters on the trail and three summers on the launch, in a
desultory but not altogether unsuccessful manner. An hour or two spent
in writing from dictation, another hour or two in reading aloud, a
little geography and a little history and a little physics made the day
pass busily. A pupil is a great resource. Karstens was continually
designing and redesigning a motor-boat in which one engine should
satisfactorily operate twin screws; Tatum learned the thirty-nine
articles by heart; but naval architecture and even controversial
divinity palled after a while. The equipment and the supplies for the
higher region were gone over again and again, to see that all was
properly packed and in due proportion.

[Sidenote: The Language of Commerce]

[Sidenote: "Talcum and Glucose"]

As one handled the packages and read and reread the labels, one was
struck by the meagre English of merchandisers and the poor verbal
resources of commerce generally. A while ago business dealt hardly with
the word "proposition." It was the universal noun. Everything that
business touched, however remotely, was a "proposition." When last he
was "outside" the writer heard the Nicene creed described as a "tough
proposition"; the Vice-President of the United States as a "cold-blooded
proposition," and missionaries in Alaska generally as "queer
propositions." Now commerce has discovered and appropriated the word
"product" and is working it for all it is worth. The coffee in the can
calls itself a product. The compressed medicines from London direct you
to "dissolve one product" in so much water; the vacuum bottles inform
you that since they are a "glass product" they will not guarantee
themselves against breakage; the tea tablets and the condensed pea soup
affirm the purity of "these products"; the powdered milk is a little
more explicit and calls itself a "food product." One feels disposed to
agree with Humpty Dumpty, in "Through the Looking-Glass," that when a
word is worked as hard as this it ought to be paid extra. One feels that
"product" ought to be coming round on Saturday night to collect its
overtime. The zwieback amuses one; it is a West-coast "product," and
apparently "product" has not yet reached the West coast--it does not so
dignify itself. But it urges one, in great letters on every package, to
"save the end seals; they are valuable!" Walter finds that by gathering
one thousand two hundred of these seals he would be entitled to a
"rolled-gold" watch absolutely free! This zwieback was the whole stock
of a Yukon grocer purchased when the supply we ordered did not arrive.
The writer was reminded of the time when he bought several two-pound
packages of rolled oats at a little Yukon store and discovered to his
disgust that every package contained a china cup and saucer that must
have weighed at least a pound. One can understand the poor Indian being
thus deluded into the belief that he is getting his crockery for
nothing, but it is hard to understand how the "gift-enterprise" and
"premium-package" folly still survives amongst white people--and Indians
do not eat zwieback. What sort of people are they who will feverishly
purchase and consume one thousand two hundred packages of zwieback in
order to get a "rolled-gold" watch for nothing? A sack of corn-meal
takes one's eye mainly by the enumeration of the formidable processes
which the "product" inside has survived. It is announced proudly as
"degerminated, granulated, double kiln-dried, steam-ground"! But why, in
the name even of an adulterous and adulterating generation, should rice
be "coated with talcum and glucose," as this sack unblushingly
confesses? It is all very well to add "remove by washing"; that is
precisely what we shall be unable to do. It will take all the time and
fuel we have to spare to melt snow for cooking, when one little primus
stove serves for all purposes. When we leave this camp there will be no
more water for the toilet; we shall have to cleanse our hands with snow
and let our faces go. The rice will enter the pot unwashed and will
transfer its talcum and glucose to our intestines. Nor is this the case
merely on exceptional mountain-climbing expeditions; it is the general
rule during the winter throughout Alaska. It takes a long time and a
great deal of snow and much wood to produce a pot of water on the winter
trail. That "talcum-and-glucose" abomination should be taken up by the
Pure Food Law authorities. All the rice that comes to Alaska is so
labelled. The stomachs and bowels of dogs and men in the country are
doubtless gradually becoming "coated with talcum and glucose."

[Sidenote: Sugar]

It was during this period of hope deferred that we began to be entirely
without sugar. Perhaps by the ordinary man anywhere, certainly by the
ordinary man in Alaska, where it is the rule to include as much sugar as
flour in an outfit, deprivation of sugar is felt more keenly than
deprivation of any other article of food. We watched the gradual
dwindling of our little sack, replenished from the base camp with the
few pounds we had reserved for our return journey, with sinking hearts.
It was kept solely for tea and coffee. We put no more in the sour dough
for hot cakes; we ceased its use on our rice for breakfast; we gave up
all sweet messes. Tatum attempted a pudding without sugar, putting
vanilla and cinnamon and one knows not what other flavorings in it, in
the hope of disguising the absence of sweetness, but no one could eat it
and there was much jeering at the cook. Still it dwindled and dwindled.
Two spoonfuls to a cup were reduced by common consent to one, and still
it went, until at last the day came when there was no more. Our cocoa
became useless--we could not drink it without sugar; our consumption of
tea and coffee diminished--there was little demand for the second cup.
And we all began to long for sweet things. We tried to make a palatable
potation from some of our milk chocolate, reserved for the higher work
and labelled, "For eating only." The label was accurate; it made a
miserable drink, the milk taste entirely lacking, the sweetness almost
gone. We speculated how our ancestors got on without sugar when it was a
high-priced luxury brought painfully in small quantities from the
Orient, and assured one another that it was not a necessary article of
diet. At last we all agreed to Karstens's laconic advice, "Forget it!"
and we spoke of sugar no more. When we got on the ridge the chocolate
satisfied to some extent the craving for sweetness, but we all missed
the sugar sorely and continued to miss it to the end, Karstens as much
as anybody else.

Our long detention here made us thankful for the large tent and the
plentiful wood supply. That wood had been hauled twenty miles and raised
nearly ten thousand feet, but it was worth while since it enabled us to
"weather out the weather" here in warmth and comparative comfort. The
wood no more than served our need; indeed, we had begun to economize
closely before we left this camp.

We were greatly interested and surprised at the intrusion of animal life
into these regions totally devoid of any vegetation. A rabbit followed
us up the glacier to an elevation of ten thousand feet, gnawing the bark
from the willow shoots with which the trail was staked, creeping round
the crevasses, and, in one place at least, leaping such a gap. At ten
thousand feet he turned back and descended, leaving his tracks plain in
the snow. We speculated as to what possible object he could have had,
and decided that he was migrating from the valley below, overstocked
with rabbits as it was, and had taken a wrong direction for his purpose.
Unless the ambition for first ascents have reached the leporidæ, this
seems the only explanation.

At this camp at the head of the glacier we saw ptarmigan on several
occasions, and heard their unmistakable cry on several more, and once we
felt sure that a covey passed over the ridge above us and descended to
the other glacier. It was always in thick weather that these birds were
noticed at the glacier head, and we surmised that perhaps they had lost
their way in the cloud.

But even this was not the greatest height at which bird life was
encountered. In the Grand Basin, at sixteen thousand five hundred feet,
Walter was certain that he heard the twittering of small birds familiar
throughout the winter in Alaska, and this also was in the mist. I have
never known the boy make a mistake in such matters, and it is not
essentially improbable. Doctor Workman saw a pair of choughs at
twenty-one thousand feet, on Nun Kun in the Himalayas.

[Sidenote: Avalanches]

Our situation on the glacier floor, much of the time enveloped in dense
mist, was damp and cold and gloomy. The cliffs around from time to time
discharged their unstable snows in avalanches that threw clouds of snow
almost across the wide glacier. Often we could see nothing, and the
noise of the avalanches without the sight of them was at times a little
alarming. But the most notable discharges were those from the great
ice-fall, and the more important of them were startling and really very
grand sights. A slight movement would begin along the side of the ice,
in one of the gullies of the rock, a little trickling and rattling.
Gathering to itself volume as it descended, it started ice in other
gullies and presently there was a roar from the whole face of the
enormous hanging glacier, and the floor upon which the precipitation
descended trembled and shook with the impact of the discharge. Dense
volumes of snow and ice dust rose in clouds thousands of feet high and
slowly drifted down the glacier. We had chosen our camping-place to be
out of harm's way and were really quite safe. We never saw any large
masses detached, and by the time the ice reached the glacier floor it
was all reduced to dust and small fragments. One does not recall in the
reading of mountaineering books any account of so lofty an ice-fall.

[Illustration: Cutting a staircase three miles long in the ice of the
shattered ridge.]

FOOTNOTES:

[1] I have since learned that this mountain was named Mount Brooks by
Professor Parker, and so withdraw the suggested name.

[2] See frontispiece.



CHAPTER III

THE NORTHEAST RIDGE


Some of the photographs we succeeded in getting will show better than
any words the character of the ridge we had to climb to the upper basin
by. The lowest point of the ridge was that nearest our camp. To reach
its crest at that point, some three hundred feet above the glacier, was
comparatively easy, but when it was reached there stretched ahead of us
miles and miles of ice-blocks heaved in confusion, resting at insecure
angles, poised, some on their points, some on their edges, rising in
this chaotic way some 3,000 feet. Here one would have to hew steps up
and over a pinnacle, there one must descend again and cut around a great
slab. Our wisest course was to seek to reach the crest of the ridge much
further along, beyond as much of this ice chaos as possible. But it was
three days before we could find a way of approach to the crest that did
not take us under overhanging icebergs that threatened continually to
fall upon our heads, as the overhanging hill threatened Christian in the
"Pilgrim's Progress." At last we took straight up a steep gully, half of
it snow slope, the upper half ice-incrusted rock, and hewed steps all
the five hundred feet to the top. Here we were about half a mile beyond
the point at which we first attained the crest, with that half mile of
ice-blocks cut out, but beyond us the prospect loomed just as difficult
and as dangerous. We could cut out no more of the ridge; we had tried
place after place and could reach it safely at no point further along.
The snow slopes broke off with the same sharp cleavage the whole ridge
displayed two thousand five hundred feet above; there was no other
approach.

[Sidenote: The Shattered Ridge]

So our task lay plain and onerous, enormously more dangerous and
laborious than that which our predecessors encountered. We must cut
steps in those ice-blocks, over them, around them, on the sheer sides of
them, under them--whatever seemed to our judgment the best way of
circumventing each individual block. Every ten yards presented a
separate problem. Here was a sharp black rock standing up in a setting
of ice as thin and narrow and steep as the claws that hold the stone in
a finger-ring. That ice must be chopped down level, and then steps cut
all round the rock. It took a solid hour to pass that rock. Here was a
great bluff of ice, with snow so loose and at such a sharp angle about
it that passage had to be hewed up and over and down it again. On either
side the ridge fell precipitously to a glacier floor, with yawning
crevasses half-way down eagerly swallowing every particle of ice and
snow that our axes dislodged: on the right hand to the west fork of the
Muldrow Glacier, by which we had journeyed hither; on the left to the
east fork of the same, perhaps one thousand five hundred feet, perhaps
two thousand feet lower. At the gap in the ridge, with the ice gable on
the other side of it, the difficulty and the danger were perhaps at
their greatest. It took the best part of a day's cutting to make steps
down the slope and then straight up the face of the enormous ice mass
that confronted us. The steps had to be made deep and wide; it was not
merely one passage we were making; these steps would be traversed again
and again by men with heavy packs as we relayed our food and camp
equipage along this ridge, and we were determined from the first to take
no unnecessary risks whatever. We realized that the passage of this
shattered ridge was an exceedingly risky thing at best. To go along it
day after day seemed like tempting Providence. We were resolved that
nothing on our part should be lacking that could contribute to safety.
Day by day we advanced a little further and returned to camp.

[Illustration: The shattered Northeast Ridge.]

[Sidenote: The Hall of the Mountain King]

The weather doubled the time and the tedium of the passage of this
ridge. From Whitsunday to Trinity Sunday, inclusive, there were only two
days that we could make progress on the ridge at all, and on one of
those days the clouds from the coast poured over so densely and
enveloped us so completely that it was impossible to see far enough
ahead to lay out a course wisely. On that day we toppled over into the
abyss a mass of ice, as big as a two-story house, that must have weighed
hundreds of tons. It was poised upon two points of another ice mass and
held upright by a flying buttress of wind-hardened snow. Three or four
blows from Karstens's axe sent it hurling downward. It passed out of our
view into the cloud-smother immediately, but we heard it bound and
rebound until it burst with a report like a cannon, and some days later
we saw its fragments strewn all over the flat two thousand feet below.
What a sight it must have been last July, when the whole ridge was
heaving, shattering, and showering down its bergs upon the glacier
floors! One day we were driven off the ridge by a high wind that
threatened to sweep us from our footholds. On another, a fine morning
gave place to a sudden dense snow-storm that sent us quickly below
again. Always all day long, while we were on that ridge, the distant
thunder of avalanches resounded from the great basin far above us, into
which the two summits of Denali were continually discharging their
snows. It sounded as though the King of Denmark were drinking healths
all day long to the salvoes of his artillery--that custom "more honored
in the breach than in the observance." From such fancy the mind passed
easily enough to the memory of that astonishing composition of Grieg's,
"In the Hall of the Mountain King," and, once recalled, the stately yet
staccato rhythm ran in one's ears continually. For if we had many days
of cloud and smother of vapor that blotted out everything, when a fine
day came how brilliant beyond all that lower levels know it was! From
our perch on that ridge the lofty peaks and massive ridges rose on every
side. As little by little we gained higher and higher eminence the view
broadened, and ever new peaks and ridges thrust themselves into view. We
were within the hall of the mountain kings indeed; kings nameless here,
in this multitude of lofty summits, but that elsewhere in the world
would have each one his name and story.

And how eager and impatient we were to rise high enough, to progress far
enough on that ridge that we might gaze into the great basin itself from
which the thunderings came, the spacious hall of the two lords paramount
of all the mountains of the continent--the north and south peaks of
Denali! Our hearts beat high with the anticipation not only of gazing
upon it but of entering it and pitching our tent in the midst of its
august solitudes. To come down again--for there was as yet no spot
reached on that splintered backbone where we might make a camp--to pass
day after day in our tent on the glacier floor waiting for the bad
weather to be done that we might essay it again; to watch the
tantalizing and, as it seemed, meaningless fluctuations of the barometer
for encouragement; to listen to the driving wind and the swirling snow,
how tedious that was!

[Sidenote: Camp on the Ridge]

At last when we had been camped for three weeks at the head of the
glacier, losing scarce an hour of usable weather, but losing by far the
greater part of the time, when the advance party the day before had
reached a tiny flat on the ridge where they thought camp could be made,
we took a sudden desperate resolve to move to the ridge at any cost. All
the camp contained that would be needed above was made up quickly into
four packs, and we struck out, staggering under our loads. Before we
reached the first slope of the ridge each man knew in his heart that we
were attempting altogether too much. Even Karstens, who had packed his
"hundred and a quarter" day after day over the Chilkoot Pass in 1897,
admitted that he was "heavy." But we were saved the chagrin of
acknowledging that we had undertaken more than we could accomplish, for
before we reached the steep slope of the ridge a furious snow-storm had
descended upon us and we were compelled to return to camp. The next day
we proceeded more wisely. We took up half the stuff and dug out a
camping-place and pitched the little tent. Every step had to be
shovelled out, for the previous day's snow had filled it, as had
happened so many times before, and it took five and one-half hours to
reach the new camping-place. On Sunday, 25th May, the first Sunday after
Trinity, we took up the rest of the stuff, and established ourselves at
a new climbing base, about thirteen thousand feet high and one thousand
five hundred feet above the glacier floor, not to descend again until we
descended for good.

We were now much nearer our work and it progressed much faster, although
as the ridge rose it became steeper and steeper and even more rugged and
chaotic, and the difficulty and danger of its passage increased. Our
situation up here was decidedly pleasanter than below. We had indeed
exchanged our large tent for a small one in which we could sit upright
but could not stand, and so narrow that the four of us, lying side by
side, had to make mutual agreement to turn over; our comfortable
wood-stove for the little kerosene stove; yet when the clouds cleared we
had a noble, wide prospect and there was not the sense of damp
immurement that the floor of the glacier gave. The sun struck our tent
at 4.30 A. M., which is nearly two and one-half hours earlier than we
received his rays below, and lingered with us long after our glacier
camp was in the shadow of the North Peak. Moreover, instead of being
colder, as we expected, it was warmer, the minimum ranging around zero
instead of around 10° below.

[Illustration: Camp at 13,000 feet on Northeast Ridge.]

[Sidenote: Clouds and Climate]

The rapidity with which the weather changed up here was a continual
source of surprise to us. At one moment the skies would be clear, the
peaks and the ridge standing out with brilliant definition; literally
five minutes later they would be all blotted out by dense volumes of
vapor that poured over from the south. Perhaps ten minutes more and the
cloud had swept down upon the glacier and all above would be clear
again; or it might be the vapor deepened and thickened into a heavy
snow-storm. Sometimes everything below was visible and nothing above,
and a few minutes later everything below would be obscured and
everything above revealed.

This great crescent range is, indeed, our rampart against the hateful
humidity of the coast and gives to us in the interior the dry, windless,
exhilarating cold that is characteristic of our winters. We owe it
mainly to this range that our snowfall averages about six feet instead
of the thirty or forty feet that falls on the coast. The winds that
sweep northward toward this mountain range are saturated with moisture
from the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean; but contact with the lofty
colds condenses the moisture into clouds and precipitates most of it on
the southern slopes as snow. Still bearing all the moisture their
lessened temperature will allow, the clouds pour through every notch and
gap in the range and press resolutely onward and downward, streaming
along the glaciers toward the interior. But all the time of their
passage they are parting with their moisture, for the snow is falling
from them continually in their course. They reach the interior, indeed,
and spread out triumphant over the lowlands, but most of their burden
has been deposited along the way. One is reminded of the government
train of mules from Fort Egbert that used to supply the remote posts of
the "strategic" telegraph line before strategy yielded to economy and
the useless line was abandoned. When the train reached the Tanana
Crossing it had eaten up nine-tenths of its original load, and only
one-tenth remained for the provisioning of the post. So these clouds
were being squeezed like a sponge; every saddle they pushed through
squeezed them; every peak and ridge they surmounted squeezed them; every
glacier floor they crept down squeezed them, and they reached the
interior valleys attenuated, depleted, and relatively harmless.

[Sidenote: Aneroids]

The aneroids had kept fairly well with the mercurial barometer and the
boiling-point thermometer until we moved to the ridge; from this time
they displayed a progressive discrepancy therewith that put them out of
serious consideration, and one was as bad as the other. Eleven thousand
feet seemed the limit of their good behavior. To set them back day by
day, like Captain Cuttle's watch, would be to depend wholly upon the
other instruments anyway, and this is just what we did, not troubling to
adjust them. They were read and recorded merely because that routine had
been established. Says Burns:

    "There was a lad was born in Kyle,
     But whatna day o' whatna style,
     I doubt it's hardly worth the while
     To be sae nice wi' Robin."

So they were just aneroids: aluminum cases, jewelled movements,
army-officer patented improvements, Kew certificates, import duty, and
all--just aneroids, and one was as bad as the other. Within their
limitations they are exceedingly useful instruments, but it is folly to
depend on them for measuring great heights.

