Mount Logan – Discover North America’s Second Tallest Mountain

Mount Logan
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Discover the Second Tallest Mountain of North America

If you think discovering the second tallest mountain of North America is no big deal, then you need to think again. Mount Logan is a lot more than just the second tallest mountain of North America. The Logan Massif boasts the largest ice sheet of the world which is independent of an ice cap. It’s also home to the lowest temperature recorded anywhere outside of Antarctica in the world. To add on, many mountaineers and celebrated summiteers claim Mount Logan to be the single most spectacular mountain they have ever seen.

Even though Mount Logan is known to be the second tallest mountain of North America, it’s unparalleled in many aspects. Drawn by the magnificence of the mountain, we decided to look into the second tallest peak of North America. Following is the result of our findings.

Where is Mount Logan located?

where is Mount Logan located
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The second tallest mountain of North America, Mount Logan of St. Elias Range, is part of the Kluane National Park. Situated in southwestern region of Yukon Territory which is a small, westernmost province of Canada, Mount Logan is not only the top peak of Yukon Territory but is also the highest point of Canada. Although it’s not the tallest mountain of the continent, Mount Logan is unparalleled in terms of its topographical significance and spectacular nature. In fact, the base of Mount Logan has a circumference larger than any other mountain in the world.

The primary summit of Mount Logan rises to a great height of 5,959 meters amongst numerous glaciers of the massif that surround it. The height of the Logan massif is known to be still increasing, thanks to a geological phenomenon known as active tectonic uplifting.  

Another interesting thing to know about the location of the second tallest mountain of North America is that the distance between Alaska and Mount Logan is less than 40 kilometers. This means that Mount Logan is close enough to the Gulf of Alaska to be on the receiving end of harsh snow storms. In fact, there is no fixed timeline for the snow storms and they can be experienced at the upper half of the mountain any time of the year. This fact also explains why Mount Logan is the only place where the coldest temperature (-77.5 degree Celsius) outside of Antarctica was ever recorded.

What is the history behind the second tallest mountain of North America?

Mount Logan is not just rough tops and high peaks. There is a lot more to the incomparable Logan massif than what meets the eye. The history behind the second tallest mountain of North America is both deadly and fascinating, but most of all, it’s worth telling.

Mount Logan is named after Sir William Edmond Logan. It was given this name by Professor I.C. Russell who was conducting a survey in the St. Elias Mountains and witnessed the massive peak of the mountain when attempting and ascent of Mt St Elias in 1890. It was Sir William Edmond Logan who had founded the Geological Survey of Canada in 1842 and naming the mountain after him was a way of honoring his memory and the contributions he had made in discovering and categorizing the important geological features of Canada.

The story about the first ascent of Mount Logan in 1925 is one which has been retold many times. In fact, it’s regarded an important part of national archive and all of its details are described extensively on the website of virtual museum of Canada. As the story goes, the adventure of climbing the second tallest mountain of North America was in the works for many years. The idea of it was first sown into the minds of the Alpine Club of Canada members by a professor of University of Toronto, A.P. Coleman.

After introducing the possibility of such an adventure to the club members in 1922, Coleman proceeded to invite mountaineers from the United Kingdom and the United States of America to make the trip to the top of the second tallest mountain of North America all the more thrilling. Once a team of mountaineers was put together, A.H. MacCarthy was selected as the leader of the group. By the virtue of his experience and leadership, it fell upon MacCarthy to discover a suitable route for the team to take to reach the top of the second tallest mountain of North America.

After surveying and visiting the area multiple times in search of a feasible route to take, the most well-known of tall the routes to the base of Mount Logan was chosen. This involved traveling to a mining town called McCarthy in Alaska as the first part of the journey.

From McCarthy, all six members of the mountaineering group jumped on a pack-train to reach the base of Chitina Glacier in Chitina Valley which is roughly 64 kilometers to the northwest of Mount Logan. It was from here that the true mountaineering adventure began, as from the base of Chitina Valley, the team had to cover 80 kilometers of glaciers before they could start ascending Mount Logan itself. The journey from McCarthy all the way up to the top of Mount Logan and back took the first ascenders a total of 65 days.

The magnitude of the achievement that this first ascent of Mount Logan was can be determined by the fact that before the team of these mountaineers, no one had ever been within 40 kilometers of the mountain’s base. And it was not until after 25 years of the first ascent that Mount Logan was summited by humans again.

The best part about the first ascent of Mount Logan is that there were no casualties and all climbers came back healthy. However, the subsequent attempts of conquering the second tallest mountain of North America have not always been this successful. According to a report published in 2005, Mount Logan has swallowed whole the lives of 11 climbers in just the span of 30 years. When analyzed against the number of people who attempted to climb the mountain, the fatality rate is astonishing.

However, it has been a long time since that report was made. The routes to Mount Logan are a lot simpler and much more accessible than they were back in the days of MacCarthy and his team. There are also quite a few mountaineering groups that organize trips up to the second tallest mountain of North America, and now, instead of 64 days, you can actually summit the primary peak of Mount Logan in just three weeks.

What is the best time to climb Mount Logan?

As mentioned earlier, there is always a chance of harsh snow storm hitting the upper parts of Mount Logan. Because of how close the mountain is to the Gulf of Alaska, snow storms really do not discriminate between different seasons and months of the year. No matter what time you choose to go on an adventure exploring the second tallest mountain of North America, be prepared for and fully expect snow storms to come your way.

With that being said, there is a general consensus over what is considered a “climbing season” for mountaineers to go hiking up Mount Logan. This climbing season falls towards the beginning of May and barely lasts through the month of June. Technically, you can still summit the peak of Mount Logan during the summer months of June and July and maybe even August but the weather conditions deteriorate rapidly as summer goes by.

