Polar Research Today:

The "Fake Peak" Serials


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Belmore Browne, 1910
Fake Peak I 1910

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American Alpine Journal, 1958
Fake Peak II 1957

As shown in The New York Times
Fake Peak III 1998


DIO's Denali Denial & the Media Campaign for a 'Final Solution' to Cook as Discoverer

1 The DIO Genesis & One-sided Media 'Controversy'

by Russell W. Gibbons

On November 22, 1998 this writer received a call from a reporter at The New York Times asking for materials which would support the claims of Frederick A. Cook to the first ascent of Mt. McKinley in September 1906. They were interested, he said, because of the "recent" article in the Baltimore journal, DIO, which had earlier in the year proclaimed that the Cook-McKinley controversy was "closed" because of the research of a contributor, Robert M. Bryce. ......... guys.jpg (14284 bytes)

It was the "Final Solution," declared Dennis Rawlins, founder and publisher of the journal, a critic of orthodox history of science with a somewhat mixed track record for accuracy and timing (more on this later). Heading the cheering section in the background was the indefatigable Bradford Washburn, spiritual heir to Cook's critic of his 1906 climb and the creator of "Fake Peak," the 89-year-old thesis that was supposed to have demolished the explorer, but never did.

The sense of urgency was apparent in the request by the reporter, John Tierney, who asked that the materials (the reprint edition of To the Top of the Continent, the last five numbers of Polar Priorities and a copy of the balanced profile on the controversy in the Baltimore Sun in September) by express mail to his home the next day. With these, the writer strongly suggested that Tierney talk to Ted Heckathorn of Seattle, the leader of the 1994 Ruth Glacier Expedition which determined that Cook had been at least 7,000 feet higher than his detractors at DIO had declared.

The timing was important because Tierney acknowledged their receipt on November 24, had talked with Heckathorn that day, and was working on his story. As it turned out, he had to file his story early on the 25th because it appeared on Thanksgiving morning, November 26 on the bottom front page of the Times. By any objective review of the history of this story, it had been written and was waiting only for reaction quotes, which were selective and exclusionary.

Heckathorn, leader of a party of five seasoned-climbers who had all summited McKinley, was not quoted because, as Tierney told him, "if you don't speak for the Cook Society, I am not interested in what you have to say." Heckathorn is not a member and has always remained an independent scholar, as well as being an alpine and arctic traveler.

Thus the Times, with its vast syndication network and prestige, had participated in the DIO mission to "close" a historical controversy without even a semblance of balance, refusing to quote the climber, who along with Washburn, has contributed the most to the literature of Cook and McKinley. They declined to expand upon Cook's pioneer role in circumnavigating the mountain, the 1994 expedition that determined he had been at 11,500 feet in 1906, and failed to mention the previous dubious "explorer exposes" of DIO's Rawlins.

The media campaign would expand on two other fronts: Times syndicate pick-up stories and an Associated Press summary that also would gain attention--both of them at home and overseas. Yet just a week previous, another assault on Cook and McKinley was published in an Alaska newspaper, the Anchorage Daily News. While quoting the DIO charges, its thrust was a Washburn-commissioned study touted as "global positioning."

The Anchorage newspaper at least sought out and quoted Heckathorn, but the article repeatedly used "debate" and "controversy" in its article yet failed to present a balanced account. Cook critics were "experts" or "researchers" while his advocated became "amateur polar historians." The piece, occupying the sports section, was accompanied by an editorial commentary by the sports editor declaring that the debate had "ended."

Typically, both newspapers declined to publish responses from members of the Society or Heckathorn. This curious practice of one-sided journalism had its roots in the DIO article of early 1998. Thus reviewing these origins has merit.

Rawlins, a sometimes astronomer in Baltimore, pricks the underside of the scientific establishment with an occasional journal called DIO which is subtitled The Journal of Hysterical Astronomy. Its contents goes for both the funny bone and the jugular. He has been a critic of both Cook and Peary, and has consigned both to what he feels is a historical ashcan.

In a Washington radio station on February 25, 1997, Rawlins teamed up with newly-published author Bryce, a librarian at a community college in Maryland, to discuss the latter's new book about both polar explorers, Cook & Peary: The Controversy Resolved (Stackpole, 1997). On the Diane Rehm Show on station WAMU, a match was made and two would-be debunkers joined forces to front for a third party who has made his lifelong obsession the denial of Cook on the summit of Mount McKinley.

Thus did Washburn, defender of the established truth of Mount McKinley/a.k.a. Mount Denali, find two converts in his grand crusade to "unmask the exploration hoax of the century."

Publisher Rawlins sets the tone in his editorial mission statement: "Each issue of DIO is printed on paper which is certified as acid-free. The ink isn't." He also cautions against the "scientific mufia" (Rawlins' version of "mafia"?). Nursing a 25-year-old grudge against a pro-Cook writer whose publisher chose the same release date as Rawlins' Peary at the Pole: Fact or Fiction? (Luce 1973), he has over the years combined scholarly papers with pure vitriol against Cook and in this latest tirade supplements primary contributor Bryce with a summary that drips in venom.

The cover of DIO (vol. 7 nos. 2-3) is billed as a special double issue, December 1997 to July 1998. The cover titles recall the lurid conflict journalism of the Cook-Peary era and later tabloids.

Not to let a good grudge to rest--even if it is a quarter of a century old--he again trashes the conclusion of Eames, whose book Winner Lose All: Frederick Cook and the Theft of the North Pole (Little, Brown, 1973) disagreed with his thesis. What Rawlins could not tolerate was the fact that his tome was relegated to a "double title" review with Eames because of the similarity of book subjects (in some instances he was ignored completely while Eames received generally favorable reviews). In an aside of self-congratulation of the efforts of his new DIO contributor, Rawlins fawns about Bryce's "epochal recovery and analysis" of Cook's "uncropped summit photo" and then proceeds to lay the seeds of doubt about the veracity of the historian of the Frederick A. Cook Society, which had since 1990 made available every uncatalogued scrap of notes, data, clippings, images and photos at the Collection then deposited at the Sullivan County Museum to the same Bob Bryce.


In the rarefied and teckie world of Rawlins there are but two camps: those who agree with him and those who reside in doctrinal error and/or ignorance. In 1973 they were the "Cook movement...of decent, if overinnocent folk" (Rawlins, 1973, p. 93) to today's "Cookites" who he suggests are now folks who are not so innocent when it comes to records and photos (Rawlins, 1998, p. 84).

