Click on any image for an enlarged view.

Berg Lake Skiing in 2016 Round Three: With Ascents of Resplendent Mountain and Rearguard Mountain

Ski Mountaineering (Glacier Travel, Steep Snow)
Elevation [m]: 
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
YDS Difficulty: 
None, Yay For Glaciers
Friday, April 8, 2016
Originally Vern and I were tossing around a Columbia Icefield trip for the weekend but given the recent firsthand beta I gathered two weeks prior (after having been turned back due to a whiteout and suspect storm snow loaded slopes two weeks prior with Liam, Jake, and Josh) and a fantastic weather forecast for Sunday a return to Berg Lake was in order.
Joining Vern and I on this trip would be Mike.  We agreed that planning for an extra day beyond the 'normal' 3 days for Resplendent would be a good plan to give us two chances at the peak (and maybe wander up something else while in the area).  Setting off from the trailhead just as it was getting light it was clear that there was a great deal of melt over the prior two weeks and skinning up would probably not be ideal for quite a long ways (and skiing down in a couple days would be very dry...).  Despite the bare patches we skinned our way up to Kinney before switching to boots when the trail starts to gain elevation around the northeast shore.  Not wanting to carry skis if not needed I tested the shore ice for skinning and found it far from supportive.  We would end up carrying our skis for the next couple hours until around the White Falls Lookout.

Thankfully the hard packed road to Kinney Lake held snice for quite some time!


Ascending the Whitehorn Hill, boot terrain around here...


Past White Falls things got much snowier and we could ski properly.

Once we hit snowline progress became more pleasent with the promise of some decent views keeping us motivated.  With the suspect state of Kinney the boys reckoned to take the trail rather than crossing Berg Lake directly.  The trail - way has some ups (and downs) buy does eventually bring you to the north shore and the Hargreaves Shelter.  Laying down our burdens and getting a fire going (despite the gnarly wet wood the people had left to use, foraging outside the shelter for dry stuff was required!) made for a quite relaxing evening.  One bit of excitement was a brief thunderstorm bringing down a short torrent of rain.  After dinner and rehydration we set our alarm for dark and early, planning to either try for Resplendent if weather looked good or leisurely set up camp near the Extinguisher Tower and head over to Rearguard Mountain.  Just as we were falling asleep there was a russling outside and then banging of someone climbing the stairs; a troop of snowshoers had just arrived!  After gathering up our stuff to share the space we tried to get a few hours sleep.  Not sure who had the worse deal, us being woken up just as we were falling asleep or the snowshoers being woken up dark and early when we were heading out!

The ol' bridge became a little more interesting to cross on skis.


Not long until reaching the lake.


Vern and Mike looking across Berg Lake.


Vern breaking trail along the side of the lake.


Likely the best viewpoint before reaching the shelter.


Looking up towards The Helmet and Robson.


Snow conditions were decent heading to the toe of the Robson Glacier though navigating was harder with no moonlight and headlamp light mangling night vision.  Once on the glacier I was surprised to actually see Liam, Jake, Josh, and I's tracks from two weeks prior still there.  There was much more bare ice and rock than last time up here and the clear skies made for a hard crust much different than the deep powder when the tracks were laid down.  We made it to our campsite, in the shadow of the Extinguisher Tower, a little before 7am (Alberta time) and saw that the RR col had some cloud setting in so resolved to try to head up Rearguard Mountain instead.  We set about digging out some pits and building walls for the inevitable (we thought) winds that tend to blow around icefields (oddly enough we probably could have gotten by anchoring to a single rock as there was barely a breeze during the entire time we were camped there).  After camp was set up the next objective of the day (or late morning given the time) was to head up Rearguard Mountain which requires traveling higher up the Robson Glacier to a wide flat bench which is far safer (i.e. way fewer crevasses) then the glacier directly beside the tower.  Skinning over to the tower in a broad loop brought us to the Rearguard Meadows, which even had the odd shrub or patch of moss sticking out from the snow (it would be neat to camp here in the summer).

The next morning on the lower Robson Glacier.


Vern looking up at glow on Robson.


Not a bad view around in this area!


Setting off for Rearguard after setting up our camp.


The flat bench of the Robson Glacier feels much safer than the lower broken part.


The boys with Extinguisher Tower in the background.


Not too far to the base of Rearguard Mountain.

Ascending Rearguard Mountain is an easy scramble that would also be a tedious scramble if it were located in any other area.  Thankfully while grovelling up the broad scree face to gain the summit ridge you need only to see behind, or to either side to see some of the best views in the Rockies which should give you a bit more energy to keep trudging higher.  Given conditions we ended up skinning most of the way up the peak and then boot packing on a mix of snow and scree to the summit.  Views from the summit were pretty astounding with peaks in the Robson Group stealing the show but tons of other summits, valleys, and glaciers in the surrounding area made for lots to take in.  The large summit register showed no ascents since 2014, quite a long time!

Looking across the valley towards Titkana Peak and Snowbird Pass.


Looking up the icefield towards the RR col (in cloud as it tends to be).


Looking back at Mike off the glacier and on the rock beneath Rearguard.


Great views towards Robson from partway up Rearguard.


Very impressive icefalls here.


Sooner or later most peaks in the Rockies turn into scree bashes.


Looking across the icefield with the summit of Resplendent Mountain just visible.


Vern gaining the last few meters to the summit of Rearguard Mountain.


Summit views from Rearguard Mountain.


Looking down towards Berg Lake.


Zoomed in towards the Hargreaves Shelter.


Looking across the valley towards the Reef Icefield.


