Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Whitehorse Star

Top: IT'S A LONG WAY UP - This view is from the camp at the 9,000 foot level, Mt. Kennedy is 13,905 ft. Bottom: HE DID IT! Bobby Kennedy strides into camp after climbing Mount Kennedy. Bob Erlam photo/Whitehorse STAR

Bobby Kennedy Climbs Mt. Kennedy

Mountain and mountain climbing stories in The STAR have always received prominent coverage. One of the interesting climbs was made by the late U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy in March 1965 when he climbed the Canadian mountain named for his brother President John F. Kennedy.

By Whitehorse Star on March 23, 1965

March 24, 1965

Mountain and mountain climbing stories in The STAR have always received prominent coverage. One of the interesting climbs was made by the late U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy in March 1965 when he climbed the Canadian mountain named for his brother President John F. Kennedy.

The mountain, 145 miles northwest of Whitehorse, forms a triangle with Mount Alverstone and Mount Hubbard and until that time was the highest (13,905 ft.) unclimbed peak in the St. Elias mountains.

When the mountain was named for the late President, the National Geographic Society and the Boston Museum of Science decided to conduct a joint survey which would result in a completely detailed map. Bobby Kennedy, though he had never climbed before, joined the party at the last minute and thus the world press became very interested. Newsmen descended on the Yukon in droves but the Whitehorse Star had the first published pictures of the event.

Veteran Everest climber Jim Whittaker of Seattle led the three man party of Kennedy and Barry Prather up the last ridge where they unroped and let the Senator ascend the last 50 yards alone to be the first man on top. It was not a particularly tough climb, as climbs go, but it was a personal pilgrimage for Kennedy, who planted the Kennedy family crest, Canadian flags and National Geographic emblem on the top.

Kennedy Mountain, at the lower camps, was crawling with other members of the climb, military men and helicopters, private planes rented by the media, the ice field research people and anyone else who could scrounge a ride.

A National Film Board crew guided by Whitehorse mountaineer Monty Alford, recorded the climb and Yukoners Bob Erlam, Alex Van Bibber and Wayne MacDonald took pictures which appeared in Life, Time and The Whitehorse Star. The latter three, incidentally, were also present when Kennedy came down that night from the ascent. They fed him steak, instant mashed potatoes, ice cream and the heel of a bottle of Madeira wine which someone had stashed in a pack sack.

Back in Whitehorse, Kennedy dropped in to the Capital Hotel to get cleaned up and have a drink with the locals. He bought a round and paid for it with a cheque which owner Cal Miller kept and had framed. Said Cal, "I told him I wanted to keep it as a souvenir of the next President of the United States."

Comments (1)

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Dave Millar on Mar 13, 2017 at 12:19 pm

A good article detailing the historical events, with a nice touch at the end, as Senator Kennedy bought a round for the house. I was curious about two things however,
1- The guys in the top picture at the 9,000 ft. level. Were they locals or members of the press?
2- The date of the article was "By Whitehorse Star on March 23, 1965" but from any other account I've read it occurred on the 24th. Was this just a misprint?
Thanks for the article and anticipated responses.

Admin. note:
The guys in the background top photo are from the press and climbing crew.
The article was written originally in March 1965 some time after the climb.
Kennedy had been flown to and was on the mountain on March 23 and after a nights sleep, started the climb on the 24th.

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