Sunday, November 4, 2012

Mt. Robson - Infinite Patience

Alpine climbing in the Canadian Rockies takes a lot of patience.  Years ago I lost track of how many times I've taken my pack for a hike to the base of big routes, or retreated from high on those same routes leaving behind yet another set of nuts & pitons, or even  going for a long drive and ending the "attempt" without even leaving the parking lot.  In the case of Mount Robson, I turned tail and drove away on both my 18th and 19th birthdays, which in light of having 90 pound packs and little experience was probably a good thing!  Since then I have managed to summit Robson via both the Emperor Ridge & the Furher Ridge, but have also spent a night shivering in the scree at 8000ft before descending off the Emperor Ridge, wisely turned around at the Shieser Ledges on the South Face during a winter solo attempt, and just this year got shut down by conditions on the North Face.  However, all this just makes it even sweeter when things work out and you are able to complete one of the routes you have long dreamed about.  In this case, the combination of perfect weather, perfect conditions, and the perfect partner, led to one of the most enjoyable trips I've ever had. 

Raphael showed up in Canmore his customary 1 hour late, and along with Eammon Walsh, who had his own alpine plans for the obscure Mt. Quincy, we made the drive out to Jasper & Mt. Robson. We arrived at the Robson parking lot eager to get going, but road construction delayed us for a few hours and we were barely able to make it to Berg Lake before dark.  We decided to camp at the river and start early the next morning.  Given the summer temps, we knew that the ice pitch which had been used by other parties to access the Emperor Face wouldn't be formed, so instead we scrambled around to the right and traversed back into Infinite Patience where it steepens. 

Once on the route, the climbing went much faster than we anticipated, and the climbing was relatively moderate.  A couple brief mixed sections up to about M4 provided some good quality climbing, and most of the rest of it was on 60 to 70 degree ice gullies.  Much earlier than anticipated we reached the Emperor Ridge, and climbed up a few pitches of rock & mixed terrain before finding a beautiful bivi site.  At this point we realized that it would have been reasonable to climb the route as a single-push, but didn't regret our choice to camp as we gazed out on an incredible sunset on a clear & windless evening. 

The next morning we continued up the ridge and soon reached the infamous gargoyles (crazy double cornices on a very exposed ridge).  I'd climbed them once before, and was looking forward to going through them again.  Raph took the lead and set a blistering pace as we simulclimbed up, over, and through them to the summit.  Only 2 or 3 hours later we stood on the summit feeling elated, although a bit winded from the fast pace! 

The descent down the South Face is undeniably dangerous due to serac hazard, but we were able to move really quick and were only exposed for brief periods and it went smoothly.  We spent a lovely night at the hut and then down to the trail the next morning.  We arrived back at the car feeling psyched about our climb, and keen to return to the Emperor Face for a shot at one of the harder routes in the future!

For more pictures & a different perspective on the climb, check out the writeup on Raph's blog as well.  Here's some of the pictures I got:

The North Face & Emperor Face on Mt. Robson.  (Taken on an earlier trip in August).  Infinite Patience takes the rightmost snow & ice gullies on the rocky Emperor Face on the right.

 Raph leading into the start of the ice gullies.

And traversing out of the gully on 5.7 rock.

 A bit more rock.

And following me up a great mixed pitch about 2/3rds of the way up the route.

Raph continuing up some fun veins of thin ice.

Our kick-ass campsite perched above the Emperor Face with Mt. Whitehorn in the background.

Moving along the Emperor Ridge.

Raph contemplating the long stretch of gargoyles ahead!

And shortly thereafter finishing them off!

All smiles on the sunshiny summit.

 Only 10000 feet to descend.

One for the ladies!  Raph never misses a chance to walk around in his underwear.  

J. Mills
CRAG Head Guide

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