Robson: Then and Now

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Download a 1200 pixel version of this image HERE. The Emperor Face of Mt. Robson. Pink line: Cheesmond-Dick, 1981 (approx. line). Red line: Logan-Stump, 1978. Green line: House-Haley, 2007, with red dot marking the end of Haley’s block of seven pitches and the start of House’s seven pitches. Yellow line: Infinite Patience (Blanchard-Dumerac-Pellet), 2002 (approx. line).Photo courtesy of Jim Logan.

Robson: Then and Now

Other than Steve House and Colin Haley, the person most excited about the new House-Haley Route on the Emperor Face of Mt. Robson was Jim Logan, who made the first ascent of the face in 1978. [READ THE PREVIOUS STORY] Logan said he had been waiting 29 years for someone else to climb the crux pitch on his route, an overhanging band of snowy, compact rock that took him all day to lead. At the top of that pitch, he left two pitons and a sling—he was too shattered by the effort to remove them when his partner, Mugs Stump, continued on the next pitch, but he also hoped someone would find them someday and know he’d been there.

On May 25, House and Haley climbed approximately 900 metersin 14 pitches to complete a new line up the Emperor Face in a single day. (All previous ascents of the Emperor Face have required at least one bivouac on the main wall.) During the last pitch of the day, they discovered three fixed pitons and realized they must have intersected the Logan-Stump Route. Indeed, it appears their new line shared ground over the last two or three pitches with Logan and Stump’s route, which makes the 1978 ascent all the more remarkable. House, who led the last seven pitches on the new line, called the final two pitches M7.

Logan, naturally, was quite tickled to hear this. “I was dry tooling with a bamboo, straight axe and a Forrest hammer, and no pro on overhanging rock…and at this moment I am feeling kind of proud that I managed to stay alive.” Logan, who attempted the face several times over three years in the mid-1970s, said that final lead was the hardest in his life. The two had suffered through a very poor sitting bivouac in niches chopped from ice (their second bivy on the wall), and in the morning, after Stump led a steep ice pitch, Logan faced the crux. The first half of the pitch was complicated aid climbing with pitons, followed by a bit of ice where he tied off an icicle and placed a bottomed-out screw; halfway up, he placed one more good piton and lowered off to back-clean the gear. But it would be little use to him. Shortly afterward, the ice and cracks disappeared and he had to go for it, dry tooling and brushing snow off the holds for gloves-off face climbing on overhanging rock. The pitch ended as he hooked his axe onto a shelf at the top, his crampons cut loose, and he desperately mantled onto the axe to escape.

House confirmed that the pitch was “just over vertical, for probably 30 meters, and I certainly didn’t have gear everywhere that I wanted it.” The two found a good fixed knifeblade that likely was Logan’s last pro on the pitch; Haley remembers it being 10 to 15 meters below the two fixed pitons at the end of the crux climbing.

Logan also said that guidebook descriptions of his and Stump’s route have never shown it in the right place. House and Haley believed they were climbing to the left of the Logan-Stump; in fact, they actually were well to the right of where Logan and Stump zigzagged up the face, before both lines funneled into the same daunting corners at the top of the headwall.

Sources: Jim Logan, Steve House, Colin Haley, 1979 American Alpine Journal.

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