January 28, 2009

Examiners Perspective

An ACMG Instructor gazes upon his flock...

Been at Rogers Pass for the past four days taking the ACMG Ski Course. Conditions have been all over the place ranging from rock hard crusts to low density fluff. Off to the Asulkan Cabin tomorrow for one night and then back on Friday. Nos vemos!

January 25, 2009

Canmore Climbing Gym

If you're a climber in the Bow Valley, it's worth it to print out the above form, fill it out, and get it back to Dung at The Vision by Feb 9. For more info, contact Dung at the address on the form. Cheers!

January 23, 2009

Youngs Peak and the Dome Glacier

Jeff near the summit of Youngs Peak.

After turning around below the Uto - Sir Donal Col on Wednesday, Ali and I joined up with Jeff Bellis and Josh Briggs on Thursday. In an out-of-character display of restraint, we passed up an evening on the Golden scene with our host Chris Brazeau in order to be better rested for the day. After tossing around a few ideas, we decided to cover some distance and do the Youngs Peak Traverse followed by a lap on the Dome Glacier. All in all, it was a fine outing and an excellent cap to our three days of training at Rogers Pass. On Sunday, January 25th, I'll head back up to The Pass for seven days of ski touring with the ACMG inspectors. Looking forward to the abuse!

Big Surface Hoar!

Ali, Josh and Jeff get ready for the first turns of the day off Youngs.

Josh takes an aesthetic line for the camera.

A fine day in the alpine.

Bootpacking near the summit of Youngs.

January 21, 2009

'It's A Holocaust"

Mr. Ali Haeri

Ali and I didn't complete our objective the other day. Instead, we erred on the conservative side and decided not to climb the final steep pitch to the Uto - Sir Donald Col. Our idea for the day was to ski up the Asulkan Valley to the Uto - Sir Col Donald, drop down the Uto Glacier, cross over to the Eagle Glacier, skin up the Avalanche Glacier and finish with NRC. Oh well, so it goes. It's not the first time that conditions have turned us around.

In truth, getting shut down might have been worth it for the encounter that ensued...

It seems that Ali and I are on something of a roll when it comes to interesting ski area rendez-vous. Take last week at Sunshine. As we rode one of the mountain's powerful, high-speed quads, we struck up a conversation with a sweet Aussie girl sandwiched (not entirely by chance) between us. As the chair whisked us ever upwards, we watched bedazzled as the top sheet of her skis changed color and graphics.

"Funky skis. Do they change color in the sun?" I asked.

"Yeah," the Aussie girl replied, followed by a brief pause... "It's a holocaust."

A stunned silence overtook the chairlift.

"You must mean hologram," Ali said, a good sixty seconds later, once the shock wave passed.

Of course, the sweet Aussie girl did mean hologram but our conversation never fully recovered.

As for yesterday's rendez-vous, it went something like this. As Ali and I were skiing back to the car, we bumped in to a girl parked on the side of the trail, switching her split-board in to ski mode. We exchanged the standard pleasantries and she asked us where we'd been. We told her and she seemed nonplussed but friendly. I then ventured to ask her where she was from.

"Revelstoke," she said in a thick French accent. "And you?"

"Canmore and Banff," we replied.

Apparently, this answer on our part was equivalent to telling her that we were from Sub-Saharan Africa and had never seen mountains or snow. It was also our plea to her to impart everything she knew about the current conditions, the hazards and the local weather. And this is exactly what she did. For a solid five minutes, we listened intently as our local saviour pontificated on the stability and what we should and should not be doing.

"We had a big dump," she said, "but now things are good to go. The weather's been really good and north faces are where it's at!"

"You hear that!" I said to Ali, "Conditions are good to go! I knew we should have kept going..."

My facetious comment only goaded her on and she continued to bombard us with the knowledge.

"All the avalanches have already come down," she said, "So once they've slid, everything is safe!"

I asked her to say that again, slower, so that I could wrap my head around the concept. She did and I thanked her.

Unfortunately, I don't remember everything that the Oracle said. But her final words were hard to forget. As her monologue came to it's denouement, we thanked her a final time for the information and began to move. At this point, I did not think that it was possible for her to impart anything else, but as is often the case, I was wrong. Little did I know that the coup de grace was yet to come.

