News

The Digital Archives Website will be offline for scheduled maintenance from Wednesday, March 3rd from 11:59PM to Thursday, March 4th at 3:30AM.

<< Back to News

Treasures of the Digital Archives: Mountaineering

A Mountaineer Rappels, Photographs, General Subjects Photograph Collection, 1845-2005, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives.

A Mountaineer Rappels, Photographs, General Subjects Photograph Collection, 1845-2005, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov.

This amazing photo shows Walter Gonnason (ca. 1950), explorer and mountaineer, rappelling from Pinnacle Peak with Mt. Rainer framed perfectly in the background. Gonnason, a Seattle native, made many expeditions to peaks and glaciers around North America. He also played a small role in a long-fought controversy over the credibility of one of America’s most famous explorers.

In 1906, famed Arctic explorer Dr. Frederick A. Cook claimed to have to have been the first man to summit Mt. McKinley in Alaska. His testimony was later challenged by fellow explorers and the authenticity of the photos he took called into question. Fellow explorer Belmore Browne flatly rejected the claim that Cook scaled the peak from the dangerous north side, in the mere twelve days Cook claimed. Brown later proved that Cook’s McKinley photos were of a different peak 20 miles away. Cook was disgraced, and his claims to have been the first to the North Pole were also called into question. Gonnason was one of a small but adamant group of defenders of the Cook legacy. In 1956, he organized an expedition to scale the mountain following the exact route laid out by Cook. Although the expedition failed to reach the summit, Gonnason still maintained that Cook had been victim in a great miscarriage of justice. This is just one of the great stories one can find while exploring the Washington State Archives. Many more great images of nature can be found in the Photograph section of the Digital Archives.