Hougen Group

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Robert Kennedy. Seen here with two RCMP at the Whitehorse Airport.

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Robert Kennedy. Seen here in front of Sam McGee's cabin.

Climbing Mt. Kennedy

It was the highest unclimbed peak in the St. Elias. Standing at an impressive 13,900 feet, the unnamed mountain was a beauty to be behold. For the untrained mountaineer, however, it was a formidable foe.

When Mount Kennedy was named for the late American president John F. Kennedy, the National Geographic Society and the Boston Museum of Science decided to set up a team to conduct a joint survey which would result in a detailed map of the mountain.

When the late president's brother joined the team at the last minute, the story became world-wide news. Senator Bobby Kennedy had never climbed a mountain before. The world's press descended on Whitehorse and scrambled for transportation to the base camp at the 9000-foot level.

From here, Bobby Kennedy, led by veteran Everest climbers Jim Whitaker and Barry Prather, ascended the last ridge. When they got to within 50 yards of the peak, they unroped and let Senator Kennedy make the final ascent. Here he planted the Kennedy family crest, the National Geographic emblem and the Canadian flag.

When he descended to base camp, Kennedy was hailed by press, climbers and scientists alike. There were many pictures, but the one I remember best is that of Bobby Kennedy and my friend, the late Terry Delaney, arms wrapped around each other smiling ever so cheerfully for the camera.

When he got back to Whitehorse, Senator Kennedy dropped into the Capital Hotel to get cleaned up and have a drink. He bought a round and paid for it by cheque. Hotel owner Cal Miller said that was one cheque he'd never cash. He was keeping it, he said, as a souvenir from the future president of the United States.

It was not to be. Senator Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in California in 1968.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin