Review: A Climber’s Guide to the St. Elias Mountains

This guide has already been reviewed by JoJo in last year’s CAJ, he published a draft of his review on Cascade Climbers and I added some followup including an errata. Thoughts of another trip to the range prompted me to revisit the guide.

It would be really easy to spend a bunch of time panning this book. There’s a lot bad to be said about it; it’s lack of historical background and references to first ascentionists, the weird listing of unclimbed features as routes and the promotion of seige tactics when all the routes can and should be climbed alpine style.

That would be to ignore the author’s efforts to produce a guidebook to a somewhat obscure and certainly not popular range complete with an accompanying CD of aerial photos. The CD is a novel and welcome addition to this type of guide although the images are a little small to be really useful. But at the end of the day that doesn’t really make up for the books shortcomings. If you’re planning on visiting the range then you may want to buy it but only for the pictures.

A Climbers Guide to the St. Elias Mountains” by Richard Holmes, Icy Bay Press.


This is simply a list of notable items that might catch those new to the range based in part of first hand knowledge of routes or other research I’ve done. It is by no means exhaustive.

p14: The north ridge of Seattle is described as “not particularly difficult”. We opted for the east ridge as the north seemed much more complex and in places very corniced.

p16: From my memory the distances given for the East Ridge are off. Most notably the top of the route is not 91m from the north summit.

p29: Paul Knott and Erik Monasterio climbed the East Ridge of the North Peak of Foresta in 2003.
p56: The route description of the South Rib/Spur of Good Neighbor is very confusing, if not simply incorrect. The time given is 2-4 days for an alpine style ascent, to my knowledge is has not been climbed in less than four. The Michael Wood & Colby Combs guidebook has a much clearer description.p74: Barry Blanchard and Mark Wilford climbed the left side of the west face of Alverstone in 1998.p79: Bill Pilling and Andy Selter’s line up the right side of the north face of Kennedy is not mentioned.

p131: The label “West Ridge” is applied to the N ridge. The west ridge is the right hand skyline. Based on our experiences on the North Ridge you would be lucky to climb it with only one camp on the ridge.

Jack Tackle and Charlie Sassara’s attempt on the north face of Augusta is also not mentioned,1,2257184.story?coll=la-headlines-technology&ctrack=1&cset=true

p197: Paul Knott and Ade Miller climbed Queen Mary from the South in 1995.

p242: The list of pilots has some notable names missing:

Paul Swanstrom from Haines. Claus flies from the Northern end of the range.
As of 2004 Gulf Air were not doing glacier landings, nor was anyone else flying out of Yakutat. Paul Swanstrom will pick you up from there but he flies in from Haines to do so.p252: The list of resources doesn’t include which is probably the best single source for Canadian climbing activity, although far from comprehensive when it comes to the Elias area.New routes in ’05

As usual guides are out of date before the printer has finished with them however good the author. The best place to find updates is the AAJ or CAJ. In 2005 the Arctic Discipline wall received it’s second ascent, a new route was put up on the west face of Alverstone and another on the North side of Mount Cook.