March 03, 2015

Skiing the X Couloir on Mt. Whymper

Starting the 2nd pitch of skiing over the cliff. Gery U Photo.

Last week, Gery U, Josh L and myself found ourselves in the Bow Valley during a rare mid-winter spell of good stability. Gery sent me a photo of the X-Couloir on Mt Whymper (that he took from Mt. Bell last season) and we decided to give it a go. A few years earlier, Steve H and I skied the obvious face in the middle of the picture on Mt Whymper (below) and passed under the entrance to the X-Couloir. I remembered that the line looked pretty mellow to begin with so I didn't think the day would be too taxing. Of course, going out with Gery and Josh, I should have known better. 

The line is easily accessed via the Chicadee Valley and is a pretty quick hit. We met at operation headquarters - aka The Bagel Co - at 7 am where Gery graciously offered to drive us in his hot new Audi that he swears belongs to his wife. Before we knew it, we were teleported to the trail head and scratching our way up valley. Ski crampons would have been nice for the approach but, since none of us actually own the appropriate crampons for the skis we were using, we didn't have the option.

At times like this, I wish I could take a mini, paid sabbatical, and ski as many lines as possible that are on the Rockies dream list. But looking at the forecast, it seems there won't be any fresh snow for the next few months so we should be able to pick up where we left off on the next time off. 

Gery's photo from Mt. Bell last season. The X-Couloir is the obvious X in the center right of the photo. Gery U Photo.

The real Powder Highway. Highway 93 South in soft, early morning light. 

And the magic green brick. You'd better have a really good excuse not to go ski something in the Rockies with this forecast. And no, the nordic center doesn't count.

Going up the initial part of the couloir. I was dogging it and really appreciated having two trail breaking oxen to take the bulk of the work. Gery U Photo.

Gery figuring out the route so that we didn't have to.

These were like Barney cornices - very friendly but still a little freaky.

Creeping along under the Barney cornice. Gery U Photo.

Gery U stoked out of his effin mind!

Going in to the initial slope. About 30 seconds after this photo was taken, Gery's sluff put out a sizable cloud that obscured the route and woke me out of my slumber.

Turning above the choke and the 30 meter cliff. We were psyched to be able to keep our skis on our feet for the entire descent. Gery U Photo.

Enjoying the less committing run out.

Heading home.


Josh L put together a cool, short video from the day. Thanks Josh!

February 19, 2015

Return to Rogers Pass And All That Rockies Crushing!

Guy A and his pompom skiing the only fresh snow in all of Rogers Pass.

Ever since moving to the Rockies, it's been harder and harder to make the trip west to Rogers Pass. Afterall, Highway 93 South is as good as anyhting and it's less than an hour from Canmore. But, and it's a big butt, the Rockies snowpack is so fickle that you usually have to wait until spring to get any reliable turns. So, with a few days of ski guiding lined up from the Asulkan Cabin, Guy A and I decided to get in some Selkirks shnoodling before work.

In truth, it was tough leaving the Rockies at a time when hazard level at all elevations was rated LOW and Biglines was was spraying mad rhetoric about all the crushing /crushfesting taking place. Props to all the guys who got out and skiied the cool lines, but does everything in print have to be a wild, big guns blazing, crushing crushfest? I mean, isn't it just regualar, everyday, normal sticks on snow skiing? And if everything is a crushfest, what do we call it when something like Robson N. Face gets skiied? The ultimate crushing crushfest crushorama in the history of crushing crushfest crushoramas? I guess what it really boils down to is the language-game. 

The super-secret stash.

Checking out the Cedars!

Another super-secret stash.

Good conditions before the warming.

The boys touring in some heavy duty gear.

Everyday conditions at Rogers Pass.

You can check out a cool account of skiing the Monarch here.

February 01, 2015

Bugaboos Heli Skiing 2014 - 2015

Whoopi Goldberg has always been a hero of mine. Thanks to George F for the sneaky photo.

It's no secret that skiing conditions have been tough in Western Canada this year. Things aren't as bad as in the Alps, but the Alps are really bad! But even when the snow quality is less then blower in the Bugaboos, we are still able to get out for some awesome high-moutain vistas.

If you don't recognize this formation, you haven't been paying attention! The Howsers as seen from East Creek.

Pigeon Spire!

Looking west towards Mt. Stone.

Hansi Hintersteer putting it to Allouette in Rory Creek.

Burnt trees lower down on Allouette.

On the landing in Rory Creek.

Close up of Mt. Stone.

Hounds Tooth is just begging for some speed-riding.

To say nothing of the snowpatch on Snowpatch!

And Pigeon.

Visiting guide Bryan K skiing Malloy with the spires in the background.

January 14, 2015

Cascade Kronenbourg

The view that never gets old at Winter Camp Bugaboos.

Canadian winters 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 to the hills with 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 - exquisite `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.