Still Winter, Still Spring - Mt Robson and the Five Lakes

1:52 p.m. on April 15, 2013 (EDT)
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Mt Robson is the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies at 3,954 metres. Located just past the Alberta/BC border, it's an incredible summertime destination. 

I was wondering about the trails, and while I knew we couldn't risk the extreme spring avalanche hazard at elevation, even getting to the trailhead was a beautiful drive. To get there from Edmonton involves a pleasant four hour drive up to Jasper NP, where we stayed just outside the park gate. The next morning it was another 1.5 hrs through Yellowhead Pass, across the Divide and down the other side. 

Getting there, Jasper NP:
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Yellowhead Pass:

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Yellowhead Lake
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Frazer River and old RR bridge:


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Robson River:

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Mt Robson in the distance:

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Our plan was to see if we could get to Kinney Lake, a round trip of about 16 km, but it turned out the problem was the trail conditions. We did the first few hundred metres with ice cleats, stumbling over old postholes and X-country ski ruts, ridges, bumps, deep drifts and bare patches. Spring is NOT the time to tackle a well-used winter trail!


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We switched to snowshoes hoping they would level out the path a bit. Just a bit better, but still not enough to make the proposed 16 km walk into a pleasant jaunt. And really, 'if it ain't fun, why do it?' The mountain will be there next month, and I actually have a client who has offered a helicopter fly-in to Berg Lake at Mt. Robson in August. That's the easy way!

We walked back out and drove back to Jasper looking for Spring.

The Valley of the Five Lakes is at the bottom of the Athabasca River Valley, and offers good early-season trails. At a lower elevation, the trails are mostly bare and dry at this time of year, so we made the short drive south along the Icefields Parkway.

Nice! Very little snow, just a few icy patches, and even some crocuses blooming on the southern exposures.

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I'd rented a cabin downriver for the weekend, and we headed back. There was an inch or two of fresh snow the next morning, but it made for a nice morning walk. 

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Stream heading for the river - nice to see it opening up. 
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Cool rock formations
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...and a drive home.






5:56 p.m. on April 16, 2013 (EDT)
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Very nice Peter! Spring has sprung here and cold trips are over for me until late fall I would say. Looks like you have a ways' to go.

10:44 a.m. on April 18, 2013 (EDT)
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I think in places like Mt Robson at 9,000 ft its always winter.  Cool Report.

3:51 p.m. on April 18, 2013 (EDT)
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It is on top, StoS, but the Berg Lake area just below the summit clears up by late July/August. Just gorgeous. See TR from last Labour Day.

4:40 p.m. on April 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Nice report, Peter! It is so beautiful there. You are very blessed to live so close to such beautiful terrain.

11:26 a.m. on April 19, 2013 (EDT)
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Great report, Peter. Love the Canadian Rockies. A number of years ago I saw a presentation by the first party to climb Edith Cavell in winter. Stopping the train, then skiing in in the middle of winter...awesome.

11:49 a.m. on April 19, 2013 (EDT)
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@Erich: That would have been the climb by Morris Taylor and Ernie Neiderer back in 1934? They mention driving a car to the Portal Creek TH, not taking a train, but there's a very good description of the ascent in the 1936 Canadian Ski Yearbook if you're interested. 

http://www.skimuseum.ca/documents/annuals/1936-37_pt28_pg56-58.pdf

And even with last summer's road closure to the Tonquin Valley trailheads, you can still ski up there (at certain times in the winter) to tour the Tonquin, Astoria or the Verdant Creek route up the backside of Cavell. 

11:43 a.m. on April 20, 2013 (EDT)
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Peter, it must have been a first ascent on one of the routes and not the first ascent of the mountain. I saw it in the early '70s. At the same presentation, Fred Beckey gave an account of his climb on Waddington.

3:14 p.m. on April 22, 2013 (EDT)
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Ashleigh said:

Nice report, Peter! It is so beautiful there. You are very blessed to live so close to such beautiful terrain.

 It's actually a 3.5 hr drive each way, but feasible on a Friday evening. 

December 22, 2014
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