December 30, 2008

Rogers Pass PowPow

Natalie Renner at Roger's Pass

Enjoying a mellow rest day in Golden, BC after a few epic cold-smoke sessions at Roger's Pass. Holeee hell... It was deep! I forgot what it was like to ski bottomless powder with face shots on every turn.

On Dec 28th, a huge group of us met at the Visitor Center with 35 cm's of white gold lying on the ground. In a frantic dash, we headed towards the Teddy Bear Trees. As often happens in large, unwieldy groups, no one really knew what was going on and before too long, we were struggling to put in a thigh to neck deep up-track. Feck this I thought! Today is for skiing, not for breaking trail. So in a rash moment of spastic rebellion, I admitted defeat and declared, "I'm going over to Grizzly Shoulder! Who's coming with?" Natalie Renner joined me and in a terribly anti-social move (apologies to all), we skinned over to the Grrizzly Shoulder Super Highway.

Once out of the initial kafuffle, Nat and I questioned the ethics of leaving our friends. One hour later, as we were choking on steep, untracked face shots, we completely forgot about our friends. In hindsight, I would say that this mental flexibility supports the age old adage that, "There are no friends on a powder day!"

Double the power!

Nat Renner

Mr. Chris Brazeau ready to go after 10 shots of espresso

Brazeau debunking the myth that men can't multi-task

Notice the rabid foam around the mouth

Somewhere inside this cloud is Natalie Renner

December 26, 2008

Good Good Things

Kristina and Selena skinning up

Hanukkah Harry and Santa Claus joined forces yesterday for an awesome gift! Ian, Kristina, Selena and I rallied to Roger's Pass for what we thought would be mediocre skiing at best. But what we found was one of the best runs of the year!

When the alarm went off in Canmore at 5:30 am, I was within a nanometer of going back to sleep. But for some reason that I can't really explain, I decided to stick with the plan and drive the two hours to Golden. With caffeine racing through my veins and The Descendents blasting through the speakers, I arrived at Kristina's place in G-town thoroughly amped. After more coffee, we transferred all our gear in to Kristina's van and rallied to the Bostock parking lot.

Hey Buddy, pass the Grand Marnier!

By the time we got above tree line, the sun was out and it was a beautiful day

HA! Take that!

Skinning up

A color version of the Rorschach Test

Ian taking a rest day from the serious business of climbing

A rare sighting of Welsted on sticks

Ending the day on the Trans Canada

December 24, 2008

Haffner and Welsted

For the crag or the club, Ian Welsted comes ready

"You wanna hear a joke?" Ian asked me as I was tying in today.
"Sure, " I replied
"You wanna know why my last name is Welsted?"
"Cause it's not polite to tell people you're well hung."

Went to Haffner today with good friend Ian Welsted and damn was it a lot colder than sunny Canmore! Go figure. It was Ian's first day of mixed cragging since getting back from a two month surf safari in Australia and the man was going for it! I guess he did climb a route on Yam yesterday (Dec 23rd!), but that's not exactly cragging at this time of year. As for today, he was lobbing off stuff like I would have been had I ventured off the top rope. But he wasn't saying "take" and he wasn't using luggage handle tools or mono points or fruit boots. "Ahh, come on, it's the only way to get strong again," he'd say as he scratched his way up, pumped out of his mind, with old Vipers and and dual-point crampons stuck to plastic boots.

At a place like Haffner, the goal of the leader should be to send but also to put on a good show for the shivering masses below. Indeed, all of us at the crag got our money's worth today.

Pat D. "You want a piece of this?"

Mr. Welsted

The walk out

December 22, 2008

Ski Guide Training

On November 28th, I left Canmore and drove four hours west to the Mal-Mar Exxon gas station located on the side of the Trans Canada Highway. This was the beginning of a two week road trip that started with a seven day ACMG (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides) Ski Guide Training Course, and finished with the CAA (Canadian Avalanche Association) Level 2 - Module 2 , in Whistler, BC.

In many ways, this trip started in 2003 when I took my first guiding exams and decided that I wanted to become an IFMGA Guide. Between October 2008 and April 2009, I will be taking a series of six ski and avalanche courses that carry a hefty price tag and will consume many months of training. But I am looking forward to the learning and the challenge and the tons of vertical that comes with a long winter!

I wish my High School Bus looked like this

Josh Lavigne kindly suggesting a better place for my camera

So back to Novemver 28th when myself and twenty-three other candidates met up for one week of mechanized cat-ski training. The early season conditions weren't the greatest, but the course wasn't about face-shots and big lines. Speaking for myself, it was about meeting a core group of like-minded people, and learning from a talented and experienced group of examiners.