That is a variation of the derision initiated many years ago by Washburn, whose zeal and passion to discredit Cook--described as "obsessive" earlier this year in Climbing (March 1998)--promoted a 1956 journey to the tiny hamlet of Talkeetna at the base of McKinley, designed only to discredit the expedition of Walter Gonnason (the seventh to summit McKinley), which had sought to establish Cook's route on the east ridge. "Cookies" is the tag which scholar Washburn uses when seeking to deny his opponents any intellectual dialogue.

Those who have attacked Cook on McKinley over ninety years of this century have become in the lexicon of Rawlins "honest brokers" (Rawlins, 1998, p. 84), referring specifically to Belmore Browne, Herschel Parker and Bradford Washburn. Despite the "smoking gun" of the Peary Arctic Club in the 1909–10 efforts to discredit Cook (see Ted Heckathorn in Polar Priorities, numbers 14-15-16 and 17, issues 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997 as well as this issue) Rawlins and Bryce in the current DIO assault just think that was "coincidental." These "brokers" deserve an apology from--we may assume--the Cookite folks, according to Rawlins (1998, p. 84).

They are going to have to wait. The Parker-Browne legacy was taken up by Washburn, who has declined to face Cook advocates on three separate occasions since 1996 (Alaska Airlines Magazine, 1998) and has spent his retirement years after leaving the Boston Museum of Science in securing anti-Cook "resolutions" by any and every group he has had an association with over the years. Just as another 1930s--era "scientist," William Herbert Hobbs, busied himself securing letters to deny Cook's early release from prison, so has Washburn sought to deny any status of Cook as an explorer (see Arctic, 1983).


Rawlins (who prefers to be known as "DR" in his commentary) had a 1989 revival of his contention that Peary was a hoaxer, but his assertion that he had found calculations in a long-locked archives at Johns Hopkins University which would finally sink the Peary claim proved to be a bust. In an extensive profile in Baltimore Magazine (July 1989) writer Kevin McManus said that DR was someone "who has practically made a career...of trashing other people's pet theories." His Peary charge, he said, was "a smoking gun which has...blown a hole in his foot."

It turns out that the calculations which DR had found and claimed were navigational compilations showing Peary had not been near the Pole, were in fact the serial numbers of his chronometers. The blooper prompted some in the geographic community and the extended fraternity of planetary specialists to suggest that DR was somewhat of an "obnoxious, glory- starved showboater," McManus wrote.

That may be unfair. After all, DR has published on polar topics in the Proceedings of the US Naval Institute, Polar Notes and a variety of journals known to those who deal with sky and space. Yet he also knows how to deal with the media --as did Peary and Cook in their day. And he used "media contacts" which have given him notable headline attention.

The 1989 DR statement, asserted that the document he found was presumed to have been made by Peary at what he said was the Pole, demonstrated that the explorer was actually 105 nautical miles from the Pole. He went to the Washington Post with the story and soon got "egg on his scientific face" when a group hired by the National Geographic Society found that what DR said were compass variations at the Pole, were in reality the serial numbers of Peary's chronometer watches.

The case for Peary was falling apart at the same time, through Wally Herbert's commissioned report to the NGS and the opening of the Peary Papers at the Library of Congress --previously having been restricted by the family. Rawlins had continued the arguments of early Peary critics such as Thomas F. Hall, J. Gordon Hayes, Henshaw Ward and others (with scant acknowledgment) and the controversy over his blooper may have brought greater attention to the Peary question.


Indeed, DR has continued his pattern of finding "smoking guns" in polar history, again with little more than his opinion surviving a dramatic announcement. The latest instance was another explorer as an alleged fraud--Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd. In his 1973 book, DR had concluded that Byrd's 1926 aerial flight to the North Pole had been faked. In 1996 the archivist of the Byrd Polar Research Center at The Ohio State University, Rai Goerler, discovered Byrd's 1926 handwritten diary and notebook when cataloguing the papers of the explorer's collection.

DR insisted on examining the diary, and concluded that erased sextant readings that differed from those in the official report (also to the sponsoring NGS). Again DR rushed to the press and declared that the erasures proved that Byrd had come no more than 150 miles from the Pole. (Washington Post, New York Times, May 9, 1996). The Ohio State archivist and a professor of astronomy disagreed, as did a third navigator.

This year Ohio State University Press published the diary, which was edited by Goerler (To the Pole, OSU Press, 1998), which included the following footnote:

Dennis Rawlins...inspected the diary and the navigational calculations and notes...According to Rawlins, the erased readings prove that Byrd came no closer to the Pole than 150 miles. Rawlins report is contained in a 15-page letter of May 4, 1996, now in the OSU University Archives. Dr. Gerald Newsom, professor of astronomy at Ohio State, also studied the diary. His evaluation is that the erasures are inconclusive...but made by a navigator who realized that he had made an error in his calculations. According to Newsom, Byrd at a minimum got within "tens of miles" of the North Pole and may have reached it. (OSU University Archives)

For the second time in seven years, the man described by Baltimore Magazine as an "intellectual swashbuckler, an intellectual gadfly" was caught with his academic pants down. It would take less than a year for the new anti-Cook axis of Bryce, Washburn and Rawlins to mesh with DIO--as its forum.

Bryce, who had observed in his book that Rawlins had "a general disdain for those who did not agree with him" and was "flippant" in his remarks and "put off many of his readers... (with his) rhetorical excesses" (Cook & Peary, p. 757) now joined forces with the swashbuckler and the "obsessed" Washburn.

It would be a troika worthy of the Parker-Browne-Peary alliance of ninety years ago.


Bryce, Robert M. Cook & Peary: The Controversy, Resolved, Stackpole, 1997.
Bryce, Robert M. "Mt. McKinley Hoax Exposed," DIO, Dec. 1997-July 1998, 7:2-3.
Cook, Sheldon S.R. "Concerning the Mt. McKinley Diary of Dr. Frederick A. Cook," in To the Top of the Continent, 90th Anniversary edition, AlpenBooks, 1996.
Donahue, Bill. "Dissent on Denali," Climbing Magazine, May 1, 1998, no. 176.
----. "Quest for McKinley," Alaska Airlines Magazine, July 1998, 22:7.
Eames, Hugh. Winner Lose All: Dr. Cook & The Theft of the North Pole. Little, Brown & Co., 1973.
----. "A Reply to Dennis Rawlins," 1973. Frederick A. Cook Collection, Byrd Polar Research Archives.
Gibbons, Russell W. "Fatal Flaws in the Author's 'fact, lack of care or logic.'" Frederick A. Cook Society Membership News, July 1997, 4:2.
Goerler, Raimund E., ed. To the Pole: The Diary & Notebook of Richard E. Byrd, 1925–1928. Ohio State University Press, 1998.
Heckathorn, Ted. "Mt. McKinley: Who Reached the Top First?" Polar Priorities, vol. 14, 1994.
----. "Belmore Brown's Slippery Slope" and "New Rumbles on Ruth Glacier: McKinleygate II." Polar Priorities, vol. 15, 1995.
----. "Dr. Cook and His McKinley Critics: A Review of the Debunkers from 1909 to 1996." Polar Priorities, vol. 16, 1996.
----. "Sins of Omission & Contradiction: What Was Ignored in 'Cook & Peary' and Why." Polar Priorities, vol. 17, 1997.
Rawlins, Dennis. Peary at the Pole: Fact or Fiction. Luce, 1973.
----. Commentary in DIO, 7:2-3, December 1997–July 1998.
Waale, Hans. Papers and Correspondence, 1956–1984, Frederick A. Cook Collection, Byrd Polar Research Center.
|Washburn, Bradford. Letter to the Editor. Arctic, March 1984, 37:1.



