Jeff V is the guy that got me into ski-mountaineering.  Many moons and many ski towns ago, my girlfriend at the time kept telling me I HAD to meet her brother, and when I did, it was the start of a friendship that has included many great adventures, from alpine climbing to powder skiing.  We grew in the mountains  together, and an opportunity to ski with Jeff this spring was welcome.  We tossed ideas around, including a sled mission to the Freshfield Icefield N of Golden.  In the end, we chose to go further N, back to Jasper, where it really all began.  The  goal lay across the border in B.C., a second try on Mt Resplendent, the first being back in those formative years with Jeff and Dave  S.

We met in Golden (Mark H and I in my Delica), loaded Jeff’s Toyota Hilux with skis, bikes ( for the first leg of the Berg lake trail) and the rest of our gear.  The drive up the Icefields Parkway was as stunning as ever, what a stretch of highway!   Greg H and Joey V ( in his Delica) were planning on departing Revy later on, heading up through Kamloops and meeting us late night at the trailhead.  All 3 vehicles diesel, right hand drive imports from Japan!

Going.....skiing?

All were accounted for in the a.m., and we packed up our loads, stoked to be using bikes to access some Rockies skiing. I had along a BOB bike trailer to take the weight off my back,  but I initially packed a little top-heavy and the bike was a pain to push up the steep incline just before Kinney lake.  Soon we  were parking at the convenient bike rack, locked em up and starting the walking part of the 25 km journey to Berg lake. 

biking...

walking...

This went all right, though the heavy packs were taking their toll by the time we got our skis on.  We finally rounded the corner to the beautiful splendour of Berg lake, with the awe-inspiring views of Mt Robson’s  Emperor Face giving us the bit of juice needed to push on.  This is where we started to think that crashing at the Hargreaves shelter at the far end of the lake was a good idea.  Unfortunate that we are carrying these tents…

and finally...skiing!

It felt fantastic to get the “pigs” off our backs on the shelter’s front deck, and the rest of the evening was spent taking in the jaw-dropping views of Robson in the evening light.  Capped in a bit of cloud that eventually dissipated, finally giving us a look at a very inspirational line: the North Face.  In those early day of mountaineering with Jeff, I was flipping through Sean Dougherty’s guidebook Selected Alpine Climbs of the Canadian Rockies, daydreaming about climbing the King of the range, Mt Robson, when I noticed the note  in the description for the mountain’s N Face route.  Skied in Sept 1995, by Troy Jungen and Ptor Spricenieks!  Whoa, I could not believe it! These guys must be crazy.  I have since met both first descensionists, and it’s true, they ARE crazy. In a good way.   But this unrepeated line can only be described as visionary.  The two had just finished a stretch in the steep skiing Mecca of Chamonix, and despite a well-funded attempt on the plum line of the Rockies by a movie crew with an imported athlete, these two  canucks came home and sent the line of EVERYONE’S dreams.  The debate about whether what we could see from the hut was snow or ice went on until the face was illuminated by the rising moon, and we retired with alarms set for early.  We will see what Mt Resplendent, Robson’s 11,181 foot neighbour, is looking like tomorrow…

The North Face of Robson above Berg lake.

The long slog up the Robson glacier happens under mostly blue skies, but the tops of the peaks continue to catch the clouds, with windows offering views of steep flutes, sheer rock and ice faces, and stunning ridgelines. 

 We wind our way up through the slots to the Robson- Resplendent col, and a beautiful line presents itself on our climber left as a possible descent route. 

Joey V scopes the line.

A  turn up the broad ridge leading to the obscured summit of  Resplendent, and a half  hour later we are there!  What a great tour, with great friends, and awesome to be succesful this time!

Heading for the ridge.

Snow and Sun at the same time!

Jeff V approaches the summit of Resplendent.

Using the photos from a couple of hours before to refresh our memories, we roll over into the direct line in cold powder snow, boot-top, absolutely “hero” skiing.  A  hard left traverse gains the notch between Rearguard Mtn and Mt Waffl, and we descend directly to Berg lake on the East side of the Berg Glacier, forced onto the ice at  one section in order to by-pass some cliffs (see photo below).    Knowing this goes will now offer a direct line of ascent early tomorrow morning, which means we are going to go take a look at the legendary line…

Our descent beside the Berg Glacier.

Another fine, clear evening of even better light on the peaks, and we fall into an exhausted sleep in the company of a packrat roaming the rafters.

Ski and boot crampons got us back up to the col in the early a.m., and we quickly crossed the bench threatened by a huge icefall on the N face of the Helmet.  A roundabout route through the broken upper Berg glacier with the North Face of Robson looming above us in the morning light had the debate going in my head again: is  that ice or snow up there?!?

  After negotiating a HUGE crevasse  bridged by a cornice with a steep bootpack , we were finally on the bench directly below the face.

  The bergshrund is starting to look real intimidating now, but after a break we head up the cone created by a winters worth of sluff from the 55 degree face above to have a closer look.  Upon arrival, we realize that it is a 15 foot overhung obstacle that none of us are willing to tackle.  This, combined with an increase in cloud cover and a decrease in visibility, plus the ice/snow argument, and it was enough to send us packing.  Not to be this time, but we didn’t really expect to stroll in and bag this iconic peak and descent on our first try…

We ski our up track  down to the lake again, and with another party setting up camp at the Hargreaves shelter,  the decision is made to head for the cars that  afternoon. 

Jeff V packs up under the reflection of the king.

The out was quite fast, Greg and Joey made it in just over three hours, and the rest of us were not far behind, back at the parking lot just before dark. The bikes were  awesome on the way out!   A very strenuous 3 day mission to a wicked zone, worth every bit of energy invested.   It turns out that our friend Jon W  from Golden was skiing on the N face of Whitehorn on the same day we were on Resplendent, a very aesthetic line as well.  There are many other’s, definitely a fine ski destination.   I can’t wait to return!

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