On descent the sun and toasty air temperature had done just enough to soften up the snowpack making for decent skiing back down to the flat part of the Robson Glacier.  In good snow conditions being able to ski from the summit would be pretty excellent.  We kept out skins on for the main glacier and then switched back to ropeless downhill mode for the short run back to camp.  With a blazing sun and not a breeze to speak of camp was tropical (my thermometer was reading 15 when sitting on the sun on a rock!) and we were able to dry off our stuff much more effectively than even with a roaring fire.  After sending off a request for an updated weather forecast and hearing back the tomorrow was still forecasted to be great we were getting pretty excited!

Back down at our camp that evening, glorious views abound.

The next morning would be another early start, though not too early as spotting crevasses by headlamp along might not have been the best plan.  We ended up leaving camp just as it was light enough to see and getting to the flat part of the glacier around alpenglow-time (which is a very impressive sight being directly below Robson itself!).  Having gone this way two weeks prior it was pretty easy to pick a good line up the ramp to reach the upper glacier.  The only complicating factor was the hard crusty snow which made switchbacks consist of a lot of balancing on edges!  Thankfully sticking to the climber's left of the ramp yielded more (at least relatively) powdery snow for better travel upwards.  The crevasse which haunted the upper exit of the ramp was still bridged letting us safely hop up towards the RR col and carry on to the summit!

The next morning looking up at Mount Robson from our camp.


Very clear skies on the glacier today.


Looking back down the glacier at the boys, almost sunrise.


Alpenglow on Mount Robson is epic.


Quite the view up here!


On the upper glacier past the ramp, still clear skies!

The upper part of the route unfolded nicely with a thin layer of powder on the slopes making for good travel upwards.  The flat bench slightly above the col around 3000 m made for a good place for a break (and would have amazing views as a bivy site).  From the bench, the rest of the route is visible along with the mammoth cornice making up the majority of the climber's left of the summit ridge.  We skied partway up the ridge before switching to boots and crampons for the final push.  I picked a line just to the right on the middle of the slope to be certain that we weren't hanging out on the cornice.  Trying to decide what the true summit was (and what was a cornice) was quite difficult so we ended up traversing around the peak towards the east until topping out on thick snow above a rock outcrop (and could look back and see part of the cornice further down the ridge).

View from the bench.


Mount Robson truly is a massive peak.


Time to leave the skis and tackle the rest of the elevation on foot.


Looking over towards Robson and The Helmet with The Dome visible in the bototm left.


Partial summit views from Mount Resplendent (avoiding the massive summit cornice).


Zoomed in summit views.

Views from the summit certainly were resplendent and with clear skies we could see for a long long way.  Looking back towards Mount Robson is a very memorable view (and the Kain Face doesn't actually look that bad seeing it 'up close').  With the blazing sun starting to wake up the snowpack we didn't wait too long on the summit before starting to kick steps back down and take a longer break at the 3000 m bench a little below the skis.  Once of the main benefits of ski mountaineering is the skiing itself and the Robson Glacier presents quite the run.  Given decent coverage we reckoned that skiing down along our tracks would be allright and were pretty stoked to shred some turns all the way back to camp.  I brought along a chest-mounted helmet camera which Mike volunteered to wear on the way down (stay tooned for that video along with some other footage showing up here later).  It would have been nicer if the snow was a touch softer but it was quite uniform so very skiiable!  In total it took a little over 30 minutes including a bunch of breaks from where we left our skis to our camp.  Much faster on the way down!

Looking back at the boys descending from the summit.


Time for downhill!


Vern enjoying the run down.


Mike 'shredding the gnar' (as Yukon Dan would say).


Looking back at our tracks down the ramp.


Toasty temperatures on the Robson Glacier today!

After melting some water and slowly taking down camp we descended the rest of the way down to Berg Lake.  If the temperature at the camp was warm, the flats below the glacier were an inferno.  Thankfully the snow had managed to hold up decently and I managed to skate a bunch of the distance back to the shelter.  Not having to wake up super early the following morning we could set up for sunset pictures and make a decent dinner.  Standing on the porch looking up towards Robson it was hard to believe that only a few hours earlier we were atop Resplendent.  As the sun set tiredness started to set in and we hunkered down to get some sleep.

Back down at our camp below the Extinguisher Tower.


Descending the lower glacier with Vern in the background.


Sun tanning weather out here today!


Interesting shadows on Titkana Peak around sunset.


Goodnight Robson Group.

On the last morning the main goal was getting out before the snow started to soften enough that the post-holing trail-mangling that the snowshoer group caused would turn our track into a minefield.  Leaving the shelter a little before 8, we took the trail out requiring skins for a bit before switching back to downhill mode (with more fun skating along the flats).  I managed to keep my skis on until a little below the bridge by the Emperor Falls viewpoint before terrain became more boot-worthy.  We were walking for the rest of the deproach.  It didn't actually feel like it took that long to finish the rest of the deproach, we ended up taking breaks at the Whitehorn and Kinney shelters and made it back to the car just as it started to rain.

Saying goodbye to the Hargreaves Shelter (complete with odd stitching error).


Lower down by Whitehorn there was lots more melting than on the way in.


Looking back down to Kinney Lake.


Really pretty colors (and not much ice left) in Kinney Lake.


Great trip, can't wait to ski here again!

Overall Resplendent Mountain is an excellent peak.  I'm sure the summer route has its advantages but it is hard to beat the feeling of skiing down from the RR col with Robson, Lynx, Rearguard and other giants staring down at you.  I'll probably have to come back near spring for another lap!


No votes yet


Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.