Mt. Robson, Infinite Patience

Canada, Canadian Rockies
Author: Barry Blanchard. Climb Year: 2002. Publication Year: 2003.

In midmorning on October 23 Eric Dumerac (Canmore, Alberta), Philippe Pellet (Briançon, France), and I (Canmore) stepped from the warm interior of a Jet Ranger helicopter and into the early winter environs of Berg Lake, below the Emperor Face. For an hour we hiked and scrambled up onto the side of the Mist Glacier. We toiled for the next four hours overcoming the first steep band, via an M5, WI4+ system that could probably be avoided by going farther right. This was by far the hardest pitch of the route. These pitches gave access to the large couloir that is the prominent feature on the right side of the Emperor Face. Moderate snow climbing brought us to a ledge at about 8,500', where we shoveled a bivy site. The night was calm and the Northern Lights phenomenal.

Day two began with five rope lengths of class 4 up the big gully. A traverse and two ropelengths on 5.7ish mixed ground brought us into the upper ice strip. After three more ropelengths of 4th class on ice, we belayed an M4 ice chimney. Above lay another five ropelengths of 5th class climbing, each containing cruxes in the M3–M5 range. The last of these pitches merged us with the Emperor Ridge-North Face option and its more substantial gully. We bivied in brisk winds and bitter windchills that night on the ridge at about 10,800'. Day three (October 25) started with one ropelength up the substantial gully, then a fine ice strip up a chimney (finest pitch of the route, absolute classic), followed by a half ropelength of dry and fine rock on the ridge proper. Much 4th-classing and bypassing small and sometimes hard (5.9) cruxes brought us to an ice ledge at about 12,000', where we chose to avoid the infamous gargoyles of the Emperor Ridge by traversing an ice ledge for a kilometer. A true test of one’s frontpointing and calf-muscle endurance! We finished the route via the gully atop the Wishbone Arête in three pitches at midnight. We bivied just east of the summit in a large, bridged crevasse that provided some protection from an awful windchill. The day clocked in at 20 hours. On October 26 we descended the Schwarz Ledges route to the Forster Hut, where at 4 p.m. the good people at Yellowhead Helicopters agreed to come get us and whisk us off to the trailhead.

Overall an absolute classic route on mostly ice and snow, as good as any on the globe, that gains an impressive 7,500'. The mountain was in perfect condition, and it was a grand adventure in the company of good men.

Barry Blanchard, Canada