Perched up here, the constant struggle of the clouds from the humid
south to reach the interior was interesting to watch, and one readily
understood that Denali and his lesser companions are a prime factor in
the climate of interior Alaska.

Day by day Karstens and Walter would go up and resume the finding and
making of a way, and Tatum and the writer would relay the stuff from the
camp to a cache, some five hundred feet above, and thence to another.
The grand objective point toward which the advance party was working was
the earthquake cleavage--a clean, sharp cut in the ice and snow of fifty
feet in height. Above that point all was smooth, though fearfully steep;
below was the confusion the earthquake had wrought. Each day Karstens
felt sure they would reach the break, but each day as they advanced
toward it the distance lengthened and the intricate difficulties
increased. More than once a passage painfully hewn in the solid ice had
to be abandoned, because it gave no safe exit, and some other passage
found. At last the cleavage was reached, and it proved the most ticklish
piece of the whole ridge to get around. Just below it was a loose snow
slope at a dangerous angle, where it seemed only the initial impulse was
needed for an avalanche to bear it all below. And just before crossing
that snow slope was a wall of overhanging ice beneath which steps must
be cut for one hundred yards, every yard of which endangered the climber
by disputing the passage of the pack upon his shoulders.

[Illustration: A dangerous passage.]

[Sidenote: The Primus Stove]

Late in the evening of the 27th May, looking up the ridge upon our
return from relaying a load to the cache, we saw Karstens and Walter
standing, clear-cut, against the sky, upon the surface of the unbroken
snow _above_ the earthquake cleavage. Tatum and I gave a great shout of
joy, and, far above as they were, they heard us and waved their
response. We watched them advance upon the steep slope of the ridge
until the usual cloud descended and blotted them out. The way was clear
to the top of the ridge now, and that night our spirits were high, and
congratulations were showered upon the victorious pioneers. The next
day, when they would have gone on to the pass, the weather drove them
back. On that smooth, steep, exposed slope a wind too high for safety
beat upon them, accompanied by driving snow. That day a little accident
happened that threatened our whole enterprise--on such small threads do
great undertakings hang. The primus stove is an admirable device for
heating and cooking--superior, one thinks, to all the newfangled
"alcohol utilities"--but it has a weak point. The fine stream of
kerosene--which, under pressure from the air-pump, is impinged against
the perforated copper cup, heated to redness by burning alcohol, and is
thus vaporized--first passes through several convolutions of pipe within
the burner, and then issues from a hole so fine that some people would
not call it a hole at all but an orifice or something like that. That
little hole is the weak spot of the primus stove. Sometimes it gets
clogged, and then a fine wire mounted upon some sort of handle must be
used to dislodge the obstruction. Now, the worst thing that can happen
to a primus stove is to get the wire pricker broken off in the burner
hole, and that is what happened to us. Without a special tool that we
did not possess, it is impossible to get at that burner to unscrew it,
and without unscrewing it the broken wire cannot be removed. Tatum and I
turned the stove upside down and beat upon it and tapped it, but nothing
would dislodge that wire. It looked remarkably like no supper; it looked
alarmingly like no more stove. How we wished we had brought the other
stove from the launch, also! Every bow on an undertaking of this kind
should have two strings. But when Karstens came back he went to work at
once, and this was one of the many occasions when his resourcefulness
was of the utmost service. With a file, and his usual ingenuity, he
constructed, out of the spoon-bowl of a pipe cleaner the writer had in
his pocket, the special tool necessary to grip that little burner, and
soon the burner was unscrewed and the broken wire taken out and the
primus was purring away merrily again, melting the water for supper. We
feel sure that we would have pushed on even had we been without fire.
The pemmican was cooked already, and could be eaten as it was, and one
does not die of thirst in the midst of snow; but calm reflection will
hardly allow that we could have reached the summit had we been deprived
of all means of cooking and heating.

[Sidenote: Germless Air]

On this ridge the dough refused to sour, and since our baking-powder was
consumed in the fire we were henceforth without bread. A cold night
killed the germ in the sour dough, and we were never again able to set
up a fermentation in it. Doubtless the air at this altitude is free from
the necessary spores or germs of ferment. Pasteur's and Tyndall's
experiments on the Alps, which resulted in the overthrow of the theory
of spontaneous generation, and the rehabilitation of the old dogma that
life comes only from life, were recalled with interest, but without much
satisfaction. We tried all sorts of ways of cooking the flour, but none
with any success. Next to the loss of sugar we felt the loss of bread,
and in the food longings that overtook us bread played a large part.

On Friday, 30th May, the way had been prospected right up to the pass
which gives entrance to the Grand Basin; a camping-place had been dug
out there and a first load of stuff carried through and cached. So on
that morning we broke camp, and the four of us, roped together, began
the most important advance we had made yet. With stiff packs on our
backs we toiled up the steps that had been cut with so much pains and
stopped at the cache just below the cleavage to add yet further burdens.
All day nothing was visible beyond our immediate environment. Again and
again one would have liked to photograph the sensational-looking
traverse of some particularly difficult ice obstacle, but the mist
enveloped everything.

Just before we reached the smooth snow slope above the range of the
earthquake disturbance lay one of the really dangerous passages of the
climb.

[Sidenote: A Perilous Passage]

It is easier to describe the difficulty and danger of this particular
portion of the ascent than to give a clear impression to a reader of
other places almost as hazardous. Directly below the earthquake cleavage
was an enormous mass of ice, detached from the cleavage wall. From
below, it had seemed connected with that wall, and much time and toil
had been expended in cutting steps up it and along its crest, only to
find a great gulf fixed; so it was necessary to pass along its base. Now
from its base there fell away at an exceedingly sharp angle, scarcely
exceeding the angle of repose, a slope of soft, loose snow, and the very
top of that slope where it actually joined the wall of ice offered the
only possible passage. The wall was in the main perpendicular, and
turned at a right angle midway. Just where it turned, a great mass
bulged out and overhung. This traverse was so long that with both ropes
joined it was still necessary for three of the four members of the party
to be on the snow slope at once, two men out of sight of the others. Any
one familiar with Alpine work will realize immediately the great danger
of such a traverse. There was, however, no avoiding it, or, at whatever
cost, we should have done so. Twice already the passage had been made by
Karstens and Walter, but not with heavy packs, and one man was always on
ice while the other was on snow. This time all four must pass, bearing
all that men could bear. Cautiously the first man ventured out, setting
foot exactly where foot had been set before, the three others solidly
anchored on the ice, paying out the rope and keeping it taut. When all
the first section of rope was gone, the second man started, and when, in
turn, his rope was paid out, the third man started, leaving the last man
on the ice holding to the rope. This, of course, was the most dangerous
part of this passage. If one of the three had slipped it would have been
almost impossible for the others to hold him, and if he had pulled the
others down, it would have been quite impossible for the solitary man on
the ice to have withstood the strain. When the first man reached solid
ice again there was another equally dangerous minute or two, for then
all three behind him were on the snow slope. The beetling cliff, where
the trail turned at right angles, was the acutely dangerous spot. With
heavy and bulky packs it was exceedingly difficult to squeeze past this
projection. Ice gives no such entrance to the point of the axe as hard
snow does, yet the only aid in steadying the climber, and in somewhat
relieving his weight on the loose snow, was afforded by such purchase
upon the ice-wall, shoulder high, as that point could effect. Not a word
was spoken by any one; all along the ice-wall rang in the writer's ears
that preposterous line from "The Hunting of the Snark"--"Silence, not
even a shriek!" It was with a deep and thankful relief that we found
ourselves safely across, and when a few minutes later we had climbed the
steep snow that lay against the cleavage wall and were at last upon the
smooth, unbroken crest of the ridge, we realized that probably the worst
place in the entire climb was behind us.

Steep to the very limit of climbability as that ridge was, it was the
easiest going we had had since we left the glacier floor. The steps were
already cut; it was only necessary to lift one foot after the other and
set the toe well in the hole, with the ice-axe buried afresh in the snow
above at every step. But each step meant the lifting not only of oneself
but of one's load, and the increasing altitude, perhaps aggravated by
the dense vapor with which the air was charged, made the advance
exceedingly fatiguing. From below, the foreshortened ridge seemed only
of short length and of moderate grade, could we but reach it--a
tantalizingly easy passage to the upper glacier it looked as we chopped
our way, little by little, nearer and nearer to it. But once upon it, it
lengthened out endlessly, the sky-line always just a little above us,
but never getting any closer.

[Sidenote: The Cock's Comb]

Just before reaching the steepest pitch of the ridge, where it sweeps up
in a cock's comb,[3] we came upon the vestiges of a camp made by our
predecessors of a year before, in a hollow dug in the snow--an empty
biscuit carton and a raisin package, some trash and brown paper and
discolored snow--as fresh as though they had been left yesterday instead
of a year ago. Truly the terrific storms of this region are like the
storms of Guy Wetmore Carryl's clever rhyme that "come early and avoid
the _rush_." They will sweep a man off his feet, as once threatened to
our advance party, but will pass harmlessly over a cigarette stump and a
cardboard box; our tent in the glacier basin, ramparted by a wall of
ice-blocks as high as itself, we found overwhelmed and prostrate upon
our return, but the willow shoots with which we had staked our trail
upon the glacier were all standing.

Long as it was, the slope was ended at last, and we came straight to the
great upstanding granite slabs amongst which is the natural
camping-place in the pass that gives access to the Grand Basin. We named
that pass the Parker Pass, and the rock tower of the ridge that rises
immediately above it, the most conspicuous feature of this region from
below, we named the Browne Tower. The Parker-Browne party was the first
to camp at this spot, for the astonishing "sourdough" pioneers made no
camp at all above the low saddle of the ridge (as it then existed), but
took all the way to the summit of the North Peak in one gigantic stride.
The names of Parker and Browne should surely be permanently associated
with this mountain they were so nearly successful in climbing, and we
found no better places to name for them.

There is only one difficulty about the naming of this pass; strictly
speaking, it is not a pass at all, and the writer does not know of any
mountaineering term that technically describes it. Yet it should bear a
name, for it is the doorway to the upper glacier, through which all
those who would reach the summit must enter. On the one hand rises the
Browne Tower, with the Northeast Ridge sweeping away beyond it toward
the South Peak. On the other hand, the ice of the upper glacier plunges
to its fall. The upstanding blocks of granite on a little level shoulder
of the ridge lead around to the base of the cliffs of the Northeast
Ridge, and it is around the base of those cliffs that the way lies to
the midst of the Grand Basin. So the Parker Pass we call it and desire
that it should be named.

[Illustration: The Upper Basin reached at last. Our camp at the Parker
Pass at 15,000 feet.]

[Sidenote: Karstens Ridge]

And while names are before us, the writer would ask permission to bestow
another. Having nothing to his credit in the matter at all, as the
narrative has already indicated, he feels free to say that in his
opinion the conquest of the difficulties of the earthquake-shattered
ridge was an exploit that called for high qualities of judgment and
cautious daring, and would, he thinks, be considered a brilliant piece
of mountaineering anywhere in the world. He would like to name that
ridge Karstens Ridge, in honor of the man who, with Walter's help, cut
that staircase three miles long amid the perilous complexities of its
chaotic ice-blocks.

When we reached the Parker Pass all the world beneath us was shrouded in
dense mist, but all above us was bathed in bright sunshine. The great
slabs of granite were like a gateway through which the Grand Basin
opened to our view.

The ice of the upper glacier, which fills the Grand Basin, came
terracing down from some four thousand feet above us and six miles
beyond us, with progressive leaps of jagged blue sérac between the two
peaks of the mountain, and, almost at our feet, fell away with cataract
curve to its precipitation four thousand feet below us. Across the
glacier were the sheer, dark cliffs of the North Peak, soaring to an
almost immediate summit twenty thousand feet above the sea; on the left,
in the distance, was just visible the receding snow dome of the South
Peak, with its two horns some five hundred feet higher. The mists were
passing from the distant summits, curtain after curtain of gauze draping
their heads for a moment and sweeping on.

We made our camp between the granite slabs on the natural camping site
that offered itself, and a shovel and an empty alcohol-can proclaimed
that our predecessors of last year had done the same.

The next morning the weather had almost completely cleared, and the view
below us burst upon our eyes as we came out of the tent into the still
air.

[Sidenote: Parker Pass]

The Parker Pass is the most splendid coigne of vantage on the whole
mountain, except the summit itself. From an elevation of something more
than fifteen thousand feet one overlooks the whole Alaskan range, and
the scope of view to the east, to the northeast, and to the southeast is
uninterrupted. Mountain range rises beyond mountain range, until only
the snowy summits are visible in the great distance, and one knows that
beyond the last of them lies the open sea. The near-by peaks and ridges,
red with granite or black with shale and gullied from top to bottom with
snow and ice, the broad highways of the glaciers at their feet carrying
parallel moraines that look like giant tram-lines, stand out with vivid
distinction. A lofty peak, that we suppose is Mount Hunter, towers above
the lesser summits. The two arms of the Muldrow Glacier start right in
the foreground and reveal themselves from their heads to their junction
and then to the terminal snout, receiving their groaning tributaries
from every evacuating height. The dim blue lowlands, now devoid of snow,
stretch away to the northeast, with threads of stream and patches of
lake that still carry ice along their banks.

And all this splendor and diversity yielded itself up to us at once;
that was the most sensational and spectacular feature of it. We went to
sleep in a smother of mist; we had seen nothing as we climbed; we rose
to a clear, sparkling day. The clouds were mysteriously rolling away
from the lowest depths; the last wisps of vapor were sweeping over the
ultimate heights. Here one would like to camp through a whole week of
fine weather could such a week ever be counted upon. Higher than any
point in the United States, the top of the Browne Tower probably on a
level with the top of Mount Blanc, it is yet not so high as to induce
the acute breathlessness from which the writer suffered, later, upon any
exertion. The climbing of the tower, the traversing to the other side of
it, the climbing of the ridge, would afford pleasant excursions, while
the opportunity for careful though difficult photography would be
unrivalled. Even in thick weather the clouds are mostly below; and their
rapid movement, the kaleidoscopic changes which their coming and going,
their thickening and thinning, their rising and falling produce, are a
never-failing source of interest and pleasure. The changes of light and
shade, the gradations of color, were sometimes wonderfully delicate and
charming. Seen through rapidly attenuating mist, the bold crags of the
icy ridge between the glacier arms in the foreground would give a soft
French gray that became a luminous mauve before it sprang into dazzling
black and white in the sunshine. In the sunshine, indeed, the whole
landscape was hard and brilliant, and lacked half-tones, as in the main
it lacked color; but when the vapor drew the gauze of its veil over it
there came rich, soft, elusive tints that were no more than hinted ere
they were gone.

[Illustration: Above all the range except Denali and Denali's Wife.]

[Sidenote: The Himalayas]

Here, with nothing but rock and ice and snow around, nine thousand feet
above any sort of vegetation even in the summer, it was of interest to
remember that at the same altitude in the Himalayas good crops of barley
and millet are raised and apples are grown, while at a thousand feet or
so lower the apricot is ripened on the terrace-gardens.

Karstens and Walter had brought up a load each on their reconnoissance
trip; four heavy loads had been brought the day before. There were yet
two loads to be carried up from the cache below the cleavage, and Tatum
and Walter, always ready to take the brunt of it, volunteered to bring
them. So down that dreadful ridge once more the boys went, while
Karstens and the writer prospected ahead for a route into the Grand
Basin.

The storms and snows of ten or a dozen winters may make a "steep but
practicable snow slope" of the Northeast Ridge again. One winter only
had passed since the convulsion that disrupted it, and already the snow
was beginning to build up its gaps and chasms. All the summer through,
for many hours on clear days, the sun will melt those snows and the
frost at night will glaze them into ice. The more conformable ice-blocks
will gradually be cemented together, while the fierce winds that beat
upon the ridge will wear away the supports of the more egregious and
unstable blocks, and one by one they will topple into the abyss on this
side or on that. It will probably never again be the smooth, homogeneous
slope it has been; "the gable" will probably always present a wide
cleft, but the slopes beyond it, stripped now of their accumulated ice
so as to be unclimbable, may build up again and give access to the
ridge.

The point about one thousand five hundred feet above the gable, where
the earthquake cleavage took place, will perhaps remain the crux of the
climb. The ice-wall rises forty or fifty feet sheer, and the broken
masses below it are especially difficult and precipitous, but with care
and time and pains it can be surmounted even as we surmounted it. And
wind and sun and storm may mollify the forbidding abruptness of even
this break in the course of time.

[Sidenote: The Denali Problem]

With the exception of this ridge, Denali is not a mountain that presents
special mountaineering difficulties of a technical kind. Its
difficulties lie in its remoteness, its size, the great distances of
snow and ice its climbing must include the passage of, the burdens that
must be carried over those distances. We estimated that it was twenty
miles of actual linear distance from the pass by which we reached the
Muldrow Glacier to the summit. In the height of summer its snow-line
will not be higher than seven thousand feet, while at the best season
for climbing it, the spring, the snow-line is much lower. Its climbing
is, like nearly all Alaskan problems, essentially one of transportation.
But the Northeast Ridge, in its present condition, adds all the spice of
sensation and danger that any man could desire.

FOOTNOTE:

[3] See illustration facing p. 40.



CHAPTER IV

THE GRAND BASIN


The reader will perhaps be able to sympathize with the feeling of
elation and confidence which came to us when we had surmounted the
difficulties of the ridge and had arrived at the entrance to the Grand
Basin. We realized that the greater and more arduous part of our task
was done and that the way now lay open before us. For so long a time
this point had been the actual goal of our efforts, for so long a time
we had gazed upward at it with hope deferred, that its final attainment
was accompanied with no small sense of triumph and gratification and
with a great accession of faith that we should reach the top of the
mountain.

[Sidenote: Heat and Cold]

The ice of the glacier that fills the basin was hundreds of feet beneath
us at the pass, but it rises so rapidly that by a short traverse under
the cliffs of the ridge we were able to reach its surface and select a
camping site thereon at about sixteen thousand feet. It was bitterly
cold, with a keen wind that descended in gusts from the heights, and the
slow movement of step-cutting gave the man in the rear no opportunity of
warming up. Toes and fingers grew numb despite multiple socks within
mammoth moccasins and thick gloves within fur mittens.