June, July, and August experience quite a bit of cold precipitation and are significantly a lot wetter than April or May. This makes late summer a risky time to bet on. The relatively safer time to go climbing and exploring the second tallest mountain of North America is end of April and beginning of May. Even then, weather conditions go south quite often during normal climbing season and many expeditions get cancelled even before taking off.

How long does it take to climb Mount Logan?

climb Mount Logan
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The first ascent of Mount Logan took a total of 64 days. However, the mountain climbing trip up Mount Logan can now be completed within a minimum of three weeks and a maximum of eight. This time frame includes the time it takes to reach the base of the massif and then the peak of Mount Logan and then back again. However, you should also account for additional time that will be spent journeying to Haines Junction Airport and then to the airport closer to the Logan massif.

A few extra days to make up for unpredictable weather conditions and unforeseen circumstances should also be always added, as things rarely go according to the plan when in remote locations like that of this second tallest mountain of North America.

What are the primary routes of climbing Mount Logan?

As of now, there are two primary routes that lead up to the top of the second tallest mountain of North America.

One of these routes in known as “Kings Trench” and this is the one which is widely used by most mountaineers as it’s the easiest and the most accessible. The Kings Trench does not demand climbers to be overly technical or skillful as most of the route is travelled by skiing over glacier after glacier in the western part of the massif. Another good thing about this route is that it allows the climbers to get gradually acclimatized to the high altitude.

As its slope is not sharp and it does not suddenly get steep, the ascent is gradual and also relatively comfortable. However, the Kings Trench route poses its own set of challenges which come in the form of freezing temperature extremes experienced on glaciers, unpredictable weather always prone to snow storms, and the need of constant vigilance while traveling over glaciers. Nevertheless, this 25 kilometers long route with 3,000 meters of vertical ascent up the second tallest mountain of North America is your best bet if you are looking to discover Mount Logan.

Even though Kings Trench route might be your best bet, it’s not your only bet. The second primary route up Mount Logan is called East Ridge. When compared with Kings Trench, East Ridge is not as easy to climb. It has 600 meters worth of more vertical ascent than the Kings Trench and slope is also significantly steeper by about 40 to 60 degrees. This means that altitude acclimatization is real problem.

Therefore, climbing up this route does demand a fair bit of technical training and the ascent can prove to be challenging for those just getting started with their mountaineering passion. Other than that, challenges specific to this route include having to deal with rocks, snow, and ice all at once as well as the constant threat of avalanches descending upon you. Like the Kings Trench route, travelling on this route will also require you to deal with extreme temperature conditions and unexpected storms.

Apart from these two primary routes, there is also a relatively less known third route which leads up to the second tallest mountain of North America. Called the Hummingbird Ridge, this is the third and the last option that you can choose in order to summit Mount Logan. However, this route is not recommended at all. The primary reason why Hummingbird Ridge is not widely taken by mountaineers when climbing Mount Logan is that it has the steepest of the ascents. It requires the climbers to undertake a sharp, 4,000 meters worth of vertical ascent which is 1,000 meters more than that of the Kings Trench and 400 meters more than that of East Ridge.

Apart from the extremely steep and exposed slope of East Ridge, any climber taking this route will also have to deal with severe temperatures and extreme weather conditions. On top of that, there are rocks mixed in with snow and ice and avalanches and snow storms always pose a threat. All in all, East Ridge is the route you will be least likely to take if you ever plan on exploring the second tallest mountain of North America.

Figure out the logistics of climbing Mount Logan

Knowing all the details about and the history behind the second tallest mountain of North America is easy, putting all of that information to use while planning for an exhilarating journey up Mount Logan is the hard part. There is a lot of planning, training, and preparation that goes into gearing up for any great big adventure. And then this is the case of one of the remotest location of earth. So, naturally, there are quite a bit of things that need to be considered and controllable factors that need to be evaluated.

Cost

Cost is the most important determining factor for any activity. When it comes to mountaineering, the monetary cost of adventure tends to skyrocket. To begin with, there is the license fee that needs to be paid. Next, there is the cost of hiring a guide or booking yourself a spot in an expedition group. An expedition to the top of Mount Logan can easily cost anywhere between CAD $7,000-10,000. Usually, this hefty amount covers the cost of the initial journey to the base of the massif, any entry fees payable to the local authorities, and also the cost of all necessary equipment and nourishment.

It’s extremely important to see where you stand in terms of money and what expert services you will be able to afford. Budgeting right in the beginning will not only help you choose the expedition most suited to your needs but also the one which is most affordable for you.

Training

Given the high altitude of the Mount Logan and its remote location, there is no doubt that exploring the second tallest mountain of North America requires quite a bit of experience in the mountaineering arena. So, in terms of training, you need to be a lot more than just fit for hiking and need to have at least an intermediate level of training under your belt.

In addition to past experiences with mountaineering, concentrated training before the trip is also absolutely necessary. This training includes stuff like understanding the basics of avalanche safety and undertaking hard physical exercise to prepare for extensive periods of skiing, climbing, and dragging hefty luggage packs.

Without carefully evaluating the training aspect of the climb, climbing the second tallest mountain of North America is virtually impossible.

Conclusion

Mount Logan
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In conclusion, Mount Logan is a force of nature. If anything, it’s remote location and daunting climbing demands make it all the more attractive for those passionate about mountaineering. The second tallest mountain of North America has a special place in the hearts of dedicated Alpinists, and rightly so. Mount Logan makes for a once-in-a-lifetime climbing experience and offers an exhilarating trip that leaves successful summiteers with a distinct glow of pride, one that lasts for quite a while.

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