2 Forgotten Prelude: The 1903 Circumnavigation


by Ralph M. Myerson, MD

IN PHOTO: The 1903 Expedition Members (from left): Ralph Shainwald, Fred Printz, Frederick Cook, Robert Dunn and John Carroll. (photo by Walter Miller)

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By the turn of the century, Dr. Frederick A. Cook had established a reputation and was internationally known as an experienced and capable explorer. His service as surgeon and ethnologist for Robert E. Peary's North Greenland Expedition of 1891-92 had earned him well deserved honors and Peary's personal praise for his exploratory expertise and for his "unruffled patience and coolness in an emergency." In 1897-99 he had served as surgeon on the Belgian Antarctic Expedition, the first to winter in the Antarctic, and he was generally credited for having saved the expedition by his medical skills in preventing and treating scurvy and by the first use of phototherapy in the seasonal affective disorder (SAD syndrome). Additionally, he was credited with having devised the means of freeing the ice-bound Belgica after it had been trapped in the antarctic ice pack for about a year. While on the Belgica, he had formed a life-long friendship with a young Roald Amundsen who regarded Dr. Cook as his arctic mentor. In 1893 and 1894, he had conducted private "cruises" to Greenland. Both trips had encountered difficulties, the 1894 venture on the Miranda having ended in near disaster when the ship struck a reef off the coast of Greenland forcing Cook to travel over ninety miles in an open boat to obtain a rescue ship. There were no casualties, in fact, the survivors were so impressed with their experience that they formed the nucleus of the Arctic Club of America.

Despite a return to a successful medical practice, Cook could not resist the lure of adventure and new exploration. He turned his attention to Mount McKinley, North America's highest mountain, whose summit had yet to be attained. As Cook explained: "To men of a polar turn of mind it is easy to be diverted from solitudes of the Arctic ice fields to the snowy slopes of great altitudes. Polar exploration and high mountain climbing are twin efforts which bring about a similar train of joys and sorrows."1 

The mountain had been well known to the Alaskan natives, who called it Denali, "the high one." The first European sighting of the great mountain probably occurred in the spring of 1794 when the British Captain George Vancouver was exploring the upper end of Cook Inlet, the large bay on Alaska's southern coast discovered by James Cook in 1778. Vancouver described the view to the north, mentioning the presence of "distant stupendous mountains covered with snow and apparently detached from each other...."2 He undoubtedly was describing the range of mountains known today as the Alaska Range.

After Alaska became a U.S. possession in 1867, there had been a relative lull in its exploration under U.S. government sponsorship. 

The full appreciation of Mount McKinley's magnificence and height was not brought to public attention until William Dickey, a Princeton student turned gold prospector in 1896, made the following report to the New York Sun on January 24, 1897: 

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"We named our great peak Mount McKinley, after William McKinley of Ohio, who had been nominated for the Presidency.... We have no doubt that this peak is the highest in North America, and estimate that it is over 20,000 feet high."3 Dickey's estimate of McKinley's stature was quite accurate, its height being confirmed at 20,320 feet after the turn of the century. Until that time, 18,000 foot Mount Saint Elias was believed to be the continent's highest, and Mount Logan was still unknown.

After Alaska became a U.S. possession in 1867, there had been a relative lull in its exploration under U.S. government sponsorship. The full appreciation of Mount McKinley's magnificence and height was not brought to public attention until William Dickey, a Princeton student turned gold prospector in 1896, made the following report to the New York Sun on January 24, 1897: "We named our great peak Mount McKinley, after William McKinley of Ohio, who had been nominated for the Presidency.... We have no doubt that this peak is the highest in North America, and estimate that it is over 20,000 feet high."3 Dickey's estimate of McKinley's stature was quite accurate, its height being confirmed at 20,320 feet after the turn of the century. Until that time, 18,000 foot Mount Saint Elias was believed to be the continent's highest, and Mount Logan was still unknown.

In 1898, more than thirty years after the acquisition of Alaska, the U.S. Geological Survey began extensive Alaskan explorations. A series of expeditions ensued, including those of Eldridge and Muldrow, Spurr and Post, and Peters and Brooks in 1898; Lieutenant Joseph Herron in 1899, and Brooks and Reaburn in 1902. In 1903, Judge James Wickersham, the colorful U.S. District Judge for Alaska, and a party of four others, made the first serious attempt to climb Mount McKinley. Following a branch of the Peters Glacier, the party reached an altitude of about 8,100 feet, at which point they were disappointed in finding that the glacier they were following did not connect with the high ridge they were attempting to reach and the party was forced to turn back.4 

With these explorations as a background, Dr. Frederick A. Cook planned and undertook his 1903 planned assault on the summit of Mount McKinley. Harper's Monthly Magazine financed part of the expedition. Robert Dunn, then 26 years old, a former reporter for the New York Commercial Advertiser, was chosen to serve as geologist, having been recommended to Cook by Lincoln Steffens, the editor of the Commercial Advertiser. In 1898 Dunn had been a gold prospector on the Klondike Trail and in 1900 had explored the Mount Wrangell's volcano. He had also served as a reporter in Martinique two weeks after the disastrous eruption of Mount Pelée. Also included in the party were Fred Printz, who had served as a horse packer on the 1902 Brooks expedition, and Jack Carroll as assistant packer. Ralph Shainwald of New York, a fellow member of the Arctic Club and a participant in the Baldwin-Ziegler Polar Expedition, was designated as botanist. Shainwald's wealthy father had contributed $1,000 to ensure a place for his son on Cook's expedition. The fifth member of the party, Walter Miller, had been recruited in Seattle as photographer for the expedition. None of the party had had extensive high mountaineering experience.