From this time, during our stay in the Grand Basin and until we had left
it and descended again, the weather progressively cleared and brightened
until all clouds were dispersed. From time to time there were fresh
descents of vapor, and even short snow-storms, but there was no general
enveloping of the mountain again. Cold it was, at times even in the
sunshine, with "a nipping and an eager air," but when the wind ceased it
would grow intensely hot. On the 4th June, at 3 P. M., the thermometer
in the full sunshine rose to 50° F.--the highest temperature recorded on
the whole excursion--and the fatigue of packing in that thin atmosphere
with the sun's rays reflected from ice and snow everywhere was most
exhausting. We were burned as brown as Indians; lips and noses split and
peeled in spite of continual applications of lanoline, but, thanks to
those most beneficent amber snow-glasses, no one of the party had the
slightest trouble with his eyes. At night it was always cold, 10° below
zero being the highest minimum during our stay in the Grand Basin, and
21° below zero the lowest. But we always slept warm; with sheep-skins
and caribou-skins under us, and down quilts and camel's-hair blankets
and a wolf-robe for bedding, the four of us lay in that six-by-seven
tent, in one bed, snug and comfortable. It was disgraceful overcrowding,
but it was warm. The fierce little primus stove, pumped up to its limit
and perfectly consuming its kerosene fuel, shot out its corona of
beautiful blue flame and warmed the tight, tiny tent. The primus stove,
burning seven hours on a quart of coal-oil, is a little giant for heat
generation. If we had had two, so that one could have served for cooking
and one for heating, we should not have suffered from the cold at all,
but as it was, whenever the stew-pot went on the stove, or a pot full of
ice to melt, the heat was immediately absorbed by the vessel and not
distributed through the tent. But another primus stove would have been
another five or six pounds to pack, and we were "heavy" all the time as
it was.

[Illustration: Traverse under the cliffs of the Northeast Ridge to enter
the Grand Basin.]

[Sidenote: The Labor of Packing]

Something has already been said about the fatigue of packing, and one
would not weary the reader with continual reference thereto; yet it is
certain that those who have carried a pack only on the lower levels
cannot conceive how enormously greater the labor is at these heights. As
one rises and the density of the air is diminished, so, it would seem,
the weight of the pack or the effect of the weight of the pack is in the
same ratio increased. We probably moved from three hundred to two
hundred and fifty pounds, decreasing somewhat as food and fuel were
consumed, each time camp was advanced in the Grand Basin. We could have
done with a good deal less as it fell out, but this we did not know, and
we were resolved not to be defeated in our purpose by lack of supplies.
But the packing of these loads, relaying them forward, and all the time
steeply rising, was labor of the most exhausting and fatiguing kind, and
there is no possible way in which it may be avoided in the ascent of
this mountain. To roam over glaciers and scramble up peaks free and
untrammelled is mountaineering in the Alps. Put a forty-pound pack on a
man's back, with the knowledge that to-morrow he must go down for
another, and you have mountaineering in Alaska. In the ascent of this
twenty-thousand-foot mountain every member of the party climbed at least
sixty thousand feet. It is this going down and doing it all over again
that is the heart-breaking part of climbing.

[Illustration: First camp in the Grand Basin--16,000 feet, looking up.]

It was in the Grand Basin that the writer began to be seriously affected
by the altitude, to be disturbed by a shortness of breath that with each
advance grew more distressingly acute. While at rest he was not
troubled; mere existence imposed no unusual burden, but even a slight
exertion would be followed by a spell of panting, and climbing with a
pack was interrupted at every dozen or score of steps by the necessity
of stopping to regain breath. There was no nausea or headache or any
other symptom of "mountain sickness." Indeed, it is hard for us to
understand that affection as many climbers describe it. It has been said
again and again to resemble seasickness in all its symptoms. Now the
writer is of the unfortunate company that are seasick on the slightest
provocation. Even rough water on the wide stretches of the lower Yukon,
when a wind is blowing upstream and the launch is pitching and tossing,
will give him qualms. But no one of the four of us had any such feeling
on the mountain at any time. Shortness of breath we all suffered from,
though none other so acutely as myself. When it was evident that the
progress of the party was hindered by the constant stops on my account,
the contents of my pack were distributed amongst the others and my load
reduced to the mercurial barometer and the instruments, and, later, to
the mercurial barometer alone. It was some mortification not to be able
to do one's share of the packing, but there was no help for it, and the
other shoulders were young and strong and kindly.

[Sidenote: Tobacco]

With some hope of improving his wind, the writer had reduced his smoking
to two pipes a day so soon as the head of the glacier had been reached,
and had abandoned tobacco altogether when camp was first made on the
ridge; but it is questionable if smoking in moderation has much or any
effect. Karstens, who smoked continually, and Walter, who had never
smoked in his life, had the best wind of the party. It is probably much
more a matter of age. Karstens was a man of thirty-two years, and the
two boys were just twenty-one, while the writer approached fifty. None
of us slept as well as usual except Walter--and nothing ever interferes
with his sleep--but, although our slumbers were short and broken, they
seemed to bring recuperation just as though they had been sound. We
arose fresh in the morning though we had slept little and light.

On the 30th May we had made our camp at the Parker Pass; on the 2d June,
the finest and brightest day in three weeks, we moved to our first camp
in the Grand Basin. On the 3d June we moved camp again, out into the
middle of the glacier, at about sixteen thousand five hundred feet.

Here we were at the upper end of one of the flats of the glacier that
fills the Grand Basin, the sérac of another great rise just above us.
The walls of the North Peak grow still more striking and picturesque
here, where they attain their highest elevation. These granite ramparts,
falling three thousand feet sheer, swell out into bellying buttresses
with snow slopes between them as they descend to the glacier floor,
while on top, above the granite, each peak point and crest ridge is
tipped with black shale. How comes that ugly black shale, with the
fragments of which all the lower glacier is strewn, to have such lofty
eminence and granite-guarded distinction, as though it were the most
beautiful or the most valuable thing in the world? The McKinley Fork of
the Kantishna, which drains the Muldrow, is black as ink with it, and
its presence can be detected in the Tanana River itself as far as its
junction with the Yukon. It is largely soluble in water, and where
melting snow drips over it on the glacier walls below were great
splotches, for all the world as though a gigantic ink-pot had been
upset.

[Illustration: Second camp in the Grand Basin--looking down, 16,500
feet.]

[Sidenote: The Flagstaff]

While we sat resting awhile on our way to this camp, gazing at these
pinnacles of the North Peak, we fell to talking about the pioneer
climbers of this mountain who claimed to have set a flagstaff near the
summit of the North Peak--as to which feat a great deal of incredulity
existed in Alaska for several reasons--and we renewed our determination
that, if the weather permitted when we had reached our goal and ascended
the South Peak, we would climb the North Peak also to seek for traces of
this earliest exploit on Denali, which is dealt with at length in
another place in this book. All at once Walter cried out: "I see the
flagstaff!" Eagerly pointing to the rocky prominence nearest the
summit--the summit itself is covered with snow--he added: "I see it
plainly!" Karstens, looking where he pointed, saw it also, and, whipping
out the field-glasses, one by one we all looked, and saw it distinctly
standing out against the sky. With the naked eye I was never able to see
it unmistakably, but through the glasses it stood out, sturdy and
strong, one side covered with crusted snow. We were greatly rejoiced
that we could carry down positive confirmation of this matter. It was no
longer necessary for us to ascend the North Peak.

The upper glacier also bore plain signs of the earthquake that had
shattered the ridge. Huge blocks of ice were strewn upon it, ripped off
the left-hand wall, but it was nowhere crevassed as badly as the lower
glacier, but much more broken up into sérac. Some of the bergs presented
very beautiful sights, wind-carved incrustations of snow in cameo upon
their blue surface giving a suggestion of Wedgwood pottery. All tints
seemed more delicate and beautiful up here than on the lower glacier.

On the 5th June we advanced to about seventeen thousand five hundred
feet right up the middle of the glacier. As we rose that morning slowly
out of the flat in which our tent was pitched and began to climb the
steep sérac, clouds that had been gathering below swept rapidly up into
the Grand Basin, and others swept as rapidly over the summits and down
upon us. In a few moments we were in a dense smother of vapor with
nothing visible a couple of hundred yards away. Then the temperature
dropped, and soon snow was falling which increased to a heavy snow-storm
that raged an hour. We made our camp and ate our lunch, and by that time
the smother of vapor passed, the sun came out hot again, and we were all
simultaneously overtaken with a deep drowsiness and slept. Then out into
the glare again, to go down and bring up the remainder of the stuff, we
went, and that night we were established in our last camp but one. We
had decided to go up at least five hundred feet farther that we might
have the less to climb when we made our final attack upon the peak. So
when we returned with the loads from below we did not stop at camp, but
carried them forward and cached them against to-morrow's final move.

[Illustration: Third camp in the Grand Basin--17,000 feet, showing the
shattering of the glacier walls by the earthquake.

The rocks at the top of the picture are about 19,000 feet high and are
the highest rocks on the south peak of the mountain.]

[Sidenote: Last Camp]

On Friday, the 6th June, we made our last move and pitched our tent in a
flat near the base of the ridge, just below the final rise in the
glacier of the Grand Basin, at about eighteen thousand feet, and we were
able to congratulate one another on making the highest camp ever made in
North America. I set up and read the mercurial barometer, and when
corrected for its own temperature it stood at 15.061. The boiling-point
thermometer registered 180.5, as the point at which water boiled, with
an air temperature of 35°. It took one hour to boil the rice for supper.
The aneroids stood at 14.8 and 14.9, still steadily losing on the
mercurial barometer. I think that a rough altitude gauge could be
calculated from the time rice takes to boil--at least as reliable as an
aneroid barometer. At the Parker Pass it took fifty minutes; here it
took sixty. This is about the height of perpetual snow on the great
Himalayan peaks; but we had been above the perpetual snow-line for
forty-eight days.

We were now within about two thousand five hundred feet of the summit
and had two weeks' full supply of food and fuel, which, at a pinch,
could be stretched to three weeks. Certain things were short: the
chocolate and figs and raisins and salt were low; of the zwieback there
remained but two and one-half packages, reserved against lunch when we
attacked the summit. But the meatballs, the erbswurst, the caribou
jelly, the rice, and the tea--our staples--were abundant for two weeks,
with four gallons of coal-oil and a gallon of alcohol. The end of our
painful transportation hither was accomplished; we were within one day's
climb of the summit with supplies to besiege. If the weather should
prove persistently bad we could wait; we could advance our parallels;
could put another camp on the ridge itself at nineteen thousand feet,
and yet another half-way up the dome. If we had to fight our way step by
step and could advance but a couple of hundred feet a day, we were still
confident that, barring unforeseeable misfortunes, we could reach the
top. But we wanted a clear day on top, that the observations we designed
to make could be made; it would be a poor success that did but set our
feet on the highest point. And we felt sure that, prepared as we were to
wait, the clear day would come.

[Illustration: The North Peak, 20,000 feet high.

Our last camp in the Grand Basin, at 18,000 feet: the highest camp ever
made in North America.]

As so often happens when everything unpropitious is guarded against,
nothing unpropitious occurs. It would have been a wonderful chance,
indeed, if, supplied only for one day, a fine, clear day had come. But
supplied against bad weather for two or three weeks, it was no wonder at
all that the very first day should have presented itself bright and
clear. We had exhausted our bad fortune below; here, at the juncture
above all others at which we should have chosen to enjoy it, we were to
encounter our good fortune.

[Sidenote: Breathlessness]

But here, where all signs seemed to promise success to the expedition,
the author began to have fears of personal failure. The story of Mr.
Fitzgerald's expedition to Aconcagua came to his mind, and he recalled
that, although every other member of the party reached the summit, that
gentleman himself was unable to do so. In the last stage the difficulty
of breathing had increased with fits of smothering, and the medicine
chest held no remedy for blind staggers.



CHAPTER V

THE ULTIMATE HEIGHT


We lay down for a few hours on the night of the 6th June, resolved to
rise at three in the morning for our attempt upon the summit of Denali.
At supper Walter had made a desperate effort to use some of our ten
pounds of flour in the manufacture of "noodles" with which to thicken
the stew. We had continued to pack that flour and had made effort after
effort to cook it in some eatable way, but without success. The sour
dough would not ferment, and we had no baking-powder. _Is_ there any way
to cook flour under such circumstances? But he made the noodles too
large and did not cook them enough, and they wrought internal havoc upon
those who partook of them. Three of the four of us were unwell all
night. The digestion is certainly more delicate and more easily
disturbed at great altitudes than at the lower levels. While Karstens
and Tatum were tossing uneasily in the bedclothes, the writer sat up
with a blanket round his shoulders, crouching over the primus stove,
with the thermometer at -21° F. outdoors. Walter alone was at ease, with
digestive and somnolent capabilities proof against any invasion. It was,
of course, broad daylight all night. At three the company was aroused,
and, after partaking of a very light breakfast indeed, we sallied forth
into the brilliant, clear morning with not a cloud in the sky. The only
packs we carried that day were the instruments and the lunch. The sun
was shining, but a keen north wind was blowing and the thermometer stood
at -4° F. We were rather a sorry company. Karstens still had internal
pains; Tatum and I had severe headaches. Walter was the only one feeling
entirely himself, so Walter was put in the lead and in the lead he
remained all day.

[Illustration: The South Peak from about 18,000 feet.

The ridge with two peaks in the background is shaped like a horseshoe,
and the highest point on the mountain is on another little ridge just
beyond, parallel with the ridge that shows, almost at the middle point
between the two peaks.]

[Sidenote: Start to the Summit]

[Sidenote: Cold]

We took a straight course up the great snow ridge directly south of our
camp and then around the peak into which it rises; quickly told but
slowly and most laboriously done. It was necessary to make the traverse
high up on this peak instead of around its base, so much had its ice and
snow been shattered by the earthquake on the lower portions. Once around
this peak, there rose before us the horseshoe ridge which carries the
ultimate height of Denali, a horseshoe ridge of snow opening to the east
with a low snow peak at either end, the centre of the ridge soaring
above both peaks. Above us was nothing visible but snow; the rocks were
all beneath, the last rocks standing at about 19,000 feet. Our progress
was exceedingly slow. It was bitterly cold; all the morning toes and
fingers were without sensation, kick them and beat them as we would. We
were all clad in full winter hand and foot gear--more gear than had
sufficed at 50° below zero on the Yukon trail. Within the writer's No.
16 moccasins were three pairs of heavy hand-knitted woollen socks, two
pairs of camel's-hair socks, and a pair of thick felt socks; while
underneath them, between them and the iron "creepers," were the soles
cut from a pair of felt shoes. Upon his hands were a pair of the
thickest Scotch wool gloves, thrust inside huge lynx-paw mitts lined
with Hudson Bay duffle. His moose-hide breeches and shirt, worn all the
winter on the trail, were worn throughout this climb; over the shirt was
a thick sweater and over all the usual Alaskan "parkee" amply furred
around the hood; underneath was a suit of the heaviest Jaeger
underwear--yet until nigh noon feet were like lumps of iron and fingers
were constantly numb. That north wind was cruelly cold, and there can be
no possible question that cold is felt much more keenly in the thin air
of nineteen thousand feet than it is below. But the north wind was
really our friend, for nothing but a north wind will drive all vapor
from this mountain. Karstens beat his feet so violently and so
continually against the hard snow to restore the circulation that two of
his toe-nails sloughed off afterward. By eleven o'clock we had been
climbing for six hours and were well around the peak, advancing toward
the horseshoe ridge, but even then there were grave doubts if we should
succeed in reaching it that day, it was so cold. A hint from any member
of the party that his feet were actually freezing--a hint expected all
along--would have sent us all back. When there is no sensation left in
the feet at all it is, however, difficult to be quite sure if they be
actually freezing or not--and each one was willing to give the attempt
upon the summit the benefit of the doubt. What should we have done with
the ordinary leather climbing boots? But once entirely around the peak
we were in a measure sheltered from the north wind, and the sun full
upon us gave more warmth. It was hereabouts, and not, surely, at the
point indicated in the photograph in Mr. Belmore Browne's book, that the
climbing party of last year was driven back by the blizzard that
descended upon them when close to their goal. Not until we had stopped
for lunch and had drunk the scalding tea from the thermos bottles, did
we all begin to have confidence that this day would see the completion
of the ascent. But the writer's shortness of breath became more and more
distressing as he rose. The familiar fits of panting took a more acute
form; at such times everything would turn black before his eyes and he
would choke and gasp and seem unable to get breath at all. Yet a few
moments' rest restored him completely, to struggle on another twenty or
thirty paces and to sink gasping upon the snow again. All were more
affected in the breathing than they had been at any time before--it was
curious to see every man's mouth open for breathing--but none of the
others in this distressing way. Before the traverse around the peak just
mentioned, Walter had noticed the writer's growing discomfort and had
insisted upon assuming the mercurial barometer. The boy's eager kindness
was gladly accepted and the instrument was surrendered. So it did not
fall to the writer's credit to carry the thing to the top as he had
wished.

[Sidenote: Climbing-Irons]

The climbing grew steeper and steeper; the slope that had looked easy
from below now seemed to shoot straight up. For the most part the
climbing-irons gave us sufficient footing, but here and there we came to
softer snow, where they would not take sufficient hold and we had to cut
steps. The calks in these climbing-irons were about an inch and a
quarter long; we wished they had been two inches. The creepers are a
great advantage in the matter of speed, but they need long points. They
are not so safe as step-cutting, and there is the ever-present danger
that unless one is exceedingly careful one will step upon the rope with
them and their sharp calks sever some of the strands. They were,
however, of great assistance and saved a deal of laborious step-cutting.

At last the crest of the ridge was reached and we stood well above the
two peaks that mark the ends of the horseshoe.[4]

Also it was evident that we were well above the great North Peak across
the Grand Basin. Its crest had been like an index on the snow beside us
as we climbed, and we stopped for a few moments when it seemed that we
were level with it. We judged it to be about five hundred feet lower
than the South Peak.

[Illustration: The climbing-irons.]

But still there stretched ahead of us, and perhaps one hundred feet
above us, another small ridge with a north and south pair of little
haycock summits. This is the real top of Denali. From below, this
ultimate ridge merges indistinguishably with the crest of the horseshoe
ridge, but it is not a part of it but a culminating ridge beyond it.
With keen excitement we pushed on. Walter, who had been in the lead all
day, was the first to scramble up; a native Alaskan, he is the first
human being to set foot upon the top of Alaska's great mountain, and he
had well earned the lifelong distinction. Karstens and Tatum were hard
upon his heels, but the last man on the rope, in his enthusiasm and
excitement somewhat overpassing his narrow wind margin, had almost to be
hauled up the last few feet, and fell unconscious for a moment upon the
floor of the little snow basin that occupies the top of the mountain.
This, then, is the actual summit, a little crater-like snow basin, sixty
or sixty-five feet long and twenty to twenty-five feet wide, with a
haycock of snow at either end--the south one a little higher than the
north. On the southwest this little basin is much corniced, and the
whole thing looked as though every severe storm might somewhat change
its shape.

So soon as wind was recovered we shook hands all round and a brief
prayer of thanksgiving to Almighty God was said, that He had granted us
our hearts' desire and brought us safely to the top of His great
mountain.

