We awoke to a clear sky and millions of stars overhead in our winter camp beneath the Extinguisher Tower just off the Robson Glacier. We were pumped to finally be ascending Resplendent on a perfect, clear spring day next to the mighty Mount Robson and the wild scenery all around us. The day before, we'd skied and scrambled up Rearguard Mountain and got some sublime views of Resplendent, which only wet our appetites to stand on her summit.
[A clear sky over Mount Robson from camp.]
The temperature was fairly warm already early in the morning and slightly before sunrise we were skinning our up the Robson Glacier. We could have started much earlier, of course, but considering the amount of crevasses and ice falls we had to negotiate around, over, under and beside, it didn't seem very wise to head up the untracked glacier in the dark.
The glacier was frozen and travel was quick and easy up to the steep ramp that Ben had scouted two weeks previous, heading up through crevassed avalanche terrain opposite the infamous "Mousetrap" - a steep section of the Robson Glacier under The Dome which avalanches ice and snow on a very regular basis and contains many crevasses large enough to swallow several city transit buses and the occasional small house! Speaking of ice avalanches, we witnessed a large serac collapse in the Robson Cirque beneath The Dome and The Helmet just as Mount Robson caught alpine glow high above all the action. Coverage on the glacier was great, and we only crossed one obvious snow bridge before turning climber's left under the RR col to ascend Resplendent.
[Heading up the Robson Glacier at first light. The Dome is directly above us here.]
[It's gonna be a nice day! Looking back from the glacier with Anne-Alice, Rearguard, Tatei Ridge and Extinguisher Tower from L to R. ++]
[Mount Robson catches alpine glow as an ice avalanche thunders down the Robson Cirque in the foreground! You can see the powder cloud at center if you look closely. ++]
[The whole top of Robson is now bathed in soft morning lighting.]
[Remembering the grind up Rearguard the day before. Anne-Alice at left.]
[Resplendent living up to her name!]
[Anne-Alice is high on my list for a winter ski ascent now.]
[The entire upper Robson / Resplendent massif now catching the morning sun as we approach the base of the Mousetrap (just to our right up ahead). ++]
[Skiing below the Mousetrap. We'll go left here to work our way through crevasses and seracs visible at upper left.]
[Very nice to have good visibility here! Ben leads up the ramp through the crevasses and seracs opposite the Mousetrap which is clearly visible at right. ++]
[There is no stopping through this zone! As you can see, there is objective hazard from seracs and avalanches here. Not to mention, it's bloody steep!]
[Gorgeous views back down the Robson Glacier and our approach. ++]
[Great views of the Mousetrap at left leading up to The Dome. The Roof at upper left and Robson towering above everything else. Waffl, Mumm and Rearguard to the right. ++]
[The slope steepened near the "ramp" which led over a slightly open crevasse to the upper bowl just under the RR col.]
The steep grunt up to the base of the summit ridge was slow but steady and soon we were at the point where the views were becoming quite brilliant in every direction - especially towards Robson and west towards the Columbia Mountains in British Columbia (i.e. not the Rockies), including the only two 11000ers in the Cariboo Range, Sir Wilfred Laurier at 11,535' and Sir John Abbott at 11,148' high. We could also clearly see the entire Mousetrap, the RR col, Kain Face, upper route on Robson, The Roof, The Dome, The Helmet and many other familiar landscapes. One annoyance was peaks like Mumm and even The Dome which never seemed to get smaller, even though we knew we had to climb higher than them eventually!
[Stunning views to the west from near the RR col. ++]
[The slope steepened and hardened to the point that skiing anymore was useless and possibly dangerous for our abilities. We aren't quite ready to ski the Kain Face of Robson yet... ;)]
We skied a short way up the west side of the north ridge before deciding that the slope was too icy and steep to ski safely or enjoyably and switched to axes and crampons for the remainder of the ascent to the summit. Resplendent it technically very easy - especially in the conditions we had with good coverage and just soft enough snow to kick steps where needed. That being said, I would still caution that the exposure down the west face is staggering in some spots. Ben was worried about getting off the summit slopes as soon as possible and I didn't notice the exposure until descent when it stares you in the face. :) You must have very solid avalanche conditions to ascend this peak in winter conditions! The upper slopes of Resplendent reminded me a lot of another 'easy' winter mountaineering objective that has some incredible westerly exposure on the summit ridge - Mount Wilson in Banff National Park.
