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Rearguard Mountain

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.
Technical Rating: MN7; YDS (Alpine I)
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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.

Ski Approach to Hargreaves Shelter
A large Canadian Lynx watches me from across the North Saskatchewan River.
A large Canadian Lynx watches me from across the North Saskatchewan River.
A gorgeous evening drive up hwy 93, this is from a rest stop above the Big Bend, looking back south. Cirrus at left.
A gorgeous evening drive up hwy 93, this is from a rest stop above the Big Bend, looking back south. Cirrus at left.
Ben hikes the wide trail to Kinney Lake as we get our first views of Resplendent Mountain at upper right. Robson at left, obviously.
Ben hikes the wide trail to Kinney Lake as we get our first views of Resplendent Mountain at upper right. Robson at left, obviously.
'Skiing' beside the Robson River.
'Skiing' beside the Robson River.
Essential skillz for spring ski trips include navigating through dead fall with no snow. ;)
Essential skillz for spring ski trips include navigating through dead fall with no snow. 😉
Maybe skinning across Kinney Lake isn't a great idea. Maybe if we go fast enough?
Maybe skinning across Kinney Lake isn't a great idea. Maybe if we go fast enough?
Reluctantly hiking with the skis on our packs again, around Kinney Lake.
Reluctantly hiking with the skis on our packs again, around Kinney Lake.
Mike grunts his way up a VERY dry Whitehorn Hill.
Mike grunts his way up a VERY dry Whitehorn Hill.
Crossing the cable bridge over the Robson River, just before the Whitehorn campground.
Crossing the cable bridge over the Robson River, just before the Whitehorn campground.
The skis are back on! Ben skins along the Robson River on route to the Emperor Hill just ahead to the right.
The skis are back on! Ben skins along the Robson River on route to the Emperor Hill just ahead to the right.
Ben really wants to keep the snow sticks on!
Ben really wants to keep the snow sticks on!
Even Ben has to give up at some point! Skis are once again being carried...
Even Ben has to give up at some point! Skis are once again being carried...
One of my favorite sections of the approach to Berg Lake is this section of trail up the Emperor Hill.
One of my favorite sections of the approach to Berg Lake is this section of trail up the Emperor Hill.
Above the Emperor Hill we finally put the skis back on for the remainder of the approach.
Above the Emperor Hill we finally put the skis back on for the remainder of the approach.
The exposure off this section can be interesting - especially on descent when the trail is really icy!
The exposure off this section can be interesting - especially on descent when the trail is really icy!
Emperor Falls is not looking that impressive today.
Emperor Falls is not looking that impressive today.
Crossing this bridge was a PITA so I simply descended to the left and bypassed it completely
Crossing this bridge was a PITA so I simply descended to the left and bypassed it completely
Ben skis up a narrow switchback on the trail above me while Mike completes his morning yoga session on the bridge at left.
Ben skis up a narrow switchback on the trail above me while Mike completes his morning yoga session on the bridge at left.
Note the hand rail at lower left? This section of trail was mighty interesting on descent. By "interesting", I mean "suicidal".
Note the hand rail at lower left? This section of trail was mighty interesting on descent. By "interesting", I mean "suicidal".
Just past the Emperor Falls campground, skiing along the Robson River flats before Berg Lake but done most of our elevation gains now.
Just past the Emperor Falls campground, skiing along the Robson River flats before Berg Lake but done most of our elevation gains now.
Robson's Emperor Ridge towers above us as we navigate the river flats before Berg Lake.
Robson's Emperor Ridge towers above us as we navigate the river flats before Berg Lake.
Skiing the flats before Berg Lake with the Berg Glacier on the right and Rearguard looming over it. Titkana Peak in the far distance at center.
Skiing the flats before Berg Lake with the Berg Glacier on the right and Rearguard looming over it. Titkana Peak in the far distance at center.
The rebuilt Hargreaves Shelter is a wonderful place to enjoy a warm fire - provided you do the work of scrounging for deadfall as there is no fire wood provided.
The rebuilt Hargreaves Shelter is a wonderful place to enjoy a warm fire - provided you do the work of scrounging for deadfall as there is no fire wood provided.
The rope is on as we head up the left side of the Robson Glacier. The Extinguisher Tower visible at right.
The rope is on as we head up the left side of the Robson Glacier. The Extinguisher Tower visible at right.

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, so that’s exactly what we did! I have to say, 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. 

Rearguard Mountain from Extinguisher Tower Camp

Originally I was thinking we could ascend the south ridge directly on it’s 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. 

Finally skiing a direct line towards our objective and the Rearguard Meadows.

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.

One of the finest winter camps I’ve had the pleasure of staying in! Extinguisher Tower looms over us with Lynx at far left.