[Sidenote: The Instrument Readings]

This prime duty done, we fell at once to our scientific tasks. The
instrument-tent was set up, the mercurial barometer, taken out of its
leather case and then out of its wooden case, was swung upon its tripod
and a rough zero established, and it was left awhile to adjust itself to
conditions before a reading was attempted. It was a great gratification
to get it to the top uninjured. The boiling-point apparatus was put
together and its candle lighted under the ice which filled its little
cistern. The three-inch, three-circle aneroid was read at once at
thirteen and two-tenths inches, its mendacious altitude scale
confidently pointing at twenty-three thousand three hundred feet. Half
an hour later it had dropped to 13.175 inches and had shot us up another
one hundred feet into the air. Soon the water was boiling in the little
tubes of the boiling-point thermometer and the steam pouring out of the
vent. The thread of mercury rose to 174.9° and stayed there. There is
something definite and uncompromising about the boiling-point
hypsometer; no tapping will make it rise or fall; it reaches its mark
unmistakably and does not budge. The reading of the mercurial barometer
is a slower and more delicate business. It takes a good light and a good
sight to tell when the ivory zero-point is exactly touching the surface
of the mercury in the cistern; it takes care and precision to get the
vernier exactly level with the top of the column. It was read, some
half-hour after it was set up, at 13.617 inches. The alcohol minimum
thermometer stood at 7° F. all the while we were on top. Meanwhile,
Tatum had been reading a round of angles with the prismatic compass. He
could not handle it with sufficient exactness with his mitts on, and he
froze his fingers doing it barehanded.

[Sidenote: The View]

The scientific work accomplished, then and not till then did we indulge
ourselves in the wonderful prospect that stretched around us. It was a
perfectly clear day, the sun shining brightly in the sky, and naught
bounded our view save the natural limitations of vision. Immediately
before us, in the direction in which we had climbed, lay--nothing: a
void, a sheer gulf many thousands of feet deep, and one shrank back
instinctively from the little parapet of the snow basin when one had
glanced at the awful profundity. Across the gulf, about three thousand
feet beneath us and fifteen or twenty miles away, sprang most splendidly
into view the great mass of Denali's Wife, or Mount Foraker, as some
white men misname her, filling majestically all the middle distance. It
was our first glimpse of her during the whole ascent. Denali's Wife does
not appear at all save from the actual summit of Denali, for she is
completely hidden by his South Peak until the moment when his South Peak
is surmounted. And never was nobler sight displayed to man than that
great, isolated mountain spread out completely, with all its spurs and
ridges, its cliffs and its glaciers, lofty and mighty and yet far
beneath us. On that spot one understood why the view of Denali from Lake
Minchúmina is the grand view, for the west face drops abruptly down with
nothing but that vast void from the top to nigh the bottom of the
mountain. Beyond stretched, blue and vague to the southwest, the wide
valley of the Kuskokwim, with an end of all mountains. To the north we
looked right over the North Peak to the foot-hills below, patched with
lakes and lingering snow, glittering with streams. We had hoped to see
the junction of the Yukon and Tanana Rivers, one hundred and fifty miles
away to the northwest, as we had often and often seen the summit of
Denali from that point in the winter, but the haze that almost always
qualifies a fine summer day inhibited that stretch of vision. Perhaps
the forest-fires we found raging on the Tanana River were already
beginning to foul the northern sky.

[Illustration: Denali's Wife from the summit of Denali]

It was, however, to the south and the east that the most marvellous
prospect opened before us. What infinite tangle of mountain ranges
filled the whole scene, until gray sky, gray mountain, and gray sea
merged in the ultimate distance! The near-by peaks and ridges stood out
with dazzling distinction, the glaciation, the drainage, the relation of
each part to the others all revealed. The snow-covered tops of the
remoter peaks, dwindling and fading, rose to our view as though floating
in thin air when their bases were hidden by the haze, and the beautiful
crescent curve of the whole Alaskan range exhibited itself from Denali
to the sea. To the right hand the glittering, tiny threads of streams
draining the mountain range into the Chulitna and Sushitna Rivers, and
so to Cook's Inlet and the Pacific Ocean, spread themselves out; to the
left the affluents of the Kantishna and the Nenana drained the range
into the Yukon and Bering Sea.

Yet the chief impression was not of our connection with the earth so far
below, its rivers and its seas, but rather of detachment from it. We
seemed alone upon a dead world, as dead as the mountains on the moon.
Only once before can the writer remember a similar feeling of being
neither in the world nor of the world, and that was at the bottom of the
Grand Cañon of the Colorado, in Arizona, its savage granite walls as
dead as this savage peak of ice.

[Sidenote: The Dark Sky]

Above us the sky took a blue so deep that none of us had ever gazed upon
a midday sky like it before. It was a deep, rich, lustrous, transparent
blue, as dark as a Prussian blue, but intensely blue; a hue so strange,
so increasingly impressive, that to one at least it "seemed like special
news of God," as a new poet sings. We first noticed the darkening tint
of the upper sky in the Grand Basin, and it deepened as we rose. Tyndall
observed and discussed this phenomenon in the Alps, but it seems
scarcely to have been mentioned since.

It is difficult to describe at all the scene which the top of the
mountain presented, and impossible to describe it adequately. One was
not occupied with the thought of description but wholly possessed with
the breadth and glory of it, with its sheer, amazing immensity and
scope. Only once, perhaps, in any lifetime is such vision granted,
certainly never before had been vouchsafed to any of us. Not often in
the summer-time does Denali completely unveil himself and dismiss the
clouds from all the earth beneath. Yet we could not linger, unique
though the occasion, dearly bought our privilege; the miserable
limitations of the flesh gave us continual warning to depart; we grew
colder and still more wretchedly cold. The thermometer stood at 7° in
the full sunshine, and the north wind was keener than ever. My fingers
were so cold that I would not venture to withdraw them from the mittens
to change the film in the camera, and the other men were in like case;
indeed, our hands were by this time so numb as to make it almost
impossible to operate a camera at all. A number of photographs had been
taken, though not half we should have liked to take, but it is probable
that, however many more exposures had been made, they would have been
little better than those we got. Our top-of-the-mountain photography was
a great disappointment. One thing we learned: exposures at such altitude
should be longer than those below, perhaps owing to the darkness of the
sky.

[Illustration: Robert Tatum raising the Stars and Stripes on the highest
point in North America.

This photograph was exposed upon a previous exposure.]

[Sidenote: The Stars and Stripes]

When the mercurial barometer had been read the tent was thrown down and
abandoned, the first of the series of abandonments that marked our
descent from the mountain. The tent-pole was used for a moment as a
flagstaff while Tatum hoisted a little United States flag he had
patiently and skilfully constructed in our camps below out of two silk
handkerchiefs and the cover of a sewing-bag. Then the pole was put to
its permanent use. It had already been carved with a suitable
inscription, and now a transverse piece, already prepared and fitted,
was lashed securely to it and it was planted on one of the little snow
turrets of the summit--the sign of our redemption, high above North
America. Only some peaks in the Andes and some peaks in the Himalayas
rise above it in all the world. It was of light, dry birch and, though
six feet in length, so slender that we think it may weather many a gale.
And Walter thrust it into the snow so firmly at a blow that it could not
be withdrawn again. Then we gathered about it and said the Te Deum.

[Illustration: The saying of the Te Deum.

This picture was snapped three times instead of once. Karstens' fingers
were freezing and the bulb-release was broken. Only three figures were
in the group.]

It was 1.30 P. M. when we reached the summit and two minutes past three
when we left; yet so quickly had the time flown that we could not
believe we had been an hour and a half on top. The journey down was a
long, weary grind, the longer and the wearier that we made a détour and
went out of our way to seek for Professor Parker's thermometer, which he
had left "in a crack on the west side of the last boulder of the
northeast ridge." That sounds definite enough, yet in fact it is
equivocal. "Which is the last boulder?" we disputed as we went down the
slope. A long series of rocks almost in line came to an end, with one
rock a little below the others, a little out of the line. This egregious
boulder would, it seemed to me, naturally be called the last; Karstens
thought not--thought the "last boulder" was the last _on_ the ridge. As
we learned later, Karstens was right, and since he yielded to me we did
not find the thermometer, for, having descended to this isolated rock,
we would not climb up again for fifty thermometers. One's disappointment
is qualified by the knowledge that the thermometer is probably not of
adequate scale, Professor Parker's recollection being that it read only
to 60° below zero, F. A lower temperature than this is recorded every
winter on the Yukon River.

[Sidenote: Possible Temperatures]

A thermometer reading to 100° below zero, left at this spot, would, in
my judgment, perhaps yield a lower minimum than has ever yet been
authentically recorded on earth, and it is most unfortunate that the
opportunity was lost. Yet I did not leave my own alcohol minimum--scaled
to 95° below zero, and yielding, by estimation, perhaps ten degrees
below the scaling--there, because of the difficulty of giving explicit
directions that should lead to its ready recovery, and at the close of
such a day of toil as is involved in reaching the summit, men have no
stomach for prolonged search. As will be told, it is cached lower down,
but at a spot where it cannot be missed.

However, for one, the writer was largely unconscious of weariness in
that descent. All the way down, my thoughts were occupied with the
glorious scene my eyes had gazed upon and should gaze upon never again.
In all human probability I would never climb that mountain again; yet if
I climbed it a score more times I would never be likely to repeat such
vision. Commonly, only for a few hours at a time, never for more than a
few days at a time, save in the dead of winter when climbing is out of
the question, does Denali completely unveil himself and dismiss the
clouds from all the earth beneath him. Not for long, with these lofty
colds contiguous, will the vapors of Cook's Inlet and Prince William
Sound and the whole North Pacific Ocean refrain from sweeping upward;
their natural trend is hitherward. As the needle turns to the magnet so
the clouds find an irresistible attraction in this great mountain mass,
and though the inner side of the range be rid of them the sea side is
commonly filled to overflowing.

[Sidenote: The Te Deum]

Only those who have for long years cherished a great and almost
inordinate desire, and have had that desire gratified to the limit of
their expectation, can enter into the deep thankfulness and content that
filled the heart upon the descent of this mountain. There was no pride
of conquest, no trace of that exultation of victory some enjoy upon the
first ascent of a lofty peak, no gloating over good fortune that had
hoisted us a few hundred feet higher than others who had struggled and
been discomfited. Rather was the feeling that a privileged communion
with the high places of the earth had been granted; that not only had we
been permitted to lift up eager eyes to these summits, secret and
solitary since the world began, but to enter boldly upon them, to take
place, as it were, domestically in their hitherto sealed chambers, to
inhabit them, and to cast our eyes down from them, seeing all things as
they spread out from the windows of heaven itself.

Into this strong yet serene emotion, into this reverent elevation of
spirit, came with a shock a recollection of some recent reading.

Oh, wisdom of man and the apparatus of the sciences, the little columns
of mercury that sling up and down, the vacuum boxes that expand and
contract, the hammer that chips the highest rocks, the compass that
takes the bearings of glacier and ridge--all the equipage of hypsometry
and geology and geodesy--how pitifully feeble and childish it seems to
cope with the majesty of the mountains! Take them all together, haul
them up the steep, and as they lie there, read, recorded, and done for,
which shall be more adequate to the whole scene--their records?--or that
simple, ancient hymn, "We praise Thee, O God!--Heaven and earth are full
of the majesty of Thy Glory!" What an astonishing thing that, standing
where we stood and seeing what we saw, there are men who should be able
to deduce this law or that from their observation of its working and yet
be unable to see the Lawgiver!--who should be able to push back effect
to immediate cause and yet be blind to the Supreme Cause of All Causes;
who can say, "This is the glacier's doing and it is marvellous in our
eyes," and not see Him "Who in His Strength setteth fast the mountains
and is girded with power," Whose servants the glaciers, the snow, and
the ice are, "wind and storm fulfilling His Word"; who exult in the
exercise of their own intelligences and the playthings those
intelligences have constructed and yet deny the Omniscience that endowed
them with some minute fragment of Itself! It was not always so; it was
not so with the really great men who have advanced our knowledge of
nature. But of late years hordes of small men have given themselves up
to the study of the physical sciences without any study preliminary. It
would almost seem nowadays that whoever can sit in the seat of the
scornful may sit in the seat of learning.

[Sidenote: The Scientists]

A good many years ago, on an occasion already referred to, the writer
roamed through the depths of the Grand Cañon with a chance acquaintance
who described himself as "Herpetologist to the Academy of Sciences" in
some Western or Mid-Western State, and as this gentleman found the
curious little reptiles he was in search of under a root or in a cranny
of rock he repeated their many-syllabled names. Curious to know what
these names literally meant and whence derived, the writer made inquiry,
sometimes hazarding a conjectural etymology. To his astonishment and
dismay he found this "scientist," whom he had looked up to, entirely
ignorant of the meaning of the terms he employed. They were just
arbitrary terms to him. The little hopping and crawling creatures might
as well have been numbered, or called x, y, z, for any significance
their formidable nomenclature held for him. Yet this man had been keenly
sarcastic about the Noachian deluge and had jeered from the height of
his superiority at hoary records which he knew only at second-hand
reference, and had laid it down that if the human race became extinct
the birds would stand the best chance of "evolving a primate"! Since
that time other "scientists" have been encountered, with no better
equipment, with no history, no poetry, no philosophy in any broad sense,
men with no letters--illiterate, strictly speaking--yet with all the
dogmatism in the world. Can any one be more dogmatic than your modern
scientist? The reproach has passed altogether to him from the
theologian.

The thing grows, and its menace and scandal grow with it. Since coming
"outside" the writer has encountered a professor at a college, a Ph.D.
of a great university, who confessed that he had never heard of certain
immortal characters of Dickens whose names are household words. We shall
have to open Night-Schools for Scientists, where men who have been
deprived of all early advantages may learn the rudiments of English
literature. One wishes that Dickens himself might have dealt with their
pretensions, but they are since his day. And surely it is time some one
started a movement for suppressing illiterate Ph.D.'s.

[Sidenote: The Psalmist and Dr. Johnson]

Of this class, one feels sure, are the scientific heroes of the
sensational articles in the monthly magazines of the baser sort, of
which we picked up a number in the Kantishna on our way to the mountain.
Here, in a picture that seems to have obtruded itself bodily into a page
of letter-press, or else to have suffered the accidental irruption of a
page of letter-press all around it, you shall see a grave scientist
looking anxiously down a very large microscope, and shall read that he
has transferred a kidney from a cat to a dog, and therefore we can no
longer believe in the immortality of the soul; or else that he has
succeeded in artificially fertilizing the ova of a starfish--or was it a
jellyfish?--and therefore there is no God; not just in so many bald
words, of course, but in unmistakable import. Or it may be--so commonly
does the crassest credulity go hand in hand with the blankest
scepticism--he has discovered the germ of old age and is hot upon the
track of another germ that shall destroy it, so that we may all live
virtually as long as we like; which, of course, disposes once for all of
a world to come. The Psalmist was not always complaisant or even
temperate in his language, but he lived a long time ago and must be
pardoned; his curt summary stands: "Dixit insipiens!" But the writer
vows that if he were addicted to the pursuit of any branch of physical
knowledge he would insist upon being called by the name of that branch.
He would be a physiologist or a biologist or an anatomist or even a
herpetologist, but none should call him "scientist." As Doll Tearsheet
says in the second part of "King Henry IV": "These villains will make
the word as odious as the word 'occupy'; which was an excellent good
word before it was ill-sorted." If Doctor Johnson were compiling an
English dictionary to-day he would define "scientist" something thus: "A
cant name for an experimenter in some department of physical knowledge,
commonly furnished with arrogance and dogmatism, but devoid of real
learning."

Here is no gibe at the physical sciences. To sneer at them were just as
foolish as to sneer at religion. What we could do on this expedition in
a "scientific" way we did laboriously and zealously. We would never have
thought of attempting the ascent of the mountain without bringing back
whatever little addition to human knowledge was within the scope of our
powers and opportunities. Tatum took rounds of angles, in practice
against the good fortune of a clear day on top, on every possible
occasion. The sole personal credit the present writer takes concerning
the whole enterprise is the packing of that mercurial barometer on his
back, from the Tanana River nearly to the top of the mountain, a point
at which he was compelled to relinquish it to another. He has always had
his opinion about mountain climbers who put an aneroid in their pocket
and go to the top of a great, new peak and come down confidently
announcing its height. But when all this business is done as closely and
carefully as possible, and every observation taken that there are
instruments devised to record, surely the soul is dead that feels no
more and sees no further than the instruments do, that stirs with no
other emotion than the mercury in the tube or the dial at its point of
suspension, that is incapable of awe, of reverence, of worshipful
uplift, and does not feel that "the Lord even the most mighty God hath
spoken, and called the world from the rising of the sun even to the
going down of the same," in the wonders displayed before his eyes.

       *       *       *       *       *

We reached our eighteen-thousand-foot camp about five o'clock, a weary
but happy crew. It was written in the diary that night: "I remember no
day in my life so full of toil, distress, and exhaustion, and yet so
full of happiness and keen gratification."

[Sidenote: The Amber Glasses Again]

The culminating day should not be allowed to pass without another
tribute to the efficiency of the amber glasses. Notwithstanding the
glare of the sun at twenty thousand feet and upward, no one had the
slightest irritation of the eyes. There has never been an April of
travel on the Yukon in eight years that the writer has not suffered from
inflammation of the eyes despite the darkest smoke-colored glasses that
could be procured. A naked candle at a road-house would give a stab of
pain every time the eyes encountered it, and reading would become almost
impossible. The amber glasses, however, while leaving vision almost as
bright as without them, filter out the rays that cause the irritation
and afford perfect protection against the consequences of sun and glare.
There is only one improvement to make in the amber glasses, and that is
some device of air-tight cells that shall prevent them from fogging when
the cold on the outside of the glass condenses the moisture of
perspiration on the inside of the glass. We use double-glazed sashes
with an air space between on all windows in our houses in Alaska and
find ourselves no longer incommoded by frost on the panes; some
adaptation of this principle should be within the skill of the optician
and would remove a very troublesome defect in all snow-glasses.

If some one would invent a preventive against shortness of breath as
efficient as amber glasses are against snow-blindness, climbing at great
altitudes would lose all its terrors for one mountaineer. So far as it
was possible to judge, no other member of the party was near his
altitude limit. There seemed no reason why Karstens and Walter in
particular should not go another ten thousand feet, were there a
mountain in the world ten thousand feet higher than Denali, but the
writer knows that he himself could not have gone much higher.

FOOTNOTE:

[4] The dotted line on the photograph opposite page 346 of Mr. Belmore
Browne's book, "The Conquest of Mt. McKinley," does not, in the writer's
opinion, represent the real course taken by Professor Parker, Mr.
Belmore Browne, and Merl La Voy in their approach to the summit, and it
is easy to understand the confusion of direction in the fierce storm
that descended upon the party. If, as the dots show, the party went to
the summit of the right-hand peak, they went out of their way and had
still a considerable distance to travel. "Perhaps five minutes of easy
walking would have taken us to the highest point," says Mr. Browne. It
is probably more than a mile from the summit of the snow peak shown in
the picture to the actual summit of the mountain. One who took that
course would have to descend from the peak and then ascend the horseshoe
ridge, and the highest point of the horseshoe ridge is perhaps two
hundred feet above the summit of this snow peak. In the opinion that
Professor Parker expressed to the writer, the dotted lines should bear
much more to the left, making directly for the centre of the horseshoe
ridge, which is the obvious course. But it should again be said that men
in the circumstances and condition of this party when forced to turn
back, may be pardoned for mistaking the exact direction in which they
had been proceeding.



