Posts Tagged ‘Mt. Steele’

Candidate: #5

Location: Yukon Territory, Kluane National Park and Reserve – a UNESCO World Herritage Site

Range: Saint Elias Mountains

Elevation: 5,073 metres according to some sources; 5,067 metres according to other sources


Mount Steele was in the spotlight in July 2007 when around 2 PM on the 22nd a 400-metre slab of ice broke loose near the summit and plunged 2,100 metres down the face of the mountain, shaking the ground with the equivalent force of a 2.1 magnitude earthquake. A second failure followed two days later, this one mostly rock, and rattled the seismometers around the world, registering a 3.5 magnitude. The debris crashed to the Steele Glacier below, crossed the 1.5 kilometre-wide glacier and went up over a 300 metre ridge on the other side of the glacier and then dropped an additional 700 metres to the Hodgson Glacier. The failure was witnessed by researchers in the area. It is estimated that the velocity of the debris rushing across the Steele Glacier was about 70 m/s or about 250 km/h. It total the debris travelled 7km from the top of the slide to the furthest point and the slide debris spread out 2 km wide. The cause of the failure was not known for certain at the time of the news reports but weakening of the ice due to climate change was a considered a possibility. Other such slides have been triggered by earthquakes but such was not the case with the Mt. Steele slide. While falling glacial ice and rockslides are common in the mountains, the Steele slide is the largest in living memory in the Yukon. (Compare the photo of the pre-slide north face on Bivouac and the one on this page after the slide.)

Mount Steele is Canada’s fifth highest mountain and the last one to clear 5,000 metres. It is also the 10th highest mountain in North America. A long ridge connects it to Mt. Lucania, which was used by the first team, lead by glaciologist Walter Wood, to reach the summit in 1935, after they had given up trying for Mt. Lucania, and was also used two years later by Bradford Washburn and Robert Bates after their successful first ascent of Mt. Lucania, when they decided to climb Mt. Steele as well. The next party to ascend Steele would be Garry Roach’s team in 1967, which then followed the ridge to Lucania and reached the summit there four days later. Most parties heading for Steele fly in but there are access routes on foot both from the Yukon side and the Alaskan side. As a historical note, Wood’s team was the last major first ascent of a Saint Elias mountain without air support.

The mountain was named after Sam Steele, the North West Mounted Police officer in charge of the force in the Yukon during the Klondike gold rush.









Photographs on Flickr.com:




Next: Mt. Wood


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