North Slope Borough High Point Trip Report

Mount Isto (8,975 ft)

Date: July 19, 1958
Author: Austin Post

Mt Isto, which we called Mt Leffingwell after an early Arctic Coast geologist (still living in his 90's at that time so his name wasn't submitted) was climbed by Charlie Keeler, Bob Mason and myself from Dick Hubley's IGY research camp located on McCall Glacier. It wasn't a particularly difficult trip or climb, but the last 2 of 3 days made very dangerous by thawing conditions at high altitude which created an endless number of rock and snow slides, mostly little stuff but getting hit by about any of those rocks coming at speed could be embarrassing.

We had two small avalanches on the climb up an icy wall in the fog on the mountain which scared us off the wall onto the normally more dangerous shattered rock slopes but now less likely to tumble down. There were several concealed crevasses near the top I didn't like and let Charlie take over the first chance to fall in one. None of us did and we celebrated the summit in fog by taking pictures of the 3 heroes and then beating a fast retreat.

The most exciting part was being involved in a real snow-rock avalanche while descending a col located east of Mt. Hubley on return the next day. This was a close call; I had enough rope to avoid the worst of it and Charlie, in the lead, ran to the protection of a cliff where he had his pack bent by a sizable rock. Bob, in the middle, had the closest shave of all; trapped by the rope, he managed to squeeze down behind a tiny ledge only a few inches high and the slide passed directly over him harmlessly. We had been moving mighty cautiously up to that point, from there on it was hell bent to get off that slope before it all came down!

Once off, we thought we were out of it but near the center of Hubley Glacier we could hear a big one coming from Mt Hubley and paused to watch it emerge from the fog. This it did with a series of bounding boulders in the lead, and they kept right on coming! Suddenly we realized they weren't going to stop, and that was the source of the boulders where we were standing. These afforded protection, as it turned out none of the avalanche came very close although easily avoidable rocks passed on both sides. This was the final straw though and we made for camp pronto with no more pauses and mighty glad to get up out of those deep valleys!