CHAPTER VI

THE RETURN


The next day was another bright, cloudless day, the second and last of
them. Perhaps never did men abandon as cheerfully stuff that had been
freighted as laboriously as we abandoned our surplus baggage at the
eighteen-thousand-foot camp. We made a great pile of it in the lee of
one of the ice-blocks of the glacier--food, coal-oil, clothing, and
bedding--covering all with the wolf-robe and setting up a shovel as a
mark; though just why we cached it so carefully, or for whom, no one of
us would be able to say. It will probably be a long time ere any others
camp in that Grand Basin. While yet such a peak is unclimbed, there is
constant goading of mountaineering minds to its conquest; once its top
has been reached, the incentive declines. Much exploring work is yet to
do on Denali; the day will doubtless come when all its peaks and ridges
and glaciers will be duly mapped, but our view from the summit agreed
with our study of its conformation during the ascent, that no other
route will be found to the top. When first we were cutting and climbing
on the ridge, and had glimpses, as the mists cleared, of the glacier on
the other side and the ridges that arose from it, we thought that
perhaps they might afford a passage, but from above the appearance
changed and seemed to forbid it altogether. At times, almost in despair
at the task which the Northeast Ridge presented, we would look across at
the ice-covered rocks of the North Peak and dream that they might be
climbed, but they are really quite impossible. The south side has been
tried again and again and no approach discovered, nor did it appear from
the top that such approach exists; the west side is sheer precipice; the
north side is covered with a great hanging glacier and is devoid of
practicable slopes; it has been twice attempted. Only on the northeast
has the glacier cut so deeply into the mountain as to give access to the
heights.

June 8th was Sunday, but we had to take advantage of the clear, bright
day to get as far down the mountain as possible. The stuff it was still
necessary to pack made good, heavy loads, and we knew not what had
happened to our staircase in our absence.

[Sidenote: The Record]

Having said Morning Prayer, we left at 9.30 A. M., after a night in
which all of us slept soundly--the first sound sleep some had enjoyed
for a long time. Contentment and satisfaction are great somnifacients.
The Grand Basin was glorious in sunshine, the peaks crystal-clear
against a cloudless sky, the huge blocks of ice thrown down by the
earthquake and scattered all over the glacier gleamed white in the
sunshine, deep-blue in the shadow. We wound our way downward, passing
camp site after camp site, until at the first place we camped in the
Grand Basin we stopped for lunch. Then we made the traverse under the
cliffs to the Parker Pass, which we reached at 1.30 P. M. The sun was
hot; there was not a breath of wind; we were exceedingly thirsty and we
decided to light the primus stove and make a big pot of tea and
replenish the thermos bottles before attempting the descent of the
ridge. While this was doing a place was found to cache the minimum
thermometer and a tin can that had held a photographic film, in which we
had placed a record of our ascent. Above, we had not found any
distinctive place in which a record could be deposited with the
assurance that it would be found by any one seeking it. One feels sure
that in the depth of winter very great cold must occur even at this
elevation. Yet we should have liked to leave it much higher. Without
some means, which we did not possess, of marking a position, there
would, however, have been little use in leaving it amid the boulders
where we hunted unsuccessfully for Professor Parker's instrument. We had
hoped to be able to grave some sign upon the rocks with the geological
hammer, but the first time it was brought down upon the granite its
point splintered in the same exasperating way that the New York dealer's
fancy ice-axes behaved when it was attempted to put them to practical
use. "Warranted cast steel" upon an implement ought to be a warning not
to purchase it for mountain work. Tool-steel alone will serve.

Our little record cache at the Parker Pass, placed at the foot of the
west or upward-facing side of the great slab which marks the natural
camping site, should stand there for many years. It is not a place where
snow lies deep or long, and it will surely be found by any who seek it.
We took our last looks up into the Grand Basin, still brilliant in the
sunshine, our last looks at the summit, still cloudless and clear. There
was a melancholy even in the midst of triumph in looking for the last
time at these scenes where we had so greatly hoped and endeavored--and
had been so amply rewarded. We recalled the eager expectation with which
we first gazed up between these granite slabs into the long-hidden
basin, a week before, and there was sadness in the feeling that in all
probability we should never have this noble view again.

[Sidenote: Harper Glacier]

Before the reader turns his back upon the Grand Basin once for all, I
should like to put a name upon the glacier it contains--since it is the
fashion to name glaciers. I should like to call it the Harper Glacier,
after my half-breed companion of three years, who was the first human
being to reach the summit of the mountain. This reason might suffice,
but there is another and most interesting reason for associating the
name Harper with this mountain. Arthur Harper, Walter's father, the
pioneer of all Alaskan miners, "the first man who thought of trying the
Yukon as a mining field so far as we know," as William Ogilvie tells us
in his "Early Days on the Yukon"[5] (and none had better opportunity of
knowing than Ogilvie), was also the first man to make written reference
to this mountain, since Vancouver, the great navigator, saw it from the
head of Cook's Inlet in 1794.

Arthur Harper, in company with Al. Mayo, made the earliest exploration
of the Tanana River, ascending that stream in the summer of 1878 to
about the present site of Fairbanks; and in a letter to E. W. Nelson, of
the United States Biological Survey, then on the Alaskan coast, Harper
wrote the following winter of the "great ice mountain to the south" as
one of the most wonderful sights of the trip.[6] It is pleasant to think
that a son of his, yet unborn, was to be the first to set foot on its
top; pleasantly also the office of setting his name upon the lofty
glacier, the gleam from which caught his eye and roused his wonder
thirty years ago, falls upon one who has been glad and proud to take, in
some measure, his place.

[Sidenote: Descent]

Then began the difficulty and the danger, the toil and the anxiety, of
the descent of the ridge. Karstens led, then followed Tatum, then the
writer, and then Walter. The unbroken surface of the ridge above the
cleavage is sensationally steep, and during our absence nearly two feet
of new snow had fallen upon it. The steps that had been shovelled as we
ascended were entirely obliterated and it was necessary to shovel new
ones; it was the very heat of the day, and by the canons of climbing we
should have camped at the Pass and descended in the early morning. But
all were eager to get down, and we ventured it. Now that our task was
accomplished, our minds reverted to the boy at the base camp long
anxiously expecting us, and we thought of him and spoke of him
continually and speculated how he had fared. One feels upon reflection
that we took more risk in descending that ridge than we took at any time
in the ascent. But Karstens was most cautious and careful, and in the
long and intensive apprenticeship of this expedition had become most
expert. I sometimes wondered whether Swiss guides would have much to
teach either him or Walter in snow-craft; their chief instruction would
probably be along the line of taking more chances, wisely. If the writer
had to ascend this mountain again he would intrust himself to Karstens
and Walter rather than to any Swiss guides he has known, for ice and
snow in Alaska are not quite the same as ice and snow in the Alps or the
Canadian Rockies.

[Illustration: Beginning the descent of the ridge; looking down 4,000
feet upon the Muldrow Glacier.]

The loose snow was shovelled away and the steps dug in the hard snow
beneath, and the creepers upon our feet gave good grip in it. Thus,
slowly, step by step, we descended the ridge and in an hour and a half
had reached the cleavage, the most critical place in the whole descent.
With the least possible motion of the feet, setting them exactly in the
shovelled steps, we crept like cats across this slope, thrusting the
points of our axes into the holes that had been made in the ice-wall
above, moving all together, the rope always taut, no one speaking a
word. When once Karstens was anchored on the further ice he stood and
gathered up the rope as first one and then another passed safely to him
and anchored himself beside him, until at last we were all across. Then,
stooping to pass the overhanging ice-cliff that here also disputed the
pack upon one's back, we went down to the long, long stretch of jagged
pinnacles and bergs, and our intricate staircase in the masonry of them.
Shovelling was necessary all the way down, but the steps were there,
needing only to be uncovered. Passing our ridge camp, passing the danger
of the great gable, down the rocks by which we reached the ridge and
down the slopes to the glacier floor we went, reaching our old camp at
9.30 P. M., six and a quarter hours from the Parker Pass, twelve hours
from the eighteen-thousand-foot camp in the Grand Basin, our hearts full
of thankfulness that the terrible ridge was behind us. Until we reached
the glacier floor the weather had been clear; almost immediately
thereafter the old familiar cloud smother began to pour down from above
and we saw the heights no more.

[Sidenote: The Glacier Camp]

The camp was in pretty bad shape. The snow that had fallen upon it had
melted and frozen to ice, in the sun's rays and the night frosts, and
weighed the tent down to the ground. But an hour's work made it
habitable again, and we gleefully piled the stove with the last of our
wood and used the last spoonfuls of a can of baking-powder to make a
batch of biscuits, the first bread we had eaten in two weeks.

Next day we abandoned the camp, leaving all standing, and, putting our
packs upon a Yukon sled, rejecting the ice-creepers, and resuming our
rough-locked snow-shoes, we started down the glacier in soft, cloudy
weather to our base camp. Again it had been wiser to have waited till
night, that the snow bridges over the crevasses might be at their
hardest; but we could not wait. Every mind was occupied with Johnny. We
were two weeks overstayed of the time we had told him to expect our
return, and we knew not what might have happened to the boy. The four of
us on one rope, Karstens leading and Walter at the gee-pole, we went
down the first sharp descents of the glaciers without much trouble, the
new, soft snow making a good brake for the sled. But lower down the
crevasses began to give us trouble. The snow bridges were melted at
their edges, and sometimes the sled had to be lowered down to the
portion that still held and hauled up at the other side. Sometimes a
bridge gave way as its edge was cautiously ventured upon with the
snow-shoes, and we had to go far over to the glacier wall to get round
the crevasse. The willows with which we had staked the trail still
stood, sometimes just their tips appearing above the new snow, and they
were a good guide, though we often had to leave the old trail. At last
the crevasses were all passed and we reached the lower portion of the
glacier, which is free of them. Then the snow grew softer and softer,
and our moccasined feet were soon wet through. Large patches of the
black shale with which much of this glacier is covered were quite bare
of snow, and the sled had to be hauled laboriously across them. Then we
began to encounter pools of water, which at first we avoided, but they
soon grew so numerous that we went right through them.

[Sidenote: Flowers]

The going grew steadily wetter and rougher and more disagreeable. The
lower stretch of a glacier is an unhandsome sight in summer: all sorts
of rock débris and ugly black shale, with discolored melting ice and
snow, intersected everywhere with streams of dirty water--this was what
it had degenerated into as we reached the pass. The snow was entirely
gone from the pass, so the sled was abandoned--left standing upright,
with its gee-pole sticking in the air that if any one else ever chanced
to want it it might readily be found. The snow-shoes were piled around
it, and we resumed our packs and climbed up to the pass. The first thing
that struck our eyes as we stood upon the rocks of the pass was a
brilliant trailing purple moss flower of such gorgeous color that we all
exclaimed at its beauty and wondered how it grew clinging to bare rock.
It was the first bright color that we had seen for so long that it gave
unqualified pleasure to us all and was a foretaste of the enhancing
delights that awaited us as we descended to the bespangled valley. If a
man would know to the utmost the charm of flowers, let him exile himself
among the snows of a lofty mountain during fifty days of spring and come
down into the first full flush of summer. We could scarcely pass a
flower by, and presently had our hands full of blooms like schoolgirls
on a picnic.

But although the first things that attracted our attention were the
flowers, the next were the mosquitoes. They were waiting for us at the
pass and they gave us their warmest welcome. The writer took sharp blame
to himself that, organizing and equipping this expedition, he had made
no provision against these intolerable pests. But we had so confidently
expected to come out a month earlier, before the time of mosquitoes
arrived, that although the matter was suggested and discussed it was put
aside as unnecessary. Now there was the prospect of a fifty or sixty
mile tramp across country, subject all the while to the assaults of
venomous insects, which are a greater hindrance to summer travel in
Alaska than any extremity of cold is to winter travel.

Not even the mosquitoes, however, took our minds from Johnny, and a load
was lifted from every heart when we came near enough to our camp to see
that some one was moving about it. A shout brought him running, and he
never stopped until he had met us and had taken the pack from my
shoulders and put it on his own. Our happiness was now unalloyed; the
last anxiety was removed. The dogs gave us most jubilant welcome and
were fat and well favored.

[Sidenote: Johnny and the Sugar]

What a change had come over the place! All the snow was gone from the
hills; the stream that gathered its three forks at this point roared
over its rocks; the stunted willows were in full leaf; the thick, soft
moss of every dark shade of green and yellow and red made a foil for
innumerable brilliant flowers. The fat, gray conies chirped at us from
the rocks; the ground-squirrels, greatly multiplied since the wholesale
destruction of foxes, kept the dogs unavailingly chasing hither and
thither whenever they were loose. We never grew tired of walking up and
down and to and fro about the camp--it was a delight to tread upon the
moss-covered earth after so long treading upon nothing but ice and snow;
it was a delight to gaze out through naked eyes after all those weeks in
which we had not dared even for a few moments to lay aside the yellow
glasses in the open air; it was a delight to see joyful, eager animal
life around us after our sojourn in regions dead. Supper was a delight.
Johnny had killed four mountain-sheep and a caribou while we were gone,
and not only had fed the dogs well, but from time to time had put aside
choice portions expecting our return. But what was most grateful to us
and most extraordinary in him, the boy had saved, untouched, the small
ration of sugar and milk left for his consumption, knowing that ours was
all destroyed; and we enjoyed coffee with these luxurious appurtenances
as only they can who have been long deprived of them. There are not many
boys of fifteen or sixteen of any race who would voluntarily have done
the like.

[Illustration: Johnny Fred who kept the base camp and fed the dogs and
would not touch the sugar.]

The next day there was much to do. There were pack-saddles of canvas to
make for the dogs' backs that they might help us carry our necessary
stuff out; our own clothing and footwear to overhaul, bread to bake,
guns to clean and oil against rust. Yet withal, we took it lazily, with
five to divide these tasks, and napped and lay around and continually
consumed biscuits and coffee which Johnny continually cooked. We all
took at least a partial bath in the creek, cold as it was, the first
bath in--well, in a long time. Mountain climbers belong legitimately to
the great unwashed.

It was a day of perfect rest and contentment with hearts full of
gratitude. Not a single mishap had occurred to mar the complete success
of our undertaking--not an injury of any sort to any one, nor an
illness. All five of us were in perfect health. Surely we had reason to
be grateful; and surely we were happy in having Him to whom our
gratitude might be poured out. What a bald, incomplete, and
disconcerting thing it must be to have no one to thank for crowning
mercies like these!

On Tuesday, the 10th June, we made our final abandonment, leaving the
tent standing with stove and food and many articles that we did not need
cached in it, and with four of the dogs carrying packs and led with
chains, packs on our own backs and the ice-axes for staves in our hands,
we turned our backs upon the mountain and went down the valley toward
the Clearwater. The going was not too bad until we had crossed that
stream and climbed the hills to the rolling country between it and the
McKinley Fork of the Kantishna. Again and again we looked back for a
parting glimpse of the mountain, but we never saw sign of it any more.
The foot-hills were clear, the rugged wall of the glacier cut the sky,
but the great mountain might have been a thousand miles off for any
visible indication it gave. It is easy to understand how travellers
across equatorial Africa have passed near the base of the snowy peaks of
Ruwenzori without knowing they were even in the neighborhood of great
mountains, and have come back and denied their existence.

[Sidenote: Across Country]

The broken country between the streams was difficult. Underneath was a
thick elastic moss in which the foot sank three or four inches at every
step and that makes toilsome travelling. The mosquitoes were a constant
annoyance. But the abundant bird life upon this open moorland,
continually reminding one as it did of moorlands in the north of England
or of Scotland, was full of interest. Ptarmigan, half changed from their
snowy plumage to the brown of summer, and presenting a curious piebald
appearance, were there in great numbers, cackling their guttural cry
with its concluding notes closely resembling the "ko-ax, ko-ax" of the
Frogs' Chorus in the comedy of Aristophanes; snipe whistled and curlews
whirled all about us. Half-way across to the McKinley Fork it began to
rain, thunder-peal succeeding thunder-peal, and each crash announcing a
heavier downpour. Soon we were all wet through, and then the rain turned
to hail that fell smartly until all the moss was white with it, and that
gave place to torrents of rain again. Dog packs and men's packs were
alike wet, and no one of us had a dry stitch on him when we reached the
banks of the McKinley Fork and the old spacious hunting tent that stands
there in which we were to spend the night. Rather hopelessly we hung our
bedding to dry on ropes strung about some trees, and our wet clothing
around the stove. By taking turns all the night in sitting up, to keep a
fire going, we managed to get our clothes dried by morning, but the
bedding was wet as ever. Fortunately, the night was a warm one.

[Sidenote: Glacial Streams]

The next morning there was the McKinley Fork to cross the first thing,
and it was a difficult and disagreeable task. This stream, which drains
the Muldrow Glacier and therefore the whole northeast face of Denali,
occupies a dreary, desolate bed of boulder and gravel and mud a mile or
more wide; rather it does not occupy it, save perhaps after tremendous
rain following great heat, but wanders amid it, with a dozen channels of
varying depth but uniform blackness, the inky solution of the shale
which the mountain discharges so abundantly tingeing not only its waters
but the whole Kantishna, into which it flows one hundred miles away.
Commonly in the early morning the waters are low, the night frosts
checking the melting of the glacier ice; but this morning the drainage
of yesterday's rain-storm had swollen them. Channel after channel was
waded in safety until the main stream was reached, and that swept by,
thigh-deep, with a rushing black current that had a very evil look.
Karstens was scouting ahead, feeling for the shallower places, stemming
the hurrying waters till they swept up to his waist. The dogs did not
like the look of it and with their packs, still wet from yesterday, were
hampered in swimming. Two that Tatum was leading suddenly turned back
when half-way across, and the chains, entangling his legs, pulled him
over face foremost into the deepest of the water. His pack impeded his
efforts to rise, and the water swept all over him. Karstens hurried back
to his rescue, and he was extricated from his predicament, half drowned
and his clothes filled with mud and sand. There was no real danger of
drowning, but it was a particularly noxious ducking in icy filth. The
sun was warm, however, and after basking upon the rocks awhile he was
able to proceed, still wet, though he had stripped and wrung out his
clothes--for we had no dry change--and very gritty in underwear, but
taking no harm whatever. I think Tatum regretted losing, in the mad rush
of black water, the ice-axe he had carried to the top of the mountain
more than he regretted his wetting.

