It’s been a finicky year in the Canadian Rockies alpine, with poor stability and short weather windows. While many peaks under 3,500 metres saw a number of ascents, the biggest of them all, Mount Robson (3,954m) had little action.
Rumours of a solo climber having reached the summit was the only climbing news circulating about the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies this summer. That was until this week, when four climbers reached the summit. That’s not to say there weren’t other ascents, but a number of reliable sources in the Jasper area hadn’t heard of other summits this year.
Simon Parsons, Tim Banfield, Grant Stewart and Dane Steadman nailed the timing and topped Robson after climbing the Kain Face, which was first climbed in 1913 by Conrad Kain, William W. Foster and Albert H. McCarthy.
Kain guided MacCarthy and Foster up the northeast face by chopping hundreds of steps and famously said to his clients at the top: “Gentlemen, that’s so far as I can take you.”
During the climb, Kain was under the assumption that Robson had been climbed in 1909 by George Kinney and Curly Phillips. However, on their return to the campsite at Robson Pass, Phillips, who was outfitter of the expedition, said that he and Kinney had fallen short of reaching the summit in their heroic effort over the west face four years before.
During some summers, Robson is climbed many times via the Kain Face and South Face. Other routes to the summit include those up the Emperor Face, North Face and the many ridges. While the peak hasn’t had many summits this year, maybe this will inspire others to take advantage of the good September conditions.
Alpine routes such as The Greenwood/Jones on Mount Temple saw quite a bit of traffic this year. There were also new routes climbed on the Columbia Icefield. A complete summary of the new climbs will be in the Oct./Nov. issue of Gripped magazine.
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I've been climbing with Sam in the Canadian Rockies for the last week, but most of our time here has been plagued by bad weather. We made the most of the first few days, cragging when it was too wet for anything big, then climbing fun longer routes during brief breaks in the storms. Then, finally, a solid full day weather window appeared on the horizon. We took stock of our options, and settled on the Greenwood-Jones on the north face of Mount Temple, one of the six great north faces of the Rockies, for our route. The wall (photo 2, taken last summit from the summit of neighboring Mount Aberdeen) rises a full vertical mile above Paradise Valley to the north: a dark castle of flying buttresses, narrow couloirs, shear cliff bands and rubble-strewn ledges, capped by a menacing hanging glacier spilling down from the summit. Its immense stature and forbidding appearance have earned it the nickname "the Eiger of the Rockies". Two days ago, Sam and I left the Paradise Creek trailhead at 3:45 am. We hiked quickly through open forests of larch and fir, and soon emerged from the trees at the shore of Lake Annette. Above us, the great north wall loomed, black, massive, and seemingly impenetrable: I felt fear, but at the same time, excitement. This would be my first true Nordwand. Half an hour later, we were racking up at the base a steep, hundred foot quartzite cliff just as it became light enough to see. We began simul-soloing upward. Soon, the angle relented, and we found ourselves scrambling up loose ledges as the sun illuminated the vast southeast face of Mount Lefroy behind us. Higher, the broad slope narrowed into a defined crest and the angle reared back. We continued soloing up sometimes good but mostly terrible rock until it became too steep, and from there we simul-climbed on (fortunately) more solid quartzite. As we neared the infamous black band, the rock changed from quartzite and slate to limestone, and I led us up a steep, wet, and loose corner (p5) to a ledge. Continued in comments…