Mountaineers target unconquered Yukon peak

Four members of the Alpine Club of Canada's Saskatchewan chapter will attempt to be the first to the top of Mount Saskatchewan in Yukon's Kluane National Park later this month.

Four members of the Alpine Club of Canada’s Saskatchewan chapter will attempt to be the first to the top of Mount Saskatchewan in Yukon’s Kluane National Park later this month.

“All living in Saskatchewan and being members of the alpine club of Saskatchewan, and it being an unclimbed peak – there’s the challenge of climbing something that has not been summitted. That’s part of it,” said team leader Steve Whittington. “More importantly, it’s unfinished business for Saskatchewan.

“I don’t know if it’s true or not, but we tend to believe that maybe the other climbers in the world have left this mountain unclimbed because it should be Saskatchewanians that go and climb it. So we’re trying to go do our job for Saskatchewan.”

The mountain, located in the southwest corner of the Yukon approximately eight kilometres from the Alaska border, is the only one in the Centennial Range that has never been climbed.

The range features mountains named after every province and territory in Canada, with the exception of Nunavut, which had not yet been formed in 1967 when the mountains were named in celebration of the nation’s centennial. (There is also a Mount Saskatchewan in Banff National Park in Alberta.)

The mountain is 3,500 metres tall. That’s 2,459 metres shorter than Canada’s highest mountain, Mount Logan, which is also located in the Kluane park.

The Saskatchwanians’ attempt will be the fourth ever. There were three unsuccessful attempts, in 1967, 2005 and 2007.

“I’ve climbed with people who were in the 2005 attempt and Jeff (Dmytrowich) has climbed with people who were on the 2007 attempt,” said Whittington. “So we tried to gather what we could from them.

“From what I understand, both teams ended up with weather conditions that made climbing impossible. In 2005 it was unseasonably warm and they got there … and they thought, without snow, there were too many rocks falling and it was too dangerous.

“In the 2007 attempt they got hit by a blizzard … They got up to about 9,500 feet (2,895 metres) and were stuck there for four days, in which four feet of snow dumped on them, causing avalanche danger.”

The Saskatoon-based team, called the Prairie Vertical Team, plans to begin their ascent on May 19. They hope to complete the climb in four days, taking three days to go up and one to go down.

However, the team has set aside 12 days to complete the climb, leaving room for such variables as bad weather.

They will be using the same base camp as the 1967 attempt. Their first challenge will be crossing a glacier on which they will climb about 2,000 metres in altitude.

In the 2007 attempt climbers were flown directly to where Whittington’s team will have their “advanced base camp,” just 1,000 feet down from the highest point they reached.

“We could go to that spot but we want to be pure about it and go back to how it was attempted in 1967,” said Whittington.

The team has been climbing and training together for three months, with training climbs in the Rockies once a month, but each member’s experience goes far beyond that.

Whittington has reached the summit of over 40 mountains, including four in the “Seven Summits of the World.” In other worlds, he has climbed the highest mountain on four continents including North America’s Mount McKinley (6,194 metres) in Alaska and Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro (5,895 metres). He also plans to attempt Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain, next spring.

Jeffrey Dmytrowich, the team’s lead navigator and medic, climbed four peaks last year in the Himalayas, including the 6,145-metre Lobuche East and the 6,188-metre Imja Tse. He is also a member of a mountain running team and has competed at the national level in orienteering.

Sam Unger, the team’s lead technical climber, has more of a background in rock-climbing than mountaineering. He has done climbs in Southeast Asia and last summer completed a roughly 270-metre vertical climb in Takakkaw Falls, B.C. Mount Saskatchewan will be his first attempt at a climb over 3,300 metres.

Wren Rabut is a versatile climber who spends a lot of time in the Canadian Rockies. His recent achievements include conquering a 100-metre rock tower at 2,500 metres on Alberta’s Grand Sentinel and the 400-metre vertical north face of Mount Athabasca at 3,400 metres.

Of course, getting to the top is just half the battle.

“People always forget about getting down,” said Whittington. “For me, the most dangerous part of any mountain climbing is getting down. Getting up is easy compared to getting down.

“I always face the biggest challenge when I’m bringing a team down – setting safe anchors to allow for your tired, exhausted team to get back down safe. One misstep and there are thousands of feet you’re going to tumble down.

“It’s easy when you’re focused and intense on the way up.”

The team has set up a Facebook page that will feature live tracking, through the use of a Spot GPS system that updates every 20 minutes. Follow their climb at Facebook.com/MountSaskatchewanClimb.

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before conducting a test with it on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
An inside look at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre

As the active COVID-19 case count grew last week, so too did… Continue reading

Conservation officers search for a black bear in the Riverdale area in Whitehorse on Sept. 17. The Department of Environment intends to purchase 20 semi-automatic AR-10 rifles, despite the inclusion of the weapons in a recently released ban introduced by the federal government, for peace officers, such as conservation officers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Environment Minister defends purchase of AR-10 rifles for conservation officers

The federal list of banned firearms includes an exception for peace officers

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The K-shaped economic recovery and what Yukoners can do about it

It looks like COVID-19 will play the role of Grinch this holiday… Continue reading

Jodie Gibson has been named the 2020 Prospector of the Year by the Yukon Prospectors Association. (Submitted)
Jodie Gibson named 2020 Prospector of the Year

Annual award handed out by the Yukon Prospector’s Association

A number 55 is lit in honour of Travis Adams, who died earlier this year, at the Winter Wonderland Walk at Meadow Lakes Golf Club in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
A new take on holiday traditions

Winter Wonderland Walk, virtual Stories with Santa all part of 2020 festive events in Whitehorse

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Most Read