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've 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 (No Honey, I can't make that event in Calgary, I'm waking up at 5 am...) But at the end of the day, nobody remembers the disagreements and all that remains are the good memories... Am I right??? 

The Holy North Face of Mt. Temple

Still tele on the lower slopes of Mt. Whymper with the start of the X-Couloir in the background. PS: We turned around just below the col on this trip. Gery U photo

Sepp-u-lacra slashing past the daggers on Whymper. Gery U photo

The man himself near the top of Emerald Peak.

And then there's this.

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!

January 28, 2016

Fall and Winter Climbing at the Red and Potrero Chico

Margot's highly evolved fingernails actually change color depending on her mood. Here she is en-route to demolishing an honest-to-god Mexican Burger. 

Over the past few months, Margot and I made a few short trips to some classic sport climbing destinations. Making use of some gaps in the schedule, we were able to pull off two two-week trips to the Red River Gorge in Kentucky and Potrero Chico in Mexico. We kept the trips as low-budget as possible while still maintaining a good sense of hygiene. In the Red, this meant avoiding the feral pit of Miguel's and spending an extra $3 / night to camp at the ever pastoral Lago Lindas. In Potrero Chico, it meant camping amongst the XMAS hordes at La Posada. Who says that alpine climbers are the only ones who suffer?

This is what suffering for $7 / night looks like in Potrero Chico... 

And this is what $5 / night will get you at Lago Lindas in Kentucky. 

Just because you're in Mexico doesn't mean you can't celebrate the spirit of the Lord!

My favorite climbing trips are ones where I can walk everywhere. In Potrero, the camping is only minutes away from the climbing and there are numerous places to rehydrate after a sweaty day at the crags. 

Classic fall day climbing at the Red River Gorge.

Tracy W just givner in fading light at Muir Valley.

Onsighting is a healthy mix of luck, intuition and staying power. Or so I'm told. This was my hardest flash of the trip, a soft 12C at the Red called Belly of the Beast. It was a real surprise after falling off all the 5.11 warm-ups. Thanks Christina B for the photo!

Climbing Wildfire at the Curbside crag. Thanks Christina B for the photo and Jeff for the beta.

Our mountain of gak in Mexico included: blankets, pillows, 2 tents (one for gear and one for us), tons of snacks and coffee, lavish ground pads and a newly purchased ARMAID

Red nails mean: "I'm working while you're taking photos."

Preparing for a solid rogering at the Surf Bowl, Potrero Chico.

Day 1 and already things are getting loose.

I managed to send Surfer Rosa on the last burn of 2015 and avoided taking this whipper for the umpteenth time.

January 11, 2016

Bugaboos Skiing 2015 - 2016

Flying out with Dani and Captain Morgan and headed to Mexico. 

I've been remiss in posting lately. Sometimes life gets busy and it's hard to find the time. Sometimes I get stalled out thinking that I need to have something entertaining to say. Sometimes the camera always seems buried at the bottom of the pack. Sometimes I just get lazy or distracted. Before you know it, months go by and nothing happens and then it dawns on you that the things in life which always seemed like a given are no longer a leitmotif. Sometimes this is intentional and sometimes it happens by a gradual drift. But the result is the same - when somethings gone, it's gone. It can be a relationship or a hobby or a skill or anything else for that matter. If you let something go, it might not come back.So without having anything much to say, here are some photos from the season so far. 

Dani Lionheart enjoying himself in Rory Creek.

Allow myself to introduce... myself. I gave Lilla my camera and she proved to be a natural.

And one of those days in the Spires... Thanks Dave C for the photo.

Lilla just givenr!

J-Mac the sack!

Lilla is always on point and in focus.

D-Lo out for a rip in Rory.

Skiing the moraine on Crescent. Dave C. photo.

October 16, 2015

A Real Bit of Speed Flying

Swiss Hutt from Jamie Lee on Vimeo.

Maybe the most impressive piece of proximity speed flying I have ever seen. Even after watching the video, there are still a few moments when I'm sure he's going to crash! 

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.