On June 9, 1903, the assembled party boarded the Alaska coastal steamer, Santa Ana, its decks loaded with gold seekers, dogs, pigs, cattle, chicken and horses. On June 24, the steamer arrived at its destination, Tyonek, on the north shore of Cook Inlet.  

In addition to the endless torment of the mosquitoes, the pack horses were attacked by hordes of horse flies often resulting in bleeding and loss of skin. The strain of the journey was continuing to tell on the men. Tempers flared; interpersonal relations deteriorated and threats of mutiny arose. Dunn continued his written tirade against Cook. Progress continued, however, and by August 3 they were in the drainage area of the Kuskokwim River. By this time there were only four sacks of flour remaining, but fortunately, they shot a grizzly bear and the food supply was temporarily restored. Caribou became plentiful.  

On August 14, Printz led the party to a Brooks campsite, estimated to be 14 miles from the summit of Mt. McKinley. They had finally reached the terminus of the Peters Glacier on the north side of the mountain--the beginning of Alfred Brooks' suggested climbing route. They also stumbled on a campsite of Judge Wickersham's party, salvaging a much-needed container of salt. A dedicated assault was now made along what Cook termed the "south-west arête," also called Cook's Shoulder, and now known as the Northwest Buttress of the North Peak. On the night of August 29, they made a campsite clinging to the steep icy slopes at an estimated altitude of 9,800 feet. After reaching an estimated altitude of 11,300 feet on August 31, they were confronted by an impenetrable wall with no discernible passage around it and were forced to admit defeat. 

Summarizing his party's admirable effort on the great mountain's flanks, Dr. Cook related: "Though thwarted by an insurmountable wall, we had ascended Mt. McKinley far enough to get a good view of its entire western face... Avalanche after avalanche rush down the steep cliffs and deposit their downpour of ice, rock, and snow on the (Peters) glacier."5 Cook also took note of the presence of two very large glaciers that drained the eastern slope of Mt. McKinley. He named Fidele Glacier after his daughter, describing it has probably the largest in interior Alaska, taking the output of several small glaciers about the northern and eastern slopes. It then takes a northeastern course, is joined by two large glaciers, descends to the Chulitna River where its face is eight miles wide. Ruth Glacier, the second glacier, begins among the amphitheaters about the southeastern slopes, takes a small tributary from Mount Foraker and others from smaller mountains to the east, descending southward into the Chulitna River. This he named after his then three-year-old daughter Ruth.

Cook was reluctant to descend the mountain by the route that they had taken. "Our purposes could be best served if we could cross the range and get into the Sushnita Valley; but the possibility of such an effort seemed doubtful in the time at our disposal, unless we were fortunate to find a pass within a few days' traveling. Accordingly, we resolved to make a desperate attempt to cross the eastern slope of this great range, and, in the event of failure in this, our alternative was to make the deep waters of the Toklat and then by raft to the Tanana River." 6

 The party moved east about 50 miles, fortunately locating a pass that horses could use and thus were able to complete their circumnavigation of Mount McKinley. In its course, the expedition passed the tongue of the Muldrow Glacier, and Cook appears to have recognized it as the "best way to climb McKinley."7 The exhausted party, near depletion, barely managed to reach the Chulitna River, where they built two rafts and abandoned the horses. After a wild and reckless run down the churning canyon waters, the party finally met some prospectors and returned safely to Cook Inlet on September 26, three months after their departure from Tyonek.

 At the Arctic Club's annual dinner in December, 1903, Cook presented an account of his McKinley Expedition illustrated with the excellent photographs he and Miller had taken.


1. Cook, FA. "Round Mt. McKinley," Bull Am Geo Socy, 36:321-327, 1904. 2.Vancouver, G. Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean, and Round the World, vol. 3, 1798. Quoted by F. Beckey in Mount McKinley: Icy Crown of North America, 1993, Seattle: The Mountaineers, p. 41. 3. New York Sun, January 24, 1897. 4. Wickersham, J. Old Yukon Tales, Trails and Trials. Washington: Washington Law Book Co., 1938, pp. 288-89. 5. Cook, FA. To the Top of the Continent, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1908, p. 92. 6. Cook, FA. "America's Unconquered Mountain," Harper's Monthly Magazine, 108:335, 1904. 7. Washburn B. Letter to Warren B. Cook, December 4, 1998

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3 Ignoring the Pegasus Peak Sketch in Cook's Diary

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by Sheldon S.R. Cook

Robert M. Bryce, in his DIO attack on Cook's account of his ascent of Mount McKinley fails to take account of the significance of the sketch on page 52 of his Mount McKinley Diary. The sketch depicts features of the main mass of Mount McKinley located beyond the East Ridge which can only be seen from the crest of the East Ridge at 11,500 feet to 11,700 feet near Traleika Col. These features are not visible from below in the approach to the mountain up Ruth Glacier because they are hidden by the East Ridge which towers between Ruth Glacier and the central massif. They were unknown before Cook sketched them in September 1906, no climber or explorer had reached that point before him.

The sketch on page 52 of the diary is incontrovertible proof that Cook reached the crest of the East Ridge of Mount McKinley near Traleika Col at an elevation of 11,500 feet to 11,700 feet. Hans C. Waale, who had studied Cook's climb in detail for years, recognized in 1974 that this sketch proved that Cook reached this point and that it was evidence of the greatest importance, explosive as he termed it. The Ruth Glacier Expedition of 1994 under the leadership of Ted Heckathorn, with climbers Vernon Tejas, Scott Fischer, Doug Nixon, Walter Gonnason, Marty Raney and James Garlinghouse, reached the crest of the East Ridge at 11,700 feet in July 1994 and verified the accuracy of Cook's sketch. It is appaling that both The New York Times and the Fairbanks Daily News ignored this.

The demonstration that Cook indisputably reached the crest of the East Ridge at approximately 11,700 feet through the verification of his sketch on page 52 of his diary proves that a fundamental, primary assertion of the Barrille Affidavit is false. Ed Barrille (also Barrill) asserted in his infamous affidavit that Cook did not reach the summit of Mount McKinley, that he stopped at the southern gateway to Ruth Amphitheatre at about 5,000 feet and then returned to his base camp. We now know beyond a doubt that Barrille swore falsely when he alleged that Cook turned back at 5,000 feet, and this vastly increases the possibility that he also lied when he asserted that Cook did not reach the summit.

