Alpinism Home

McClellan Butte (attempt)

5107 ft

April 1999

My brother-in-law, Todd, and I decided to take advantage of the nice weather this April morning and headed up to the mountains to climb McClellan Butte. We crossed two of the big avalanche paths, but at the second large avalanche path we could see small chunks of snow coming down so we tried to find a route across that would keep us out of the main path but after exploring for awhile we just decided to turn around. On the way down we took advantage of all the snow and left the trail and went cross country down through the trees.

It was here in the trees where Todd spotted a blue handle sticking out of the snow. I was closer to it so I walked over to it and investigated it. I pulled on the handle and part of it broke off in my hand and I saw that the rest of it was buried deep in the snow. I looked at the piece in my hand and noticed that it was a wooden handle with a fibreglass wrap around it. I also noticed that the handle wasn't round like a shovel handle but flat on opposite sides ice axe! I started to dig the rest of it out with my own ice axe. As I dug deeper I heard the "clink" of metal hitting metal! I pulled out the handle to see that indeed it was an old ice axe! At first Todd and I were excited and saying "cool!" then we got to thinking about why and how this broken ice axe was here.

We were deep in a mature forest so we doubted that an avalanche could have carried it to this spot. And there were no cliffs or rocks around that someone could have fallen or dropped it from, so we figured that someone must have cracked it and just left it here on their way up or down. At least that is what we hoped had happened. We had no desire to dig any deeper in the snow!

Once I got the ice axe home I examined it more closely and saw that the handle had indeed been cracked earlier. The pick was almost straight, with only a slight curve, so it appeared that the axe was from the 1940-50's but the fibreglass wrap made we believe is might have been from the 1960-1970's. I found a stamp on the head that said "Made in Austria" and next to it was a stamp. I removed the aqua colored fibreglass wrap from the shaft, cleaned off the moss and rust, glued it back together and hung it on my wall.