[Sidenote: Birds and Beasts]

On the further bank of the McKinley Fork we entered our first wood, a
belt about three miles wide that lines the river. Our first forest trees
gave us almost as much pleasure as our first flowers. Animal life
abounded, all in the especially interesting condition of rearing
half-grown young. Squirrels from their nests scolded at our intrusion
most vehemently; an owl flew up with such a noisy snapping and
chattering that our attention was drawn to the point from which she
rose, and there, perched upon a couple of rotten stumps a few feet
apart, were two half-fledged owlets, passive, immovable, which allowed
themselves to be photographed and even handled without any indication of
life except in their wondering eyes and the circumrotary heads that
contained them. Moose signs and bear signs were everywhere; rabbits, now
in their summer livery, flitted from bush to bush. That belt of wood was
a zoological garden stocked with birds and mammals. And we rejoiced with
them over their promising families and harmed none.

From the wood we rose again to the moorland--to the snipe and ptarmigan
and curlews, some yet sitting upon belated eggs--to the heavy going of
the moss and the yet heavier going of niggerhead. Our journey skirted a
large lake picturesquely surrounded by hills, and we spoke of how
pleasantly a summer lodge might be placed upon its shores were it not
for the mosquitoes. The incessant leaping of fish, the occasional flight
of fowl alone disturbed the perfect reflection of cliff and hill in its
waters. At times we followed game trails along its margin; at times
swampy ground made us seek the hillside.

Thus, slowly covering the miles that we had gone so quickly over upon
the ice of the lake two months before, we reached Moose Creek and the
miners' cabins at Eureka late at night and received warm welcome and
most hospitable entertainment from Mr. Jack Hamilton. It was good to see
men other than our own party again, good to sleep in a bed once more,
good to regale ourselves with food long strange to our mouths. Here we
had our first intimation of any happenings in the outside world for the
past three months and sorrowed that Saint Sophia was still to remain a
Mohammedan temple, and that the kindly King of Greece had been murdered.
Here also Hamilton generously provided us with spare mosquito-netting
for veils, and we found a package of canvas gloves I had ordered from
Fairbanks long before, and so were protected from our chief enemies.
From Moose Creek we went over the hills to Caribou Creek and again were
most kindly welcomed and entertained by Mr. and Mrs. Quigley, and
discussed our climb for a long while with McGonogill of the "pioneer"
party. Then, mainly down the bed of Glacier Creek, now on lingering ice
or snow-drift, with the water rushing underneath, now on the rocks, now
through the brush, crossing and recrossing the creek, we reached the
long line of desolate, decaying houses known as Glacier City, and found
convenient refuge in one of the cabins therein, still maintained as an
occasional abode. On the outskirts of the "city" next morning a moose
and two calves sprang up from the brush, our approach over the moss not
giving enough notice to awake her from sleep until we were almost upon
her.

[Illustration: "Muk," the author's pet malamute.]

[Sidenote: The Boat]

Instead of pursuing our way across the increasingly difficult and swampy
country to the place where our boat and supplies lay cached, we turned
aside at midday to the "fish camp" on the Bearpaw, and, after enjoying
the best our host possessed from the stream and from his early garden,
borrowed his boat, choosing twenty miles or so on the water to nine of
niggerhead and marsh. But the river was very low and we had much trouble
getting the boat over riffles and bars, so that it was late at night
when we reached that other habitation of dragons known as Diamond City.
While we submerged our cached poling boat to swell its sun-dried seams,
Walter and Johnny returned the borrowed boat, and, since the stream had
fallen yet more, were many hours in reaching the fish camp and in
tramping back.

[Sidenote: The Beaver and the Indians]

But the labor of the return journey was now done. A canvas stretched
over willows made a shelter for the centre of the boat, and at noon on
the second day men, dogs, and baggage were embarked, to float down the
Bearpaw to the Kantishna, to the Tanana, to the Yukon. The Bearpaw
swarmed with animal life. Geese and ducks, with their little terrified
broods, scooted ahead of us on the water, the mothers presently leaving
their young in a nook of the bank and making a flying détour to return
to them. Sometimes a duck would simulate a broken wing to lure us away
from the little ones. We had no meat and were hungry for the usual early
summer diet of water-fowl, but not hungry enough to kill these birds.
Beaver dropped noisily into the water from trees that exhibited their
marvellous carpentry, some lying prostrate, some half chiselled through.
It seemed, indeed, as though the beaver were preparing great irrigation
works all through this country. Since the law went into effect
prohibiting their capture until 1915 they have increased and multiplied
all over interior Alaska. They are still caught by the natives, but
since their skins cannot be sold the Indians are wearing beaver garments
again to the great advantage of health in the severe winters. One wishes
very heartily that the prohibition might be made perpetual, for only so
will fur become the native wear again. It is good to see the children,
particularly, in beaver coats and breeches instead of the wretched
cotton that otherwise is almost their only garb. Would it be altogether
beyond reason to hope that a measure which was enacted to prevent the
extermination of an animal might be perpetuated on behalf of the
survival of an interesting and deserving race of human beings now sorely
threatened? Or is it solely the conservation of commercial resources
that engages the attention of government? There are few measures that
would redound more to the physical benefit of the Alaskan Indian than
the perpetuating of the law against the sale of beaver skins. With the
present high and continually appreciating price of skins, none of the
common people of the land, white or native, can afford to wear furs.
Such a prohibition as has been suggested would restore to Alaskans a
small share in the resources of Alaska. Is there any country in the
world where furs are actually needed more?

Not only beaver, but nearly all fur and game animals have greatly
increased in the Kantishna country. In the year of the stampede, when
thousands of men spent the winter here, there was wholesale destruction
of game and trapping of fur. But the country, left to itself, is now
restocked of game and fur, except of foxes, the high price of which has
almost exterminated them here and is rapidly exterminating them
throughout interior Alaska. They have been poisoned in the most reckless
and unscrupulous way, and there seems no means of stopping it under the
present law. We saw scarcely a fox track in the country, though a few
years ago they were exceedingly plentiful all over the foot-hills of the
great range. Mink, marten, and muskrat were seen from time to time
swimming in the river; a couple of yearling moose started from the bank
where they had been drinking as we noiselessly turned a bend; brilliant
kingfishers flitted across the water. So down these rivers we drifted,
sometimes in sunshine, sometimes in rain, until early in the morning of
the 20th June, we reached Tanana, and our journey was concluded three
months and four days after it was begun. When the telegraph office
opened at 8 o'clock a message was sent, in accordance with promise, to a
Seattle paper, and it illustrates the rapidity with which news is spread
to-day that a ship in Bering Sea, approaching Nome, received the news
from Seattle by wireless telegraph before 11 A. M. But a message from
the Seattle paper received the same morning asking for "five hundred
more words describing narrow escapes" was left unanswered, for, thank
God, there were none to describe.

FOOTNOTES:

[5] Ottawa: Thorburn & Abbott, 1913, p. 87.

[6] "Mt. McKinley Region": Alfred H. Brooks, Washington, 1911, p. 25.



CHAPTER VII

THE HEIGHT OF DENALI, WITH A DISCUSSION OF THE READINGS ON THE SUMMIT
AND DURING THE ASCENT


The determination of the heights of mountains by triangulation is, of
course, the method that in general commends itself to the topographer,
though it may be questioned whether the very general use of aneroids for
barometric determinations has not thrown this latter means of measuring
altitudes into undeserved discredit when the mercurial barometer is used
instead of its convenient but unreliable substitute.

The altitude given on the present maps for Denali is the mean of
determinations made by triangulation by three different men: Muldrow on
the Sushitna[7] side in 1898, Raeburn on the Kuskokwim side in 1902, and
Porter, from the Yentna country in 1906. In addition, a determination
was made by the Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1910, from points near
Cook's Inlet. "The work of the Coast Survey," writes Mr. Alfred Brooks,
"is more refined than the rough triangulation done by our men; at the
same time they were much further away." "It is a curious coincidence,"
he adds, "that the determination made by the Coast Survey was the mean
which we had assumed from our three determinations" (twenty thousand
three hundred feet).

[Sidenote: Theodolites and Barometers]

There are, however, two sources of error in the determination of the
height of this mountain by triangulation--a general one and a particular
one. The general one lies in the difficulty of ascertaining the proper
correction to be applied for the refraction of the atmosphere, and the
higher the mountain the greater the liability to this error; for not
much is positively known about the angle of refraction of the upper
regions of the air. The officers of the Trigonometrical Survey of India
have published their opinion that the heights of the great peaks of the
Himalayas will have to be revised on this account. The report of the
Coast Survey's determination of the height of Denali claims a
"co-efficient of refraction nearer the truth" than the figure used on a
previous occasion; but a very slight difference in this factor will make
a considerable difference in the result.

The particular source of error in the case of this mountain lies in the
circumstance that its summit is flat, and there is no culminating point
upon which the cross-hairs of the surveying instrument may intersect.

The barometric determination of heights is, of course, not without
similar troubles of its own. The tables of altitudes corresponding to
pressures do not agree, Airy's table giving relatively greater altitudes
for very low pressures than the Smithsonian. All such tables as
originally calculated are based upon the hypothesis of a temperature and
humidity which decrease regularly with the altitude, and this is not
always the case; nor is the "static equilibrium of the atmosphere" which
Laplace assumed always maintained; that is to say an equal difference of
pressure does not always correspond to an equal difference of altitude.
There is, in point of fact, no absolute way to determine altitude save
by running an actual line of levels; all other methods are
approximations at best. But there had never been a barometric
determination of the height of this mountain made, and it was resolved
to attempt it on this expedition.

To this end careful arrangements were made and much labor and trouble
undergone. The author carried his standard mercurial mountain barometer
to Fort Gibbon on the Yukon in September, 1912, and compared it with the
instrument belonging to the Signal Corps of the United States army at
that post. A very close agreement was found in the two instruments; the
reading of the one, by himself, and of the other, by the sergeant whose
regular duty it was to read and record the instrument, being identical
to two places of decimals at the same temperature.

[Sidenote: Readings on the Summit]

Arrangements were made with Captain Michel of the Signal Corps at Fort
Gibbon, when the expedition started to the mountain in March, 1913, to
read the barometer at that post three times a day and record the reading
with the reading of the attached thermometer. Acknowledgment is here
made of Captain Michel's courtesy and kindness in this essential
co-operation. The reading at Fort Gibbon which most nearly synchronizes
with the reading on top of the mountain is the one taken at noon on the
7th June. The reading on top of the mountain was made at about 1.50
P. M., so that there was an hour and fifty minutes difference in time.
The weather, however, was set fair, without a cloud in the sky, and had
been for more than twelve hours before and remained so for thirty-six
hours afterward. It would seem, therefore, that the difference in time
is negligible. The reading at Fort Gibbon, a place of an altitude of
three hundred and thirty-four feet above sea-level, at noon on the 7th
June, was 29.590 inches with an attached thermometer reading 76.5° F.
The reading on the summit of Denali, at 1.50 P. M. on the same day, was
13.617. The writer is greatly chagrined that he cannot give with the
same confidence the reading of the attached thermometer on top of the
mountain, but desires to set forth the circumstances and give the
readings in his note-book records.

The note-book gives the air temperature on the summit as 7° F., taken by
a standard alcohol minimum thermometer, and it remained constant during
the hour and a half we were there. The sun was shining, but a bitter
north wind was blowing. But the reading of the thermometer attached to
the barometer is recorded as 20° F. I am unable to account for this
discrepancy of 13°. The mercurial barometer was swung on its tripod
inside the instrument tent we had carried to the summit, a rough zero
was established, and it was left for twenty minutes or so to adjust
itself to conditions before an exact reading was taken. It was my custom
throughout the ascent to read and record the thermometer immediately
after the barometer was read, but it is almost certain that on this
momentous occasion it was not done. Possibly the thermometer was read
immediately the instrument was taken out of its leather case and its
wooden case and set up, while it yet retained some of the animal heat of
the back that had borne it, and the reading was written in the prepared
place. Then when the barometer was finally read, no temperature of the
attached thermometer was noted. This is the only possible explanation
that occurs, and it is very unsatisfactory. It was not until we were
down at the base camp again that I looked at the figures, and discovered
their difference, and I could not then recall in detail the precise
operations on the summit. It is hard to understand, ordinarily, how any
man could have recorded the two readings on the same page of the book
without noticing their discrepancy, but perhaps the excitement and
difficulty of the situation combined to produce what Sir Martin Conway
calls "high altitude stupidity."

[Sidenote: In Exculpation]

It is indeed impossible to convey to the reader who has never found
himself circumstanced as we were an understanding of our perturbation of
mind and body upon reaching the summit of the mountain: breathless with
excitement--and with the altitude--hearts afire and feet nigh frozen.
What should be done on top, what first, what next, had been carefully
planned and even rehearsed, but we were none of us schooled in stoical
self-repression to command our emotions completely. Here was the crown
of nearly three months' toil--and of all those long years of desire and
expectation. It was hard to gather one's wits and resolutely address
them to prearranged tasks; hard to secure a sufficient detachment of
mind for careful and accurate observations. The sudden outspreading of
the great mass of Denali's Wife immediately below us and in front of us
was of itself a surprise that was dramatic and disconcerting; a splendid
vision from which it was difficult to withdraw the eyes. We knew, of
course, the companion peak was there, but had forgotten all about her,
having had no slightest glimpse of her on the whole ascent until at the
one stroke she stood completely revealed. Not more dazzling to the eyes
of the pasha in the picture was the form of the lovely woman when the
slave throws off the draperies that veiled her from head to foot.
Moreover, problems that had been discussed and disputed, questions about
the conformation of the mountain and the possibilities of approach to
it, were now soluble at a glance and clamored for solution. We held them
back and fell at once to our scientific work, denying any gratification
of sight until these tasks were performed, yet it is plain that I at
least was not proof against the disturbing consciousness of the wonders
that waited.

It was bitterly cold, yet my fingers, though numb, were usable when I
reached the top; it was in exposing them to manipulate the hypsometrical
instruments that they lost all feeling and came nigh freezing. And
breathlessness was naturally at its worst; I remember that even the
exertion of rising from the prone position it was necessary to assume to
read the barometer brought on a fit of panting.

[Sidenote: Calculations for Altitude]

With these circumstances in mind we will resume the discussion of the
readings taken on the summit and their bearing upon the altitude of the
mountain. It seems right to disregard the temperature recorded for the
attached thermometer, and to use the air temperature, of which there is
no doubt, in correcting the barometric reading. So they stand:

     Bar.            Temp.
     13.617 inches   7° F.

The boiling-point thermometer stood at 174.9° F. when the steam was
pouring out of the vent.

They stand therefore:

     _Gibbon_ (334 feet altitude)    _The Summit of Denali_
     Bar.     Ther.                  Bar.     Ther.
     29.590   76.5° F.               13.617   7° F.

Now, the tables accessible to the writer do not work out their
calculations beyond eighteen thousand feet, and he confesses himself too
long unused to mathematical labors of any kind for the task of extending
them. He was, therefore, constrained to fall back upon the kindness of
Mr. Alfred Brooks, the head of the Alaskan Division of the United States
Geological Survey, and Mr. Brooks turned over the data to Mr. C. E.
Giffin, topographic engineer of that service, to which gentleman
thankful acknowledgment is made for the result that follows.

[Sidenote: Fort Gibbon and Valdez as Bases]

Ignoring a calculation based upon a temperature of 20° F. on the summit,
and another based upon a temperature of 13.5° F. on the summit (the mean
of the air temperature and that recorded for the attached thermometer)
and confining attention to the calculation which takes the air
temperature of 7° F. as the proper figure for the correction of the
barometer, a result is reached which shows the summit of Denali as
twenty-one thousand and eight feet above the sea. It should be added
that Mr. Giffin obtained from the United States Weather Bureau the
barometric and thermometric readings taken at Valdez on 7th June about
the same length of time after our reading on the summit as the reading
at Gibbon was before ours. From these readings Mr. Giffin makes the
altitude of the mountain twenty thousand three hundred and seventy-four
feet above Valdez, which is ten feet above the sea-level. From this
result Mr. Giffin is disposed to question the accuracy of the reading at
Gibbon, though the author has no reason to doubt it was properly and
carefully made. Valdez is much farther from the summit than Fort Gibbon
and is in a different climatic zone. The calculation from the Valdez
base should, however, be taken into consideration in making this
barometric determination, and the mean of the two results, twenty
thousand six hundred and ninety-six feet, or, roundly, _twenty thousand
seven hundred feet_, is offered as the contribution of this expedition
toward determining the true altitude of the mountain.

The figures of Mr. Giffin's calculations touching the altitude of this
mountain and also determining the altitudes of various salient points or
stages of the ascent of the mountain are printed below:

  DENALI (MOUNT McKINLEY)

  USING AIR THERMOMETER READING +7° AND THE READING
    AT FORT GIBBON FOR SAME DATE

  Mount McKinley, barometric reading           13.617 in.
  Barometer reduced to standard temperature     +.027 "     Temp. 7°
                                               ------
                                               13.644 in.

  Fort Gibbon, barometric reading              29.590 in.
  Barometer reduced to standard temperature     -.128 "     Temp. 76.5°
                                               ------
                                               29.462 in.

  Mount McKinley, corrected barometer          13.644 in.  21,324 ft.
  Fort Gibbon, corrected barometer             29.462 "       400 "
                                                           ------
                                                           20,924 ft.

  Mean temperature, 41.7°--approximate
    difference in elevation                    20,924 ft.    -356 ft.
  Latitude, 64°--approximate difference
    in elevation                               20,568 "       +15 "
  Mean temperature, 41.7°--approximate
    difference in elevation                    20,568 "       +71 "
  Elevation lowest, 400--approximate
    difference in elevation                    20,568 "       +20 "
                                                           ------
  Elevation above Fort Gibbon                              20,674 ft.
  Elevation of Fort Gibbon                                    334 "
                                                           ------
  _Elevation above sea_                                    21,008 ft.


  USING THE THERMOMETRIC READING OF 7° AT MOUNT
    MCKINLEY AND THE U. S. WEATHER BUREAU READING
    AT VALDEZ FOR SAME DATE

  Mount McKinley, barometric reading           13.617 in.
  Barometer reduced to standard temperature     +.027 "     Temp. 7°
                                               ------
                                               13.644 in.

  Valdez, barometric reading                    29.76 in.
  Barometer reduced to standard temperature      .068 "
                                               ------
                                               29.692 in.   Temp. 54°

  Mount McKinley, corrected barometric reading 13.644 in.  21,324 ft.
  Valdez, corrected barometric reading         29.692 "       190 "
                                                           ------
                                                           21,134 ft.
  Mean temperature, 30.5°--approximate
    difference in elevation                    21,134 ft.    -840 "
  Latitude, 62°--approximate difference
    in elevation                               20,295 "       +18 "

  Mean temperature, 30.5°--approximate
    difference in elevation                    20,295 ft.     +42 ft.
  Elevation lowest, 190--approximate
    difference in elevation                    20,295 "       +20 "
                                                           ------
      Elevation above Valdez                               20,374 ft.
      Elevation of Valdez                                      10 "
                                                           ------
      _Elevation above sea_                                20,384 ft.


