Summit Elevation (m): 2720
Trip Date: April 09 2016
Elevation Gain (m): 1380
Round Trip Time (hr): 10
Total Trip Distance (km): 24
Difficulty Notes: Distance, time and elevation gain is from the Hargreaves Shelter at Berg Lake. While the upper mountain is simply a scree bash, accessing it via the Robson Glacier involves (easy) glacier travel in good conditions.
Related Trips: Resplendent Mountain
Technical Rating: MN6
GPS Track: Download
Map: Google Maps
After approaching the Hargreaves Shelter at Berg Lake the day before via a long slog involving carrying our skis and skinning on mud, gravel and scree we were pretty bagged.
The primary objective of this trip was always Resplendent Mountain, but after ascending the toe of the Robson Glacier and setting up our camp under the Extinguisher Tower, it was obvious that Resplendent wasn’t a go for this day. Clouds were intermittently covering the upper slopes under the RR col. We decided that with tons of time left we might as well work our way up Rearguard Mountain.
Rearguard was more work than I thought it would be. It was still 880m height gain from our camp which made the total height gain around 1400 meters from the shelter – the same amount as Resplendent from our Extinguisher camp. We had to give a wide berth to the ice fall on climbers left (SW) before finally skiing north to Rearguard Meadows and closer to the peak itself.
Originally I was thinking we could ascend the south ridge directly on its south end before following it to the summit proper. From our approach to the Extinguisher Tower and from the Robson Glacier, this route looked fairly easy. As we got closer though, the ridge route looked more and more loose and manky. A better option seemed to be skiing as high as possible on the southwest face before boot packing up snow and scree slopes to the apex. As with everything in the area, this ‘little’ peak proved to be a lot more work than any of us expected! I led as high as possible on skis, until finally running out of continuous snow. After dropping the skis I started kicking steps up to the summit which looked like it was “right there”. It wasn’t.
After a lot of work, struggling up snow and scree, the slope started to level out and we knew were close. The scenery was absolutely mind blowing with snow, ice, rock and clouds swirling over Waffl, The Helmet and Robson’s impressive and terrifying north face. In a surprise move, the weather even improved enough to give us a great view of our ultimate trip objective – the gorgeous summit ridge of Resplendent Mountain. The summit was fairly warm and windless (I was climbing in my base layer from the skis already!) and we enjoyed the spectacular winter views of the Robson area immensely. It felt really good to finally get out on the skis and bag a decent objective – this winter has been really slow for me and getting up ‘real’ mountains. There was even a large summit register with surprisingly zero entries from all of 2015! We were the first party since 2016 to sign it. Most years seem to see 1 to 2 parties signing and a good number of those do the easiest of all approaches to the Rearguard Meadows just under the peak – from the sky! (i.e. chopper) I won’t give my opinion on that right now.
After about 45 minutes on the summit we decided to return to camp. The descent was an absolute pleasure after only ascending since the darn parking lot the day previous! (Believe it or not, it’s a 2480m ascent from the parking lot to the summit of Rearguard – that’s 300 meters more gain than Mount Vaux – and most of it with over night winter mountaineering packs and skis!!) The run down Rearguard’s SW slopes was delicious. It went by way too fast. I was glad for my sharpened ski edges since the crust was pretty firm – almost ice in sections. We returned to camp via another great ski run down the Robson Glacier after once again contouring in a wide arc around the ice fall.
Once back at our delightful winter camp under the imposing Extinguisher Tower (which looks like nothing from the Robson Glacier above) the sun came out in full force and we spent the rest of the afternoon eating, hydrating and relaxing for our (hopeful) big ascent the next day. We set our alarms for just before sunrise and turned in early.