Mount Robertson is a remote and significant summit located along the continental divide in the high backcountry of Kananaskis. Mount Robertson has an elevation of 3194 metres (10,480 ft.) and is surrounded by some of the largest glaciers in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park; the Haig, French and Robertson Glaciers. Named after Field Marshal Sir William Robert Robertson who was a British Army officer who served as Chief of the Imperial General Staff from 1916 to 1918, during the First World War. Interestingly, Robertson was the first, and to date the only, British Army soldier to rise from the lowest rank of private to Field Marshal. First ascent of this peak in 1928 by J.W.A. Hickson, guided by Edward Feuz Jr. via the South-West Ridge/South Ridge.
Mount Robertson is the third highest summit in the Spray Range (British Military Group), third after Mount French
(3234 m) and Mount Sir Douglas
(3406 m). Similar to Mt. French, most people likely see Mt. Robertson on their ski traverse of the locally famous French/Robertson (Glacier) traverse. This traverse is a very popular ski tour and travels along Burstall Creek to the Robertson Glacier to the Mt. Robertson/Mt. Sir Douglas Col, a short section on the Haig Glacier and exit to the French Glacier via the Mt. Robertson/Mt. French col.
Very likely anyone visiting Mount Robertson will approach from Alberta and Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. Best access from Calgary via Trans Canada Highway west to Highway 40 (Kananaskis Trail) south to the turn off for Kananaskis Lakes, approximately 50 km south of the Trans Canada Highway. Travel about 2.2 kilometres to a T-intersection and turn north onto the Smith-Dorrien road. Trailhead parking is located along the Smith-Dorrien road, approximately 20 km north of the Kananaskis Lakes area, at the Burstall Pass trailhead. Rougher road, but best access from Canmore is via Smith-Dorrien road. From the Canmore Nordic Centre, travel south about 41 kilometres to the Burstall Pass parking lot.
Access to the Robertson/Sir Douglas col requires extensive glacier travel and considerable approach time on these glaciers and should only be attempted by experienced mountaineers. Hike or ski the trail up the obvious Burstall Pass trail to the view of the Robertson Glacier and the Mt. Robertson/Mt. Sir Douglas col, up drainage to col, about 12 km to the col.
Gaining toe of glacier
Red Tape / Camping and Bivouacs
Once a true wilderness area, the backcountry regions of Peter Lougheed Provincial Park has become extremely busy and popular. This has required increased regulation of the backcountry in the last 10 to 15 years in an attempt to sustain the healthy ecosystem and wildlife populations. Peter Lougheed Provincial Park only allows backcountry camping in designated backcountry campgrounds and no random backcountry camping is allowed. There are no designated backcountry campgrounds in the Burstall Creek drainage. No permit is required to park or climb in this park. The approach and route are short enough to allow completion without a bivouac.
Up to date information about Peter Lougheed Provincial Park available at:
Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
Once you cross the Mt. Robertson/Mt. Sir Douglas col, you enter the province of British Columbia and the Height of the Rockies Provincial Park. The south slopes and the two most climbed routes on Mt. Robertson are in British Columbia. Up to date information about Height of the Rockies Provincial Park available at:
Height of the Rockies Provincial Park
When to Climb
Typical Canadian Rockies situation with July and August providing the driest conditions. Later summer and early fall (October) can provide dry conditions, but conditions can change quickly in the fall.
Climbing SW ridge
Winter attempt of SW ridge
Solid snow coniditons
Mt. Robertson/Haig Glacier area topo
Trailhead parking is located along the Smith-Dorrien road at the Burstall Pass trailhead. Follow the Burstall Pass trail, well signed, to the signpost at the top of the first hill, about 500 metres. Go right onto the Burstall Pass trail, signed. In the winter there will be a clear ski track, also a clear track to the left into French Creek, but head to Burstall Pass.
About 6 kilometres from the trailhead, a view opens up to the drainage that originates from the Robertson Glacier. Here there is a great view of Mt. Robertson and the designation col linked to Mt. Sir Douglas. Head up this drainage, often wind swept and poor snow in winter, towards the col and the glacier. The glacier is reached in about 4 kilometres and the col in about 2 more, total about 12 kilometres from the parking lot. If climbing the North Ridge or the West Face route, you would only need to travel to the toe of the glacier to access these routes.
The glacier is usually snow free by July since the winter wind often blows it clear, sometimes requiring crampons even in the winter. A few and narrow crevasse are visible, but usually easy to avoid. The Mt. Robertson / Mt. Sir Doulgas col, is about 100 metres above the Haig Glacier. If ascending the South-West Ridge, head up the ridge, if headed to the South-East Ridge, drop down to the Haig Glacier.
The terrain of the south slopes, from the South-West Ridge line (above Robertson/Sir Douglas Col) to the South-East Ridge (above the Robertson/French Col), are relatively complex, but a variety of lines are possible. Staying to the prominent ridgelines of the SW or SE ridge provides the easiest route finding and best rock quality. There is no documented successful winter ascent of this mountain.
- South-West / South Ridge, Alpine II
- Traverse, North Ridge ascent, descent South-West Ridge, Alpine II
||First ascended in August 1928 by J.W.A. Hickson, guided by Edward Feuz Jr. From a camp on Maude Brook, gained the southern toe of the Haig Glacier and north to the col between Mt. Robertson and Mt. Sir Douglas. Followed South-West Ridge over easy, but rotten rock. Soon the ridge becomes very narrow and steep. Several hundred metres of steep ridge and the ridge slowly turns into the summit South Ridge. Most of the way up the South Ridge, a rappel of 30 metres down steep slabs reached a ledge, this ledge was traversed for 90 metres. A short steep 6 metre climb up rotten and loose rock reached the summit. Descended the same route. |
- South-East Ridge, Alpine II
||First traverse and ascent of North Ridge in August 1974 by R. Swynston, P. Gilespie, J. Baldwin, B. Baldwin, D. Harrison, D. Grey, D. Rudkin and B. Schiesser. A long route with complex terrain and loose rock. Descend the South West Ridge route including rappels. |
- West Face, 5.11a, Alpine III
||First ascent August 1974 by M. Oxtoby, D. Beler, C. Simpson, K. Smythe, R. Cherney and B. Schiesser. From Haig Glacier gained South-East near one third height via south slopes. Followed loose, steep and exposed South-East Ridge to summit block, descended the same route. |
(northern outlier, not main summit)
||First ascent of route by A. Genereux and J. Marshall, October 1988. Twelve pitches ranging from 5.7 to 5.11a. Detailed route description and topo map provided in the “Kananaskis Obsure” guide, edition 2. |
Boles, G.W., Kruszyna R. & Putnam W.L. (1979). The Rocky Mountains of Canada South. 7 th edition. New York: American Alpine Club, Alpine Club of Canada.
Out of print
Greg Cornell’s “Kananaskis Obsure: An Underground Guide”. 2 nd Edition, 2005.