February 04, 2017

Skiing the Aemmer Couloir on Mt. Temple

The Aemmer Couloir was the first bit of steepish skiing that I did in the Rockies. It was probably in the spring of 2004 and Chris Brazeau and I did it in pretty firm conditions. Since then, I have always imagined what it would be like in more civilized nick - to quote the Brits. 

In Dec 2016, I teamed up with the Austrian Mafia - Sepp and Gery - for a few days of frenzied ski activity. Over three days, We skied off Emerald Peak, The Aemmer Couloir and the North Face of Mt. Whymper.  The Avalanche "Green Brick" was upon us which meant early wake-ups and minor relationship stress were de rigeur. But at the end of the day, nobody remembers the disagreements and all that remains are the good memories... right??? 

At the time, this was my second descent of the Aemmer and will probably be the best conditions that I ever ski it in. I have since gone on to ski it two more times and, while always exciting, I have yet to find those faceshot conditions agains.

The Holy North Face of Mt. Temple

May 19, 2016

Canadian Rockies Paragliding

The inaugural launch of the Canadian Rockies Annual. This is an awesome project spearheaded by Meghan Ward and Dee Medcalf. Check it out!

This is an article I wrote about paragliding in Jasper National Park. The park was closed to flight until May 2015 but is now open to paragliding.

The article opens with some history about para-alpinism, then goes on to talk about how it was re-introduced to Jasper National Park and finally about a flight from the summit of Mt. Athabasca.

Unfortunately, there were no photos used from the actual flight from Mt. Athabasca but there were some nice shots from mountain flying in France. Thanks to Dylan Taylor for this shot!

May 15, 2016

Behind The Scenes On A Jimmy Chin Film Shoot

Shooting above the Conrad Glacier, Purcell Mountains, BC. Keep an eye on that extendable fluffy mic!

Early this spring, I got a note from Jimmy C about doing safety on a film shoot in the Bugaboos. Having worked together on two previous projects, I knew that even though he said it would be mellow, in reality it would be anything but. In 2011, we worked together on a ski / base shoot in Baffin Island for Pirelli Tires. Two years later, in 2013, we worked on the Central Howser Tower in the Bugaboos on a project for Apple. Both these projects were involved and I had no reason to believe that this one would be any different. Despite my best efforts to not be available for this project, I eventually caved. Luckily, I managed to convince Gery U, aka the Wolverine, to join the team. I figured that with the Wolverine in tow, there'd be no shortage of smokes and jokes. One day after finishing a two week shift at CMH, Gery and I were back in Golden and ready for the maelstrom - " a situation or state of confused movement or violent turmoil." 


A photo from the Baffin Island Shoot in 2011 featuring Jesse Hall, Timy Dutton, and JT Holmes.

A photo from the 2013 shoot in the Bugaboos.

The Guardian B2 and the camera operator.

Flying in the Bugaboos tenure, hoping to touch down on Brenta Spire. The clouds and slightly inclement weather kept things interesting. We managed to put Jimmy and Mikey S on the tower but had to pull them off quickly as the weather looked to be closing in. If it weren't for the weather, shooting in the mountains would be easy!

More shooting above the Conrad. If you look close, you should be able to see Jim's extendable fluffy mic.

Other than the fluffy mic, this photo is notable because of the camera man on the near left. This is Josh Helling. Josh was also a part of the Baffin shoot and has spent more time on big, remote walls than just about anybody ever.

And of course, here is the Wolverine with his interminable stoke.

Fluffy mic in action.

After a few days of whirlwind activity, the weather closed in and we had a down day. Since we were based at the base of Kicking Horse, the crew pumped a lap up at the hill. Here's Gery and Jimmy and we are all about one mile behind Marcus W who was breaking trail and training for the Patrol de Glaciers.

Gery's stoke may seem high by Canadian standards but it is totally normal by Austrian standards.

Fluffy mic and a relaxed Gery on the last day of the shoot. These two really bonded. 

Jimmy climbing under the fluffy mic.

The boss is stoked! After a tough start to the week and lots of funky weather, we were able to get all the necessary shots on the final day. 

The day started off with Jimmy and Mikey S back on Brenta Spire in the Bugaboos and ended on the other side of the Purcells in the Bobbie Burns tenure. After six days of frenetic activity, I was looking forward to getting back to the mellow pace of production heli-skiing. Thanks to the whole crew for the good times!

October 03, 2015

Mont Blanc Paraglide

Looking down at the Mer de Glace and the south side of the Chamonix Aiguilles.

Flying from the summit of Mont Blanc is something I've wanted to do since I got in to the sport. Although the feat has been done many times and is not technically difficult, it does require a bit of luck and good timing. Mont Blanc is closed for flying from July 1 - Sept 1 every year. The reason for this is because the local rescue group, the PGHM, does not want to have paragliders getting caught up in their helicopter during one of the numerous rescues that are performed during the summer months. So for an itinerant guide, this leaves a few days in June and September to accomplish the flight. After work, unsuitable conditions and sloth are accounted for, this leaves very few opportunities to fly from the summit of Mont Blanc.

