Today, the Alaska State Quarter Coin tells the story of four men who braved the cold and ice to climb Mt. McKinley in 1910.
In the book Mount McKinley and Mountain Climbers’ Proofs published in 1914, Edwin Swift Balch provided the following description of the party and their climb:
Messrs. Thomas Lloyd, Billy Taylor, Pete Anderson, and Charles McGonagell, according to Mr. Lloyd’s statements, ascended Mount McKinley in the spring of the year 1910.
Mr. Lloyd’s story was taken down stenographically and written by Mr. W. F. Thompson, Editor Fairbanks (Alaska) News Miner, and published under the title “First Account of Conquering Mt. McKinley” in The New York Times, Sunday, 5 June, 1910.
The Lloyd party started 11 February, 1910, from Fairbanks, and worked up to the mountain from the north and northwest.
Between 4 March and 14 March, they transported by dog teams their supplies up a glacier which, on account of its steep side rock walls, they called Wall Street Glacier.
“The route was practically east and west until we turned close to McKinley. The trail was raising all the time. Then the trail turned to the south — to the left of the ridge that we climbed on.
“Arrived at the Pothole Camp * * * Had no aneroid to determine elevation, but estimate it to be about 9,000 or 10,000 feet.”
“We had one magazine in the party, all the reading matter we had * * * it had pictures in it of Morgan and some of them guys, but I can’t remember the name.”
On 17 March, Lloyd says: “We are setting stakes across the glacier to mark the trail to the saddle.
“The trail is eight miles long.
“We would push on each day as far as we could and drop back at night to the Pothole Camp until we had finally established our last Camp at what we all judged to be the 15,000 foot level.”
Lloyd says: “We used no ropes in climbing. We took our chances individually, traveled over the glaciers on snowshoes equipped with roughlocks * * *
“We also used ice creepers in climbing, and snowshoes only over the lower glaciers.”
18 March: “This morning took the blue tent up to our last camp (at the Saddle) and approximate the elevation at not less than 15,000 feet. We drove a tunnel into the snow on the left hand ridge to make a place to pitch the tent in. The tunnel seems now to be built of solid ice. Then we dropped back to the Pothole Camp.”
20 March: “It cleared up a little this morning. Took five of the dogs with a jag of freight up to a little below the 15,000 foot level, with coal oil stove and a little outfit, preparatory to the final camp moving.”
22 March: “It snowed all night, Charley and Pete and myself started with bedding and a few things for the glacier, or the ridge between the two mountain peaks of McKinley, where we had drove the tunnel in the snow and where the blue tent is * * * Everything is comfortable in our Tunnel Camp.”
26 March: “We are going to make our final effort to ascend the summit within the next few days. We have cut steps and put stakes along up to the 19,000 foot elevation.”
2 April: “We left Tunnel Camp at daylight to make the high ridge toward the coast summit, along which we intended to proceed to the summit. (Note. There are two summits to Mount McKinley, apparently of equal height, and connected by a ‘saddle.’ We climbed them both.) * * * Pete and Charley had been on the Saddle previously, cutting steps and staking the trail and preparing the way, so that the flagpole might be dragged to the summit and erected there.”
Lloyd states: “The altitude affected us all differently. We all had to breathe through our opened mouth. You couldn’t get enough air through your nostrils: our nostrils would not serve any one of us for wind-getting.”
2 April: “From that summit it looked as though the northern summit was equally as high as it * * * It took us (to reach the south summit) from daylight until about 3 p. m., and we covered six or seven miles to make that distance of a thousand feet up.”
2 April: “When I reached the coast summit I couldn’t find any rocks or any formation in which the flag pole could be placed permanently.”
Lloyd also says: “If Dr. Cook had made the summit of Mount McKinley as he says he did he could not have escaped seeing samples of the rock on that summit and near it. Had he seen that rock he would have mentioned the fact, for it is rock that would command the attention of any mountaineer, especially when encountered in such a spot. I have sent samples of the rock to Smithsonian Institution for classification.”
3 April: “This morning before daylight we climbed to the saddle between McKinley’s two peaks, dragging the flagpole with us. * * * Once there we proceeded to cross the Glacier between the two summits, to the North summit, where the rocks were * * * Pete Anderson kept the time, as my watch had gone on the bum * * * When we reached the northern summit we found plenty of rocks there, and we erected a monument that will endure as long as the top of the mountain does * * * Into it we stuck that flagpole * * The flag was raised at 3.25 p. m. April 3, 1910 * * *
“When we were on the summits of Mount McKinley, on both days, it was bright and clear at the top, but fogs and clouds obscured the view below us and we took no photographs of the surrounding country from the summits.”
Lloyd says of the descent: “Counting that we left the summit in the afternoon of the 3rd, stopping at the Tunnel Camp that night and starting on the morning of the 4th down the trail, reaching Willow Camp that night, you will see that, in less than a day and a half we covered the distance going down which it had taken us over a month to cover going up. We traveled light coming down, having no grub and not much of a camp outfit, and we made good time over our blazed and secured trail.
“In coming down the glacier on the return and final descent, Bill Taylor’s foot slipped. He shot down the glacier with the speed of an express train * * * If his hook had failed to catch, there would not have been a grease spot left of him when he reached the end of the precipice.”
The Alaska State Quarter Coin shows against a view of Mount McKinley also known as Denali.