Mount Robson’s Emperor Face

The Canadian Rockies are home to some of the most iconic alpine peaks in North America.  Mountains like Alberta, Columbia, Edith Cavell and North Twin (to name a few) are synonymous with classic rockies alpine climbing: variable rock quality ranging from total choss, to flint hard quartzite – hanging glaciers and double cornices, veins of pristine alpine and water ice – and the classic sandbag grade of 5.9 A2.  

But if there’s one mountain that stands out from the rest (Literally) – it’s Mount Robson.  Topping out at nearly 13,000’ in height, and with huge relief on all sides, Robson is truly a sight to behold.  It’s massive south face rises nearly 10,000’ from the Yellowhead Hwy – luring tourists, hikers and climbers for a closer look.

But it’s the northern side of Robson that speaks the language of the true alpinist.  In 1913, mountain guide Conrad Kain led a group of clients to the summit after navigating the crevasse-laden Robson Glacier, and chopping steps up the northeast face and on the the summit.  This ultra-classic line, aptly named the Kain Face – was in some ways ahead of it’s time – and is still a serious route.

The ante was upped in 1963 when Pat Callis and Dan Davis ascended the intimidating apron of 60 to 70 degree blue ice and steep snow, known as the north face.

But it wasn’t until 1978, that the biggest face of all – The Emperor Face – was finally climbed by Mugs Stump and Jamie Logan.  The duo spent four days on the route – a line that more or less takes the central rib that splits the 8,000’ face – and with that, established one of the most committing Grade VI lines in the rockies.

Another line on the face was climbed in 1981, by the legendary Dave Cheesmond and Tony Dick.  

And finally in 2002, after multiple attempts over many years – Barry Blanchard, Phillipe Pellet and Eric Dumerac climbed “Infinite Patience” – a classic line following couloirs, ice runnels and interesting mixed pitches up the right side of the Emperor Face.

Although Infinite Patience has now been climbed multiple times (and even soloed by the late Marc Andre LeClerc), it is still one of the most serious lines in the Canadian Rockies – and like other classic rockies routes – an ascent is largely based on finding the face in perfect conditions.  

That’s why I was excited to hear about the line getting repeated again in September of this year by the Canadian / Dutch team of Jas Fauteux and Maarten Von Haren.

I recently got a chance to talk with Jas about his experience on Robson – what it felt like to find that face in perfect conditions – and what it means to have climbed such an iconic line on the emperor of the rockies.


Music

• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2018)
• Trails / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2018)
• Corn Flakes / Andrew Tholberg /  Unreleased (2016)
• Lucillia / Easton Stagger Phillips / Resolution Road (2014)


Links

Mount Robson Emperor Face 1st Ascent – AAJ 1978
Evan Phillips
Patreon

Sponsors

Alaska Rock Gym
Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria
The Hoarding Marmot
Behind The Sun Therapeutics


The Spaces Between: Ryan Johnson

Narrative

Sometime in the days after March 5 2018, Ryan Johnson and his partner, the brilliant Marc Andre Leclerc, lost their lives after completing the stunning first ascent of the north face of the Main Tower in The Mendenhall’s, just outside of Juneau, Alaska.

The route, which was a dream line of Ryan’s, epitomized what he looked for in alpinism: Elements of the unknown, physical and mental challenges, as well as an aesthetic, direct and pure line.  One can only imagine what it must have felt like for Ryan to be on that summit after what had surely been one his best experiences in the mountains.

Although I had never met Ryan, we’d corresponded in the months before his passing, and had planned on sitting down for an interview this April.  So in a way of honoring Ryan, I decided to talk with some of his best friends and partners, to talk about their memories, experiences, and the ups and downs they shared in and out of the mountains.  


Music

• Hard Times  / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2018)
• Silhouettes / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• The Search / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Something To Believe In / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2018)
• Pick Yourself Up / Evan Phillips / Lonely Mountain (2017)
• Guess I Was Just Young / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• Her Glorious Morning  / Evan Phillips / Goodnight My Dearest Stranger (2012)
• Hard Times  / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2018)

Links

GoFundMe

Sponsors

Alaska Rock Gym
Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzaria
The Hoarding Marmot

Episode 21 // The Firn Line “Live”: Roman Dial


Narrative

On December 2, 2017, I had the great privilege to sit down in front of a live audience at the Alaska Rock Gym, and talk with renowned Alaskan alpinist and explorer, Roman Dial.  We had a candid and highly-entertaining conversation that spanned topics including his early years in Fairbanks, his ambitious climbs in The Hayes Range in the 80’s, as well as his forays into hell-biking, tree climbing, and packrafting in the 90’s and beyond.  

In some ways, Roman is a larger than life character, with a list of jaw-dropping outdoor achievements to his credit.  But as you’ll soon hear, it’s the characters, friends and partners that have helped shape Roman’s life, and ultimately meant the most to him.  


Music

• Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Lonely Mountain / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• Space Walker / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)

Links

Support The Firn Line
Evan Phillips
The Alaska Rock Gym
The Roaming Dials
Shwak Magazine


Episode 04 // Short Ropes: Chitistone Chuckles

In February, 2016 Dusty Eroh, Andrew Burr, Scott Adamson and Todd Tumolo rode, pushed and postholed their fatbikes up the Nizina River to the mythical frozen waterfalls of the Chitistone valley. Equal parts climbing and comedy, the trip was an authentic and memorable Alaskan adventure.

In Episode 04, Dusty tells the story first-hand, reflects on his time with Scott and discusses how he got his nickname, “Dirty D.”


Music

• Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Ambien / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)
• Beta Fish / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)
• Silky Smooth / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)
• Corn Flakes / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)
• Fleeting Fleets / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)
• Pumper / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)


Links

Patreon
Evan Phillips
Scott Adamson
Kyle Dempster
Andrew Burr Photography