As we skied away, she delivered the blow.

"Stay alive boys," she reminded us.

January 20, 2009

Back at Rogers Pass

Rogers Pass this evening.

Drove up to Rogers Pass this morning with none other than the Persian Prince - Mr. Ali Haeri. For the past few weeks, the Pass has been something of a stability nightmare. But after a few dry, warm days, things might be starting to come around. Either way, we were treated to a fine day up high. We'll be training here for the next while and trying to get dialed in for the upcoming ski guide course and exam. Too tired to write much now. Planning a big day tomorrow around the peaks in the above photo so check back soon! zzzzzzzz

Ali skinning up below the awesome lines on Sifton.

Mt. Temple on this morning's drive.

January 18, 2009

Sunday Rambles

Lady Mac above Canmore. The treed ridge on the right skyline is the running trail. The Tea House is located in the saddle just past treeline. From the car to the Tea House is about 3100 ft.

The best thing (other than the fame) about keeping your own blog is that you can write whatever the hell you want. So being that it's Sunday and that we're perched on the edge of the week that was and the week that will be, I'm going to let myself go off on something other than climbing and skiing.

There aren't too many activities that get my mind racing like running or skiing uphill. Sometimes I carry a notebook and a pen to record whatever flows through my otherwise empty head, but usually I am too lazy. Today was no different. I ran up to the Tea House on Lady Mac. I thought about... stuff. And I forgot most of it by the time I got back to the car. Somehow though, in spite of celebrating Ross Berg's birthday in Banff last night and sleeping on my buddy Ali's floor, I managed drag my carcass up the slippery trail in under one hour.

What I do remember thinking about on today's run was Leonard Cohen. As a young kid growing up in Montreal and reading the Favourite Game, it's hard not to be partial to the man. For those who aren't familiar with the name, Leonard is one of the most respected writers, poets and songwriters to come out of Canada. Of course, like many Canadian talents, he has not received the recognition at home that he has garnered abroad. I guess it's hard to compete with other Canadian Greats like Celine Dion and Nickelback... Anyway, if you have a few minutes and want to gain some insight in to the man (as well as a chuckle), you can check out this article from the New York Times. If you liked that, chew on this one from the French Publication Inrockuptibles. The CBC Archives are also a good place to watch interviews and hear some music. And just in case you think I'm crazy for being in to Leonard's music, know that he was recently inducted in to the rock n roll hall of fame. Amazing really when you consider that his voice is what I imagine a 200 pound lemon might sound like if it could sing.

The walk in to Haffner.

January 14, 2009

Classic Steep Ski Couloirs of the Canadian Rockies

A cool view of the classic Aemmer Couloir on Mt. Temple. The obvious blurred couloir to the looker's left is the 3/4 Couloir.

I took these photos from the Lake Louise Ski Area today. In good conditions, these are excellent ski descents! Currently though, I could not think of worse places to be. For more info on these descents, check out the Off-Piste Canadian Couloirs Article on this site.

The 3/4 Couloir.

January 13, 2009

The Nature of Wisdom

Evening sky during the recent Chinook. The rapid warming associated with a Chinook can unleash a world of hurt on recrationalists in the mountains.

I've read that wisdom can be described as "knowing without having to experience." Some days I believe in this idea, though mostly I am too much the iconoclast to abide by it. When Josh and I left to ski the Wapta Traverse yesterday, I think it's fair to say that we were doing so in spite of what we knew. We knew that conditions were crap and that the avy hazard was high. But still we went. Why? To go have a look and see for ourselves what was really going on. Of course, we didn't make it far before deciding to abort.

This was just about the only terrain that felt safe.

January 11, 2009

Fine Day At The Crag

My eye!

After skipping out on a massive Saturday evening in Banff, Tommy Gruber and I decided to make up for our failings by climbing at Haffner today. Which of course makes no sense. If I am not mistaken, I believe that Haffner was invented to serve the needs of Bow Valley partyers who struggle to crack an eyelid before noon. And so our presence there today - after nary a cocktail last night - was borderline sacrilege. But judging from the hordes of enthusiastic grimpers at the crag today, I have a feeling that we weren't the only tea-totalers in the house.

