May 27, 2015

Mt Athabasca Speed Ride and Canmore Paragliding

The Alpine Artist - Jason Kruk - visited the Rockies last week for recreational pursuits that included free flight. Here Jason is seen packing his wing in the shadow of the mobile mountain pad and Ha Ling. We flew the peak for three straight days before heading to the Columbia Icefields and Mt. Athabasca for a speed lap. 

Flying paragliders is a fickle sport and flying paragliders in the mountains even more so. Last week, the elements came together and Jason and I were lucky to find ourselves on the summit of Mt Athabasca (not something I always consider lucky) with clear skies and zero wind. I have guided Mt Athabasca countless times and have always dreamt of flying from the summit. Paragliding is many things to many people, but for me, one of it's greatest appeals is flying off  big mountains.

Until recently, paragliding was illegal in Jasper National Park. Now, thanks to the hard work of numerous individuals and HPAC, free flight has come of age in the park. We opted to bring our small speed wings and I flew a 12 metre Ozone Fazer while Jason used a 13 metre ITV Pil-Pit. The flight lasted a hair under four minutes from the summit to just above the road and I chose not to play the terrain in exchange for maximizing glide.

Flying from Mt. Athabasca was the realization of a dream. Just over two years ago, I crashed hard  and spent a long time trying to recover physically. Last week was the first time since the crash that I found myself in the air without being preoccupied about impacting the ground. For a while, I almost forgot that flying could be fun. 

A short clip from our flights off Ha-Ling and Mt. Athabasca. Much nicer in HD.

Nearing the top on a perfect day.

Mt Bryce from the summit.

Jason setting up with Mt. Columbia in the distance.

Immediately after launch messing with the go pro. What else is new? 

A quick fly-by of the north face before going on glide to the road.

April 30, 2015

Skiing in the Bugaboos 2015 - The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves!

Helmets are getting much more creative these days. Thanks for the photo Trevor W!

The 2015 winter season will not go down as one of the deepest. It's not that we didn't get much precipitation, it's just that it fell mostly as rain below 2000 meters. Somehow, May is just around the corner and we're still at it AND conditions are finally getting good! Thanks to everyone I skied with this season. Despite the challenging conditions, the guests were awesome and seemed to appreciate the good vistas and trace shots. See you in the Rockies this spring!

Dave C skiing Tamarack in late April.

Visiting guide TED leading a group on a run called Kickoff in the Spires. Trevor Ward Photo.

My brother Tony fresh out of grad school with a PHD and a rented snowboard. It's been 15 years since he last rode and he's still got the steeze! After taking a decade and a half off to pursue academics and pick-up basketball, Tony is making a comeback to the world of mountain sports.

Tony riding the lower Howser Glacier.

The Shadow knows.

Tones going for a rip on Wildcat.

A group on Malloy with the Spires in the background.

Pick up on Ella's Run.

Looking at the Howsers from Route 66 in the Four Squatters.

Pete W probing the upper Vowell Glacier below the West Face of Snowpatch.

The Howsers.

Nat R digging a hole on Bill's Pass. This is the the route taken by the well travelled Bugaboos - Rogers Pass Traverse

There are about 12 people in this photo.

The NE Ridge of Buagboo Spire.

Long shadows across the Vowell Glacier with the Howsers in the distance.

We tried burning stuff in the hopes that it would snow but no luck.

On the drive to work two weeks ago, I passed these wolves on Highway 93 South.

Still skiing.

April 08, 2015

Robson Gmoser and Skiing The Gutenteit Couloir

The late, great Robson Gmoser skiing a run called Fearless in the Bugaboos circa 2012. We had just finished bombing the entrance slopes and decided that our work would not be complete without a sampling. Robson made a short video clip that day of our heli-bombing escapade and used a Butthole Surfers tune for the soundtrack. Like many things with Robson, it was serious shits and giggles. Like the time he brought me a thermos full of Bailey's at work, or flying around with various objects on high, open glaciers, or watching him recite The Wreck of the Julie Plante to a crowd of drunken professionals - there was no shortage to the hi-jinks. During the seasons that I got to work with Robson, I can't remember how many times I watched him diffuse stressful situations with a goofy joke and a laugh. You left the world too soon brother! But you left it a better place. The Bugaboos will not be the same without you.

