Gordon Bose got the best of Mount Logan, before nature got the best of him.
The Salmon Arm man was recently part of an expedition to the summit of Mount Logan, the jewel of Kluane National Park in the Yukon Territory and the nation’s tallest peak at an estimated 5,959 metres.
The expedition began in late May. Bose and two other men, all seasoned mountaineers, ascended via the East Ridge, and reached the summit on June 2.
The following day, as the men began their descent, the weather took a turn for the worse, eventually forcing them to contact the parks service and a rescue operation was arranged. On June 11, they were lifted off the mountain by helicopter.
As vice-president and technician with Shuswap Search and Rescue, the irony of having to be rescued from the mountain isn’t lost on Bose.
“I kind of took the brunt with some frostbite,” said Bose. “One of the other fellows had a little bit of pulmonary edema, which is sort of a side effect of being up at high altitudes for a long time. But he’s fine. And the other fellow is in pretty good shape, so we all managed to get off without any major complications.”
Bose said this was their second shot at Logan, the first having been dashed by bad weather before they even got started.
The weather was initially more accommodating the second time out. Reaching the summit took about two weeks. Bose said the team had food and supplies for three.
“We’d take a load of food and fuel and carry it up the ridge a ways, then dig a whole in the snow and cache the stuff, then go back down to where we were, and so we had to triple carry to get our stuff up the ridge because we had so much…,” Bose explained.
Bose said all was good until the day after summit day. As the men were moving camp, a storm blew in. Bose said they estimated the winds were blowing 160 kilometres an hour, while the temperature had dropped to about -25 C.
“At that time I managed to get some frostbite on some of my fingers,” said Bose. “Weather conditions were just too severe to carry on.”
The men took shelter from the whiteout in what Bose describes as a snow cave. There they camped for three days until the storm finally passed.
“We had a couple of more travel days and then the weather turned on us and pinned us down some more,” said Bose. “It wasn’t as severe so we could set up our tent… which was a lot more comfortable then the snow cave.”
At this point, the three assessed their situation and their options. They’d planned to descend via Kings Trench on the mountain’s west side. Getting their, however, involved another two-kilometre climb and there was concern Bose’s hands would freeze again.
“For the safety of preserving my fingers and the crew – at that point we’d been 12 days about 5,000 metres, which is fairly high altitude to be stuck there – so we decided to phone the Parks Service.”
Bose said the rescue involved a co-ordinated effort between Kluane park staff, rescue specialists from Banff and Jasper, a helicopter crew contracted from Haines Junction, as well as a helicopter crew from Denali National Park in Alaska – friends of one of the climbers.
Bose said there was a window of about two-and-a-half days to plan the operation, as the weather wasn’t immediately conducive to a rescue attempt.
“It’s fairly technical to fly in a helicopter and landing and pulling people off at that altitude. They wanted everything to go in their favour, so they waited until the weather window was right.”
Bose says that after the rescue, he and the team took part in a debriefing.
“They wanted to get feedback from us how the operation went,” said Bose. “We had a real good discussion back and forth… It’s stuff they train for, but because it was such a well-controlled operation, they could take the time and do the planning, so it was a really good exercise to run through it all.”
Despite having to be rescued, Bose says he still feels a sense of accomplishment for having conquered Mount Logan.
“It’s off my bucket list now,” said Bose. “It was beautiful up there, a great experience, but there’s lots of beautiful areas to explore around the Selkirks and the local mountains without having to go so high.”