Monday, August 9, 2010

Mt. Robson - Furher Ridge (IV, 70 degree mixed) with Brad

Mt. Robson with the Fuhrer Ridge on the left, the North Face in the middle, and the upper Emperor Face on the right. The Helmet is the partially visible peak on the far left.

Had an awesome trip to Mt. Robson (12971ft) with Brad from July 30 - Aug 2nd. Mt. Robson is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies and one of the most challenging peaks in North America! Brad is one of my strongest & most determined guests so we chose to try a more difficult & rarely climbed route, the Fuhrer Ridge. The Fuhrer follows a series of mixed ice & rock gullies on the North side of the mountain between the popular Kain Route and the North Face.

A foreshortened view of the Furher Ridge route from our camp below.

On day 1 we met in Jasper and packed our bags. Even though we had super-light camping & climbing gear, we still ended up with packs weighing about 60 pounds. We used bikes as far as is allowed (7km) on the Berg Lake trail and then hiked the remaining 12km to Berg Lake. From here, we began scrambling up a massive rock buttress that splits the Mist & Berg Glaciers. We scrambled for hundreds & hundreds of meters, and some of it felt rather tricky with a 60 pound pack! Finally, after 10 hours on the move, we found an amazing campsite on a flat prow just below the top of the buttress.

Brad scrambling on the lower section of the rock buttress. Berg Lake and Mist Lake visible below.

Our awesome campsite on night 1 with the massive Emperor Face behind!

Up early, we had breakfast and then finished off the buttress via a couple steeper pitches and a rappell into a gully. From there, we began crossing the chaotic glacier below the North Face. This was truly an amazing place to be, with the massive Emperor Face & North Faces above, and a sea of peaks behind. However, the glacier is very broken and was perhaps the most challenging glacier travel I have ever done. In places we had to cross very skinny ice bridges with bottomless crevasses on either side. To complicate things further, many sections of the glacier are threatened by seracs and have to be avoided. After much weaving, climbing, and "tightrope walking", we finally made it to our campsite on the ice between the Helmet and the Furher Ridge. It was a cool place to camp, to say the least!

One of the many exciting parts on the glacier!

Long before the sun rose we were boiling water for breakfast and preparing ourselves for the route. The skies were more clear than they had been for the last couple days so we were psyched to get started! A short walk up the lower snow slopes brought us to the rather large and overhanging bergshrund (a bergshrunds is a large crevasse near the base of most ice faces). By headlamp I hung from an ice screw and chopped a way through the overhanging lip. A couple of exciting moves surmounted the 'shrund and Brad soon followed quickly through it. From here we climbed a number of pitches on 50 degree ice & snow until reaching the mixed gullies.

A few pitches up the route at first light.

The climbing became much more challenging from here on. Pitch, after pitch, after pitch, of thin ice, steep snow, and short rock steps led us up the initial gully. We soon lost count of how many pitches we had climbed. After many hours of awesome mixed climbing, we had to make a difficult traverse to the left in order to reach a second steep gully with more ice in it. The sun was beginning to warm things up to the point of being dangerous, so we climbed a hard mixed pitch, about 5.7, to reach a rock rib where we would be safe from falling rocks & ice. A long pitch along this rib and then a traverse underneath some giant cornices led us safely to the summit ridge. A short climb up snow slopes and we were on the summit! Although the view was largely obscured by cloud, there was no trace of wind and it was an incredible place to be! In fact, it was nice enough out that we spent some time using the stove to melt snow and relaxed for a while.

In the mixed gullies.

Climbing on & on...

Traversing below the giant cornices.

Me & Brad smiling on the summit!

With our waterbottles full we prepared to descend. I had considered a number of different options, including descending the Kain Face or even back down the route, but found a way that was even better. We managed to make a tricky little traverse into the left side of the North Face and began rappelling off ice anchors. This ended up being a super fast and direct way down to camp and we made it back to the tents in only 3.5 hours! In total I would guess that there was about 15 to 20 pitches of climbing, and about 15 double rope rappells on the way down. When we made it back to camp we ate until we were sick and then passed out in our sleeping bags, exhausted but elated!

Our line of descent down the North Face. Our route of ascent was more or less the left hand skyline.

It wasn't over yet! Up with the sun again the next morning, we packed up and began the difficult task of descending back down the Berg Glacier. At first we had our tracks from 2 days earlier to follow, but then we veered off and had to find our own way since we were not keen on descending the rock buttress. Some more complex glacier travel brought us to a beautiful meadow between Reargaurd Mtn and Mt Waffl. After a nap in the sun and drying out some gear, we crossed the Robson Glacier to the Extinguisher Tower, descended to Berg Lake, and hiked all the way out to our bikes. We could have kissed the bikes, they were the best! A high speed coast soon took us to the road just before dark, 14 hours after leaving camp that morning.

More exciting glacier travel, with the Helmet & Robson behind.

Another view of Robson from the Robson Glacier. The ice sheet is the Kain Route, and the Furher Ridge climbs the rock that appears to lead directly to the summit in this photo.

Overall it was an incredible trip that went perfectly! Brad & I had fun together, the weather cooperated, conditions were good, and we reached the highest summit in the Canadian Rockies, what could be better? We even managed to do it a day faster than planned!

J. Mills
CRAG Head Guide


  1. Nice going looked Awesome!

  2. hi J, do you happen to recall roughly how long it took you guys to cross from the top of the Dog Buttress to the Helmet col bivi? Also, did the Dog require any 5th class climbing?