Robson is the highest peak of the Canadian Rockies, a commanding 700 feet higher than the second highest in the range (Mount Columbia-12,294), and rightfully known as "The King of the Rockies". Like all great peaks, there is no easy way to the summit. The famous Austrian guide Conrad Kain, author of the first two routes on Robson, proclaimed upon first sight of the peak, "God made the mountains, but good God! who made Robson?"
This complex mountain has many distinct characters, depending on the aspect. The North Face is known for its steep ice walls, the south side for complex, "gargoyle" studded rock & snow ridges, and the legendary Emperor Face, rising over 9000' from the valley below, for its daring mixed lines that push the limits of modern alpine abilities.
Although the "Wishbone Arete" was selected for Steck & Roper's "Fifty Classic Climbs of North America", this is generally considered a poor choice by Canadian Rockies & '50 Classics' connoiseurs alike, as a number of better lines exist on the peak. Sean Dougherty, author of "Select Alpine Climbs in the Canadian Rockies" calls the line "...somewhat over-rated considering the amount of loose rock & the long approach."
The mountain's impressive size and intimidating vertical relief make one-day ascents uncommon. Weather is a major factor in this part of the Canadian Rockies, and the mountain is said to create its own weather. Some years the mountain may not be climbed at all, and in one 14-year period from 1939 to 1953, the mountain did not receive a singel ascent! For routes on the South side, the Ralph Forster Hut is a key consideration. Most North side routes will begin from a bivy at Berg Lake. Most ascents take place from August to September.
It would seem that nearly every first ascent on Mt. Robson was historically significant in some way. The stunning first ascent of the peak, perhaps the crowning achievement of legendary Canadian Rockies guide Conraid Kain, was easily among the greatest ascents of the era, and certainly the best ice climbing feat accomplished on the continent. After tirelessly cutting steps for his two clients up the steep headwall, Kain famously quipped, "Gentlemen, that's as far as I can take you."
Kain returned in 1924 to establish the quite popular South Face route. While this route is easier & shorter than the Kain Face, it is far more exposed to objective hazard.
The 1938 ascent of the Fuhrer Ridge was another impressive display of marathon step-chopping, at the time the steepest and most continuous ice face in the range.
The Wishbone Arete was ultimately established in 1955, but its signifigance is probably better stated in terms of the failed 1913 attempt which began only a few days after Kain's famous ascent. Swiss guide Walter Schauffelberger lead a party of two to within 500 feet of the summit without pitons or other modern gear; at the time an amazing feat which was not surpassed unti the FA, despite 30 or so attempts!
In 1961 the Emperor Ridge was established, to this day one of the longest ridge climbs in the Rockies. The heavily corniced upper ridge is reminiscent of the treacherous ridges of the Alaska range. Soon after, in 1963, the North Face route established the next level of long steep ice faces in the range.
The unparalleled Emperor Face was an obvious problem, and several attempts were abandoned before the legendary Mugs Stump and Jim Logan succeeded on the face in 1978. Dave Cheesemond, with Tony Dick, added his line in 1981, and though they both climb the face at the notorious "5.9 A2" grade, the Stump/Logan is considered quite a bit more sustained. Barry Blanchard achieved a life-long dream in 2002, establishing his Emperor Face masterpiece "Infinite Patience" with Phillipe Pellet & Eric Dumerac, and finally in 2007 Steve House & Colin Haley added "The King", which inadvertently shared some of the Stump-Logan route.
From Banff, follow the Icefields Parkway (93) North ~285 breathtaking KM to Jasper. From Jasper, head west on Hwy 16 (Yellowhead Hwy) for 85 Km, then turn right on an access road that heads to the Berg Lake Trail. Follow this rd for 2Km & park. All routes begin from this trailhead.
The Kain Route is the original way up Mount Robson. There once was a huge serac that loomed over part of the face, but glacial wasting has now removed the threat. Currently, this is probably the safest way to climb Robson. Remote climbing with low odds for success given the weather, snow conditions and logistics. Still once you get your shot, moderate to steep snow and ice climbing up the Kain Face and then moderate climbing up snow and ice faces and around gargoyles of ice leads to a large su...[more]Browse More Classics in International