January 14, 2015

Cascade Kronenbourg


The view that never gets old at Winter Camp Bugaboos.

Canadian winter are long and cold and no amount of whining is going to change this. So instead of harping on the fact that there is no shirts-off rock climbing anywhere nearby, all a guy can do is head in to the hills with big sticks on his feet or tools in his hands. 
After spending the last two weeks working on my goggle tan at Camp Bugaboos, I hadn`t even gotten back to Canmore when co-worker and super Mom Lilla M texted to see about climbing during the week off. We made plans to check out Cascade Kronenbourg - an ephemeral ice and rock route by Field, BC. No crowds and relatively mild temps made for a most excellent outing and reminded me of the first time I climbed the route 10 years ago with now famous alpinist Ian Welsted (when is this guy gonna quit facebooking and start a blog!). Unfortunately, the great ice conditions also reminded me that good skiing and good climbing rarely co-exist in the Canadian Rockies.


Approaching the route.


Lilla following the first pitch.


Lilla exhibiting - in the words of Alpine Justice - equisite `nique.


Scratching... scratching.


Awesome, steep hooking out the roof on the second pitch.

January 12, 2015

Gripped Canadian Climber Blogs 2015


Launching the North Face of the Aiguille de Midi, September 2014.

As winter tightens its icy grip and the warm, fly days of summer fade further into darkness, I thought I'd post a picture from last season in France. The photo was taken by another pilot at launch, and captures the final steps before hucking the abyss of the Midi North Face. It still baffles me that flight is possible (sometimes not) with little more then 2.5 kgs of fabric overhead.

On another note, Gripped just published a list of Canadian Climber Blogs to check out in 2015. If it wasn't for this list, I wouldn't have known that my good friend Paul McSorley even kept a blog. Alpine Justice. Justify your day and check it out!

January 05, 2015

Potrero Chico Climbing 2014


Surfer Rosa at the Surf Bowl, Potrero Chico, Mexico. Drew Smith photo

Just before the CMH Heli Ski season started, I took a trip to Potrero Chico, Mexico. I wanted a quick and inexpensive hit of sun and stone, and Potrero seemed like the place. I went solo and camped at La Posada, and found great partners right away. With cheap camping, cheaper beer, and an infinite amount of climbing within walking distance from the tent, Potrero Chico was a great place to fuel the soul before a long Canadian winter.


The park entrance.


Lucy and Steve fueling up with margaritas before a big day of climbing.


Lowering off at the Surf Bowl.


Post climb tacitos.


Savannah and Drew at the La Posada campground.


Evening beer run.


One of the local hounds.


One of the local arachnids.




Lucy climbing at the Outrage Wall.


The beast is strong but the man is smart.


This fall started feeling like Groundhog Day. Drew Smith photo.

November 13, 2014

How to Fix The Connection Problem with Garmin GPS 60CSx and MapSource Software



About seven years ago, I purchased a Garmin 60CSx Gps. At the time, I was going through the ACMG Ski Guide Program and needed a reliable GPS unit. Since I wanted to add maps to the handheld unit, I acquired the Garmin MapSource Canada Topo series.

The combination worked great until I left the Windows XP operating system behind and moved on to Vista and now Windows 7. Since that time, I have not been able to sync my GPS unit to the MapSource software - which is to say that I have not been able to upload maps / routes to the device or download routes / waypoints to the software. Once I left XP, the MapSource was not able to detect my GPS when it was plugged in, and the main error message would be "The Serial Port Com 1 Does Not Exist."  Needless to say, this has been extremely frustrating and I have spent way too much time trolling the Internet for a solution.

Fret not.

Minus twenty degree Celsius may not be great for rock climbing, but it is good for toiling away indoors.

So here's the quick fix to link your Garmin 60CSx GPS to your MapSource software (procedure for uploading map to the device):

1) Turn GPS on and connect to computer with supplied usb cable.
2) Go to Main Menu page
3) Go to Setup
4) Go to Interface
5) Click on USB Mass Storage
6) Open MapSource Software and highlight whatever segment of the map you want to save.
7) Click on the down arrow to the right of the download to GPS icon.
8) Click on Storage Card Reader
9) Click Save
10) Don't forget to properly eject the device when done

I hope this helps! 

