Woodinville climber at Mt. McKinley symposium
by Jeff Switzer
Mountaineers and historians will delve into the mystery of who first conquered North America's highest peak, Mt. McKinley, at a symposium titled "Mt. McKinley and Dr. Frederick A. Cook" this Saturday at 8:30 a.m. in West Seattle.
Ted Heckathorn, Woodinville resident and symposium organizer, has his own role in the history of the McKinley historical controversy.
In 1989, Heckathorn found bank drafts and other documents showing that Robert E. Peary had bribed Dr. Cook's companion in 1909 into saying Cook and he had faked the ascent of McKinley in 1906. Cook's companion, Ed Barrill, had signed an affidavit in Tacoma saying he and Dr. Cook had faked the ascent.
However, historians throughout the world have rebounded from the claims against Cook's ascent, and base information from Peary and Cook's personal papers opened to the public within the past 10 years.
Heckathorn organized an expedition to trace Cook's 1906 route in 1994, though no scholarly debate ensued.
Heckathorn's expedition and reaffirming results infuriated Cook's enemies, who held a mock trial in Alaska in February of this year. Heckathorn compared the trial to Galileo's 1633 heresy trial.
Those arguing against Cook's claims were challenged to present their case at this week's symposium. A long list of experts, authors, historians, climbers, and photographers will be speaking, including Heckathorn, who will give his account of the 1994 expedition.
The symposium begins at 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 7 at the Mountaineers Building, 300 3rd West, Seattle, WA 98119. Those interested in the symposium can call Heckathorn at (206) 844-9302.