[Don't underestimate the final slopes of Resplendent. It's still around 400 meters elevation gain from the col and it's steep and exposed in places. It's the type of exposure you may not realize you're on until descent and it's certainly steep enough to avalanche in the 'right' conditions.]
[Looking way down to the Robson River valley and our approach. The Patterson Spur at right and Campion Mountain at lower left.]
[This is what you see when you look down the ascent route - over 2,000 meters straight down the west face!]
[Incredible views of Mount Robson and the Kain Face as we ascend Resplendent. The Helmet to it's right doesn't look like much in comparison but it's also an 11,000er. ++]
[There are some surprisingly steep rolls on the summit ridge of Resplendent.]
Another interesting twist on Resplendent is that it's further and higher than you expect from the RR col area to reach the summit. Every time we crested a bump we thought we must be "close" - but the first 4 times we weren't. :) When we finally did approach the true summit we had to give the huge winter cornice a very healthy respect at the risk of triggering a cornice collapse - something that does happen fairly often on this peak. I suspect we were still on the summit cornice, even with being cautious. As a consequence of the massive cornice we couldn't see east, which was a tiny bummer. BUT the views in every other direction more than made up for the lack of views east. As I sat there on top of yet another Rockies 11000er, I was struck by how lucky we were to be up there with million dollar views, not a breath of wind and clear skies for many kilometers in all directions. After taking a zillion photos we reluctantly started our descent before the steep summit slopes could soften on us.
[Yet another steep roll. There are about 4 or 5 places where you might think you're topping out only to be disappointed when you crest a steep roll and see more climbing ahead.]
[Summit view to the south towards Clemenceau. ++]
[Looking west to the Premier Range - also called the Cariboo Mountains including peaks such as Lester Pearson at left and Sir Wilfrid Laurier at center - the highest summit in the Cariboo Mountains. Click for a labeled panorama. ++]
[The second highest peak in the Cariboo's and only other 11000er, Mount Sir John Abbott rises at left with John Oliver to the right.]
[Mount Quanstrom is the highest peak in the Wells Gray Group.]
[Mount Robson in all its glory! From L to R the common areas of the massif include The RR col at lower center, the Kain Face rising above The Dome to the right of center with the Mousetrap in the foreground coming off The Dome. The upper ridge and The Roof rising to the summit and The Helmet sits just off the main mountain to the right. ++]
[Mount Phillips (named after "Donald 'Curly' Phillips") shows up through the Robson / Helmet col.]
[Looking north over Anne-Alice, the Mural Glacier and Gendarme Mountain towards the obvious bulk of Mount Chown. To the left of Chown are peaks such as Barricade, Lucifer (!!) and Resthaven. To the right are Wolverine and Palu. ++]
[In all its splendor! The Kain Face was tempting Ben and I all day... Already some ice patches too. To be honest, I thought the upper section around The Roof looked spicier than the Kain Face but maybe that's just the angles playing with my eyes.]
[Rearguard doesn't look large now does it?! It's the 'tiny' hill in the foreground with Mumm not looking much larger just above it at center.]
[An incredible panorama looking north (L) to west (R) includes Anne-Alice, Gendarme, Chown, Wolverine, Palu, Mumm, Calumet Ridge, Swoda, Calumet Peak, Moose Pass, Chetang Ridge, Tatei Ridge (Titkana) and of course many others. ++]
[Calumet Peak soars over Moose Pass - part of the Moose River Route that I would like to hike some day.]
The descent really threw the exposure down the west face at us. It was both interesting and depressing to look down roughly 2.5 vertical kilometers to the Kinney Lake approach trail and realize how far we'd come and how far we had to go back!
[Descending Resplendent with million dollar views - exactly what you want for this particular 11,000er! There's really no reason to climb Resplendent unless you're going to see this IMHO! ++]
[Can't get enough of this view! ++]
[In case you thought Resplendent wasn't a 'mountain' and didn't have any exposure, looking back at our tracks should convince you otherwise. Don't underestimate this 11,000er. It's still a large mountain even though Robson makes it seem 'small' in comparison. Also, being right next to Robson, the weather can be very fickle here. I have many friends who have summitted this peak in a whiteout - which is too bad considering the views she offers.]
[And another shot to convince you that Resplendent is also well-named. She's a beautiful summit! For scale, find Ben and Mike in this shot - they're just ready to start their ski descent. ++]
Soon we were back at the skis and it was time to cash in the turns that we'd definitely earned on this trip! A tiny bit of dust-on-crust made for a very quick and efficient ski all the way back to our camp. We were very careful to follow our up-track and skied down unroped - but this was a very personal decision that was agreed to by every member of the team (assuming that conditions were safe) before even starting the trip.