Bryce may believe that Barrille's Affidavit "makes more sense" than Cook's account of his ascent but Barrille's Affidavit is clearly false, at least in part, and its credibility as to the remainder of his assertions is severely shaken. Bryce ignores the vital importance of the sketch on page 52 of Cook's Diary. This decisive and obvious evidence is wholly ignored. 

In the book, Cook & Peary: The Polar Controversy, Resolved, Bryce concludes that Cook did not reach the summit of Mount McKinley in 1906, and speaks thereafter of Cook's claimed ascent as a "fake." For his conclusion Bryce relies principally upon photographs in Cook's narrative of his ascent, To the Top of the Continent, bearing captions which falsely state or imply that the photographs in question are of features at the highest elevations on Mount McKinley--including the summit peak--when in fact the photographs depict features at low elevations in the southeastern approaches to the massif. Bryce also relies upon the relatively short time within which the climb to the summit was achieved--eight days--which he regards as impossible or nearly so; and, upon the assertion of Barrille, Cook's sole companion on the climb to the summit, that Cook did not reach the top nor indeed any elevation above 5,500 feet on the mountain (Cook & Peary, pp. 795-844).

But there is a body of evidence which strongly indicates that Cook did attain the summit of Mount McKinley in 1906. Primary are his descriptions in his book, To the Top of the Continent, of the physical features of the mountain at the highest elevations--the first given to the world--some of which cannot have been seen from below, others of which in their exact character can only be known if seen at close range and traversed.

The photographs bearing erroneous captions, declaring the features portrayed to be located at high elevation on the mountain when in fact they are not, if considered separately and independently from the entire body of the evidence pertaining to Cook's climb, place Cook's claim in a negative light. 

Viewed in isolation from the evidence as a whole, the erroneously captioned photographs in Cook's book would tend to cause doubt that Cook had in fact climbed to the top.The photographs obviously do not prove that Cook did not climb to the summit, but merely--if indeed he acted deliberately--that he falsified captions. 

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He almost certainly was unable to secure good, clear photographs at the highest elevations because of snow conditions and bitter cold, or, possibly because he left his camera at his 6,000 foot camp in order to lighten his load to the greatest degree possible for the last segment of his climb.

It should be pointed out that it has not been proven that the peak depicted in the photograph captioned by Cook as the summit is not in fact the summit or a peak in the summit formation. But even if it were positively demonstrated that the peak in Cook's summit photograph is not the true summit but another--even Fake Peak--this fact would not establish that Cook did not reach the top. These photographs may be, probably are, substitutes for the photographs he was unable to take even though he reached the summit, used for purpose of illustration. But it seems unlikely that Cook's photograph captioned the top is "Fake Peak."

Cook asserted that his ascent of Mount McKinley began on the morning of September 8, 1906 and that he reached the top on the morning of September 16, 1906. His Mount McKinley Diary and his published account of the ascent make it clear that he climbed each day, a full day's climb, on 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and four hours on the morning of the September 16, attaining the summit at 10:00 a.m. of the 16th. Cook therefore ascended Mount McKinley from its southeastern approaches in eight days and four hours of the ninth day.

Despite the assertions of Cook's adversaries, it has never been proven that Mount McKinley cannot be scaled in the time within which Cook claimed to have done it. On the contrary, when his account of his ascent of Mount McKinley is carefully examined and then compared with later ascents of the mountain, the feasibility of the conquest of the mountain in Cook's reported time frame becomes apparent.

Cook deliberately traveled light, carrying only the food and supplies and equipment which were absolutely required for a period of ten days or two weeks. He and his companion, Barrille, each carried on his back a pack having a weight of approximately 50 pounds which contained all that was needed for the ascent. No ponderous loads were transported; no time was wasted in double-tripping.

Cook also accomplished his ascent of Mount McKinley at the very end of the summer when snow at the lower elevations had melted to the maximum extent and he was therefore not delayed by deep snowdrifts at these elevations as were other expeditions who climbed earlier in the summer. With light loads and the most favorable snow conditions, Cook climbed much more rapidly at the lower elevations than other expeditions which were burdened with the enormously heavy weight of unnecessary provisions and impedimenta. Segments of the route climbed by Dr. Cook at the higher elevations of the mountain have been climbed by later climbers as rapidly as Cook asserted that he did, and in a few cases, have been scaled at an even faster pace.

Cook's ascent of Mount McKinley was accomplished in the shortest time on record but the number of days required by him to scale the mountain from its base to its summit was not impossibly short. On the contrary, taking into account all the relevant factors, it was possible and feasible for Cook to attain the summit within the time specified by him: eight full days and part of a ninth day.


Cook's correct descriptions of features at the highest elevations of Mount McKinley in his book, To the Top of the Continent, and in the content, the nature and character of certain entries in his diary compellingly indicate that he reached the summit in September 1906. 

1. Cook correctly described the great glacier near the top of Mount McKinley which lies between Karstens Ridge and Pioneer Ridge and separates the ultimate peak of Mount McKinley, South Peak, the apex of Karstens Ridge and the summit of the mountain, from the penultimate peak of the mountain, North Peak, the highest point of Pioneer Ridge.

This great glacier, which Cook refers to as the Great Median Glacier because it lies between the two overshadowing ridges and the two peaks, is known today as Harper Glacier. This glacier rises from 15,000 feet at its outfall over the eastern cliffs of the mountain gradually to 18,200 feet–18,400 feet at the foot of South Peak. Cook accurately described the gradual rise of the glacier and he correctly stated in his book that the glacier presented no great problems for the climber--its surface was negotiable and climbable--no long delays because of extensive crevasses or difficult seracs. He reported no troublesome crevasses and only short delays at a couple of seracs. The only difficulty, Cook reported, was the high elevation which made breathing and climbing more and more difficult as he ascended the Median Glacier.

The surface of the glacier itself presented no mountaineering difficulties. And he ascended the Great Median Glacier from 15,000 feet to the base of South Peak at 18,200 feet in a total time of about 12 hours: 2 hours plus on September 14 and about 10 hours on September 15. The time consumed in this segment of his ascent reflects the glacier surface traversed, its nature and condition. The time required for the ascent of Harper Glacier by Cook is consistent with the condition of the glacial floor and conforms to the pace achieved by later climbers. Cook accurately described the character of the glacier. And the time within which he climbed it has been shown to be feasible.

Cook's first description of the nature and character, the condition of the surface of Harper Glacier between 15,000 feet and 18,200–18,400 feet at the base of South Peak is correct. It has been verified by later climbers and exploration. It is a virtual certainty that Cook accurately described the surface of the Great Median Glacier near the summit of Mount McKinley because he saw it at close range and traversed it from 15,000 feet to 18,200–18,400 feet at the base of South Peak. 

