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Trip Report - Mount Robson, Kain Face Ascent, August 2014
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TOPIC: Trip Report - Mount Robson, Kain Face Ascent, August 2014
#379
Trip Report - Mount Robson, Kain Face Ascent, August 2014 3 Years, 10 Months ago  
From Monday August 18 to Monday August 25, 2014 (summit day: Friday Aug 22)
Participants: Joad Clément, Shaun Luong, James Murphy, ACC Calgary Section Trip
Report by Joad, Shaun and James, September 16, 2014

Preliminary notes:
• James and Joad committed to go to Mount Robson, and starting August 5, we ready to leave as soon as a good weather system would come and stay over the Mt Robson area. Joad and James talked during that time with other fellow mountaineers who were also interested in climbing Mt Robson.
• A decision to leave was tentatively made on Saturday night August 16, and confirmed on Sunday night when Shaun Luong joined James and Joad following an ACC, Calgary section trip posting.

Monday August 18
• Met at 11:30 a.m.:at James’ in Marda Loop to load Joad’s car, tie bicycles, print maps, fuel car, stop by the grocery store; left Calgary just after 1:30 p.m. Drive to Jasper and stop for food and gas. Total driving time: 6 hours (holiday season, with slow traffic/RVs on the roads). We gained a bonus hour as we crossed the BC border, which make it possible to get to the Mt Robson Visitors’ Center by 6:30 p.m. to get the latest climbing conditions info and book a tent spot at Kinney Lake.
• A climber’s binder available at the Visitors’ Center with climbing notes and reports on conditions written by previous parties.
• Drive 2 km to the trailhead. Sign the climber self-registration rescue form, sort and prepare gear, finish packing, eat snacks, setup bikes. Leave for Kinney Lake on bikes just before darkness. 2hour 30 min from arrival at the Visitors’ Center to departure.
• Bike to Kinney Lake in just less than 2 hours for 7 km/150 m elevation gain. Slow progress because of heavy packs (many short stretches of walking uphill needed), rain, darkness, some bike tuning needed (seat post, derailleur).
• Some hard rain through the night. No mosquitoes. Good protection provided by the new Mega Light Tarp Shelter acquired by James, excepted on the sides. Joad got his boots and sleeping wet.

Tuesday August 19
• Got up with the daylight. Tore down camp and star. We dropped the bikes at the bike rack shortly after Kinney Lake, along with the tent fly, and the bike repair gear.
• Start hiking up towards Berg Lake. Clouds and very light rain at the beginning. Talked to ranger Ann at Whitefalls Campground about climbing routes and conditions.
• 5 hours 15 min (16 km/640 meters elevation gain) to the Hargreaves Shelter from Kinney Lake.
• Left extra climbing gear (5 quick draws) in the food cache at Emperor Falls in a plastic bag: gear had disappeared on the way back.
• Stopped for 2+ hours at Berg Lake and dried clothing and sleeping bags on the Hargreaves shelter porch: sunny and windy.
• Met David Custer, Matt Thompson and Ben Boudroff on their way down from the Robson glacier: they camped on the glacier but got soaked the night before due to the heavy rain.
• Hiked up to the toe of the Robson glacier (1 hour), and continue travelling roped up and crampons on over the glacier, meandering around some crevasses.
• 4 hours 20 min (7 km/450 m elevation gain) from the shelter to the Extinguisher Tower. Set up camp there. Another party of 2 Americans also camped at Extinguisher Tower.

