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Mount Sanford is a shield volcano[3] in the Wrangell Volcanic Field, in eastern Alaska near the Copper River. It is the sixth highest mountain in the United States and the third highest volcano behind Mount Bona and Mount Blackburn. The south face of the volcano, at the head of the Sanford Glacier, rises 8,000 feet (2,400 m) in 1 mile (1,600 m) resulting in one of the steepest gradients in North America.

Mount Sanford
Mount Sanford (left) and Mount Wrangell in 1980
Highest point
Elevation16,237 ft (4,949 m) [1] NAVD88
Prominence7,687 ft (2,343 m) [1]
Isolation40.3 mi (64.8 km) [1]
Coordinates62°12′50″N 144°07′44″W / 62.2138889°N 144.1288889°W / 62.2138889; -144.1288889Coordinates: 62°12′50″N 144°07′44″W / 62.2138889°N 144.1288889°W / 62.2138889; -144.1288889[2]
Mount Sanford is located in Alaska
Mount Sanford
Mount Sanford
LocationWrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska, U.S.
Parent rangeWrangell Mountains
Topo mapUSGS Gulkana A-1
Mountain typeShield volcano[3]
Last eruption320,000 years ago
First ascentJuly 21, 1938 by Terris Moore and Bradford Washburn[4]
Easiest routeSheep Glacier (North Ramp) Route, Alaska Grade 2[4]
Mount Sanford from Tok Cutoff Highway
Mount Sanford from Tok Cutoff Highway
Mount Sanford


Mount Sanford is mainly composed of andesite, and is an ancient peak, being mostly Pleistocene, although some of the upper parts of the mountain may be Holocene. The mountain first began developing 900,000 years ago, when it began growing on top of three smaller shield volcanoes that had coalesced. Although obscured by icefields, the uppermost 2,000 feet (610 m) of the mountain appear to be a lava dome filling a larger summit crater.[5]

Two notable events in the mountain's history include a large rhyolite flow which traveled some 11 miles (18 km) to the north east of the peak and has a volume of about 5 cubic miles (21 km3), and another flow which erupted from a rift zone on the flank of the volcano some 320,000 years ago. The second flow was basaltic in nature and marks the most recent activity of the volcano. The flow was dated using radiometric methods.[3]

Observers have reported minor activity at Sanford, primarily vapor clouds or plumes from ice and rockfalls. Some reported incidents may have been orographic clouds, while others have been interpreted as avalanches.[6]

The majority of Mount Sanford above 8,000 feet (2,400 m) is covered by icefields, merging to the south with that surrounding Mount Wrangell. The largest glacier on Sanford is the Sanford Glacier, whose source lies at the steep cirque that cuts into the south side of the mountain.[5]


The mountain was named in 1885 by Lieutenant Henry T. Allen of the U.S. Army, a descendant of Reuben Sanford.[2]

Mount Sanford was first climbed on July 21, 1938 by noted mountaineers Terris Moore and Bradford Washburn, via the still standard North Ramp route up the Sheep Glacier. This route "offers little technical difficulty" and "is a glacier hike all the way to the summit"[4] but is still a serious mountaineering challenge (Alaska Grade 2) due to the altitude and latitude of the peak. The base of the route is usually accessed by air, but landing near the mountain is not straightforward.

On March 12, 1948, Northwest Airlines Flight 4422 crashed into Mount Sanford. All 24 passengers and 6 crew members were killed. The wreckage was quickly covered by snow and was not found again until 1999.[7]

The first solo ascent of Sanford was achieved on September 19, 1968, by Japanese mountaineer Naomi Uemura, who later died just after making the first solo winter ascent of Denali.[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Mount Sanford, Alaska". Retrieved 2015-12-30.
  2. ^ a b "Mount Sanford". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
  3. ^ a b c "Sanford". Global Volcanism Program. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
  4. ^ a b c Wood, Michael; Coombs, Colby (2001). Alaska: A climbing guide. The Mountaineers. pp. 146–148. ISBN 0-89886-724-X.
  5. ^ a b Richter, Donald H.; Rosenkrans, Danny S.; Steigerwald, Margaret J. "Guide to the Volcanoes of the Western Wrangll Mountains, Alaska, U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 2072" (PDF). U.S. Geological Survey.
  6. ^ "Sanford reported activity". Alaska Volcano Observatory. U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  7. ^ "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
  8. ^ Vickery, Jim Dale (1998). Winter Sign. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. pp. 50–51. ISBN 0-8166-2969-2.


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