Once the standard route on Robson, the south face has been replaced by the Kain face. With a 3,000-foot brush-bash followed by thousands of feet of talus, passing directly under two seracs, and a final, short but crevassed glacier crossing, the route seems to have little appeal. However, with a much shorter approach than the popular north-side routes, it is attractive to day-hikers. Also, with an optional direct finish (AI 2) that avoids the glacier crossing, it is appealing to soloists wary of the Mousetrap Icefall below the Kain route.
(This is the approach for any route starting from the Forster Hut, including the South Face and Wishbone Arete.)
From the Berg Lake trailhead in Robson Provincial Park (about an hour west of Jasper on Highway 16), follow the trail along Kinney Lake to where the horse and hiker routes split after about 3.5 miles. Take the horse trail until it reaches a broad, gravelly wash, then ascend its right-hand bank, looking for a large cairn and flagging at the edge of the woods.
Follow the brushy but well-flagged (in August 2014) climbers' trail, immediately passing a memorial plaque on a boulder.
Plaque south of Robson
The trail climbs more or less straight up through the woods. When it reaches a tall, gray cliff-band, it climbs along this band to the right. Once around the corner, look for two bolts with fixed hand-lines protecting some 4th class slabs that are treacherous when wet.
Handline on south Robson approach
From here, the trail continues through more woods near the crest of the ridge, eventually emerging on a broad, tan talus slope. Look for cairns and flagging as you make a gradually-ascending traverse left across this slope. The trail may be difficult to follow; it is better to traverse too low than too high.
Cross the other edge of the slope into the talus bowl, then climb up a minor step, past several decorative bolts and two fixed steel chains. Climb up and left across the next talus slope, aiming for the most broken-looking section of the headwall. Search for a hidden, left-facing 10-foot chimney with bolts above, then continue up and left along ledges to pass the headwall. From here, it is a short scramble to the ridge and on to the hut.
Headwall and ridge with Forster Hut on Robson
Forster Hut and start of south face route
From the Forster Hut, follow the path up the ridge, crossing below the large icefall at a flat spot.
Cross below this icefall just above Forster Hut
Continue up the ridge, staying mostly on the crest or to the right. The climbing is class 2 or 3, depending on your choice of route. At the peak of the ridge, cross a short snow/ice saddle to Robson's main mass (crampons probably necessary).
Snow/ice col on Robson and main icefall
Your next goal is to cross left under the icefall you see above with minimal risk. Climb the left-hand side of the ridge toward the icefall, looking for a viable ledge on the other side of stream ahead.
Main icefall crossing -- be quick
When you spot this ledge, quickly traverse into the gully, cross the stream, and follow the ledge back out to relative safety.
Continue traveling up and left, rounding the ice above at a respectful distance, then scramble up the ridge to the base of the summit glacier. Here you have two options: The standard route crosses right across the crevassed glacier to meet the standard Kain route on the right-hand side of the glacier. However, soloists can avoid the crevasse hazard by climbing AI 2 slopes directly above where the talus ridge meets the glacier.
Start of direct finish; standard route heads right
To descend, retrace your route.
Essential GearIce axe and crampons. For the standard finish, whatever you feel necessary to cross a crevassed glacier. For the direct finish, two ice tools.