  ALTITUDES OF CAMPING STATIONS

  FIRST GLACIER CAMP

  Glacier Camp, barometric reading.            22.554 in.   Temp. 81°
  Barometer reduced to standard temperature     -.106 "
                                               ------
                                               22.448 in.
  Fort Gibbon, barometric reading              29.110 in.   Temp. 74°
  Barometer reduced to standard temperature     -.120 "
                                               ------
                                               28.990 in.
  Glacier Camp, corrected barometer            22.448 in.   7,791 ft.
  Fort Gibbon, corrected barometer             28.990 "       840 "
                                                           ------
                                                            6,951 ft.
  Mean temperature, 77.5°--approximate
    difference in elevation                     6,951 ft.    +393 "
  Latitude, 64°--approximate difference
    in elevation                                7,343 "        +5 "
  Mean temperature, 77.5°--approximate
    difference in elevation                     7,343 "       +74 "
  Elevation lowest, 840--approximate
    difference in elevation                     7,343 "        +3 "
                                                           ------
      Elevation above Fort Gibbon                           7,426 ft.
      Elevation of Fort Gibbon                                334 "
                                                           ------
      _Elevation above sea_                                 7,760 ft.


  HEAD OF MULDROW GLACIER

  Muldrow Glacier, barometric reading          19.640 in.   Temp. 36°
  Barometer reduced to standard temperature     -.013 "
                                              -------
                                               19.627 in.
  Fort Gibbon, barometric reading              30.065 in.   Temp. 71°
  Barometer reduced to standard temperature     -.115 "
                                              -------
                                               29.950 in.
  Muldrow Glacier, corrected barometer         19.627 in.  11,441 ft.
  Fort Gibbon, corrected barometer             29.950 "     (-)45 "
                                                           ------
                                                           11,486 ft.
  Temperature, 53.5°--approximate
    difference in elevation                    11,486 ft.     +79 "
  Latitude, 65°--approximate difference
    in elevation                               11,565 "        +8 "
  Mean temperature, 53.5°--approximate
    difference in elevation                    11,565 "       +63 "
  Elevation lowest, 45--approximate
    difference in elevation                    11,565 "        +6 "
                                                          -------
      Elevation above Fort Gibbon                          11,642 ft.
      Elevation of Fort Gibbon                                334 "
                                                          -------
      _Elevation above sea_                                11,976 ft.


  PARKER PASS

  Parker Pass, barometric reading              17.330 in.   Temp. 43°
  Barometer reduced to standard temperature     -.023 "
                                              -------
                                               17.307 in.

  Fort Gibbon, barometric reading              30.050 in.   Temp. 69.5°
  Barometer reduced to standard temperature     -.111 "
                                               ------
                                               29.939 in.
  Parker Pass, corrected barometer             17.307 in.  14,861 ft.
  Fort Gibbon, corrected barometer             29.939 "     (-)35 "
                                                           ------
                                                           14,896 ft.
  Mean temperature, 56.25°--approximate
    difference in elevation                    14,896 ft.    +185 "
  Latitude, 64°--approximate difference
    in elevation                               15,091 "       +11 "
  At temperature of 56.25°--approximate
    difference in elevation                    15,091 "       +92 "
  Elevation lowest, -35°--approximate
    difference in elevation                    15,091 "       +11 "
                                                           ------
      Elevation above Fort Gibbon                          15,195 ft.
      Elevation of Fort Gibbon                                334 "
                                                           ------
      _Elevation above sea_                                15,529 ft.


  LAST CAMP

  Last Camp, barometric reading                15.220 in.   Temp. 40°
  Barometer reduced to standard temperature     -.016 "
                                               ------
                                               15.204 in.
  Fort Gibbon, barometric reading              29.660 in.
  Barometer reduced to standard temperature     -.120 "     Temp. 73.5°
                                               ------
                                               29.540 in.
  Last Camp, corrected barometer               15.204 in.  18,382 ft.
  Fort Gibbon, corrected barometer             29.540 "       329 "
                                                           ------
                                                           18,053 ft.

  Mean temperature, 56.75°--approximate
    difference in elevation                    18,053 ft.    +248 ft.
  Latitude, 64°--approximate difference
    in elevation                               18,301 "       +17 "
  Mean temperature, 56.75°--approximate
    difference in elevation                    18,301 "      +112 "
  Elevation lowest, 329--approximate
    difference in elevation                    18,301 "       +16 "
                                                           ------
      Elevation above Fort Gibbon                          18,446 ft.
      Elevation of Fort Gibbon                                334 "
                                                           ------
      _Elevation above sea_                                18,780 ft.

FOOTNOTE:

[7] "Sushitna" represents unquestionably the native pronunciation and
the "h" should be retained. The reason for its elision current in Alaska
is too contemptible to be referred to further. Perhaps the same genius
removed this "h" who removed the "'s" from the "Cook's Inlet" of the
British admiralty. One is not surprised when a post-office at Cape
Prince of Wales is named "Wales" because one is not surprised at any
banalities of the postal department--in Alaska or elsewhere, but one
expects better things from the cultured branches of the government
service. It is interesting to speculate what will happen to
Revillagigedo Island, which Vancouver named for the viceroy of Mexico
who was kind to him, when the official curtailer of names finds time to
attend to _it_. If there be a post-office thereon it is probably already
named "Gig."



CHAPTER VIII

EXPLORATIONS OF THE DENALI REGION AND PREVIOUS ATTEMPTS AT ITS ASCENT


The first mention in literature of the greatest mountain group in North
America is in the narrative of that most notable navigator, George
Vancouver. While surveying the Knik Arm of Cook's Inlet, in 1794, he
speaks of his view of a connected mountain range "bounded by distant
stupendous snow mountains covered with snow and apparently detached from
each other." Vancouver's name has grown steadily greater during the last
fifty years as modern surveys have shown the wonderful detailed accuracy
of his work, and the seamen of the Alaskan coast speak of him as the
prince of all navigators.

Not until 1878 is there another direct mention of these mountains,
although the Russian name for Denali, "Bulshaia Gora," proves that it
had long been observed and known.

[Sidenote: Harper, Densmore, Dickey]

In that year two of the early Alaskan traders, Alfred Mayo and Arthur
Harper, made an adventurous journey some three hundred miles up the
Tanana River, the first ascent of that river by white men, and upon
their return reported finding gold in the bars and mentioned an enormous
ice mountain visible in the south, which they said was one of the most
remarkable things they had seen on their trip.

In 1889 Frank Densmore, a prospector, with several companions, crossed
from the Tanana to the Kuskokwim by way of the Coschaket and Lake
Minchúmina, and had the magnificent view of the Denali group which Lake
Minchúmina affords, which the present writer was privileged to have in
1911. Densmore's description was so enthusiastic that the mountain was
known for years among the Yukon prospectors as "Densmore's mountain."

Though unquestionably many men traversed the region after the discovery
of gold in Cook's Inlet in 1894, no other public recorded mention of the
great mountain was made until W. A. Dickey, a Princeton graduate,
journeyed extensively in the Sushitna and Chulitna valleys in 1896 and
reached the foot of the glacier which drains one of the flanks of
Denali, called later by Doctor Cook the Ruth Glacier. Dickey described
the mountain in a letter to the New York _Sun_ in January, 1907, and
guessed its height with remarkable accuracy at twenty thousand feet.
Probably unaware that the mountain had any native name, Dickey gave it
the name of the Republican candidate for President of the United States
at that time--McKinley. Says Mr. Dickey: "We named our great peak Mount
McKinley, after William McKinley, of Ohio, the news of whose nomination
for the presidency was the first we received on our way out of that
wonderful wilderness."

In 1898 George Eldridge and Robert Muldrow, of the United States
Geological Survey, traversed the region, and Muldrow estimated the
height of the mountain by triangulation at twenty thousand three hundred
feet.

[Sidenote: Herron, Brooks, Wickersham]

In 1899 Lieutenant Herron crossed the range from Cook's Inlet and
reached the Kuskokwim. It was he who named the lesser mountain of the
Denali group, always known by the natives as Denali's Wife, "Mount
Foraker," after the senator from Ohio.

In 1902 Alfred Brooks and D. L. Raeburn made a remarkable reconnoissance
survey from the Pacific Ocean, passing through the range and along the
whole western and northwestern faces of the group. They were the first
white men to set foot upon the slopes of Denali. Shortly afterward, in
response to the interest this journey aroused among Alpine clubs, Mr.
Brooks published a pamphlet setting forth what he considered the most
feasible plan for attempting the ascent of the mountain.

The next year saw two actual attempts at ascent. After holding the first
term of court at Fairbanks, the new town on the Tanana River that had
sprung suddenly into importance as the metropolis of Alaska upon the
discovery of the Tanana gold fields, Judge Wickersham (now delegate to
Congress) set out with four men and two mules in May, 1903, and by
steamboat ascended to the head of navigation of the Kantishna. Heading
straight across an unknown country for the base of the mountain, Judge
Wickersham's party unfortunately attacked the mountain by the Peters
Glacier and demonstrated the impossibility of that approach, being
stopped by the enormous ice-incrusted cliffs of the North Peak. Judge
Wickersham used to say that only by a balloon or a flying-machine could
the summit be reached; and, indeed, by no other means can the summit
ever be reached from the north face. After a week spent in climbing,
provisions began to run short and the party returned, descending the
rushing, turbid waters of that quite unnavigable and very dangerous
stream, the McKinley Fork of the Kantishna, on a raft, with little of
anything left to eat, and that little damaged by water. Judge Wickersham
was always keen for another attempt and often discussed the matter with
the writer, but his judicial and political activities thenceforward
occupied his time and attention to the exclusion of such enterprises.
His attempt was the first ever made to climb the mountain.


DOCTOR COOK'S ATTEMPTS

About the time that Judge Wickersham was leaving the north face of the
mountain an expedition under Doctor Frederick A. Cook set out from
Tyonek, on Cook's Inlet, on the other side of the range. Doctor Cook was
accompanied by Robert Dunn, Ralph Shainwald (the "Hiram" of Dunn's
narrative), and Fred Printz, who had been chief packer for Brooks and
Raeburn, and fourteen pack-horses bore their supplies. The route
followed was that of Brooks and Raeburn, and they had the advantage of
topographical maps and forty miles of trail cut in the timber and a
guide familiar with the country. Going up the Beluga and down the
Skwentna Rivers, they crossed the range by the Simpson Pass to the south
fork of the Kuskokwim, and then skirted the base of the mountains until
a southwesterly ridge was reached which it is not very easy to locate,
but which, as Doctor Brooks judges, must have been near the headwaters
of the Tatlathna, a tributary of the Kuskokwim. Here an attempt was made
to ascend the mountain, but at eight thousand feet a chasm cut them off
from further advance.

Pursuing their northeast course, they reached the Peters Glacier (which
Doctor Cook calls the Hanna Glacier) and stumbled across one of Judge
Wickersham's camps of a couple of months before. Here another attempt to
ascend was made, only to find progress stopped by the same stupendous
cliffs that had turned back the Wickersham party. "Over the glacier
which comes from the gap between the eastern and western peaks" (the
North and South Peaks as we speak of them), says Doctor Cook, "there was
a promising route." That is, indeed, part of the only route, but it can
be reached only by the Muldrow Glacier. "The walls of the main mountain
rise out of the Hanna (Peters) Glacier," Cook adds. The "main mountain"
has many walls; the walls by which the summit alone may be reached rise
out of the Muldrow Glacier, a circumstance that was not to be discovered
for some years yet.

The lateness of the season now compelled immediate return. Passing still
along the face of the range in the same direction, the party crossed the
terminal moraine of the Muldrow Glacier without recognizing that it
affords the only highway to the heart of the great mountain and
recrossed the range by an ice-covered pass to the waters of the Chulitna
River, down which they rafted after abandoning their horses. Doctor Cook
calls this pass "Harper Pass," and the name should stand, for Cook was
probably the first man ever to use it.

[Sidenote: Robert Dunn]

The chief result of this expedition, besides the exploration of about
one hundred miles of unknown country, was the publication by Robert Dunn
of an extraordinary narrative in several consecutive numbers of
_Outing_, afterward republished in book form, with some modifications,
as "The Shameless Diary of an Explorer," a vivid but unpleasant
production, for which every squabble and jealousy of the party furnishes
literary material. The book has a curious, undeniable power, despite its
brutal frankness and its striving after "the poor renown of being
smart," and it may live. One is thankful, however, that it is unique in
the literature of travel.

[Sidenote: Cook's Second Attempt]

Three years later Doctor Cook organized an expedition for a second
attempt upon the mountain. In May, 1906, accompanied by Professor
Herschel Parker, Mr. Belmore Browne, a topographer named Porter, who
made some valuable maps, and packers, the party landed at the head of
Cook's Inlet and penetrated by motor-boat and by pack-train into the
Sushitna country, south of the range. Failing to cross the range at the
head of the Yentna, they spent some time in explorations along the
Kahilitna River, and, finding no avenue of approach to the heights of
the mountain, the party returned to Cook's Inlet and broke up.

With only one companion, a packer named Edward Barrille, Cook returned
in the launch up the Chulitna River to the Tokositna late in August. "We
had already changed our mind as to the impossibility of climbing the
mountain," he writes. Ascending a glacier which the Tokositna River
drains, named by Cook the Ruth Glacier, they reached the amphitheatre at
the glacier head. From this point, "up and up to the heaven-scraped
granite of the top," Doctor Cook grows grandiloquent and vague, for at
this point his true narrative ends.

[Illustration: Approaching the range.]

The claims that Doctor Cook made upon his return are well known, but it
is quite impossible to follow his course from the description given in
his book, "To the Top of the Continent." This much may be said: from the
summit of the mountain, on a clear day, it seemed evident that no ascent
was possible from the south side of the range at all. That was the
judgment of all four members of our party. Doctor Cook talks about "the
heaven-scraped granite of the top" and "the dazzling whiteness of the
frosted granite blocks," and prints a photograph of the top showing
granite slabs. There is no rock of any kind on the South (the higher)
Peak above nineteen thousand feet. The last one thousand five hundred
feet of the mountain is all permanent snow and ice; nor is the
conformation of the summit in the least like the photograph printed as
the "top of Mt. McKinley." In his account of the view from the summit he
speaks of "the ice-blink caused by the extensive glacial sheets north of
the Saint Elias group," which would surely be out of the range of any
possible vision, but does not mention at all the master sight that
bursts upon the eye when the summit is actually gained--the great mass
of "Denali's Wife," or Mount Foraker, filling all the middle distance.
We were all agreed that no one who had ever stood on the top of Denali
in clear weather could fail to mention the sudden splendid sight of this
great mountain.

But it is not worth while to pursue the subject further. The present
writer feels confident that any man who climbs to the top of Denali, and
then reads Doctor Cook's account of his ascent, will not need Edward
Barrille's affidavit to convince him that Cook's narrative is untrue.
Indignation is, however, swallowed up in pity when one thinks upon the
really excellent pioneering and exploring work done by this man, and
realizes that the immediate success of the imposition about the ascent
of Denali doubtless led to the more audacious imposition about the
discovery of the North Pole--and that to his discredit and downfall.


THE PIONEER ASCENT

Although Cook's claim to have reached the summit of Denali met with
general acceptance outside, or at least was not openly scouted, it was
otherwise in Alaska. The men, in particular, who lived and worked in the
placer-mining regions about the base of the mountain, and were, perhaps,
more familiar with the orography of the range than any surveyor or
professed topographer, were openly incredulous. Upon the appearance of
Doctor Cook's book, "To the Top of the Continent," in 1908, the writer
well remembers the eagerness with which his copy (the only one in
Fairbanks) was perused by man after man from the Kantishna diggings, and
the acute way in which they detected the place where vague "fine
writing" began to be substituted for definite description.

Some of these men, convinced that the ascent had never been made,
conceived the purpose of proving it in the only way in which it could be
proved--by making the ascent themselves. They were confident that an
enterprise which had now baffled several parties of "scientists,"
equipped with all sorts of special apparatus, could be accomplished by
Alaskan "sourdoughs" with no special equipment at all. There seems also
to have entered into the undertaking a naïve notion that in some way or
other large money reward would follow a successful ascent.

The enterprise took form under Thomas Lloyd, who managed to secure the
financial backing of McPhee and Petersen, saloon-keepers of Fairbanks,
and Griffin, a wholesale liquor dealer of Chena. These three men are
said to have put up five hundred dollars apiece, and the sum thus raised
sufficed for the needs of the party. In February 1910, therefore, Thomas
Lloyd, Charles McGonogill, William Taylor, Peter Anderson, and Bob
Horne, all experienced prospectors and miners, and E. C. Davidson, a
surveyor, now the surveyor-general of Alaska, set out from Fairbanks,
and by 1st March had established a base camp at the mouth of Cache
Creek, within the foot-hills of the range.

Here Davidson and Horne left the party after a disagreement with Lloyd.
The loss of Davidson was a fatal blow to anything beyond a "sporting"
ascent, for he was the only man in the party with any scientific bent,
or who knew so much as the manipulation of a photographic camera.

[Sidenote: The Sourdough Climb]

The Lloyd expedition was the first to discover the only approach by
which the mountain may be climbed. Mr. Alfred Brooks, Mr. Robert
Muldrow, and Doctor Cook had passed the snout of the Muldrow Glacier
without realizing that it turned and twisted and led up until it gave
access to the ridge by which alone the upper glacier or Grand Basin can
be reached and the summits gained. From observations while hunting
mountain-sheep upon the foot-hills for years past, Lloyd had already
satisfied himself of this prime fact; had found the key to the
complicated orography of the great mass. Lloyd had previously crossed
the range with horses in this neighborhood by an easy pass that led
"from willows to willows" in eighteen miles. Pete Anderson had come into
the Kantishna country this way and had crossed and recrossed the range
by this pass no less than eleven times.

McGonogill, following quartz leads upon the high mountains of Moose
Creek, had traced from his aerie the course of the Muldrow Glacier, and
had satisfied himself that within the walls of that glacier the route
would be found. And, indeed, when he had us up there and pointed out the
long stretch of the parallel walls it was plain to us also that they
held the road to the heights. From the point where he had perched his
tiny hut, a stone's throw from his tunnel, how splendidly the mountain
rose and the range stretched out!

These men thus started with the great advantage of a knowledge of the
mountain, and their plan for climbing it was the first that contained
the possibility of success.

From the base camp Anderson and McGonogill scouted among the foot-hills
of the range for some time before they discovered the pass that gives
easy access to the Muldrow Glacier. On 25th March the party had
traversed the glacier and reached its head with dogs and supplies. A
camp was made on the ridge, while further prospecting was carried on
toward the upper glacier. This was the farthest point that Lloyd
reached. On 10th April, Taylor, Anderson, and McGonogill set out about
two in the morning with great climbing-irons strapped to their moccasins
and hooked pike-poles in their hands. Disdaining the rope and cutting no
steps, it was "every man for himself," with reliance solely upon the
_crampons_. They went up the ridge to the Grand Basin, crossed the ice
to the North Peak, and proceeded to climb it, carrying the fourteen-foot
flagstaff with them. Within perhaps five hundred feet of the summit,
McGonogill, outstripped by Taylor and Anderson, and fearful of the
return over the slippery ice-incrusted rocks if he went farther, turned
back, but Taylor and Anderson reached the top (about twenty thousand
feet above the sea) and firmly planted the flagstaff, which is there
yet.

