Dora Keen Letter to Putnam


Dora Keen Letter to Putnam




Handwritten letter from Dora Keen to Harrington Putnam, president of the American Alpine Club. The letter is dated June 8th, 1912 and is sent from McCarthy Alaska. The letter is a response to a recent telegram sent on behalf of the American Alpine Club and describes her experiences climbing Mt. Blackburn.





The American Alpine Club Library Archives


The American Alpine Club Library


"My dear Judge Putnam,
Your recent Telegram on behalf of the Alpine Club gave me the greatest pleasure. It was a long steady [indecipherable] to get to the top of Mt. Blackburn, not difficult climbing, but difficult going and so dangerous that there had the constant change of plans to suit conditions and to accommodate success to disaffection on the part of my very independent men. I started with seven men and nine dogs, dragging about 2000 lbs on 8 sleds and ended with 2 men dragging 600 lbs on 2 sleds. One dog left the 2nd day, 3 men the 13th day with 2 dogs, and 2 more men with the other 6 dogs on the 19th day. It took 33 days because of being just too late in the season and as it was we should very likely not have escaped either an avalanche on the steep part of being swallowed up in one of the many crevasses that were opening all about our 8700 ft. camp on the way down.

Our route was up Barrett Glacier, the same bad one that I tried last year. Part of it was a 76° slope in a gulch where ice cliffs broke off above on both sides all the time after 8 A.M., with snow finally so deep to break trail up that I could make only 3 inches headway at a time with one knee at a time. The load had to be hauled up on a sled consisting of snowshoes, which were worn all the time when it was not too steep. The coldness of the season made the snow hardly crust up. Some nights. at least not before midnight, and by 5 A.M. the sun had melted it enough to cause difficulty and danger too of avalanches. We travelled entirely at night for the last week. Two slides swept over us, one at 2 A.M., but we had calculated our route rightly, rushed for shelter under an ice cliff and got only an inch of snow spray. One bad avalanche went down our steep gulch just a few hours after we had come up it.

I wish I could write more, but I am just leaving for a hunting trip and to write up Blackburn, traveling 100 m. to the White River through woods where for 60 m. we shall [indecipherable], build a boat, and float to the Yukon. Mail will reach me somewhere, via Cordova, if sent there, in a few weeks. I have splendid men.

I owe everything to Mr. George W. Handy, of Cordova, a German, and I would be indebted to you if you would propose his name with me for the Alpine Club. His optimism, hard and intelligent work, and good judgment, as well as his fearless disposition got me up. He was the only one that went on top with me.

We think it 17,000' high, but Mr. Bryant [indecipherable] got out of order somehow above 12,400, so it registered 23,000' on top, which it certainly was not. We had a fine view and found the Geolog. Survey map on the whole pretty correct.

With much regret at not being able yet to send a fuller account, and renewed thanks to all

Very sincerely yours

Dora Keen"

Original Format

Handwritten correspondence on paper.


DoraKeen 6-8-1912.pdf


“Dora Keen Letter to Putnam,” The Collections of the American Alpine Club Library, accessed August 6, 2020,

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