1977 Waddington adventure


1977 Waddington from the sea. It was a brutal trip…number 1 all time most physically exhausting expedition ever!!! We traveled by boat from Campbell River on Vancouver Island, up the Knight Inlet to the mouth of the Franklin River. We clawed our way up through the devil’s club for days. Hell, the first day we traveled such a pathetically short distance that the mountain goats who looked down at us at breakfast were still laughing at us at dinner….It took us almost 2 weeks to reach the upper reaches of the Franklin Glacier. The picture of Mark Udall staring at the South Face of Waddington speaks volumes. Waddington at 13,186 feet is the highest peak in the Coast Range of British Columbia. First climbed by Fritz Wiessner and Bill House in 1936. In 1942 the second ascent was made by Helmut Becky and his brother, Fred. Fred Beckey was 19 years old at the time. 

It was May in 1977 and we were very much alone in the Waddington Range. During the 6 weeks we spent in the Coast Range we only saw one another person….well that’s not quite accurate. We saw an aircraft, a De Havilland fixed wing, that resupplied us, an airdrop at our camp on the Franklin Glacier. We retrieved all the boxes except one, the most anticipated one, containing chocolates and other sweets. After much discussion and reflection, we came to the conclusion that our valued box had ended up in a crevasse….”la vida es tan injusta.”

Once it was all said and done, the six of us summited the Northwest summit of Waddington at sunset. The ridge route was a bit of a roller coaster ride, up and down. We descended in darkness to our high camp. I teased Susie Billings years later about her falling asleep while belaying me on one pitch during that descent. 

Don Frank (Coffey)


I guess learning how to tie off to a boulder and steer a wiser course is one of those big life lessons you get  if you’re lucky.  
Ahhh the slow numbing decent. Frank and I were trading leads and on the last pitch I realized I was incapable of staying alert. It was a scary realization, so I tied myself between two man sized boulders to allow my body to halt any fall if I fell asleep.  Everytime I jolted awake I would tie off a little more slack until the moment of deep relief when Frank arrived. So moved and happy to see him but alarmed at my inability to stay awake.  That was the last belayed pitch and with Franks encouragement we managed to get back to the tent.  Then and there I realized that I would never again want to push so far into that zone. 

Susie Billings

Thank you. I still vividly remember that light and particularly from the summit. It’s a gift to “see” it again.

What a great memory—it brings a big smile and a flood of images. Thank you, Paco.  

Maggie Fox

Jeeze Louise!!!  Thank you Frank. Those days and that time was just a little while ago.  So many wonderful memories and moments.  The devil’s club is nowhere in sight but seeing Susie’s skis on the wonderful Berghaus pack reminds me of the thrashing through the tall, spiky salad.   I see we were using good glacier safety travel strategy…… Such a time, indeed.  
Thank you again and big hugs to you and to all.

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