Trip: Mount Robie Reid - SE Ridge
Trip Date: 09/17/2023
I've looked at Robie Reid for decades, mostly in winter, as I've driven up 542 from Bellingham to the ski area. It is one of two mountains in SW BC that is impossible to ignore from the areas near the border. The other is Mount Judge Howay, but that is a much more serious undertaking, and since I couldn't find any of the usual suspects to join me last weekend I struck out for the chunky consolation prize that is Robie Reid.
In the not too distant past, people would canoe up Alouette Lake to begin this trip, meaning that it was a hard to pull off in a weekend. No longer. Currently the Florence Lake FSR is in great 2wd shape to within a few kms of the end of Alouette Lake, greatly simplifying the approach and making for a reasonable, if physical, weekend. For the young and fit, it is even being done regularly in a 12 hour day or so. But that's not my style. I go heavy with camera gear and slow, and so two days it would be.
I got a relatively early start with the plan of dropping my overnight stuff and climbing the peak in the evening of day 1. Partially this was to avoid a marine push Sunday morning (a good plan, turns out) and and partially this was to get home earlier. In the end it worked out just fine, but I was quite tired upon reaching the summit. I think it is something like 6500+ feet of gain from the car, which is a bit much for me and my camera gear. There was a bit of 3rd and 4th class below the false summit but I have no idea if I was on the right path or not- I had no beta other than this is a peak that is commonly scrambled. And so I used my best guesses to link weaknesses on surprisingly good rock. I really enjoyed the climbing on Robie Reid and it was fun to have such a prominent peak all to myself on a beautiful Saturday evening. As I worked my way towards the top, a conspiracy of ravens swooped and circled very close to me, calling with all sorts of noises that only ravens can make. In all my years in the mountains it was unique and very cool.
The last bit before the true summit rears up into some exposed 3rd/4th and felt a fitting end to one of the giants of the Lower Mainland. I sat for almost an hour, admiring the view in all directions, and savoring the evening, including a fire raging at the head of Stave Lake. Looking at my watch and doing some quick calculations, I reluctantly turned and headed down about 530pm to ensure I could make it back to my chosen bivy before dark. The exposed bits weighed on my mind a bit being solo, but it all went fine and soon I found myself eating a late dinner, eating some chocolate, and sipping on some whiskey to finish a remarkable day.
I opted to sleep out and leave the tent/bivy at home. This may have been a mistake. No, it was a mistake. Despite me carrying higher than the usual camp at Robie Reid tarns and camping at a totally random patch of gravel, I was tormented by mice all night. Near as I could tell, nobody camps in this location, but the mice sure seemed friendly and unafraid to run all across my head and chew through all of my stuff despite my feeble attempts to dissuade them. It was a night where morning couldn't come soon enough. At least I was entertained by trees torching at random intervals across the valley.
The next day I retraced my steps but it all felt longer than on the way in, naturally. As a bonus, I got stung twice along Alouette lake as I using a handline around a large cliff. Poor timing. The lingering stings added to the sting in the tail of gaining 800' back up to the car. At least I wasn't locked behind the gate, which appeared to have happened to a father/son pair I met on my way down. I felt appropriately thrashed as I bumped my way out of the woods and back to the border, but fully satisfied with my weekend.
I will no longer wonder about Robie Reid as I drive 542 this winter- I'll save that for Judge Howay!
Stave Lake and Mount Baker:
Here comes the Judge!
The true summit:
True summit and the Judge:
Lower Fraser Valley at night:
Stave Lake Fire:
Slese et al:
Twin Sisters and Stave Lake:
Robie Reid tarns and Stave Lake:
Alouette Lake second growth:
Helmet. Early season would mean crampons and axe. But this is best as a late season scramble. Bring a tent and a way to shield food from mice.
Florence Lake FSR is in great shape as of summer 2023. This won't always be true. You can drive within a few kms of the base of the mountain at the moment. Don't wait 5 years!