Beech 18 AT-7 Navigator Copyright Museum of Flight - all rights reserved



by Peter Stekel

FINAL FLIGHT is the story of four aviators lost in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks on November 18, 1942

FINAL FLIGHT, coming from Wilderness Press in 2010

Read more about FINAL FLIGHT here.




Darwin Canyon Panorama 1

Early morning: The box canyon nature of upper Darwin is readily seen as the camera pans past the terminal moraine of Darwin Glacier and then, Mendel Glacier. The sun shines brightly on Mt. Mendel - 2100' above camp at Lake #4.

Darwin Canyon Panorama 2


The view continues down canyon with Lake #3 and swings right to Lamarck Col. It's the first saddle on the ridge, among the debris of rock and sand created by a millennia of freeze/thaw. Climbing over the trailless Col route is the fastest way in to Darwin Canyon but requires map and compass skills, ability to walk over snow and ice along with a good heart and strong lungs. It may be quick but it isn't easy.

Darwin Canyon Panorama 3

From the glacial-green waters of Lake #5 in Darwin Canyon, look upward to the incredible steepness of Mt. Mendel. Now, imagine Lt. Gamber and his three aviation cadets flying into this narrow canyon. Imagine them being lost and not knowing where they are. Imagine them flying in a cloud and not knowing they are in this place. Given the outcome of their flight, sometimes it's better not to know.

Mendel Cirque 1

Late afternoon from the foot of Mendel's terminal moraine - simply a pile of rock the glacier pushed downslope. Just for scale: Most of those rocks are bigger than your SUV.

Mendel Cirque 2


That 60 degree slope below the summit of Mt. Mendel holds a crack no wider than a person's outstretched arms. It fills, most years, with snow that turns to ice, creating "Ice 9" [aka Mendel Couloir]. It's considered the most difficult and challenging ice climb in the entire Sierra Nevada, rising nearly 1000 vertical feet in less than a mile. In October, 2005, two ice climbers found the body of Leo Mustonen, one of Lt. Gamber's cadets, at the base of Ice 9 where the bergschrum of the glacier meets the bottom of the couloir.

Mt. Darwin, Mt. Mendel & Darwin Canyon


The ridge containing Mt. Darwin and Mt. Mendel is actually a short spur of the Sierra Nevada crest. Their east face is steep and highly dissected; their summits are broad and plateau-like - just like Mt. Whitney. Moving south to north, this view encompasses Mt. Darwin [13,831'], Darwin Glacier, and then, Mt. Mendel [13,710']. Before sweeping across the Mendel terminal moraine and down canyon, the camera zooms in on the bottom of the Ice 9 couloir and the general region where Lt. Gamber's Beech 18 AT-7 #41-21079 probably crashed on November 18, 1942.

Final Flight blog entries


December November October September August July June May April March February January


December November October September August July  June May April March February January 


December  November October September

copyright 2009 Peter Stekel, all rights reserved




Final Flight, Mendel, Mendel Glacier, Sierra Nevada, Peter Stekel, Leo Mustonen, Ernest Munn, William Gamber, John Mortenson, Kings Canyon National Park, Beech 18, AT-7, plane crash, mummy, JPAC, Wilderness Press, finalflightthebook, blog, 41-21070, airplane, lenticular cloud, hypoxia, navigation, wilderness