2. In his diary, Cook recorded the elevation in Harper Glacier at the foot of South Peak as 18,200 feet, determined by barometer. In his book, he adjusted this figure to 18,400 feet, probably because he feared his barometric reading at this high elevation was slightly, very slightly, off. The elevation which Cook records for the site of his last camp of the ascent, at the base of South Peak in Harper Glacier, the night of September 15 and the early morning of September 16, is precisely correct. Modern surveys and topographical maps confirm his figures. It is unlikely in the extreme that Cook could have achieved this degree of accuracy with regard to the elevation of Harper Glacier at the base of South Peak without having reached that point and measured its elevation. 

3. Cook described the slope of the ultimate peak of Mount McKinley, South Peak, as relatively gentle and presenting no mountaineering problems for the climber. The only difficulty was that of breathing and climbing in the very high elevation, which was laborious and somewhat painful. He described outcroppings of rock seen near the summit and said that the ultimate peak was of granite. But Cook described the slope of the final peak of Mount McKinley as snow-covered and at the top referred to the glow of the rays of the sun on the snow-clad slope at his feet in the bitter cold. All of this is correct. At the top, in his diary, he writes of the snow-slope. This is correct. The elevation of the summit in his diary, Cook gives as 20,400; in his book, he specifies 20,390 feet. These figures are correct, almost precisely correct. The accepted modern figure for the elevation of the summit of Mount McKinley has been, for many years, 20,320 feet. Very recent surveys have resulted, it seems, in a new figure of 20,307 feet.

And the character of the writing in Cook's diary as well as the data inscribed in it strongly suggest the reality of his ascent. At the upper elevations the script is labored, somewhat disjointed, written with great effort as would be the case because of the effect of the high altitude on his lungs and mental faculties, and of the bitter cold and fatique.

From Cook's long distance view of Mount McKinley in 1903, 35 miles northeast of the mountain, he could see the ridges of the mountain and Harper Glacier, but he could not have detected the nature of the surface of the glacier. In order to determine the character of the glacier and its surface, it would be necessary to see it at close range and traverse it. It is also extremely improbable that he could have determined the exact elevation of the glacier at the base of South Peak from long distance views of 35 to 40 miles away in 1903.

In 1906, it would have been impossible for him to make these determinations in Ruth Amphitheatre at 5,000 feet or from the crest of the East Ridge at 11,500 feet. The course of Harper Glacier from 15,000 feet to the base of South Peak at 18,200 feet in the glacier is not visible either from Ruth Glacier or Amphitheatre or from the crest of the East Ridge. The eastern end of Harper Glacier and its outfall over the eastern cliffs of Mount McKinley would be within view but, because of the southwesterly-northeasterly axis of the top of Mount McKinley, the course of Harper Glacier beyond this up to South Peak is not visible from Ruth Glacier, Ruth Amphitheatre or the crest of the East Ridge.

The view of Harper Glacier from the crest of the East Ridge at 11,500 feet--its course southwesterly from its outfall to the base of South Peak in Harper Glacier and the slope of South Peak upward from Harper Glacier to the summit--is obstructed by the towering wall of Karstens Ridge which lies between and above the East Ridge and Harper Glacier. And even if Harper Glacier were visible from the crest of the East Ridge, the distance from Harper Glacier, several miles, would be too great to enable a determination to be made concerning the nature and condition of the surface of Harper Glacier and the exact elevation of the glacier at the base of the two peaks: South Peak, the summit, and North Peak, the ultimate eminence. In 1906, it would have been necessary for Cook to climb far higher and well beyond the crest of the East Ridge at 11,500 feet near Traleika Col, which he unquestionably reached, in order to ascertain these facts.

Lastly, in his book, Cook asserts that South Peak and North Peak are about two miles apart at the top of Mount McKinley, separated by the vast width of the Great Median Glacier, the Harper Glacier. For many years, it was believed the two culminating peaks were four miles apart. Modern surveys have determined that the distance between South Peak and North Peak across Harper Glacier is two miles--Cook's 1906 estimate!

When one takes into account all of Cook's other correct descriptions of features at the highest elevations of Mount McKinley, his first and original descriptions of the upper heights of Mount McKinley, cumulatively and in the aggregate, strongly indicate that Cook attained the summit of Mount McKinley in September 1906.

4 Fake Peak I: Browne Blown Away by Balch, 1910

"Fake Peak I" had its inception with the subsequently-proven false affidavit of Ed Barrille (also Barrill), Cook's 1906 McKinley companion, who accepted $5,000 from the agents of the Peary Arctic Club for "services rendered." The affidavit was published in New York newspapers on Oct. 13, 1909 at the height of the polar controversy. Previously, for over three years, Barrille would tell all who asked in Alaska or Montana that he had climbed McKinley with Cook.

Belmore Browne led an expedition to McKinley in 1910 and determined that he had found the location of what he declared was the "false" photo of the summit of McKinley. The person who would, after extensive research, discredit the Browne thesis was one with some standing in both the alpine and geographic community: Edwin Swift Balch, an attorney with a prominent Philadelphia name.

Balch was president of the Philadelphia Geographical Society, a founder of the American Alpine Club, the author of several books and a climber who had ascended some of the most difficult European peaks. He was also a frequent contributor to the Bulletin of the American Geographical Society and the Journal of the Franklin Institute. In 1914 Balch authored a volume titled Mount McKinley and Mountain Climbers' Proofs--excerpted here and illustrated--which effectively demolished Browne's "Fake Peak:"

"In Cook's photograph of Mount McKinley and Browne's illustration of Fake peak, the outline of each mountain to the right of and below the flagman presents what might be called four steps in the rock, which, beginning at the top, may be numbered as Rock Steps 1, 2, 3, 4. In Browne's illustration there is a distant range of mountains. In Cook's photograph there is no such range of mountains; there is, however, a snowy tooth beyond the Rock steps, and this snowy tooth looks as if it were part of the Mount McKinley massif, possibly a snowy point of the South arete. Now if Cook's photograph of Mount McKinley and Browne's illustration of Fake Peak are enlarged by photography to the same size and a tracing is made of the outlines of the two mountains in the enlargements, it will be found that, as shown in the accompanying diagram, the outlines are not identical: they agree in some places, but they disagree in others

"The outlines of Mount McKinley and of Fake Peak back of the flagmen are wholly different. The outlines of Cook's and Browne's Rock Steps 1, 2, 3, 4, are more nearly alike, but they do not coincide. The outline of Browne's distant mountain rises well above the center of Rock Step 3 and abuts against the center of Rock Step 3. The outline of Cook's snowy tooth on the contrary, barely reaches the center of Rock Step 4. Cook's snowy tooth, therefore, is way below Browne's distant mountain

"There are thus at least six differences or divergences between Cook's photograph of Mount McKinley and Browne's illustration of Fake Peak.

