Jason has worked for us as a guide on several occasions! The Great Falls Tribune wrote a story about his ascent – we’re so proud.
Mountaineer achieves rare winter solo of Glacier’s Mount Stimson
BY MICHAEL BABCOCK • GREAT FALLS TRIBUNE OUTDOOR EDITOR • JANUARY 29, 2009
A Great Falls native who now lives in Whitefish has successfully climbed Mount Stimson in Glacier National Park.
Jason Robertson, a 30-year-old cabinetmaker, reached the summit of the 10,142 peak during a three-day expedition Jan. 20-22. He did it alone.
It was his ninth attempt. He has tried six other times during winter and twice during summer and each time had to turn back because of weather or gear problems.
“It was a great feeling after all those tries and putting up with bad weather and gear problems and anything you can think of that has gone wrong,” Robertson said. “I have spent 60 days in the mountains in winter trying to climb that peak.”
No Easy Thing
Jim Schroeder, president of the Glacier Mountaineering Society, said he is not aware of any other winter attempts on Mount Stimson.
“J. Gordon Edwards, in his “Climber’s Guide to Glacier National Park,” calls Stimson ‘truly a monster of a mountain,'” Schroeder said. “The primary challenges presented by Stimson are the long, difficult approach, and 6,000 feet of vertical climb.
“Edwards noted that prior to 1978, there were very few people known to have summited Stimson. Now it is not unusual for several parties to reach the summit during any given summer,” Schroeder said.
“I do know of some climbers who succeeded only after five or six attempts, so even in the summer, success on Stimson is not a given. I was fortunate to have made it on my first attempt.”
To reach Mount Stimson, Robertson forded the Middle Fork of the Flathead River at Coal Creek Trailhead and then skied up Coal Creek Trail. Then he dropped down to ford Coal Creek for a 10-mile ski up Pinchot Creek.
From the headwaters of Pinchot Creek there is a 2,500 foot climb up to the saddle between Mount Stimson and Mount Pinchot.
“From there you gain the northeast ridge of Stimson,” he said. “It was definitely steep in the upper thousand feet. I was using my ice tool, plunging my ice tool into the snow and using my ice axe. It is so steep that your knees are hitting the snow as you climb up.”
A Three-Day Climb
Robertson climbed Stimson and returned in three days: He left Jan. 20, summited the next day and skied out on Jan. 22.
He said he encountered lots of wildlife along the way.
“Right away when I started, I ran into seven or eight huge elk,” he said. “A golden eagle swooped right over my head and I saw tons of wolf tracks. I have pictures of my glove inside a wolf track. There were a couple of sets of cat tracks and I saw wolverine tracks near the saddle of Pinchot and Stimson.”
That first night, Robertson camped at the base of the Stimson-Pinchot saddle. The temperature was about 2 degrees. He began climbing at 8:30 the next morning and he made it back to his camp in the saddle by 5:30 p.m.
During the climb, he said, the wind blew steadily at 25 to 35 miles per hour.
“Even with the thermometer in the sun and held close to my body, it never got above 20 degrees. But I have been in a lot worse winds. I have been in 50 mile-per-hour winds on ridge tops. I always think it is funny when you hear someone say they were in 100 mph winds. That would blow you away.
“Last year I got pretty high on Stimson and it started dumping snow — about two inches an hour. I didn’t hesitate to turn around and get out and I made it from the base of the saddle to my car in four hours.
“This year, the ski out was in 10 degrees and the snow was perfect. I made it out in four hours and 15 minutes,” he said.
One Of Six
Stimson is one of six 10,000-plus foot mountains in Glacier National Park.
“I would like to get up all the 10,000-foot peaks in the park in the winter. Stimson is the second highest,” Robertson said.
Robertson has climbed St. Nicholas six times and Mount Duty twice.
“Two years I soloed St. Nick and Duty in 12 1/2 hours, which is pry the hardest thing I have ever done. I got up Kintla in December a couple of weeks before calendar winter two years ago.”
Robertson said he knew summiting Stimson would be hard.
“I also heard Kintla was hard but Stimson was harder than Kintla, definitely. I have been on Siyeh numerous times in winter.”
Robertson began climbing when he was 19. He says he loves winter climbing best.
“I love the beauty and knowing you are not going to see anyone else,” he said. “I like it that no one is out there. It is all fresh tracks. A lot of the park has not been explored in the winter.
“Summer is easy and forgiving but in winter, nothing is easy and nothing is forgiven but the payoff is bigger.”
“I also like the fact that I can control my body temperature in winter. My goal in winter is not to sweat. If I even think I am getting warm I shed a layer,” he said.
Robertson said that when he reaches the peak of a climb, he is not necessarily full of jubilation. On Stimson, he says, he was really tired but focused.
“When I get to the top, I consider myself 40 percent there (to the end of the climb.) The descent is always more mentally challenging in my mind. I was just focused on getting down. I needed to hydrate and eat good and get a few good pictures and just focus on the down climb. It was kind of hard to enjoy when you have a huge down climb in front of you.”
Next week he plans to ski up the Belly River and try for Mount Cleveland and Mount Merritt by taking Chief Mountain Road up and going in the Belly River.
Reach Babcock at 791-1487 or by email at email@example.com.