November 12, 2014

Solo Base



Winter just arrived with -20 degree celsius. At times like this, the safest thing to do is just kick back and pretend you are one of these guys.



November 03, 2014

Fall in the Canadian Rockies - Mt Athabasca, Mt Lorette and Echo Canyon


Climbing up the summit ridge of Mt. Athabasca with Andromeda and the Columbia Icefields in the background.

After a summer of lift-access guiding in Europe, it was refreshing to spend the the last few days of the season toughing it out in the Canadian Rockies. Here are some shots from a Thompson Rivers University Mountain 2 Course that took place in the Bow Valley and The Columbia Icefields. 


Climbing the Ridge on Mt. Lorette in K-Country.


Check out the steez on these guys!


Climbing the low-angle ice on the North Glacier of Athabasca.


Heading down. The arid landscape is reminiscent of climbing in the Andes.


Looking north towards Jasper.


And some fun climbing on the 4-pitch Prospect in Echo Canyon. The 3rd pitch is the best 5.10 in the Bow Valley. 


Rapping off with the Coliseum glowing in the afternoon light in the background.

November 01, 2014

Sweetgrass Afterglow

AFTERGLOW - Lightsuit Segment from Sweetgrass Productions on Vimeo.

As the snow falls here in the Canadian Rockies, I thought I'd share this awesome clip from the guys at Sweetgrass. 

October 17, 2014

First Flight on Ozone Firefly 2 From Ha-Ling, Canmore


Looking up at Ha Ling, Mt. Lawrence Grassi and the Ship's Prow from the Dog Park at Quarry Lake - aka the LZ.

The shoulder season is a mellow time of year in Canmore. The days are short, the mornings are cold, and the weather is always a dog's breakfast. I was hoping to have a productive hike and fly season this fall, but the high winds have contributed to as much walking down as flying. On the rare occassion that I have gotten in the air, I've been reminded of how amazing it is to fly amongst the local peaks. 


An amazing photo by Gery Unterasinger with the rainbow slicing right through Ha Ling.



Ha Ling is probably my favorite local hike and fly as the peak sits right above the house and takes about 45 minutes to hike up and 6 minutes to fly down (on a 16 meter wing). Here is a short video from a flight off  the peak. It was a beautiful, calm morning and was perfect for a first flight on a new Ozone Firefly 2. Granted, I used to have the first generation Firefly and logged about 50 flights on it before it met a most unfortunate end. It's hard to say too much about the wing after only one six minute flight, but here's what I found:

1) Really nice leading edge with rods and mylar re-inforcing each cell. This is very confidence inspiring!

2) Risers are thinner and more user friendly than the original wing.

3) Felt very smooth, responsive and predictable in flight.

4) Noticeably slower to come up over head on launch than lighter weight wings.

October 06, 2014

Life, Death And Mountains


Climbers on the Rebuffat Route, Pointe Lachenal, Chamonix.

Near the end of August, Dylan T and I climbed a combination of routes on Pointe Lachenal. We started up Harold and Maude for the first few pitches and then drifted left to the aesthetic 2-pitch variation of A L'Oree du Bois. It was a great day out with an old friend. It's not always easy to find a climbing  partner in the middle of the guiding season, so it's a real treat when it happens.

Over the years, Dylan and I have done some good climbing, skiing and flying together. In 2006, we traversed Alaska's Neacola mountains, and in 2008 we skiied across the Tordrillo Range. In 2012, we smartened up and went on a much more civilized paragliding trip to Olu Deniz, Turkey.

Despite the fact that we all know working and playing in the mountains is dangerous, when accidents happen, there is still an element of disbelief. When Andreas Fransson, JP Auclair, and Liz Daley died in two separate avalanches in South America last week, I was stunned. Andreas and JP were masters of the sport and although I didn't know them personally, their online presence was so strong that it was hard not to know them. 

Whether we think about it or not, those of us who have made a lifestyle of being in the mountains, are part of a community. When the community suffers a loss, it's important to honor the individuals involved. It doesn't have to be a big show. At the ISSW (International Snow Science Workshop) in Banff last week, the participants took a minute of silence to honor the fallen skiers. Although the act is small, the statement is large. People often say, "It's only climbing... It's only skiing." But what they are really saying with this statement is that the acts are not meaningful - that somehow, in the great hierarchy of meaningful acts (you tell me what they are), climbing and skiing are low on the list. Well, I suppose that if we allow the lifestyle to be meaningless, it will be. But if we make a conscious effort to glean meaning from experience, it won't be. To take from David Foster Wallace, the capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death.