Wednesday August 20
• Got up with the daylight. Tore down camp, and leave at 8:20 a.m. Rocks bordering the glacier and on the glacier, still in the shade, are very slippery.
• Robson glacier becoming progressively more crevassed as the Robson-Resplendent col comes into sight. At least one hour wasted meandering around crevasses. First 1/3 of the climb up to the Robson-Resplendent col straightforward. After that, gigantic crevasses to go around or through with fair or sketchy bridges.
• Taking a higher line towards Mt Resplendent would have been better. Higher line on climber’s left hand side (heading towards Resplendent) was easier, avoiding most of the higher crevasses (extra distance of ½ to 1 km): we took this easier line on the way down.
• 5 ½ hours from the Extinguisher Tower to the Robson-Resplendent col (4 km/825 meters elevation gain)
• Despite the changing sky becoming cloudier and darker, our party continued to the Dome, but the party of 2 Americans camped at the col. 2 flat bivy sites available with fantastic views, but very exposed to prevalent winds.
• Hiking, then easy scrambling at first progressively becoming moderate scrambling, though it feels like difficult scrambling with the 50-lbs pack. With some rain quite possible, but the weather keeping steady, we decided to keep going after 1 hour of scrambling.
• Passed a first rappel station on the rocks, then second one after a 20-m ice climb (40 degrees) that we protected on the right hand side of the ridge. Option to climb a 5.5 rock step mostly up the ridge, but we had not brought rock gear. First really technical stretch; the transition was slow for our party. Possible to climb the ice slope without protection, but this did not feel right with a heavy pack.
• Traversed a series of snow benches, and then set up a v-thread to rappel down to the fairly flat, moderately crevassed glacier leading to the Dome. Shaun’s mattress fell off his pack at the rappel station. He had to sleep on ropes and emptied backpacks for the rest of the trip.
• Got to the Dome after 8 p.m. had dinner and set up camp. Went to bed around 10:30 p.m.
• Close to 6 hours for us from the Robson-Resplendent col to a camp high on the Dome (2 km/200 meters net elevation gain). David and Ben climbed this section in 4 hours the next day, mostly in the dark.
• Decided to get up with daylight the next day and do a practice run on the Northeast (Kain) Face. We carried all gear for a summit day in case conditions would be good and the climb would go fast.

Thursday August 21
• Got up with the daylight. Prepared gear and strategy to climb the Kain Face.
• Ben and David met with us at our Dome camp around 7: 30 a.m. Started our practice climb around 8:30 a.m. Shaun led the whole way up, with James and Joad following on separate 60m half ropes.
• The easier line we picked to cross the bergschrund presented a 10 meter high/70 degree ice slope, with 1 meter vertical step. We found weak ice or hard snow throughout the Face. Good ice sometimes available 15 cm below the surface. The Kain Face fully exposed to the morning sun: it felt we were cooking from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.
• Sky progressively filling up with cumulonimbus clouds. We decided to turn back around 1 p.m., after climbing 175 meters out of 340 meters of the Face in 2 pitches. Back to camp around 2 p.m., followed by David and Ben who had climbed about 75 meters higher than us. Chatted leisurely at camp with David and Ben, before they headed down toward the Robson-Resplendent col around 3 p.m.. A nasty thunderstorm with lightning, hail and snow started shortly after. James and Shaun collapsed the tent pole that had started to buzz. 6-10 cm of fresh hail and snow accumulations found in the evening.

Friday August 22 & Saturday 23
• Woke up at 12:20 am. Left camp at 1:50 a.m. Simul-climbed the whole Kain Face, Shaun leading (5 ice screws and 3 pickets placed as protection during the climb), with Joad second and James third, separated by 60m half ropes. At least 1 piece of protection on each rope at all times. Got to the top just before 6 a.m. with the daylight.
• We then traversed to the base of the Southeast Ridge, protecting as we went along together, most of the time 30m apart on one 60m rope (extreme exposure, small crevasses and a few small ice steps). Mostly above the clouds from there until the late afternoon. Weather holding the whole day as the sun rays did not hit the ground, but the clouds instead. Little wind: communication easy even with party members 30 to 60 meters apart.
• Simul-climbed the SE Ridge from around 10 a.m. till 4 p.m. Looks deceptively less technical/steep than it is. James led the whole climb up the SE Ridge, with Joad second and Shaun third, separated by 60m half ropes. Reached the summit around 4:30 p.m.
• Melted snow, enjoyed the views with some clouds clearing up, took pictures, had a great time, discussed the strategy to down climb and started to head down by 5:30 p.m. Little wind, only 1 cumulonimbus in the distance at that point. After we all did 1 short rappel from a V-thread off “The Roof”, James and Joad rappelled down on ice screw or snow picket anchors, and Shaun cleaned and solo down-climbed the SE Ridge. 5 x 60 meter rappels to get to the base of the SE Ridge. Issues with rope management led to low efficiency as we started to feel tired. Rope ends went off a cliff once and got caught. Shaun recovered the ropes 1 hour later.
• Back to the top of Kain Face after 1 a.m. Wind picking up, and temperature dropping to -8C. The stove did not work well enough to melt snow properly: it appears it was too windy and too cold for the gas canister).
• Started climbing down Kain Face at 3 a.m. Shaun rappelled down 60 meters at a time, and built a 2-ice screw anchor. James followed by rappelling, and built a V-thread anchor, which was used to do the next rap while the ice screw anchor was used as a back-up. Joad cleaned the ice screw anchor and rappelled down. We left a snow picket on top of the Kain Face. It was difficult to find ice suitable for ice screws and V-threads, so Shaun and James had to dig through lots of snow and clean off lots of bad ice. 5 x 60m raps to reach past the bottom of the bergschrund.
• Reach our Dome camp at 7:45 a.m. under the sun. Melted snow, drank a lot, ate a dehydrated meal, and went to bed. After some good rest, we decided around 4 p.m. to leave the Dome only early the next morning

