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reached the northern base of Mt. McKinley. Here two attempts to scale the mountain were made and an altitude of 11,000 feet attained. The season then being far advanced, further attempts were abandoned, a new pass to the northeast of Mt. McKinley was found, the headwaters of the Chulitna reached, and the expedition finally returned by raft and boat to Tyonek. From that time. until the past summer no further exploration of the Mt. McKinley region was made. Observations made during this trip convinced Dr. Cook that the best way to approach the mountain was from the south by means of a power boat up the Chulitna River to the region of some of the great glaciers that descend from the mountain on that side, and thence by means of packing over the most promising of these glaciers, transport supplies to some point near the base of the mountain from which an attempt to reach the summit could be made.
The present expedition of 1906 was planned by Dr. Cook and the writer, with the original idea of carrying out the program outlined above. Circumstances, however, made it advisable to add a pack train to the outfit and by this means the unmapped country between the Yentna and Chulitna Rivers was traversed and much new topographical data obtained.
The party consisted of Dr. Frederick A. Cook, the well known Arctic and Antarctic explorer, Belmore H. Browne, whose previous wide experience in Alaskan exploration rendered his services of the utmost value, R. W. Porter, whose fine topographical work on the Baldwin and Fiala Polar expeditions may be remembered, and the writer.
Besides the members above mentioned there were several most efficient and reliable packers and assistants. The head packer, Fred Prince, had previously made the trip to Mt. McKinley with Brooks and Raeburn and also with Dr. Cook in 1903.
The expedition left Seattle on the 17th of May and proceeded by steamer to Seldovia and Tyonek. The start from Tyonek was made on June 3, the pack train being sent overland, while the power boat, a 40foot gasoline launch of 25 horsepower, crossed Cook Inlet and proceeded about 100 miles up the Yentna River to a point on the west branch of the river some 10 miles above the forks, where further navigation was found impossible and a base camp established. From observations made on a reconnoissance trip up the river from this point it was thought possible to take a pack train through a pass at the head of the Yentna and so gain the northwest side of the Alaska Range, and thus easily reach the northern base of Mt. McKinley.
At this time such a plan seemed advisable, for from the base camp in clear weather a long and comparatively easy snowy ridge of the mountain could be observed evidently making in a general northwesterly direction, while the character of the southern face of the mountain was unknown.
The trip up the river had been attended with considerable difficulty, owing to the extremely rapid current, which had to be contended with all the way from the coast. This reduced the average speed to about 3 miles per hour, although the launch was
capable of some 10 miles per hour in quiet water, and a great quantity of gasoline was consumed. In fact, the supply was almost exhausted when the head of navigation was reached.
After about a two-weeks wait at the base camp, the pack train arrived, having been compelled to traverse a very difficult and swampy country. The following day the entire party started up the river, crossing and recrossing it in order to find an easy route by means of the sand bars along the river. The country on either side was covered by heavy woods interspersed with thickets of alder and much swampy land, so that progress when forced from the river's course was
become shallow, by widening in a series of "sloos" to nearly half a mile, where the boat was left, it soon narrowed again and became deep and swift so that some of the crossings were "swimming fords" of the most dangerous description. Since all of the eleven horses were heavily packed the only way for the men to make these "fords" was by clinging to the horses and being dragged across.
Several of the party had the narrowest of escapes and it was only by the merest good fortune that no men or horses were lost by drowning. The rivers in all this portion of Alaska are glacial streams, so that the water is ice cold, and laden as it is with glacial
It was now the second of July and it was decided that the most promising plan would be to traverse the unexplored country between the Yentna and the Chulitna Rivers, and so reach one of the great glaciers at the southern base of Mt. McKinley, as the expedition had originally intended to do, by taking the launch directly up the Chulitna.
On the following day the party was again on the march and some of the most difficult country yet encountered was met with at the outset in the section between the East and West Branches of the Yentna. Heavy trail cutting, treacherous swamps, and deep "sloos" made progress slow and arduous, but by persistent efforts the East Branch of the Yentna was reached about noon on July 4.
DR. COOK AND FRED PRINCE ON THE STEAMER
"mill race," the strongest swimmer can sus-
After two days travel along the river, a picturesque mountain gorge was entered and the scenery became wild and grand. Two days more brought the party to the mouth of a deep canyon near the headwaters of the Yentna and at no great distance from the divide between the Yentna and the Tonzona River on the other side of the range. Here, Dr. Cook and three other members of the party, taking horses without packs, started out to explore a route through the canyon. Their efforts, however, were without success; the walls of the canyon became vertical on either side, and the water rush ing through with tremendous force made further progress impossible. After taking the most desperate chances in swimming the horses across the terrible fords encountered in the canyon the party returned to camp convinced of the uselessness of further at tempts to get the pack train through the mountains at this point. It then remained only to retrace the route to the base camp where the boat was left and determine on plans for the future.