  1. The apparent tops of the two mountains are not the same.
  2. The little rock rising before the flagman in Browne's illustration is lacking in Cook's photograph.
  3. The rocks in Cook's photograph are covered or powdered with snow in places where snow is lacking in Browne's illustration.
  4. The values in Cook's rocks are uniform throughout, while the values in Browne's braided rocks vary in their planes and their outlines.
  5. The outline of Cook's Mount McKinley is different from the outline of Browne's Fake Peak. The distant mountain in Browne's illustration rises way above the little snowy tooth in Cook's photograph.

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"These various differences or divergences between Cook's photograph of Mount McKinley and Browne's illustration of Fake Peak certainly strongly suggest different peaks....

"After tilting with the windmill of Fake Peak, Browne apparently thinks it unnecessary to discuss analytically Cook's climb from Ruth Glacier to the top of Mount McKinley. He does not pay the slightest attention to Cook's long, detailed and careful narrative of his ascent in 1906 of Mount McKinley by the exact route above 12,000 feet which Browne claims he himself followed in 1912; he does not touch on any of the points in mountaineering, which must be considered by any mountain historian studying the subject; he does not examine the heights climbed nor the distances traversed daily; he does not speak of Cook's description of the Northeast ridge; he does not refer to Cook's account of the Upper McKinley Glacier. Browne simply ignores everything connected with Cook's ascent of Mount McKinley from Ruth Glacier to the top."

-from Mount McKinley and Mountain Climbers/ Proofs by Edwin Swift Balch


5 Fake Peak II: East Side of Mt. McKinley, 1956


"Bradford Washburn's picture of the upper part of the "Fake Peak," taken in August 1956--enlarged from a part of a photograph taken at a considerable distance."


by Ted Heckathorn

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Fifty years after Dr. Frederick Cook first blazed the trail up the awesome Ruth Glacier on his Mount McKinley quest, three new expeditions approached Mount McKinley from the east. One team sought to vilify Cook, while another tried to validate his route. The third party operated to the north on the Traleika Glacier and apparently were oblivious to the other two groups and dispute about the mountain.

When Dr. Cook's daughter returned home from Alaska in 1956, she located her father's 1906 diary. Also that year, this writer bought a new book that he thought would bolster his belief that Robert Peary discovered the North Pole. Little did he realize that this new edition of Belmore Browne's The Conquest of Mount McKinley was the opening barrage of the next phase of the mountaineering controversy.


Bradford Washburn, the Director of the Boston Museum of Science, led the anti-Cook party. Washburn, who had been Browne's friend, had been an opponent of Cook for many years. He planned to revisit the lower Ruth Glacier where Browne had photographed a "Fake Peak" that Cook allegedly had used for a summit photo. If Washburn could substantiate Browne's claim about the peak, he contended that it would permanently destroy Cook's claim to have reached the summit. The pro-Cook party, led by Walt Gonnason, believed that Washburn was trying to negotiate a lucrative contract from Life magazine for an expose story about Cook.1 Although Washburn led Life to believe that his 1956 photographs proved that Cook faked his ascent, he later admitted "they did not duplicate Cook's scene."2

In 1957, Washburn returned with Adams Carter with a plan to build a photographic tower about 42 to 45 feet high to try to duplicate the Cook photo. After constructing this fifty-foot alpine version of the "Tower of Babel," and moving it to different positions, he still failed to get his photographic match. Washburn decided that his tower required another 10 feet of elevation, and concluded his fieldwork.3


It is interesting to note that Washburn confined his fieldwork to the lower Ruth Glacier (where all agree that Cook went) and made no attempt to follow Cook's route above the Gateway. Yet Washburn claimed that this was the point where "the narrative ceases to describe what Cook and Barrille actually did." If Washburn really believed this statement, then why did he not travel up the North Fork of the Ruth Glacier and collect photographic evidence that Cook had not been there?

While Washburn was playing with his "fifty-foot erector set" on the lower Ruth Glacier, Gonnason's 1956 expedition was exploring the East Ridge area on the Upper Ruth Glacier. Gonnason knew that the East Ridge matched Cook's description as the divide between the Yukon and Pacific drainage systems. Atop the East Ridge, he could see the way to the summit, but the weakest two men of his four-man party did not want to attempt this corniced segment of the ridge. Although Gonnason wanted to continue, he decided to stop at that point and return with a stronger party the following year.4

James Mills, a British military officer, and three companions led the third expedition in the field in 1956. They approached the East Ridge from the north side via the Traleika Glacier. Mills made the first ascent of the unusual double summit of Pegasus Peak and reached the top of the East Ridge near Traleika Col.5 Mills had no idea that Cook had visited that spot half a century before or had seen and sketched Pegasus Peak in his 1906 diary.


During the next 38 years, Washburn's story received considerable publicity and attention, while Gonnason and Mills were virtually forgotten. Mills published an account of his expedition in 1961, but died shortly thereafter. Other than contemporary newspapers, Gonnason's account was published in a small Italian book in 1970.6 As a result, most Mount McKinley histories ignore both Gonnason and Mills while giving Washburn's misleading 1955-57 work exaggerated prominence.

In 1994, this writer's expedition explored the North Fork of the Ruth Glacier and along the East Ridge. We found documentary evidence that Cook had ascended the East Ridge near the Traleika Col and from there had a difficult, but doable route to the summit. Even more damaging to Washburn was our discovery that a number of his pronouncements about Cook were either highly misleading or dead wrong.7 His 1958 article in the American Alpine Journal, that had long been accepted as gospel truth in the mountaineering and exploring community, was filled with factual errors and distortions.

So long as no one went up the North Fork of the Ruth Glacier and Peary's personal papers were closed to the public, one could with impunity make virtually any derogatory statement about Cook's 1906 ascent. Cook supporters and neutral observers had not seen the area and often did not recognize false or misleading allegations. For example in 1958, Washburn stated:

While Ruth Glacier does change its appearance dramatically above the great Gorge, the details in Cook's description on page 204 are seriously in error. The glacier does not turn sharply to the southeast at the point where it narrows. It turns directly to the west. On page 206, Dr. Cook describes climbing the lateral moraine of an icefall (serac). This was above his 8,000 foot camp...no moraines are visible along the sides of any of the Ruth's valleys above about 5,000 feet.8

Had Washburn taken the trouble to ascend the North Fork, he would have seen what Cook was describing. The glacier makes a sharp bend around Gunsight Peak as it reaches the East Ridge. Apparently Washburn confused the West Fork of the Ruth Glacier with the West Branch of the North Fork. The moraine that Dr. Cook mentioned is on the west side of the North Fork. It is not a true moraine, but it certainly looks like one from ground level.

The disputed part of Cook's route was above the Gateway and Mt. Barrille and not the site of Browne's Fake Peak. If Cook's intent was to make a false claim then it made absolutely no sense for he and Barrille to continue up the glacier. They could simply have taken photographs of the fake peak and slowly returned down the glacier. And why would Cook instigate a false claim without making an ironclad agreement with Barrille to insure his silence?9


In retrospect, 1956 was a most significant year in Mount McKinley history. Washburn's photographic evidence and persuasive arguments seemingly closed the door on Dr. Cook's 1906 ascent. The expeditions of Gonnason and Mills were reduced to footnotes or less,10 and Cook's diary was tucked away in the family files. 

For nearly four decades that remained the situation, until the diary of the dead explorer and the documents from his enemies arose from the archives. This in turn led to a renewed interest in what really happened on the mountain in 1906 and behind the scenes in 1909 and 1910. It does seem remarkable that after all of these years that Dr. Cook's pencil might prove to be mightier than the Brad Washburn's camera tower.

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PEGASUS PEAK and TRALEIKA GLACIER from further west. Note the relatively smooth triangular side of the west summit seen at the upper left of this 1996 photo. Dr. Cook drew the sketch on page 52 of his diary from atop the East Ridge seen at the upper right in this photo.


1. Gonnason, Walter. Oral communication to author, July 1994. 2. Anonymous. "The Camera Eye vs Dr. Cook," Life, vol. 48 (August 20, 1956), pp. 86-92. 3. Washburn, Bradford. "Doctor Cook and Mount McKinley," American Alpine Journal, vol. 11 (1958), pp. 1-30. 4. Gonnason, Walter. "Diary of Walter L. Gonnason: 1956 Expedition via Ruth Glacier and East Buttress," Polar Priorites, vol. 14 (October 1994), pp. 22-25. 5. Mills, James. Airborne to the Mountains, New York, A.S. Barnes and Co., 1961. 6. Zavatti, Silvio. La Prima Scalata del McKinley (Alasca), Rome, Instituto Geografico Polare, 1970. 7. Heckathorn, Ted. "Reopening the Book on Mount McKinley," in the 1996 edition of To the Top of the Continent by Frederick A. Cook, pp. 249-262. 8. Washburn, Bradford. AAJ, p. 10. 9. Heckathorn, Ted. "Sins of Omission & Contradiction," Polar Priorities, vol. 17 (September 1997), pp. 20-27. 10. Bradford Washburn and David Roberts. Mount McKinley: The Conquest of Denali, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1991. In this large book, Washburn mentioned Gonnason only in a bibliographic note. Mills got no mention at all.

6 Fake Peak III: The Rehash to Fit the Model, 1998

"Fake Peak III" gained first light through the pages of DIO, the creation of Baltimore writer Dennis Rawlins, in the summer of 1998. It was essentially a reconstruction of the original Browne theory, supplemented by the Bradford Washburn journey of 1956 that turned out to be a Life magazine sponsorship ("The Camera Eye vs Dr. Cook") despite a version which appeared in the Journal of the American Alpine Club.

The author was Robert Bryce, who had set the stage for his post-book sequel of Denali doubt with several reservations which he expressed in Cook & Peary. The greatest challenge, he suggested, was to determine if the location of "Fake Peak" was indeed that which Cook said was the summit picture:

Is Fake Peak the same place as Cook's summit? To this day no one has ever been able to make a picture from any spot near Fake Peak that exactly duplicates the alignment of the distant mountains across Ruth Glacier so that one coincides with the "distant peak" in Cook's summit photo. Even Washburn associate Adams Carter's elaborate attempts in 1957 to erect a 50-foot mast to compensate for the depth of ice and snow that had melted since 1906 fell several feet short of placing a photographer at the conjectural point where Cook stood when he took his picture. But even had Carter's experiment worked, if the rock profile had actually collapsed, there would be no way to make an exact duplicate. (Bryce, 1997, p. 818)

Those familiar with the controversy know that Cook advocates have been trashed as "conspiracy buffs" when discussing various aspects of the case, yet Bryce acknowledges links with the acknowledged Peary Arctic Club figures (General Thomas Hubbard and later Evelyn Briggs Baldwin) in the original Browne allegations. He even suggests that a "nagging suspicion" surrounds Belmore Browne because he apparently held Cook's original McKinley negatives. That this experienced researcher did not ask why a onetime companion, who was after 1906 a Cook adversary and later his leading McKinley antagonist, came into the possession of these critical negatives is itself suspicious.

Bryce observes that Bradford Washburn, who considered Browne his spiritual mentor on McKinley, and had a friendship which lasted until Browne's death in 1954 "apparently was never aware that Cook's negatives had once been in Browne's possession...." (Bryce, p. 819) This is almost as astonishing as how and why the creator of "Fake Peak" came into their possession. Are we to believe that for more than two decades these two debunkers of Cook on McKinley never once discussed the negatives?

So this was the background when Bryce penned his Denali Doubt sequel for DIO, knowing that his book did not make the case and at the urging of Browne's debunking descendent, would find a place for his "Fake Peak III" in the pages of DIO, a journal destined for obscurity to all who do not follow the cryptographic referencing of Dennis Rawlins.

A Bryce critic (amazon.com Feb. 14, 1999) observed that "issues of faked photos are also important to the discussions of evidence. While reproduced photographs are apparently correctly cross-referenced, it is difficult for a reader to compare when an original and a 'fake' are not shown on the same page. At minimum, issues of page printing press consistency arise, along with questions concerning how prints might be altered from original negatives (glass slides or film) before the Digital Age of computer imaging. In general, important landscape features are difficult to locate from text discussions of photos. In particular, the entire Mount McKinley series of photos and maps of glaciers, ridges and camps is hard for a reader to assess."

A critical reviewer of Bryce's book in Polar Priorities (vol. 17, September, 1997) suggested that the author's argumentation was "to fit the model" of the theory that he had postulated. It could be said that Fake Peak III was done in the same manner, with a third generation of faulty reasoning, excessive characterization and poor inquiry.


Copyright 2005 - The Frederick A. Cook Society