Alpine Club of Canada

Winter Gazette 2013

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Robson yields summit and memorable friendships by Andy Thompson S tanding only meters from the sum‑ mit of Mount Robson, Jesse said to me, "I can smell the prize, Andy." He was so right; although tantaliz‑ ingly close, I stood there heavy and dizzy. Three hard days travel from New Zealand were starting to tell on me and I seemed to be experiencing some serious jet lag! The five-person summit team that day was comprised of me (Kiwi represent‑ ative), BC Parks Ranger Jesse Milner, ACMG Mountain Guide Matt Mueller, ACC Prince George Section Chair Frank Spears and ACC Executive Director Lawrence White. Nonetheless, the pressure was on to keep moving. Foul weather had been predicted, so we could not dilly dally around. Each step was carefully placed on the ridge. We were tied for glacial travel as there were some slots to negotiate and the consequences of a slip would be catas‑ trophic. I didn't want to make Canadian news headlines: "Kiwi pulls Canadian off to his death." I was privileged to be invited to the Mount Robson Centennial Camp by Zac Robinson, ACC VP Activities. I am a New Zealand Alpine Club mem‑ ber, and professionally I manage and instruct on a two-year leadership outdoor programme teaching mountaineering, whitewater kayaking, rock climbing, sea kayaking and what we term in NZ as "tramping". Landing in Canada amongst the Canadian Rockies is a stunning experience for any Kiwi, although we do have some fantastic mountains back home. On my first day, we climbed Mount Resplendent (3,426 metres) from Robson Pass, a gain of 1,774 metres—an amazing approach and wonderful finish on the summit ridge with Catherine Angus, Frank Spears and Nick Zupan. I was lucky to meet so many great people, including Brad Harrison and Julie Perkins who ran the amazing, warm, welcoming camp at Robson Pass. Finally we stepped onto Robson's summit, 3,954 metres. One-hundred years ago, Conrad Kain made the first ascent with Albert MacCarthy and William Wasbrough Foster, and his words reson‑ ated with me: "Gentlemen, this is as far as I can take you." Standing in that spot 100 years later, Jesse wore a huge smile. 12  Alpine Club of Canada Gazette Winter 2013 The Robson summit team members make themselves comfortable at high camp with the Kain Face and their objective in full view above them. photo by Matt Mueller "I wanted to climb this since I was five," he said. His words bellowed in my head with passion and amazement that this mountain held so much magnetism so many years later. It was simply magic; calm wind, high cloud, yet 360-degree views. The summit was ours. We were halfway and decent beckoned. Kain ascended Robson in hobnail boots with a long ice axe, and descended a different (at the time unknown) route— with clients. He was the quintessential guide with the utmost respect for the mountains and his clients. He won the hearts of those he took. Having climbed both Robson and New Zealand's highest peak, Aoraki Mount Cook (3,754 metres) myself, it is clear to me Kain was a true master of his chosen profession. We completed our ascent with modern tech‑ nology, which makes the climbing faster and arguably can help minimize subject‑ ive risks. However, what remains constant is the necessity of making good decisions given the relative day-to-day data when faced with possible dangers. Although the weather closed in for the remaining camp, and my plans to climb Mount Whitehorn were damp‑ ened, I loved every remaining minute of my stay. I met new people, hiking with Dave Franklin, Jim Everard and Pat Morrow. What wonderful people! Many thanks also to Hugo Mulyk, Senior Park Ranger, Val Kerr, Parks Facility Operator, Jesse Milner and Chris Zimmermann. Without them the camp would have been much harder. Although Conrad Kain passed away at only 51, as I observed Robson's summit crowned with a cloud capped in the back‑ ground, the words of Mountain WHIT actor Dave Thomson rang through my mind. "What a life I have lived, what a life, and although it may have been short, what a life." Andy Thompson smiles for the camera in the midst of navigating the broken, complicated Robson Glacier. photo by Lawrence White

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