The return was accomplished without special incident except that heavy rains had raised the river considerably and dangerous quicksands had formed which were encountered just before reaching the boat and crossed with the greatest difficulty and risk.
Here the problem of fording the river was a most serious one and after wading through the icy waters for about half a mile the attempt was abandoned and the party encamped on a sand bar. Luckily, just below this point on the further side of the river a prospector's camp had recently been located, and after some delay a boat was obtained and so the men and packs were ferried across while the horses, having nothing to impede them, successfully swam the stream.
In this camp the party was storm-bound for the next two days by a tremendous downpour of rain. On July 7 the march was resumed over a trail which had just been cut by prospectors over a pass about 2,000 feet high on Mt. Kliskon, some 15 or 20 miles to a temporary prospector's camp called "Sunflower."
The swamps on this trail were so difficult that nearly three days were occupied in crossing the mountains, while one day was spent camping near the summit of the pass. Mt. Kliskon was climbed and a magnificent view. of Mts. McKiniey, Foraker, and Russell, great portion of the Alaskan Range, and a vast extent of the surrounding country ob
METHOD OF LANDING THE HORSES AT TYONEK.
(On account of the great tides, some 40 or 50 feet in height, the steamers are compelled to an
chor nearly a quarter of a mile from the shore. The horses were lowered into the water by means of a sling and then swam ashore.)
pend principally on the melting glaciers for their source of supply, and it may be possible that in the lower country a portion of the water is carried off by infiltration. This explanation does not seem so very improbable when it is remembered that large areas of swampy land or "tundra" are met with in this section of Alaska.
tained. From this point the rock peaks surrounding Mt. McKinley appeared most forbidding and the approach from the south side of the mountain seemed to offer little hope of success.
After leaving "Sunflower" a large tract of swampy country was again encountered, but on July 13 the Cahiltna River and glacier was reached without great difficulty. Although at its mouth where it enters the Yentna, this river is apparently quite insignificant, here at its source the various branches flowing from the glacier cover area of about a mile and the combined volume of water must be very great. The fording was no easy matter on account of the many swiftly rushing streams to be crossed and the icy coldness of the water. It is a peculiar characteristic of some of the rivers in this portion of Alaska that the volume of water at the source appears to be considerably greater than at the mouth.
Leaving the Cahiltna, a mountain side was followed, another high divide crossed, and a great glacier descending from the cliffs at the base of Mt. McKinley was reached. This glacier gave rise to a stream that flowed into the Chulitna and we learned from prospectors camped at this point that the river was. navigable for light draft boats and that we could probably have brought the launch to within about five miles of the foot of the glacier. From the East Branch of the Yentna the trip with the pack train had occupied 10 days.
After leaving the Cahiltna much of the trip had been above timber line and on the open grass-covered hillsides; the traveling was good and the scenery very interesting.
The party camped about a mile below the foot of the glacier and a reconnoitering trip was made to a mountain summit (about 4,500 feet) which afforded a magnificent view of Mt. McKinley and the great unnamed peak adjacent to it.
Later, the pack train was taken over a high mountain ridge along the west side of
the glacier and a base camp established on the moraine some 15 or 20 miles from Mt. McKinley. From this camp, some of the party, taking heavy packs, crossed the glacier, climbed another divide and reconnoitered a still larger glacier which descended almost to the Chulitna. This glacier appeared to offer the most promising route of approach to the base of the mountain. Returning to the divide a mountain peak was climbed and a camp made on the summit in order to carefully study the possibilities of ascent offered by the southern face and the eastern and western ridges of Mt. McKinley, which could be seen to advantage from this point.
The southern face was found to consist of a series of great cliffs although the upper portion of the mountain was heavily snowcapped. The eastern and western ridges, while covered for the most part by heavy masses of snow, were each apparently broken in one or more places by great walls of cliffs. The only possibility, therefore, appeared to depend on the chance of finding a practica
ble route over steep glaciers and snow fields between the huge snow laden cliffs of Mt. McKinley and Mt. Foraker to the western or northwestern ridge of the mountain which had previously been observed and seemed to offer the most feasible route of ascent. After considerable deliberation it was finally decided, the possibility of success if such an attempt were made being so uncertain, that it would not be advisable to spend further time and effort in trying to climb the mountain by means of any route of approach from the south. It was agreed that the best course to pursue was to make another expedition early the following season to the north side of Mt. McKinley, taking the apparently easy route of approach offered by the Yukon, Tanana, and Kantishna Rivers.
Two more days were spent in the camp by the glacier and the return march begun on July 25. A point just above the Yentna was reached on the 30th, a gain of nearly five days over the time of the outward march, and the following day the pack train was taken
(Small steamers make occasional trips between here and Seldovia and points on Turnagain Arm and Knik Arm, branches of Cook Inlet.)