On Friday, Sept 25, I found myself with an unexpected day off from work. The forecast was perfect for flying so I decided to head up the Aiguille de Midi for a flight. I hadn't flown the Valle Blanche for a few years and I was keen to make the flight. I set up for a south take-off  and decided to go for the very shallow launch with a super light tailwind. The consequences of blowing the launch were not serious so I went for it and... after skimming my belly an inch above the ground for a few meters, I eventually nosed into the snow and stopped abruptly. After cleaning the snow out of my eye balls, I waited a while to see what the wind would do. By 10:30 am, there was a light, consistent breeze out of the NE, so I set-up over the North Face of the Midi and launched. My goal was still to fly the south side though, so I hugged the mountain and was able to pass through a low point in the ridge - granting access to the Valle Blanche and the Mer de Glace. When I landed in the valley twenty minutes later, I was so stoked about the beautiful flight that I started thinking about Mont Blanc. My flight back to Canada was scheduled to leave in a day and half so I'd have to get up to a hut that afternoon and fly off the summit early the next morning. The thought of spending my last day in town casually drinking coffee and cragging was tempting, but I figured that there'd be plenty of cragging and coffee in Canada but not a lot of 3800 meter sled rides! So I packed up and took the bus to the telepherique, transferred to the train and made the  hour and a half hike up to the Tete Rousse Refuge. The next morning, I left the hut at 5:40 am and four hours and forty minutes later, I was standing on top on an impossibly perfect day for flying. My kit was quite light since I only carried some warm clothes, a light-weight axe, crampons, a light-weight glider (Gin Yeti 19 meter) and a light-weight harness (SUP Air Radicale). After some deliberation, I decided to leave the 1.2 kg reserve behind. In general, I fly with the reserve whenever feasible. However, there are times when I believe that  drawbacks of the extra-weight outweigh the added weight. At the end of the day, we all approach risk differently, and while some believe that they can manage risk away, I can't help but feel that luck plays a significant role in every story of success. 

I took off from the summit around 10:40 am. The wind was light out of the NE and I opted for a forward launch. Although it would have been nice to go with crampons on, I decided to remove them to have more options when landing in the valley. Of course, I managed to screw up the gopro and missed all the footage from the launch and upper mountain. 

The flight lasted about forty minutes and I landed in a field about three minutes from my apartment. I put the wing away, walked to the bakery, and enjoyed one last pain au chocolat and cafe allonge before heading home to pack for home. A+ Chamonix!

I spliced this video together from a south side flight the day before Mont Blanc and from the actual ascent.

The Chamonix Aiguilles as seen from the apartment.

Waiting for the train to Nid D'Aigle.

The Tramway de Mont Blanc.

Looking out at the Aravis from the Tete Rousse on Mont Blanc.

Evening light at the Tete Rousse.

The Bionassay.

The Gouter Route and Grand Couloir in evening light. If you look close, you can see the Gouter Hut in the center of the upper ridge.

The Tete Rousse Refuge.

The Gouter Refuge at 7:15 am.

Looking out at the Aiguille de Midi, Verte, Droites and Courtes.

I took this photo from the summit of Mont Blanc the previous year while guiding. Needless to say, I was jealous.

Flying the Valle Blanche the day before. I took this same route off Mont Blanc.

Looking over at the south side of the Chamonix Aiguilles.

My buddy Tim C took this photo one afternoon while playing around at the Brevent launch.

This video does a good job of capturing what it's like to fly beneath a few kilograms of nylon.

September 17, 2015

Climbing The Matterhorn - Hornli Ridge

Eric L. guiding the Hornli Ridge on the Matterhorn in late July, 2015.

Every summer, droves of people flock to the Alps hoping to climb the Hornli Ridge on the Matterhorn. The peak lies above Zermatt and is even more stunning in real life then it is in post cards and photos. In the 150 years since its first ascent, the mountain has lost some of its fearsome reputation and can now be ascended by any fit climber with a guide and a decent amount of rock climbing ability. That said, the route does present certain challenges and just because someone has bobbled their way up Mont Blanc or Mount Everest, that doesn't mean that they will crest the Matterhorn. Unlike other snow plods where you can sleep walk your way to the top, the Matterhorn does require a certain deftness of foot. The route is essentially 1200 meters of exposed, 4th class scrambling with the odd bit of low 5th class climbing. If you are reading this and you don't know what 4th class scrambling and 5th class climbing is, then you are probably not ready to climb the peak.  

On the Matterhorn, most guides will have a cut-off time to make the summit. In general, a good time from the Hornli hut to the top is between 3 - 4 hours. If  a client can't make it in 5 hours, I think that most guides will turn around. The reason for this is that the route up and down are exactly the same, but the journey down generally requires more focus and often takes as long or longer then the ascent. If someone makes the top with little energy left, the descent could take a very long time and become quite unnerving.

Earlier this summer, I found myself on the Matterhorn with an extra guide and only one client. While the other guide roped the client to the summit, I had the opportunity to float around and capture most of the ascent with my camera. Here are some photos from the day.

This is what Uber looks like in Zermatt.

The new Hornli Hut with the Monte Rosa Massif in the background.

Not cheap, but very nice.

Early morning on the Hornli. Everyone leaves the Hut at 4 am so this must be after about 2 hours of climbing. 

Eric L wondering how to get around the hoards of people above.


Pulling on the boat ropes in the early morning sun.

This photo really shows the number of people on the route. Conditions were excellent and the hut was full. There were atleast 100 other climbers on the mountain this day. We managaed to get near the front of the pack and found ourselves alone for most of the descent.

Nearing the top on a rare day without crampons.

Summit Ridge after about 3.5 hours of climbing.

On the descent.

Back down and ready for the return trip to Chamonix.

But not before having a shandy on the deck of the Hornli.