Josh Lavigne

Josh goes inverted.

Tommy G works off the past month of creme brulee.

Climb the route then slide down the tree.

Just because there are bolts, doesn't mean you can't get a boo-boo.

It's just like the Gallery at Red Rocks only with snow, puffy jackets and crampons.

January 07, 2009

Winter Daze

There's a new Sheriff in town...

Jason Kruk (red, above) and Ian Welsted (blue) go toe-to-toe for the "Best Male Footwear" Award.

Spent the past few days climbing on the Icefields Parkway and skiing at Sunshine. On Jan 7th, in a raging snowstorm, Jason Kruk, Ross Berg, Ian Welsted and I made a long and foolish trek to the Weeping Wall. We were hoping to climb Mix Master and weren't sure if it was in. Of course, it wasn't in... atleast not for us. But we still gave it a try. Ian led the first scrappy pitch as the three of us heckled him from below. "Living the dream buddy!" we kept yelling at our intrepid friend as he scratched his way up the slabby, insecure pitch. The higher Ian climbed, the more frequent and intense the spindrift became until he was eventually getting pummeled every few minutes. "Can you see him? Is he still there?" we kept asking each other after each round of spindrift battered the lonely warrior. For some reason, the three of us on the ground found it highly amusing that our friend - the Great Suffer Machine himself - was getting racked by the elements. Perhaps it had something to do with Ian's declaration earlier in the day that, "Even a bad day of climbing is better than a good day of skiing."

Jason and Ross on the 2.5 hour drive to a non-existent climb.

Ian leading the first pitch.

Jason and Ross watch the action.

Jason and Ross find the whole situation quite amusing.

The camera lens after a big round of spindrift.

Ian on the second pitch.

Water drops on the lens made for some cool shots.

Pitch 2

Jason slips in to his fancy footwear.

All in all, it was a long day with a high suck factor. Too much driving and not enough climbing. It happens. At least the coffee at Laggen's on the way home was over-priced and weak.

A few days earlier, I was up at the Weeping Wall with Janice N in more favorable conditions.

A fine day on the Icefields Parkway.

Ice climbing isn't always so bad.

After our expedition to the Parkway, we decided to play the conditions a little smarter the next day. Instead of hunting for something to climb, Ross, Jason and I opted to taste the local snow. We met in town for an early morning coffee session and rallied to the hill. Thirty minutes of skinning brought us to the chairlifts where we shed the skins and boarded the lifts. For the next 3 hours, we pounded the vertical at a furious pace. It was awesome!

When we called it quits around noon, we all felt that we'd more than made up for yesterday's shemozzle. As we drove away, I couldn't help but wonder how many more years I'll be able to ski like that for. Not that it's at such high level or anything, but charging like that at a ski area is so demanding on the body. It's an entirely different workout than a day in the backcountry. I can't think of too many things that I'll miss when I get old, but charging at a ski area is definitely one of them!

Ross and Jason ride the lift.

January 03, 2009

A Rogers Pass New Year

Finally back in Canmore after a few days of binge and purge at Rogers Pass. I was hoping to spend a few more days out there, but couldn't manage it after breaking all my resolutions within the first few hours of the New Year.

Drove out to the Glacier Park Lodge early in the evening on December 31st. By the time we got there, the place was well on it's way to outdoing Animal House. We checked in and checked out. If I didn't know better, I would have sworn I was back in college. Most of the rooms were open and each door presented a new adventure. Of course, the crew from Golden was leading the party platoon just as they'd led the ski mission earlier in the day. In a word - impressive.

The next morning, in a desperate attempt to correct the errors of the night before, a bunch of us slapped on the skins and ventured outside. As the hours crept by, the Ghost of New Year's Eve cut us down until almost no one was left. Oh well, it wasn't the biggest day ever, but at least it was something! We retreated to Golden and prepared for the next day.

Tony and Chris start the day off right

Tony Richardson's camo keeps him well hidden

Ross, Tony and Pierre on top of Teddy Bear Trees

Jonny Simms watches Chris Brazeau drop-in

Ross Berg

Chris Brazeau skiing Puff Daddy

Ross Berg skiing Puff Daddy

Ross Berg looks into 2009 and likes what he sees