INTRO: Though it receives a lot less attention than Denali, at 5959m (19,551') Mount Logan is still a very noteworthy mountain. The history of its first ascent is an amazing tale of human ability to endure suffering. Although at nearly 6000m, it's prominence around the surrounding glaciers isn't always the first thing that strikes you. Rather, it is its massive size and bulk that strikes the eye and the term massif takes on new meaning. It's summit plateau alone runs a circumference roughly 30 kilometres! Canada's highest peak has a reputation for not being much of a push over and although much of it is a simple walk, don't let that fool you into thinking it's easy; aside from its one weakness, the Kings Trench, this mountain harbours some of the worlds most challenging routes for alpinists.
RESPONSIBILITY: This mountain is remote, physically challenging, involves high altitude, complex glacier travel and extreme temperatures. Please be adequately prepared, trained and experienced to ensure success and the safety of yourself and others on the mountain.
For guided ascents I recommend ACMG/IFMGA Mountain Guide Rich Prohaska (firstname.lastname@example.org) and/or Canada West Mountain School. Rich has probably been to Mount Logan more than any other and both he and Canada West (either independently or together) have been conducting successful expeditions to Mount Logan for years.
STEWARDSHIP: Please consider the environmental impact of your trash and human waste. Please dispose of human wastes as required by Parks Canada. Please remove all trash such as unused foods, plastic wastes, wands, etc. Groups abandoning gear and waste in a smash and grab manner to acquire a summit demonstrates the worst in mountaineering and degrades the area for all who follow in years to come.
PREPARATION & LOGISTICS: Be sure to acquire your National Park Permits for Kluane National Park well ahead of your departure as processing time may be slow.
Timing: Late April to early June is the ideal time to visit the area. In May the days are long, the weather less fierce and not yet too warm. It's the ideal time of year for many large mountaineering objectives around the globe.
Amount of Time: Account for a very minimum of 15 days on the mountain. A safer estimate is 20-30 days worth of food and fuel. Flying may be delayed due to weather. Walking out is a possibility and waiting in the hanger for a few weeks to fly in is not unheard of. Prepare for both possibilities.
Access: Two main options exist for accessing the mountain, on foot or by air. The latter is the more common approach, if you choose to walk in (or out), I recommend carefully examining the options, the routes are long, arduous and present crevasse danger the whole way. For those flying in, flights into Mount Logan are now only allowed from Canada. The sole flyers into the area are with Lance and Sian that run Icefield Discoveries . Pilot Tom is a great guy to fly you in on the Helio Courier with two passengers (750lbs). More info here. Icefield discovery is based just outside of Haines Junction, YK (map) which means that first you'll need to arrange to drive or fly to Whitehorse. If you choose to fly to Whitehorse, various operators offer shuttle services around for various expeditions (canoe, mountaineering, hiking, etc.) to get you to their hanger from Whitehorse.
Skis vs snowshoes: If you don't know how to ski, the answer is obvious. However, if you can ski, skis allow for a quick descent down the mountain. Many groups have made the descent to basecamp from the summit plateau in a day. Having neither snowshoes nor skis isn't recommended but possible. Expect firm icy conditions when selecting ski equipment.
Temperatures: Be sure to expect cold temperatures. Averages in spring are around -20C but can easily drop to -30C or colder at night. However, also be expectant of large temperature swings during the day. The sun is strong and though the air may stay cool, radiation off the glacier may make it feel like summer. Layer to allow stripping down. For sleeping, I personally was quite comfortable with a -20C Feathered Friend bag (read review here) and could wear extra layers if the night was colder. A warm pad is also essential.
Wands: Are a good idea and useful. Just buying garden bamboo for your tomatoes works great with some black or red duct tape at the tip. How to use wands effectively is up to you. Some tips:
- Mark caches with wands
- Mark camps you leave behind with wands, label the poop zone independently (with an x maybe?)
- Mark crevasses with an X
- Mark key points where the route takes an important turn (incase of whiteout travel), use a 2nd wand to indicate direction and a 3rd for confirmation of straight bearing in the whiteout
- If pooper is far enough from camp, use a wand to mark it so you don't get lost finding it in a storm
- A bundle of wands can double as tent pegs
Tents: 4 season tents. Expect strong winds and be ready to use a lot of the guy-lines. Either burying the edge of the tent or erecting large snow-walls is almost always necessary. Pro-tip: Leave a large buffer of at least 1m between the edge of the snow-wall and your tent, and consider where the deflected snow will then settle and fill in.
Food: I won't go in depth on this one but consider easy to consume foods that will taste good and don't take too long to cook. Always eating freeze dried meals can be pretty bland, better to use those types of meals as reserves or for higher on the mountain (above camp 3). Generally one packet of brands like Mountain House per person is a decent amount. They also cook much better (and cause less stomach upset) if cooked properly in the pot rather than the bag. Consider eating the heavier meals at lower camps so that they aren't carried the furthest. Consider having a pot insulator and drink/food cup insulation. Easy to make out of insulite foam with scissors and tape.
Fuel: Making your stove more efficient with a well placed windscreen, reflectors, etc. to save your fuel. Expect to use ~150mL of fuel per person per day at least. Example: Group of 4 x 20 days x 150mL/day = 12L of white gas. Canister stoves are not recommended for various reasons, better for shorter fast and light adventures.