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.

Rearguard Mountain Ascent
We weren't sure how far west towards the main Robson massif we had to wander before cutting around the Robson Glacier icefall
We weren't sure how far west towards the main Robson massif we had to wander before cutting around the Robson Glacier icefall
The slope steepens near the top of the icefall at about the same height as Extinguisher Tower.
The slope steepens near the top of the icefall at about the same height as Extinguisher Tower.
The icefall coming down the so-called 'Robson Cirque' is pretty impressive.
The icefall coming down the so-called 'Robson Cirque' is pretty impressive.
Finally we are nearing the SW end of the icefall (visible at left here) and starting our turn towards Rearguard at center. Titkana at right.
Finally we are nearing the SW end of the icefall (visible at left here) and starting our turn towards Rearguard at center. Titkana at right.
From here it looks like the direct route up the south ridge is the way to go. Once we got closer we changed our minds.
From here it looks like the direct route up the south ridge is the way to go. Once we got closer we changed our minds.
Finally skiing a direct line towards our objective and the Rearguard Meadows.
Finally skiing a direct line towards our objective and the Rearguard Meadows.
The terrain on the Robson Glacier is huge. We are off the glacier and unroped here as Ben follows me up Rearguard's lower snow slope with Mount Waffl in the background.
The terrain on the Robson Glacier is huge. We are off the glacier and unroped here as Ben follows me up Rearguard's lower snow slope with Mount Waffl in the background.
Ben and Mike skin up Rearguard behind me with Waffl and part of the route to The Helmet (R) in the background.
Ben and Mike skin up Rearguard behind me with Waffl and part of the route to The Helmet (R) in the background.
This is looking back at Waffl with The Helmet and Robson starting to show through the clouds and the Berg Glacier at right.
This is looking back at Waffl with The Helmet and Robson starting to show through the clouds and the Berg Glacier at right.
Mike thought we were so close to the summit he didn't even bother following my kick steps - a move he regretted 30 minutes later!
Mike thought we were so close to the summit he didn't even bother following my kick steps - a move he regretted 30 minutes later!
Resplendent is showing up now at far left! Waffl and The Helmet at right.
Resplendent is showing up now at far left! Waffl and The Helmet at right.
Resplendent is a well-named peak. Look at her gorgeous snow and ice summit - how can you not want to ski that?!
Resplendent is a well-named peak. Look at her gorgeous snow and ice summit - how can you not want to ski that?!
A wild scene opens up behind me as Resplendent, The Dome, Waffl, The Helmet and Whitehorn (L to R) are visible.
A wild scene opens up behind me as Resplendent, The Dome, Waffl, The Helmet and Whitehorn (L to R) are visible.
Ben on the summit ridge of Rearguard with the impressive Lynx Mountain in the background.
Ben on the summit ridge of Rearguard with the impressive Lynx Mountain in the background.
Waffl, The Helmet and Robson at left. Whitehorn left of center with Steamboat, Anne-Alice, Berg Lake and Mumm Peak to the right of that.
Waffl, The Helmet and Robson at left. Whitehorn left of center with Steamboat, Anne-Alice, Berg Lake and Mumm Peak to the right of that.
An unnamed ridge above Moose Pass.
An unnamed ridge above Moose Pass.
Anne-Alice is another fantastic ski objective in the Berg Lake area.
Anne-Alice is another fantastic ski objective in the Berg Lake area.
The Hargreaves shelter is down there somewhere at the mouth of Toboggan Creek which comes down the drainage visible in the trees.
The Hargreaves shelter is down there somewhere at the mouth of Toboggan Creek which comes down the drainage visible in the trees.
Lynx Mountain
Lynx Mountain
Mount Resplendent which we would ski / climb the following day.
Mount Resplendent which we would ski / climb the following day.
Robson looms over everything here - making even 11000ers look small!
Robson looms over everything here - making even 11000ers look small!
An unnamed snowy peak on the Reef Icefield. Snowbird Pass at lower foreground at center.
An unnamed snowy peak on the Reef Icefield. Snowbird Pass at lower foreground at center.
We start the descent to our camp.
We start the descent to our camp.
Ben skis down Rearguard's SW face with Whitehorn Mountain in the far distance and the upper Berg Glacier at left.
Ben skis down Rearguard's SW face with Whitehorn Mountain in the far distance and the upper Berg Glacier at left.
Mike skis towards Ben with Resplendent and the Robson Glacier in the background providing a dramatic scene.
Mike skis towards Ben with Resplendent and the Robson Glacier in the background providing a dramatic scene.
Resplendent's summit is visible above Mike in the distance. It's a lot further and higher than it appears here!
Resplendent's summit is visible above Mike in the distance. It's a lot further and higher than it appears here!

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