Friday, September 7, 2012

Mt. Robson attempt & Helmet summit.

Looking up at the North Face of the Canadian Rockies highest peak, Mt. Robson.  The Helmet is the smaller peak on the left and we climbed it from the col between it & Robson.

August started with a great trip into my favorite mountain, Mt. Robson, with Aaron whom I've had a bunch of great trips with over the last couple years.  He had just returned from an ascent of Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa, which sounded like a really cool journey.  The weatherman assured us that we were in for a week of beautiful high pressure, but as so often with the King of the Rockies, that was not to be.  BC Parks claims the success rate for climbing Robson is only 15%!  Given the difficulty of the routes, the long approaches, the wild glaciers, and the fact that the mountain creates its own weather, 15% isn't too hard to believe. 

After a short bike ride & long walk, we reached the feature known as Dog Buttress and in pouring rain set up our tent near its base.  The next morning the rain had stopped so we had a long day climbing up about 1000m of scrambling terrain to the base of the North Face.  Although the climbing isn't particularly great, the incredible setting made for an enjoyable day, and out campsite was spectacular.  It snowed & rained again overnight so we decided to head towards The Helmet, another 11000 foot peak attached to Robson, to see it we could reach it's summit and get a better handle on snow conditions.  As I'd discovered while climbing Robson's Furher Ridge a few years earlier, the glacier in this zone is quite challenging.  Some exciting snow bridges and lots of weaving around finally led us to the base of The Helmet.  After a steep bergshrund crossing, 4 pitches of moderate snow & ice led us to the summit, or rather to the base of the giant cornice which is on the summit and would be foolhardy to step on.   Even though the Helmet is clearly dwarfed by Robson, it is still a fun & challenging climb in it's own right.  That night it snowed some more, and combined with the poor snow quality we had seen on the Helmet, we decided it wouldn't be a safe choice to head up on the North Face.  To descend, rather than going back the way we came, we followed the glacier down towards Rearguard, and worked our way down fairly directly to Berg Lake.  2 rappels were required, and the bushwacking was pretty harsh for a while beside the lake, but this was a much faster descent than the normal way which traverses over to the Robson Glacier & Kain Route approach.  I'd recommend this descent as long as you are comfortable building piton anchors for the rappelling sections.   

Aaron part way up Dog Buttress, with Berg Lake below.

 Aaron's favorite mountaineering pose on the glacier below the North Face.

Our rad campsite with the Emperor Face & North Face behind.

Crossing below the North Face at dawn on route to the Helmet.

Aaron on one of the steeper snow & ice pitches near the top of the Helmet.

 All smiles on top of the Helmet!

Although we did not summit Robson, it was still a really fun trip and both of us are keen to head back to the King next summer!

J. Mills

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