First Aid: Cold injuries are common. Keep an eye on each others faces and be wary of frozen noses underneath a nose-guard. For warm feet I recommend Intuition Liners (with wiggle room), spare socks so that you start your day with dry feet every day and 40 Below Overboots for the higher mountain. Bring warm mittens in addition to a warm work glove that you can walk in. Be self sufficient in your first aid and plan an expedition kit. Consider items in your kit that might be lifesaving if an unexpected bivy occurs somewhere (reflective blanket, heat packs, emergency pocket stove, etc.)
Communication: Radios could prove useful between groups on the mountain if you were to coordinate such a thing. There are no repeaters and simplex will not hit any local base in case of an emergency. Sat phones, Spot or InReach devices or any combination are highly recommended. Understand that your location is remote and emergency response will not come quickly. Remember some emergency numbers or contacts with an emergency response plan.
Glacier Gear: Bring enough rope to rope everyone in the group to be roped up a minimum of 12m apart. Crevasses in the Kings Trench can be large and at times the snow firm, allow for even more distance between each climber if possible. Having 1 picket per group as a minimum is a good idea, even if on skis. The firm snow can make that a T-slot with skis is cumbersome in an emergency. When to rope up will depend on the group but plan ahead so that you don't end up roping up somewhere awkward and unsafe. Harnesses should at least be worn all day during the whole length of the route for ease of rescue. Areas labelled red in photos lower are areas that present more crevasse danger than the rest of the route, this is not 100% accurate and the glaciers are ever changing but strongly consider being roped up for these segments.
Avalanche Gear: This is tricky. Some years present little to no danger of climbers or skiers triggering avalanches, other years more so. There are a few key spots with potential for triggering an avalanche (labelled in yellow in photos lower). Avalanche gear will depend on group preferences but at the very least 1 probe per group and shovels for nearly every team member is recommended. Note that the flanks of the Kings Trench present icefall and avalanche hazard. These avalanches are likely to be large and unsurvivable (labelled in blue in photos). Note that these avalanches have run all the way across the Trench between Camp 1 and the King Col camp in the past with earthquakes or extreme conditions. The blue only represents the more likely avalanche exposure.
Toboggans: Highly useful on this peak for lugging gear to each camp and the summit plateau. Consider buying a child's toboggan in the winter before they take them away from stores in spring. The exact rigging is up to you and your own ingenuity. Some recommendations include:
- Try to dampen the pull with your leash with a strong elastic (~20lbs)
- Use a duffel or dry-bag and attach to the haul line directly to the bag, the bag will pull the sled, not the other way around.
- Secure the bag to the climbing rope
- Make sure the bag is properly attached to the sled
- Distribute heavier items along the bottom of the sled and bulky lighter items on top. Keep the nose slightly lighter and the butt heavier.
- For sections with larger hills, consider putting more weight in the pack and less in the sled. It'll save you a lot of energy and hassle.
- Have a rear attachment point so that the sled can be managed from behind when travelling downhill.
- Avoid putting crucials in your sled just incase (sleeping bag, etc.)
Understand that the route may change from year to year and that different groups may choose to use different camps. These are just recommendations and how the route was done on the 2015 Canada West Mountain School expedition.
Acclimatizing: From Basecamp to Camp 3, double carries to each camp are done both to acclimatize to the altitude and to ease the effort of lugging weeks of food and fuel up to each camp. Climb high, sleep low one day at a time as you bring a cache of food and fuel up, move camp up the next day and repeat with further camps.
Dividing Food: Don't carry everything to the last camp. Carry what you will need for each leg and each following leg. Example, leaving 4 days of emergency food/fuel at basecamp, leaving 2 days at Camp 1, leaving 3 days at King Col camp, etc. Heavy duty white plastic garbage bags or potato bags are recommended for caches. Bury them to avoid pesky ravens and wand them. White is to minimize the UV degradation of the sun.
Basecamp to Camp 1: 2 days (note that time estimates are minimums under ideal conditions)
Camp 1 to King Col Camp: 2 days
King Col Camp to Camp 3: 2 days
Camp 3 to Summit Plateau: 1-2 days.
From Camp 3 onward are single push days. Camp 3 to Camp 4 and from Camp 4 to the Summit Plateau Camp are easy days that can be combined into 1. However, it's recommended to spend an intermediary night before Prospect Col to deal with altitude. Camp 4 is at 5200m and if you don't feel good sleeping at that altitude, it's easy to go back down to camp 3 to take another night to acclimatize. The summit plateau camp however is committing and a longer distance to retreat from; it's almost all downhill from Camp 4 to the Summit P. Camp but uphill in reverse. Having 2 easier days before the summit day will also allow for more energy for summit day or you can climb other peaks along the way.
Summit Plateau Camp to Summit: 1 Day
Descent: 1-3 days
Retreat along your route of ascent to the base of the Kings Trench.
Notes: Total days minimum of travel: 9-12 days.
When descending you'll have to deal with carrying out all the extra food, trash and gear you left behind (or didn't) at each camp. Be weight conscious with your gear to make it more comfortable skiing down. It's easy to carry up too much with double carries and is a leading cause for people to end up abandoning extra food and trash.
Have a great expedition!
Comment below to let me know how it went, to add additional advice and wether this guide proved useful!
Click here for more photos.