Rearguard Mountain


Trip Details
Mountain Range: 
Mountain Subrange: 
Attained Summit?: 
Trip Date: 
Saturday, April 9, 2016
Summit Elevation (m): 
Summit Elevation (ft): 
Elevation Gain (m): 
Round Trip Time: 
Total Distance (km): 
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.

Trip Report

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. After a party of 5 joined us in the shelter (quite late) we managed a few hours of restless sleep but way too soon Ben was waking us up. We got ready and headed into the dark night with millions of stars and light clouds above us. With no moon it was pretty black!


[Leaving the Hargreaves Shelter pretty early. There are clouds over The Helmet (R) but Rearguard's summit is visible at left along with a couple thousand stars.]


Ben led us up the creek bed towards the Robson Glacier next to the Snowbird Pass trail that I'd done in 2013. We crossed the lake at the toe of the glacier (without thinking about it too much - on the way back we avoided it as it looked a bit thin) and proceeded up on climbers left, following Ben's group's tracks from two weeks previous which were still visible. We stuck to the left hand side of the glacier to avoid the holes in the center. The right side was a major ice fall - no safe way through there!


[The rope is on as we head up the left side of the Robson Glacier. The Extinguisher Tower visible at right.]


Good thing we had Ben's gps track from two weeks previous because even the left side of the glacier wasn't totally straight forward. Especially of note were a few steep avy slopes we traversed while avoiding two large ice caves on the edge of the ice that would be very nasty surprises in a whiteout! I can see why folks usually avoid the first part of the Robson Glacier by following the Snowbird Pass trail alongside it until cutting off to climbers right under the Extinguisher Tower. 


[Pre-dawn light as we work our way alongside the glacier, avoiding holes and ice caves. The Extinguisher Tower at upper right.]


We continued to work our way up under Extinguisher Tower as daylight broke and we got some great shots of alpine glow on Robson. Right under the Tower we found an excellent camp site off the glacier but with enough snow to dig in a great little camp.


[As we skinned past the ice caves Robson started catching alpine glow high above us. Extinguisher Tower at left, Robson at center and Rearguard at right.]

[Steep skinning up moraines just off the glacier (climber's left) here.]

[Looking back at our approach (right side of photo) with Rearguard at left and Mumm Peak in the distance at center. Titkana just out of sight to the right, with the Snowbird Pass trail running up the moraine on the right.]

[On the final ascent ramp under the Extinguisher Tower - our camping spot on the right, just above the rock cliffs.]

[Skinning to our camping site with Rearguard stretching out in the background. It looks close from here, but there's a major icefall in the way that we have to detour several kilometers around.]


After building our camp, it was obvious that Resplendent wasn't a go for Saturday. 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. 


[Skinning towards the Robson Glacier from camp. The RR col and upper mountain is socked in. The handrail of rock just ahead of Ben assists in skiing a safe route up under the Extinguisher Tower (OOS at left) and avoiding the icefall visible to our right.]

[We weren't sure how far west towards the main Robson massif we had to wander before cutting around the Robson Glacier icefall so we cut up a bit early before contouring around the edge of the heavily crevassed center of the glacier.]

[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.]

[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.]


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.]

[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. Our route to Resplendent is up the main glacier in the distance at left. ++]

[Unexpectedly, our views started to improve as we ascended Rearguard. This is looking back at Waffl with The Helmet and Robson starting to show through the clouds and the Berg Glacier at right. Whitehorn at far right still in clouds. ++]

[Off the skis and onto a scree / snow bash! 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.]


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.


[Wow! Resplendent is a well-named peak. Look at her gorgeous snow and ice summit - how can you not want to ski that?! Our route the next day would go climber's left of the ice avalanche at lower right before ascending slopes under the seracs on the right side of the photo before turning climber's left towards Resplendent.]

[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.]


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.


[Finally I stand on a 'real' summit with mind blowing winter views! I was missing this quite a bit over the past few months. Obviously 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.]

[Anne-Alice is another fantastic ski objective in the Berg Lake area. The route goes straight up Toboggan Creek from the Hargreaves shelter (obvious drainage) to the col left of center before ascending to a false summit and then on to the true one.]

[The Hargreaves shelter is down there somewhere at the mouth of Toboggan Creek which comes down the drainage visible in the trees. The flowing creek going into Berg Lake is the Robson River.]

[Lynx Mountain]

[Mount Resplendent which we would ski / climb the following day.]

[Robson looms over everything here - making even 11000ers look small! In this shot you can see the approach for The Helmet from the Rearguard Meadows, running through and under some pretty serious serac / crevasse terrain to the right of Waffl before turning climber's left and ascending The Helmet from the south. ++]

[An unnamed snowy peak on the Reef Icefield. Snowbird Pass at lower foreground at center.]


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 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.]

[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!]


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. 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.


[Ben is cooking up something in our camp kitchen.]

[My HMG UM II is still going strong! At 499 grams you can't get much lighter and still be completely enclosed on an icefield...]

[Fantastic views down the Robson Glacier icefall from our camp, looking towards the toe of the glacier. Rearguard at left, Mumm at center and Titkana / Tatei Ridge at right. ++]

[Taking advantage of warm sunshine to dry gear.]

[Robson Glacier icefall.]

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

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