After 85 years on remote Yukon glacier, Bradford Washburn’s historic cameras and climbing gear are found

DU grad Griffin Post led expedition that found gear abandoned by a mountaineering legend

John Meyer
Denver Post
Griffin Post examines one of the motion picture cameras legendary mountaineer Bradford Washburn left on the Walsh Glacier in Canada’s Yukon Territory in 1937. Post, a University of Denver grad, led an expedition this summer that found three cameras and other gear Washburn cached on the glacier 85 years ago.
Leslie Hittmeier/Teton Gravity Research

In June of 1937, a bush pilot lifted off from the Walsh Glacier in Canada’s Yukon Territory, leaving behind legendary mountaineer Bradford Washburn and climbing partner Bob Bates. The plane had gotten stuck in slushy snow for five days after landing them there, so when it was extricated and ready to fly again, the pilot told the climbers there was no way he was coming back for them.

If they wanted to achieve their objective — making the first ascent of 17,192-foot Mount Lucania, the third-highest peak in Canada, 190 miles east of Valdez, Alaska — they would have to hike back to civilization after the climb. And so, after they summited Lucania and an adjacent peak, they left nearly all of their gear on the glacier — including two movie cameras and a large-format still camera — and hiked 95 miles to a small town where they caught a flight back to civilization.

Their gear remained on the glacier for 85 years, but this summer a Teton Gravity Research expedition led by University of Denver graduate Griffin Post found their treasure, including the cameras and film. They discovered it mere hours before they were scheduled to fly home.

“It was so surreal, and a moment I definitely will remember for the rest of my life,” Post said this week. “The validation I felt was the biggest thing. I’m not saying validation from people who doubted we’d find it — sure, there was a little of that — but validation about the self-doubt you had, that your gut was right and that this was a good idea, that this was possible.”

Washburn (1910-2007) is a legend in mountaineering, so the find — not to mention the adventure story associated with locating it — is bound to thrill climbers around the world.

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