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Mount Robson
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South Face/Schwartz Ledges 

YDS: Easy 5th French: 1+ Ewbanks: 3 UIAA: I ZA: 5 British: M 1c AI2-3 Steep Snow X

Type:  Trad, Ice, Snow, Alpine, 10000', Grade III
Consensus:  YDS: Easy 5th French: 1+ Ewbanks: 3 UIAA: I ZA: 5 British: M 1c AI2-3 [details]
FA: C Kain, M Geddes, T Moffat, M Pollard, 1924
Season: Summer
Page Views: 2,065
Submitted By: Ken Trout on Dec 12, 2010

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Looking back from Little Robson after rapping the ...


The Ralph Forster Hut was built for this route, before glacial wasting increased the objective hazards. The South Face used to be the standard route. Currently it seems the Kain Face is safer and more popular. Don't let the Hut give you a false sense of security.

From Kinney Lake, begin the climb with the hot and waterless hillside up to the hut. The route sports a ladder down low, a rappel for return trips up high, and a 5.3 Chimney to gain the ridge-top and hut. Elevation gain, car to hut; 1,700 meters.

Above the hut, the south ridge is climbed past Little Robson, scrambling at worst. Then the crux, traversing left across the low 5th class Schwartz Ledges, directly under big, unpredictably calving, serac cliffs. A son of the Rockefeller family was swept away while on the ledges, never to be seen again. Some say your only under the hazard for less than 20 minutes.

Once past the calving ice, a traverse under the Roof (uppermost south glacier) joins the Kain Route on the southeast ridge. This ridge is getting more technical as melting progresses. Elevation gain, hut to summit; 1,400 meters.

There is a direct finish, that ascends steep snow and ice, left of the roof. Soloists go this way because there is less crevasse hazard compared to the traverse across the glacier to the Kain Rt. Maybe this is good soloist's route because friends don't ask friends to traverse the Schwartz Ledges.


The descent of the upper east ridge has been getting harder. Guides are reporting that a lot of rappels are now needed to descend the Roof, south of the upper ridge.

After leaving the Kain route and reversing the easy glacier traverse back to Schwartz Ledges Traverse, a choice can be made.

Some teams have done one long rappel down the serac cliff, staying climbers right of the ice looming over the ledges. Two 50 meter ropes used to make it. How much safer is rappelling the ice cliff? That changes a lot and needs to be decided based on what you see up there.

Otherwise, you get to reverse the traverse, again under the very real threat of calving ice above the Schwartz Ledges. The rest of the descent is simply reversing what has already been done.

Reports from climbers traversing the mountain tell that this route is tricky to suss out from above.


To get the best current conditions check the mountain condition reports at Association of Canadian Mountain Guides.

Bill Kerr's telephoto of the ledges and serac @ Summit Post

Chris Guolet's photo of The Roof shows how the route is trending left of the southeast ridge. Also, taken from an angle that shows why the uppermost South Glacier is called the The Roof.

Someone should probably be sainted because the South Face Webcam is a miracle.

Photos of South Face/Schwartz Ledges Slideshow Add Photo
South Face/Schwartz Ledges contour interval:  100 ...
BETA PHOTO: South Face/Schwartz Ledges contour interval: 100 ...
The Schwartz Ledges Photographer Unknown  I found ...
BETA PHOTO: The Schwartz Ledges Photographer Unknown I found ...
Schwartz Ledges Photographer Unknown  Yellow dashe...
BETA PHOTO: Schwartz Ledges Photographer Unknown Yellow dashe...
Descending steep snow above the ledges
Descending steep snow above the ledges
Schwartz Ledges in 1975.  We had just rapped down ...
Schwartz Ledges in 1975. We had just rapped down ...
Racing across the Schwartz Ledges, August 2007. We...
Racing across the Schwartz Ledges, August 2007. We...

Comments on South Face/Schwartz Ledges Add Comment
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By George Bell
From: Boulder, CO
Dec 31, 2010

I attempted this route many years ago. We had perfect weather and first traversed over to the Wishbone Arete, but this route was rotten and covered with a foot of fresh snow. The next day we headed up the South Face but the weather window had closed and the peak was fogged in. Partway up we were lost, of course, and in a sudden clearing we saw we were wandering around right under a huge ice cliff. Down we went.
By Ken Trout
From: Golden, CO
Jan 5, 2011

Thanks George, I've got some more beta from Boulder. Everyone knew the late Peter Steers because he worked at Neptune's. Pete soloed this route via the direct finish and downclimbed the ledges too; several years before something besides an avalanche got him. This really is the kind of climb that good friends don't ask others to join them on!
By Alfred Vanderbilt
Sep 6, 2012

It was Nicholas Vanderbilt, not a Rockefeller, who I think you're referring to in this section about the Ledges. Nick and Francis Gledhill, both Harvard climbers, disappeared in 1984 on the Wishbone. They were seen at 11,000 feet just off the ridge and were never seen again. A great deal of equipment that may have been theirs has come out of the West Bowl, suggesting they may have attempted an escape that direction.
By George Bell
From: Boulder, CO
Sep 7, 2012

The Ralph Forster Hut was taken in by chopper from another location, I believe. A friend received quite a shock when he saw the hut, because he had already slept in it when it was on a different mountain. He said it was a bizarre feeling to see the same hut in a completely different location! Or maybe it was just the drugs!
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