Not long after Robson's passing, a few of us found ourselves driving down the Icefields Parkway, looking for something to ski. The news and circumstances of Robson's death was front and center in all our minds. Afterall, if something like that could happen to Robson, it could just as well happen to us. We drove north of Bow Lake to have a look at the Peyto's Pipe line on Caldron Peak, but decided to back track to something that caught our attention on one of the great ski peaks of the Canadian Rockies - Bow Peak. 

Up into the white, searching for the access to the Gut (pronounced: goot) and Tight! Gery U photo.

Even if this couloir didn't continue higher up, it would still be a great piece of terrain on it's own with some of the finest quartzite walls imaginable. The entrance is just north of the classic Grand Daddy Couloir and the God Father feature, but a ways south of the F.O.D.

Bender coming out of the initial couloir and seeing that the line continues. Gery U Photo.

"A Gut Tight Fit. Afterall, that's what it's all about!" Herr Gutenteit. Gery U Photo.

As usual, nothing but laughs for Buba - even when he is getting clobbered by spindrift.

Isn't it just great how the exposure disappears when you're in the clouds. 

This picture doesn't do it justice, but the wallowing in this feature was some of the best I've seen. Gery U Photo.

The trenching shall continue until morale improves.

Atleast good wallowing often means good skiing!

A wintry feel to the day.

Turning in the middle section.

Gery about to enter the Gutentight.

Bender skiing the fan that is the trademark of all lines on Bow Peak. It's hard to say if someone has been up this feature before, but for us, the line will always be The Gutentight Couloir after our friend Robson.

January 2012 in Chalice Meadows with some of the Bugaboo crew (right  to left): Kobi, Helen, Lilla , Ella, Robson, Andrew. 

March 25, 2015

Skiing the Boom Lake Kindergarten Couloir

Gery U getting intimate with the cornice lips.

Every now and again, it's nice to go skiing in the Rockies without too much mortal concern. It is always possible to go on a nice tour, but the snow conditions this year have not been conducive to low angle touring. So, after two weeks of work and a healthy amount of fear for the lines we really wanted to ski, Gery, Ben and I decided on the mellow line above Boom Lake. 

When we first saw the line, the snow conditions looked even worse than we imagined. Avalanche debris was everywhere and the ski quality looked atrocious even by this years standards. I felt bad because I picked the objective and I tried to justify the decision with the go-to line that makes crappy skiing okay, "Well, we didn't come here for the snow. We get enough good snow at work!" But as we entered the line, we discovered that the debris was soft and there was lots more smooth snow then expected. Wow, one can only imagine how good this thing would be after a fresh dump! The line felt quite mellow compared with other Rockies outings and Cassie the dog even made it up to the last pitch. 

Of course, it couldn't be all mellow and Gery insisted on climbing the vertical snow around the cornice to reach the col. Despite my best efforts, I couldn't duplicate the Austrian's heroics and I had to haul on a piece of cordalette to make the top. The Kindergarten Couloir with the grade 9 finish.

First glimpse of the face. The couloir is just out of sight to the looker's left.

Nothing but good time for Gery.

Gery U Photo.

It was only mildly humiliating to have a 4 year old girl dog break trail for me.

Ben and Gery trying to go right around the cornice.

Cassie kept asking me if I wanted her to break more trail for me.

Climbing the extremely vertical snow on the left side of the cornice lips.

Bender said that this bit was tougher than anything on The Game. Gery U Photo.

If we didn't have Cassie's cordalette leash, I wouldn't have made it up this section. Gery U Photo.

Looking over at the North Face of Mt Whymper and the X Couloir.


Cassie's leash was also handy on the way down. It stayed fixed so feel free to haul on it next time you're there! Gery U Photo.

Surprisingly good skiing.

Gery U Photo.

Cassie's form was highly superior to ours. Gery U Photo.

Gery U Photo.

Gery and Bender drinking pop in the early afternoon. Nothing like spring skiing!