The History of the Yale Mountaineering Club
Yale’s outdoor history is long and varied, although for the better part of the last century, the preeminent outdoor organization on Yale’s campus, indeed one of the preeminent outdoor organizations among U.S. universities, was the Yale Mountaineering Club. Prior to 1932 Yale had an informal “Outing Club” – minutes and notes from the club’s records show events that mostly consisted of modest backpacking trips and lectures on various exotic locales and mountain ranges. But that fall, the newly arrived class of ’36 included a few students with a penchant for adventure and mischief. Between scaling Harkness Tower and other notable university edifices, this small group of students eventually focused their energies into a new organization on Yale’s campus: the Yale Mountaineering Club. For the rest of the ‘30s the club was relatively low-key, stealing off to crags and mountains throughout New England, and in the war years the club entered a brief hibernation.
But with the war over in 1947 the club entered its halcyon years. Fueled by an enthusiastic core of officers and a rapidly growing membership, the club expanded its scope and began publishing an annual mountaineering journal and sponsored expeditions throughout North America. Notable Mountaineering Club-sponsored expeditions from this era include exploration of the Front Range of Northern Colorado, exploration of the Brooks Range in the North Slope of Alaska, a pioneering ascent of Mount Wood (15,886 ft.) in the St. Elias Mountains of Alaska and the Yukon, and, perhaps most notably, one of the first documented expeditions into the Logan Mountains, a mountain range that demarcates the border between the Yukon and the Northwest Territories and arguably one of the most remote and isolated regions in North America. This latter expedition produced a seminal glaciological survey of the area, collaborated Yale’s geology department to collect field samples to analyze the geological origins of the area, and, of course, being mountaineers, logged nine first ascents of 9,000-10,000 foot glaciated peaks and granite spires in the range. More locally, the Mountaineering Club catalogued the eighty plus routes on Sleeping Giant just adjacent to New Haven and, in 1973, published A Climber’s Guide to Ragged Mountain in Southington, Connecticut. Since the ‘70s, however, the club’s ambition became more restrained and was eventually renamed the Yale Climbing Club.