Here is a blurb that Dylan wrote about an incident earlier this summer:

One month ago today I had my closest brush with death. I’d often figured that a climbers' worst nightmare would be getting avalanched into a crevasse then buried. Then it happened to me, and somehow I survived the hour-long, 2-meter burial with severe hypothermia, a helluva lot of bruising, a relatively un-injured body, but a lot of heartache for the one who didn’t make it. It’s been a month of recovery and reboot. Thanks to all who’ve helped along the way, and apologies to all who have called and written - I haven’t been the quickest to respond over the last couple weeks.

Our lives hang by a fragile thread and it can all come crashing down in an instant. Ten days after I got out of the hospital, a drunk driver side-swiped three of us as we were driving up the autoroute blanche. Fortunately, I regained control of the car and drove away without serious harm - just a dent and an insurance headache.

We spend our lives taking risks (some of us more than others). Maybe we toss that word “managing” around a little too much? Shit happens to us in seemingly asymmetric and random ways, and luck, being luck, is applied to us unevenly as well. What hurts one can kill another, and can give a memorable “close call” to yet another. I escaped what I was convinced would be certain death with scratches, bruising, and some psychological trauma. I’ve lost friends in the mountains to events seemingly more benign than my own. I don’t understand why I’m still here, alive, and walking and talking. But i'll take it. I saw my life flash in front of my eyes twice in two weeks. I can’t find a satisfying conclusion to take from this, other than that Life is simply cruel, unfair, yet beautiful, unique, and shorter than we wish. Don’t take it for granted, no matter how cliche that statement sounds.

A couple weeks after the accident I made it back outside into the vertical world again. In the process I’ve had a couple of excruciatingly vivid, unforgettable moments of clarity. To describe them here would not do them justice. But they couldn’t have happened to me in a risk-adverse lifestyle. These moments alone make life worth living. Add these moments of punctuated stimulation to everything else we love in life and we’ve got something pretty damn special.

I hope to see you all around in Life, part II.




Climbing the A L'Oree du Bois variation on Pointe Lachenal back in August. Dylan Taylor Photo.


Dylan back in the element and wearing his best rock camo gear.


    
Hanging with DDT in the Aosta Hospital .

October 01, 2014

Success and Failure on the Kuffner Arete, Mont Maudit


Sunrise on the Kuffner Arete, Mont Maudit. Photo: Chris Wright

On Saturday, Sept 13, Chris Wright and I left the Torino Hut at 5 am and headed towards the Kuffner Arete. The Kuffner is not an overly technical or difficult climb, and it seemed like a fun route to simul-solo with a buddy and a wing. I teamed up with climber and photographer extraordinaire - Chris Wright - for the adventure and he agreed to indulge me with the plan of flying off the mountain. Since I was carrying about 11 extra pounds of  gear (harness 1 kg, wing 2.5 kg, reserve 1.1 kg), I warned Chris that I would have to pace myself.

I really struggled with the decision of whether or not to carry the reserve. Before crashing last year, I was more inclined to leave the reserve behind. But nowadays, I feel that if I'm strong enough to carry the extra weight, I should make the effort to do so. Plus, I looked at this mission as an experiment. The route was easy enough that a few extra pounds wouldn't kill me, and I was curious to know how I would feel with the added load. 

Five and a half hours after leaving the Torino, we summitted Mont Maudit. Although we carried a rope, we only used it for the approach, the bergschrund, and a short rappel while weaving around Pointe L'Androsace. Since Chris is a beast, he agreed to carry it for most of the route and I'm sure that he could have topped out an hour before me had he wanted to.

Unfortunately, I never flew off the mountain. The wind was a little stronger than I'd hoped for and I decided to walk down. It was a frustrating end to an awesome day. With things like this, timing is everything. The forecast showed that the following day (Sept 14), would be the ultimate fly day, but unfortunately, Chris had to work. So we went a day early and I blew my chance at combining the passions. Oh well. 