[Sidenote: Lloyd and McGonogill]

This is the true narrative of a most extraordinary feat, unique--the
writer has no hesitation in claiming--in all the annals of
mountaineering. He has been at the pains of talking with every member of
the actual climbing party with a view to sifting the matter thoroughly.

For, largely by the fault of these men themselves, through a mistaken
though not unchivalrous sense of loyalty to the organizer of the
expedition, much incredulity was aroused in Alaska touching their
exploit. It was most unfortunate that any mystery was made about the
details, most unfortunate that in the newspaper accounts false claims
were set up. Surely the merest common sense should have dictated that in
the account of an ascent undertaken with the prime purpose of proving
that Doctor Cook had _not_ made the ascent, and had falsified his
narrative, everything should be frank and aboveboard; but it was not so.

A narrative, gathered from Lloyd himself and agreed to by the others,
was reduced to writing by Mr. W. E. Thompson, an able journalist of
Fairbanks, and was sold to a newspaper syndicate. The account the writer
has examined was "featured" in the New York Sunday _Times_ of the 5th
June, 1910.

In that account Lloyd is made to claim unequivocally that he himself
reached both summits of the mountain. "There were two summits and we
climbed them both"; and again, "When I reached the coast summit" are
reported in quotation marks as from his lips. As a matter of fact, Lloyd
himself reached neither summit, nor was much above the glacier floor;
and the south or coast summit, the higher of the two, was not attempted
by the party at all. There is no question that the party _could_ have
climbed the South Peak, though by reason of its greater distance it is
safe to say that it could not have been reached, as the North Peak was,
in one march from the ridge camp. It must have involved a camp in the
Grand Basin with all the delay and the labor of relaying the stuff up
there. But the men who accomplished the astonishing feat of climbing the
North Peak, in one almost superhuman march from the saddle of the
Northeast Ridge, could most certainly have climbed the South Peak too.

[Sidenote: The North Peak]

They did not attempt it for two reasons, first, because they wanted to
plant their fourteen-foot flagstaff where it could be seen through a
telescope from Fairbanks, one hundred and fifty miles away, as they
fondly supposed, and, second, because not until they had reached the
summit of the North Peak did they realize that the South Peak is higher.
They told the writer that upon their return to the floor of the _upper_
glacier they were greatly disappointed to find that their flagstaff was
not visible to them. It is, indeed, only just visible with the naked eye
from certain points on the upper glacier and quite invisible at any
lower or more distant point. Walter Harper has particularly keen sight,
and he was well up in the Grand Basin, at nearly seventeen thousand feet
altitude, sitting and scanning the sky-line of the North Peak, seeking
for the pole, when he caught sight of it and pointed it out. The writer
was never sure that he saw it with the naked eye, though Karstens and
Tatum did so as soon as Walter pointed it out, but through the
field-glasses it was plain and prominent and unmistakable.

When we came down to the Kantishna diggings and announced to the men who
planted it that we had seen the flagstaff, there was a feeling expressed
that the climbing party of the previous summer must have seen it also
and had suppressed mention of it; but there is no ground whatever for
such a damaging assumption. It would never be seen with the naked eye
save by those who were intently searching for it. Professor Parker and
Mr. Belmore Browne entertained the pretty general incredulity about the
"Pioneer" ascent, perhaps too readily, certainly too confidently; but
the men themselves must bear the chief blame for that. The writer and
his party, knowing these men much better, had never doubt that _some_ of
them had accomplished what was claimed, and these details have been gone
into for no other reason than that honor may at last be given where
honor is due.

[Sidenote: Pete Anderson and Billy Taylor]

To Lloyd belongs the honor of conceiving and organizing the attempt but
not of accomplishing it. To him probably also belongs the original
discovery of the route that made the ascent possible. To McGonogill
belongs the credit of discovering the pass, probably the only pass, by
which the glacier may be reached without following it from its snout up,
a long and difficult journey; and to him also the credit of climbing
some nineteen thousand five hundred feet, or to within five hundred feet
of the North Peak. But to Pete Anderson and Billy Taylor, two of the
strongest men, physically, in all the North, and to none other, belongs
the honor of the first ascent of the North Peak and the planting of what
must assuredly be the highest flagstaff in the world. The North Peak has
never since been climbed or attempted.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the summer of the same year, 1910, Professor Parker and Mr. Belmore
Browne, members of the second Cook party, convinced by this time that
Cook's claim was wholly unfounded, attempted the mountain again, and
another party, organized by Mr. C. E. Rust, of Portland, Oregon, also
endeavored the ascent. But both these expeditions confined themselves to
the hopeless southern side of the range, from which, in all probability,
the mountain never can be climbed.


THE PARKER-BROWNE EXPEDITION

To a man living in the interior of Alaska, aware of the outfitting and
transportation facilities which the large commerce of Fairbanks affords,
aware of the navigable waterways that penetrate close to the foot-hills
of the Alaskan range, aware also of the amenities of the interior slope
with its dry, mild climate, its abundance of game and rich pasturage
compared with the trackless, lifeless snows of the coast slopes, there
seems a strange fatuity in the persistent efforts to approach the
mountain from the southern side of the range.

It is morally certain that if the only expedition that remains to be
dealt with--that organized by Professor Parker and Mr. Belmore Browne in
1912, which came within an ace of success--had approached the mountain
from the interior instead of from the coast, it would have forestalled
us and accomplished the first complete ascent.

The difficulties of the coast approach have been described graphically
enough by Robert Dunn in the summer and by Belmore Browne himself in the
winter. There are no trails; the snow lies deep and loose and falls
continually, or else the whole country is bog and swamp. There is no
game.

[Sidenote: Parker and Browne]

The Parker-Browne expedition left Seward, on Resurrection Bay, late in
January, 1912, and after nearly three months' travel, relaying their
stuff forward, they crossed the range under extreme difficulties, being
seventeen days above any vegetation, and reached the northern face of
the mountain on 25th March. The expedition either missed the pass near
the foot of the Muldrow Glacier, well known to the Kantishna miners, by
which it is possible to cross from willows to willows in eighteen miles,
or else avoided it in the vain hope of finding another. They then went
to the Kantishna diggings and procured supplies and topographical
information from the miners, and were thus able to follow the course of
the Lloyd party of 1910, reaching the Muldrow Glacier by the gap in the
glacier wall discovered by McGonogill and named McPhee Pass by him.

Mr. Belmore Browne has written a lucid and stirring account of the
ascent which his party made. We were fortunate enough to secure a copy
of the magazine in which it appeared just before leaving Fairbanks, and
he had been good enough to write a letter in response to our inquiries
and to enclose a sketch map. Our course was almost precisely the same as
that of the Parker-Browne party up to seventeen thousand feet, and the
course of that party was precisely the same as that of the Lloyd party
up to fifteen thousand feet. There is only one way up the mountain, and
Lloyd and his companions discovered it. The earthquake had enormously
increased the labor of the ascent; it had not altered the route.

A reconnoissance of the Muldrow Glacier to its head and a long spell of
bad weather delayed the party so much that it was the 4th June before
the actual ascent was begun--a very late date indeed; more than a month
later than our date and nearly three months later than the "Pioneer"
date. It is rarely that the mountain is clear after the 1st June; almost
all the summer through its summit is wrapped in cloud. From the junction
of the Tanana and Yukon Rivers it is often visible for weeks at a time
during the winter, but is rarely seen at all after the ice goes out. A
close watch kept by friends at Tanana (the town at the confluence of the
rivers) discovered the summit on the day we reached it and the following
day (the 7th and 8th June) but not for three weeks before and not at all
afterward; from which it does not follow, however, that the summit was
not visible momentarily, or at certain hours of the day, but only that
it was not visible for long enough to be observed. The rapidity with
which that summit shrouds and clears itself is sometimes marvellous.

As is well known, the Parker-Browne party pushed up the Northeast Ridge
and the upper glacier and made a first attack upon the summit itself,
from a camp at seventeen thousand feet, on the 29th June. When within
three or four hundred feet of the top they were overwhelmed and driven
down, half frozen, by a blizzard that suddenly arose. On the 1st July
another attempt was made, but the clouds ascended and completely
enveloped the party in a cold, wind-driven mist so that retreat to camp
was again imperative. Only those who have experienced bad weather at
great heights can understand how impossible it is to proceed in the face
of it. The strongest, the hardiest, the most resolute must yield. The
party could linger no longer; food supplies were exhausted. They broke
camp and went down the mountain.

The falling short of complete success of this very gallant
mountaineering attempt seems to have been due, first to the mistake of
approaching the mountain by the most difficult route, so that it was
more than five months after starting that the actual climbing began; or,
if the survey made justified, and indeed decided, the route, then the
summit was sacrificed to the survey. But the immediate cause of the
failure was the mistake of relying upon canned pemmican for the main
food supply. This provision, hauled with infinite labor from the coast,
and carried on the backs of the party to the high levels of the
mountain, proved uneatable and useless at the very time when it was
depended upon for subsistence. There is no finer big-game country in the
world than that around the interior slopes of the Alaskan range; there
is no finer meat in the world than caribou and mountain-sheep. It is
carrying coals to Newcastle to bring canned meat into this
country--nature's own larder stocked with her choicest supplies. But if,
attempting the mountain when they did, the Parker-Browne party had
remained two or three days longer in the Grand Basin, which they would
assuredly have done had their food been eatable, their bodies would be
lying up there yet or would be crushed beneath the débris of the
earthquake on the ridge.



CHAPTER IX

THE NAMES PLACED UPON THE MOUNTAIN BY THE AUTHOR


There was no intent of putting names at all upon any portions of this
mountain when the expedition was undertaken, save that the author had it
in his mind to honor the memory of a very noble and very notable
gentlewoman who gave ten years of her life to the Alaskan natives, set
on foot one of the most successful educational agencies in the interior,
and died suddenly and heroically at her post of duty a few years since,
leaving a broad and indelible mark upon the character of a generation of
Indians. Miss Farthing lies buried high up on the bluffs opposite the
school at Nenana, in a spot she was wont to visit for the fine view of
Denali it commands, and her brother, the present bishop of Montreal, and
some of her colleagues of the Alaskan mission, have set a concrete cross
there. When we entered the Alaskan range by Cache Creek there rose
directly before us a striking pyramidal peak, some twelve or thirteen
thousand feet high. Not knowing that any name had been bestowed upon it,
the author discharged himself of the duty that he conceived lay upon him
of associating Miss Farthing's name permanently with the mountain range
she loved and the country in which she labored. But he has since learned
that Professor Parker placed upon this mountain, a year before, the name
of Alfred Brooks, of the Alaskan Geological Survey. Apart from the
priority of naming, to which, of course, he would immediately yield, the
author knows of no one whose name should so fitly be placed upon a peak
of the Alaskan range, and he would himself resist any effort to change
it.

Having gratified this desire, as he supposed, there had meantime arisen
another desire,--upon reading the narrative of the Parker-Browne
expedition of the previous year, a copy of which we were fortunate
enough to procure just as we were starting for the mountain. It was the
feeling of our whole company that the names of Professor Parker and Mr.
Belmore Browne should be associated with the mountain they so very
nearly ascended.

When the eyes are cast aloft from the head of the Muldrow Glacier the
most conspicuous feature of the view is a rudely conical tower of
granite, standing sentinel over the entrance to the Grand Basin, and at
the base of that tower is the pass into the upper glacier which is,
indeed, the key of the whole ascent of the mountain. (See illustration
opposite p. 40.)

[Sidenote: Tower, Pass, and Ridge]

We found no better place to set these names; we called the tower the
Browne Tower and the pass the Parker Pass. The "pass" may not, it is
true, conform to any strict Alpine definition of that term, but it gives
the only access to the glacier floor. From the ridge below to the
glacier above this place gives passage; and any place that gives passage
may broadly be termed a pass.

It was when this pass had been reached, after three weeks' toil, that
the author was moved to the bestowal of another name by his admiration
for the skill and pluck and perseverance of his chief colleague in the
ascent. Those who think that a long apprenticeship must be served under
skilled instructors before command of the technique of snow
mountaineering can be obtained would have been astonished at Karstens's
work on the Northeast Ridge. But it must be kept in mind that, while he
had no previous experience on the heights, he had many years of
experience with ice and snow--which is true of all of us except Tatum,
and _he_ had two winters' experience. In the course of winter travel in
the interior of Alaska most of the problems of snow mountaineering
present themselves at one time or another.

[Sidenote: Glacier]

The designation "Northeast," which the Parker-Browne party put upon the
ridge that affords passage from the lower glacier to the upper, is open
to question. Mr. Charles Sheldon, who spent a year around the base of
the mountain studying the fauna of the region, refers to the _outer_
wall of the Muldrow Glacier as the Northeast Ridge, that is, the wall
that rises to the North Peak. Perhaps "East Ridge of the South Peak"
would be the most exact description. But it is here proposed to
substitute Harry Karstens's name for points-of-the-compass designations,
and call the ridge, part of which the earthquake shattered, the dividing
ridge between the two arms of the Muldrow Glacier, soaring tremendously
and impressively with ice-incrusted cliffs in its lower course, the
Karstens Ridge. Regarded in its whole extent, it is one of the capital
features of the mountain. It is seen to the left in the picture opposite
page 26, where Karstens stands alone. At this point of its course it
soars to its greatest elevation, five or six thousand feet above the
glacier floor; it is seen again in the middle distance of the picture
opposite page 164.

Not until this book was in preparation and the author was digging into
the literature of the mountain did he discover the interesting
connection of Arthur Harper, father of Walter Harper, narrated in
another place, with Denali, and not until that discovery did he think of
suggesting the name Harper for any feature of the mountain, despite the
distinction that fell to the young man of setting the first foot upon
the summit. Then the upper glacier appeared to be the most appropriate
place for the name, and, after reflection, it is deemed not improper to
ask that this glacier be so known.

It has thus fallen out that each of the author's colleagues is
distinguished by some name upon the mountain except Robert Tatum. But to
Tatum belongs the honor of having raised the stars and stripes for the
first time upon the highest point in all the territory governed by the
United States; and he is well content with that distinction. Keen as the
keenest amongst us to reach the top, Tatum had none the less been
entirely willing to give it up and go down to the base camp and let
Johnny take his place (when he was unwell at the head of the glacier
owing to long confinement in the tent during bad weather), if in the
judgment of the writer that had been the wisest course for the whole
party. Fortunately the indisposition passed, and the matter is referred
to only as indicating the spirit of the man. I suppose there is no money
that could buy from him the little silk flag he treasures.

It was also while this book was preparing that the author found that he
had unwittingly renamed Mount Brooks, and the prompt withdrawal of his
suggested name for that peak left the one original desire of naming a
feature of the mountain or the range ungratified, and his obligation
toward a revered memory unfulfilled.

[Sidenote: Horns of the South Peak]

Where else might that name be placed? For a long time no place suggested
itself; then it was called to mind that the two horns at the extremities
of the horseshoe ridge of the South Peak were unnamed. Here were twin
peaks, small, yet lofty and conspicuous--part of the main summit of the
mountain. The naming of one almost carried with it the naming of the
other; and as soon as the name Farthing alighted, so to speak, from his
mind upon the one, the name Carter settled itself upon the other. In the
long roll of women who have labored devotedly for many years amongst the
natives of the interior of Alaska, there are no brighter names than
those of Miss Annie Farthing and Miss Clara Carter, the one forever
associated with Nenana, the other with the Allakaket. To those who are
familiar with what has been done and what is doing for the Indians of
the interior, to the white men far and wide who have owed recovery of
health and relief and refreshment to the ministrations of these capable
women, this naming will need no labored justification; and if
self-sacrifice and love, and tireless, patient labor for the good of
others be indeed the greatest things in the world, then the mountain top
bearing aloft these names does not so much do honor as is itself
dignified and ennobled. These horns of the South Peak are shown in the
picture opposite page 94; they are of almost equal height; the near one
the author would name the Farthing Horn, the far one the Carter Horn.

[Sidenote: Denali and His Wife]

And now the author finds that he has done what, in the past, he has
faulted others for doing--he has plastered a mountain with names. The
prerogative of name-giving is a dangerous one, without definite laws or
limitations. Nothing but common consent and usage ultimately establish
names, but he to whom falls the first exploration of a country, or the
first ascent of a peak, is usually accorded privilege of nomenclature.
Yet it is a privilege that is often abused and should be exercised with
reserve. Whether or not it has been overdone in the present case, others
must say. This, however, the author will say, and would say as
emphatically as is in his power: that he sets no store whatever by the
names he has ventured to confer comparable with that which he sets by
the restoration of the ancient native names of the whole great mountain
and its companion peak.

It may be that the Alaskan Indians are doomed; it may be that the liquor
and disease which to-day are working havoc amongst them will destroy
them off the face of the earth; it is common to meet white men who
assume it with complacency. Those who are fighting for the natives with
all their hearts and souls do not believe it, cannot believe it, cannot
believe that this will be the end of all their efforts, that any such
blot will foul the escutcheon of the United States. But if it be so, let
at least the memorial of their names remain. When the inhabited
wilderness has become an uninhabited wilderness, when the only people
who will ever make their homes in it are exterminated, when the
placer-gold is gone and the white men have gone also, when the last
interior Alaskan town is like Diamond City and Glacier City and Bearpaw
City and Roosevelt City; and Bettles and Rampart and Coldfoot; and
Cleary City and Delta City and Vault City and a score of others; let at
least the native names of these great mountains remain to show that
there once dwelt in the land a simple, hardy race who braved
successfully the rigors of its climate and the inhospitality of their
environment and flourished, until the septic contact of a superior race
put corruption into their blood. So this book shall end as it began.

[Illustration: Map Showing Route of the Stuck-Karstens Expedition to the
Summit of Mt. Denali (Mt. McKinley.) 1913]


                          Transcriber's Notes

  Sidenotes were created from the unique headers on alternate pages of
  the original text, with some minor amendments.

  The following typos were corrected:

  corrected:      original:       on page:

  Iditarod        Iditerod        5
  La Voy          LeVoy           41
  La Voy          Le Voy          97 (in footnote)
  whatna          whatna'         63 (twice)
  nor             or              103
  Revillagigedo   Revillegigedo   142
  page 94         page 96         186

  All Native American words were left with the accents given them
  intact.

  On page 38 a possible missing word "he" was not added due to
  uncertainty about the author's intentions: "... but the dogs must be
  tended, and the main food for them [he?] was yet to seek...."

  The five instances of "base-camp" were changed to comply with common
  usage: "base camp."





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About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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