Sunday August 24
• Woke up at 4:45 a.m., tore down camp and left by 7:15 a.m. Sunny morning, and steady sunny weather throughout the day. The tent sheets were iced into the snow, so we had to leave some bits on site. The cleaning up operation took a while though.
• Lost my camera after a picture break. It fell on the snow, and started sliding into a crevasse.
• James and Shaun running low on food. We recovered some food cached at the Extinguisher Tower. Met a party of 4 who had just climbed Mt Resplendent from the Extinguisher Tower. Back at Robson pass at 6 p.m. at a leisurely yet steady pace. We did not rope up on the way back on the lower Robson glacier: crevasses all visible.
• Met park ranger Jesse Milner (also a ski guide and assistant rock guide at Rockaboo Mountain Adventures, www.rockaboo.ca) who offered us company, coffee, food, and a shelter for the night. We used Jesse’s satellite phone to let family members and friends know we were 1 day behind schedule by then, but all safe.

Monday August 25
• Left Jesse’s cabin at Robson Pass at 5: 30 a.m. and hiked back to Kinney Lake in 4 hours. Biked down towards the parking lot and got there shortly after 10 a.m.
• Critters (mice, squirrels?) had got into my car trunk and munched on our food. My pistachios were all gone!

Lessons learned:
Climbing lessons:
• More practice needed on sustained multi-pitch, low angle ice slopes (50 degrees) to move more efficiently;
• Practice rappelling and lowering skills: Jesse told us lowering 2 at the same time on 2 x 60/70 meters ropes (120/140 m) was probably the fastest “safe” way to downclimb Kain Face, provided the belayer would be willing to downclimb the route (240/280 m swing possible in the first steps): only 3 stations need, as opposed to our 5 stations (1/2 extra hour per station);
• More advanced rope management skills needed for a party of 3 to move faster on ice slopes;
• More practice needed building anchors in rotten ice/hard snow;
• Could save time on SE Ridge by not placing protection on the way up, and downclimbing on the way down.

Other lessons:
• Bikes allowed to save about 1 hour on hiking down from Kinney Lake, but it took 20 min to tie them up, and 10 minutes to untie them (twice). Overall no time was saved, but less energy was spent on the last 5 km down the Robson river.
• Pack light, but not too light, it can be full winter conditions the Dome and higher. Shovel absolutely needed. We did not bring avalanche transceivers on this trip.
• Packs should be immediately tied to an anchor once they are off the shoulders. It would have been easy to drop a pack and lose it forever anywhere after the Robson-Resplendent col. Any gear (cameras, mattresses, axes, probes, etc.) should be tied to pack or jacket too.
Joad Clément
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#380
Re:Trip Report - Mount Robson, Kain Face Ascent, August 2014 3 Years, 10 Months ago  
Thanks for the the trip report!
Matthew Breakey
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#382
Re: Trip Report - Mount Robson, Kain Face Ascent, August 2014 3 Years, 10 Months ago  
Very good account, Joad.
Thanks for the detailed report!
David Roe
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Gender: Male Location: Calgary, Alberta Birthday: 03/02
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#393
Re:Trip Report - Mount Robson, Kain Face Ascent, August 2014 3 Years, 9 Months ago  
Thanks very much for the insightful trip report! It sounds like you guys had quite the adventure, and managed to learn a few things along the way.

Thanks for sharing,

Susan
Susan Twitchell
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