One guy who took full advantage of the forecast and conditions was Julien Irilii. On the Sept 14th, he took the 8:10 lift up the Aiguille de Midi, launched the north face on his Ozone XXLITE, crossed the ridge back to the south, flew to the Grande Jorasses, soloed the Colton Macintyre, and flew back to Chamonix from the summit. Oh man, I cannot imagine a much better expression of excellence in both flying and climbing than this feat. Massive respect, props, and awe for this beautiful link-up. Here is a link to video of him on the flight home. 


Morning approach. Photo: Chris Wright


Lookibng back at he Dent de Geant Massif.


Crossing the Schrund. Photo: Chris Wright.


Topping out the approach couloir. Photo: Chris Wright


The Brenva side of Mont Blanc.


The traverse leading to Pointe L'Androsace. Photo: Chris Wright


The crux of the route traversing around Pointe L'Androsace.


Some steeper climbing higher on the route. Photo: Chris Wright


Heading for the top.


Cumbre! with Mont Blanc in the background.


Descending the Maudit face.


The kit: Gin Yeti 19m, Sup Air Radicale harness, Sup Air extralite reserve.


Well, I did get a short flight in from the Plan de L'Aiguille back to town. Better than nothing! Thanks to Chris for the great adventure!

September 19, 2014

Mountain Flying - Aiguille de Midi North Face, Chamonix



A short video of some flights from the Tacul and the North Face of the Aiguille de Midi. I had been wanting to fly the North Face for some time and was stoked when the work schedule and weather aligned to enable it. Even though the flights were short (about 20 minutes), the visuals from skimming the Bosson Glacier were sublime. I could hear the Ice Sirens calling "closer closer closer." But I've been intimate with the ground before and she is a cruel mistress!

After three months of living, working and recreating in the European Alps, I arrived back in Canada yesterday. The place I rented in Chamonix was an 18m2 shoe box. When the fold-out bed was folded out, the apartment became practically non-navigable. And when the one big window was open (it opened inwards on a side-ways hinge), the chances of smashing your head and collapsing on to the bed or floor were about 100%.  Oh, and did I mention that the 18m2 apartment was more expensive then a 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom place in Canmore?? But it worked great even though it was expensive and packed with three wings and a ton of climbing gear. On days off when I didn't have a climbing partner, I'd make some coffee on the micro-burner in the micro-kitchen, and head off to the Brevent or the Midi for some flying. I didn't have a car so I biked or took public transport everywhere.  After one night back at the Canmore Chalet, I feel lost in all the space. A good reminder that you don't need a huge shoe-box!

September 15, 2014

Climbing and Flying the Frendo Spur, Chamonix


Joe Stock never misses a burro shot. The Frendo Spur climbs the rock buttress just left of the beast's left ear.

For many years, I felt like the only person in Chamonix who hadn't climbed the Frendo Spur. Between work and flying and utter laziness, it just never worked out. But this year, the ducks rowed up enough for Joe and I to climb the classic route. I did a fair bit of internet trolling before getting on the climb. Afterall, the lift hours are short at this time of year and we didn't want to lose the route and suffer the indignity of not making it back to town. What I found was that most of the route descriptions were useless but that the photos were invaluable. The route was climbed in the 40's so if you follow your nose, look at some photos and take the obvious weaknesses, the route finding should work out. Unless it doesn't. In which case, call for a rescue.

The route was dry when we did it on September 11 and we climbed it in rock shoes with not more then 25 meters of rope between us. A single rack to Camalot #3 worked well with a few ice screws for the upper slopes. The most heads up section was probably crossing the bergschrund at the start of the climb. 


Photo from the camp to camp website.



I cheated and scoped the route from the air the previous day. The transition from rock to snow is in the sunshine at bottom right.


Close-up of the bivy sites and the start of the snow arete.


Low down on the initial low angle ramp.


Somewhere on the buttress.


Climbing the crux pitch just above the exposed col.


Going for the snow.


Finally on the snow arete.


Hey wait for me!


When we got to the snow, Joe took off like a weasel!


Putting those BD picks to good use.


Second to last pitch.


Joe on the second to last pitch before the steepish ice.


The Aiguille de Midi needle in atmospheric conditions.


Trying to pull the ice cave down.