Of course, the venue was a plush back country lodge so it didn't matter if there was snow or not. The food was excellent, the bar was stocked and the company wasn't bad for a bunch of guide types :) Props goes out to the lone snowboarder in the course who showed us all how to get it done in the crusty conditions! And of course, an honorable mention to the three intrepid free-heelers!

Early morning snow obs

You want us to go down that?

Ken B

I thought this was mechanized skiing! No body said anything about walking!

Jasmin tolerated me as I took her photo over and over and over

"Do I know where we are...? Hell, I don't even know which one of us is me!"

The course ended on Dec 4th and I had to start the Avy Course in Whislter on the 6th. That left the 5th for something fun! Erica Roles and Dave Healey were on the same page so we met up at the Rogers Pass Visitor Center and rallied two laps on Video Peak. Conditions were epic and it more than made up for the previous week's powder drought!

I said goodbye to my two friend's after skiing that evening and started the eight hour drive toward Whistler. After driving through a storm well in to the night, I pulled over on the Coquihalla and passed out in the back of the truck.

Sleeping in the back of my truck is something I've done a lot of over the past nine years. What can I say? I guess I enjoy the ability to do it as much as the doing. I like knowing that I can get a good night's sleep no matter where I am. And scary as it might be, I sleep better in that small, dark and quiet space than almost anywhere else. Once a dirtbag, always a little bit of a dirtbag.

The next day, on my way to Whistler, I stopped off in Squamish BC for a little interlingua with none other than my good friend and lyrical master, Paul Mcsorely. We grubbed on some simple mexican food and nursed a few cervezas, and stared out on the cold and grey water of Howe Sound. It was good to be back on the Coast after so many months in the dry Rockies!

A couple of hours later, I got in the truck and finished the drive to Whistler. The avy course was set to start that afternoon and would continue for the next three and a half days. It was a great course for me because it worked on many of the skills that I am less practiced at. So even if there wasn't a ton of snow, I felt that I learned a lot and improved my skill-set. Plus, because my buddy's house in Whistler was also home to a frikken cat (of which I am horribly allergic), I got to spend another four nights in the back of the truck.

When the course ended, I drove north up the Duffy Lake Road, through another storm, and spent the night just west of Revelstoke under gently falling snow and the faint glow of a street lamp. At this point, anyone familiar with the Trans Canada should have a good idea of what happened the next day... Skiing at Roger's Pass of course! It was December 10th, almost two weeks since I'd left home, and it was blower!!! I bumped in to some friendly Revelstoke locals and we pumped a couple of laps up and down Grizzly Shoulder. That evening, I finished the three hour drive back to Canmore and was happy to sleep in a bed.

Roger's Pass on any given day

Skiing at Roger's Pass (Ryan Creary Photo

December 20, 2008

The Deep Freeze

Sweet Jesus it is cold. It's been hovering between -20 and -40 degrees celsius for the past week. Which I guess is normal for December 20th in the Canadian Rockies. But still, that is no excuse! In some ways, I suppose the cold is good. Not only might it obliterate the pine beetle, but it also forces me to take care of some of life's more mundane tasks. Take laundry for instance... haven't done it in years. But now that I'm terrified of leaving the house, I might start thinking about it. I would even consider cleaning the dishes if the water pipes hadn't froze solid a few days ago. Of course, without running water, I can't really shower, but I honestly look forward to doing so when everything thaws out in the spring. But don't let me over-glorify the situation. Life has not been a complete bed of roses since the deep freeze began. Sub zero temps don't exactly do wondrous things for the male reproductive organ and it is still unclear what long-term health effects the shot of anti-freeze I've been adding to the morning coffee will have.

But speaking honestly for a moment, there is something worse than all the physical repercussions of the deep freeze. That, of course, is the mental burden oft associated with having the time to sit and reflect on life. For some, this might not be such a bad thing. Perhaps it is even enjoyable. But for me, as I sit cocooned in my house, glued to Facebook for twenty-six hours a day, and watch the world outside sink deeper in to the next ice-age, I cannot help but think back to where I was last year at this time.

Just over 1 year ago on Ama Dablam, Nepal

On the walk to Namche Bazaar, Nepal

Tawoche from Ama Dablam Base Camp

Looking back at Camp 2


Meaghan Loughlin enjoys a beet at the Tengboche Bakery

Enter Thailand

Great maps

Water Taxis

Sand Corn


In six weeks, I never saw Paul untie his own rope

We even did some climbing