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Re-measuring Canada’s highest mountain


Army.ca Dinosaur
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If they can navigate through the crowds that will likley be up there with them.....

Re-measuring Canada’s highest mountain

A team of climbers and scientists plan to summit the Yukon’s Mount Logan next spring in the name of climate change — and to re-evaluate its height with modern GPS technology

In the spring of 2021, Alison Criscitiello, the director of the Canadian Ice Core Lab at the University of Alberta, and I are teaming up to lead a group of climbers and scientists to Yukon’s Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak. We’ll be attempting to drill a new high-resolution ice core for Criscitiello's lab, as well as repeating historic photographs taken on the mountain’s summit plateau, so that we can explore landscape change at high altitude over time. It’s all so that we can better understand the effects of climate change on Canada’s northern mountains.

Of course, our team is climbing in the service of collaborative scientific understanding. So, at the request of Michael Schmidt, a long-time geophysicist with the Geological Survey of Canada and team leader of a 1992 Royal Canadian Geographical Society sponsored expedition that was the first to use GPS technology to establish Logan’s official height, we will also re-measure the mountain’s height.

When Schmidt’s expedition measured Logan’s snow- and ice-encrusted top at 5,959 metres above sea level (+/- three metres) nearly 30 years ago, the global positioning system — a project initiated in 1973 by the U.S. Department of Defense — was still three years away from being fully operational. Their success made their Logan summit all the more remarkable.
“[It] was no ordinary ascent,” Schmidt wrote afterward in a Canadian Geographic feature. “We were combining science with climbing and our summit bid had to be timed carefully to coincide with the position of satellites that orbited far over our heads.”
As if climbing Logan itself isn’t challenging enough.

Located in Kluane National Park and Reserve in the southwestern corner of the Yukon, and within the traditional territories of three First Nations, Mount Logan stands unrivaled in physical mass — and perhaps in mountain grandeur. The massif boasts the largest base circumference of any non-volcanic mountain on Earth. Twelve distinct peaks rise above 5,000 metres from its 20-kilometre-long summit plateau. Its many saw-tooth ridges rake moisture from the almost countless, year-round storms produced over the Pacific Ocean. Average summer temperatures on the summit plateau hover around -27 C, and tremendous snowfall in the area produces an area of glaciation second only in size to those found in polar regions of Antarctica and Greenland. Few places on Earth are as high, cold and remote as Mount Logan. Together, its elevation, its size, its northern latitude (60-degrees north), and its coastal position make the peak a coveted prize for climbers from around the world. And an ideal site for studying climate change.

We’ll likely have it a wee bit easier next spring than Schmidt did if only in terms of technology.