I couldn’t leave this season’s blog without an update on our trip to repeat some images from Wheeler’s 1911 survey of Mt Robson Provincial Park. Stuart and I were joined by Chris Gat, Jenna Falk, and Claire Higgs for a 5 day, 75 km backcountry trip up the Berg Lake trail to retake images that overlook the back of Mt. Robson itself. What a trip to end the season on! Our bubble of sunshine followed us, and we managed to do this hike in the nicest weather they’ve had at the park yet this summer. We are counting ourselves very, very lucky. Rather than try to describe all of the trip, here are a couple of notes out of my journal:
Aug. 26th Robson Pass to Tatai Ridge return. We were up at 5:30 (still trying for that alpine start) and were rewarded with our first clear glimpse of the peak of Mt Robson, which has been shrouded in clouds for the past two days. The light was orange and absolutely gorgeous. Wow! We left the Robson Pass campground and headed up the Snowbird Pass trail. Stopped at the lake at the toe of the Robson Glacier and checked out (read: tasted) small chunks of floating glacial ice. From there, the trail turns up a long series of switchbacks to steadily gain elevation and bring hikers above treeline. Saw three mountaineers crossing Robson glacier, descending from an attempt to summit we think. No one has yet this year. Too much snow. As we stopped for a water break we saw an avalanche come down off the peak.
We reached snowbird pass around 12:30. Amazing! Hard to know which way to look: to the south lies Mt Robson, and to the north, the expansive Reef Icefield. Assessed our stations and realized that the one on Lynx Mtn. is inaccessible to us this trip due to snow. Maybe another year, with more equipment and different conditions. Had lunch at the pass, then set out for our remaining station, Ptarmigan Peak. Spent almost 4 hours reaching it via Tikana Peak then a long ridge walk/ scramble south along Tatai Ridge. Reached the station, which is marked by a cairn, around 4:00 and retook photos. Comparison with the Wheeler 1911 images shows that the glacier has retreated dramatically.
Finished up after 6:00 with 12 km return trip still ahead of us. It was made easier by some fantastic boot skiing down several snowfields. Wheee! We stopped for a couple of minutes in the upper meadow to admire the lowering sun on the mountain, then began our real hike out. Re-taped feet, definitely sore, but we’re all still holding up okay. Got back down the scree switchbacks just as dusk fell, stopping part way to dig out headlamps. We made pretty good time from there, gradually becoming little bobbling lights on the trail. We finally arrived back at camp tired and hungry around 10:00 – a full 17 hour day, hiking roughly 25 km and gaining ~ 4000 ft. net elevation. Everyone did so well! Can’t wait to see the photos!
Since leaving Mt. Robson we’ve made the big turn west towards home. With our extended crew we stopped to complete some photos overlooking the Athabasca Glacier near the Columbia Icefields Centre and redid one image near Rogers Pass in better light. As I type, we are now on the ferry home. We’ll add a quick summary this year’s field season soon, but this is the last post from the field.
It’s been a fantastic month!