[Another shot from near the RR col showing the upper ascent slopes of Resplendent with our tracks visible. If climbing in winter you do not want tricky avalanche conditions here!]
[Mike starts the ski down Resplendent!]
[Mike skis down under the Mousetrap and Mount Robson.]
[Scoping our line down the steepest and most exposed (to icefall) part of the descent. You can just make our our switchbacks below.]
[Looking up as Ben starts down the 'ramp' section.]
[Ben skis down through crevasses and some ice debris from seracs above us. We didn't linger on this slope... ;)]
[Mike follows Ben onto the lower icefield. You can see the large avalanche below us here that originated in the Mousetrap and ran about 1km past it.]
[A beautiful world of snow, rock and ice. The Mousetrap at left with The Dome, Kain Face, Robson Cirque and Robson to the right of it.]
[Our ski tracks through the ramp showing our avoidance of crevasses nicely thanks to Ben's GPS track from two week previous.]
[Mike cruises down the Robson Glacier.]
[Looking back from near camp, Resplendent at far left and Ben at center, just visible in the extremely bright conditions. I put 30 SPF sunscreen on three times per day and still got sun burn. ++]
[Ben and Mike ski down the final section of glacier as I watch from camp.]
It felt very good to finally stand on top of Resplendent Mountain with incredible views of Robson and other peaks in the area including The Helmet. We basked in summit afterglow and extremely warm spring sunshine back at our camp for an hour, before slowly packing our gear. The ski down to the Hargreaves Shelter got hotter and hotter the lower we went until we were literally sweating just by standing still and breathing. At the shelter we had a lazy late afternoon / early evening before sleeping our last night at Berg Lake.
[Thankfully the slopes below camp were still frozen and supportive, making the ski off the Robson Glacier pretty quick and easy. Here Mike skis down just below camp.]
[A beautiful morning as we ski alongside the glacier for a short way to avoid crevasses and ice caves. Rearguard at left and Titkana at right. The Snowbird Pass trail runs up the obvious moraine crest at right. ++]
[The glacial tarn at the toe of the Robson Glacier didn't look too inviting in the hot sun so we avoided it on the right hand shoreline. Mumm and Anne-Alice visible ahead and looking big again.]
[A last look back at the Robson Glacier and Resplendent (upper right). Extinguisher Tower at center. ++]
[Ben skis down the drainage towards Berg Lake with Whitehorn rising dramatically above him.]
[Dying light on Waffl, The Helmet and Robson from the Berg Lake shore. ++]
Monday dawned pretty clear and warm and we started down the horribly mangled trail - skiing as much as possible, which wasn't much! By the time we were descending from near Emperor Falls, I gave up and simply strapped the skis to my pack and boot packed the rest of the way down. The deep snowshoe tracks combined with rock hard, icy snow and dirt patches were just too risky to bother 'skiing'. At least descending was fairly quick.
[A look back over Berg Lake as we exit the area. From R to L, Robson, Mist Glacier, Helmet, Waffl, Berg Glacier, Rearguard and Titkana. ++]
[A gorgeous morning as we exit the Berg Lake flats alongside the Robson River with Whitehorn above.]
[Falls of the Pool is always a nice diversion while ascending or descending the Emperor Hill.]
[Descending the Emperor Hill - not a lot of white stuff here! Cinnamon Peak rising in the distance and the Whitehorn Ranger station somewhere ahead on the Robson River flats below.]
[My favorite section of the trail to Berg Lake is the Emperor Hill section. It's also the most work!]
[Skiing through a rain forest has its disadvantages. There's not a lot of snow... ;)]
[Descending the Whitehorn Hill towards Kinney Lake at left.]
[Kinney Lake is starting to look really thin now!]
By the time we were on the final death march from Kinney Lake to the parking lot, various body parts were in full protest mode and I was busy ignoring every single one of them. My body loves it when I do that. It's happening more and more as I get older too... ;)
[The trail alongside Kinney Lake is bone dry now.]
[Back amongst the huge cedars that are actually not supposed to exist this far west. Thanks to Robson generating so much moisture, they love it here!]
Total stats for the trip were roughly 71.5 kilometers distance with over 4100 meters of total height gain over 4 days. Not a bad spring outing, I'd say. This trip is very highly recommended for fit parties who have a weird penchant for spring Rockies 'skiing' that may or may not involve actual snow but is guaranteed to provide lots of good times with friends and great views in clear weather.