February 26, 2009

Skiing with the Military

From the Afghanistan Sandbox to the Canadian Ice-Box, this guy can really mess up your day.

Just got back to a cold and snowy Bow Valley after hanging with the Canadian Military for ten days. Whatever knowledge I may have imparted to the troops pales in comparison to the education I received. For instance, I learned all about the mental justification for getting shot at for a living. I learned about near misses with IED's, lobbing grenades, and what rifle works best for removing Charlie from a mile out. But of all the tid-bits I gleaned, I'd have to say that the most fascinating aspect was how the soldiers suffered unquestioningly. While myself and the other guides managed the elements with little effort, the soldiers were forced to to deal with the wet, cold and snowy conditions with gear that looked like it pre-dated World War 1. I'm confident that I would have gone AWOL within twenty-four hours had I been in their Mukluks.

The weather started out good...

But like all good things...


Even Pat got a little soggy.

The Troops spent the first few nights in a ten person tent.

But on the last night, they had the great privilege of moving in to a snow cave.

Check out the 9 person snow cave these guys built!

By the time work ended, Castle Mountain had received about 40 cms of fresh. Nik R and L.O.C. were stoked!

February 18, 2009

Photos from the CAA Module 3

The flight in to Quartz Creek on the CAA Mod 3 Course.

Just arrived at Castle Mountain in Southern Alberta where I'll be working a ski course with the Canadian Military for the next ten days. If it sounds glorious, please wipe your eyes and re-read the first sentence. Nothing with the Canadian Military is glorious. After spending a few days dressed in full military fatigues and skiing at the resort, we will venture in to the wild and set-up a back country camp. So far, I'd have to say that the most challenging aspect for me has been trying to teach people that I can't even see.

Otherwise, just finished the final module of the Canadian Avalanche Association Level Two course. It was an excellent week spread amongst The Kicking Horse Slack Country, Rogers Pass and the Purcells. I learned a ton and got many good laughs with the five other members of Group 2. Now I just need to find a way to pay it off.

Lisa L gathers snow pack information at Rogers Pass.

Group 2 deciding where to put a road through Quartz Creek in the Purcell Mountains.

Record everything! Height, weight, emotional stability, core temp, skull density, etc...

Chris T on the flight home.

February 17, 2009

The Carnival

The Magical Mystery Tour.

I recently wrote a story for High Line Magazine about the wonders of guiding in South America. It's titled Dance Monkey Dance and it provides a very serious glimpse in to the carnivalistic tendencies of the Southern Continent. To check it out, click here. Enjoy!

Is it a talisman or is it just a llama fetus?

Tetes a claque tabarnache!

Half human, half beer bottle.

It's a code for... something.

Only 22 miles to go.

February 13, 2009

The Magic Carpet

Riding The Magic Carpet

A few days ago, I completed a four day Level 1 Ski Instructor Course. It was the first time in 15 years that I'd put on real alpine boots and locked my heels. Luckily for me, the material was designed so that a even a lemur could pass. The event was held at Sunshine and most of the other participants were aspirant ski instructors from the UK who thought the word "backcountry" was Canadian slang for one's derriere. For four days, we snowplowed, rode green runs, learned to instruct 5 year old hellions, and perfected the art of intermediate parallel turns.

Despite the basic nature of the course, I had a good time. The instructors were excellent and the other students were amazing to behold. Every morning, I would release a little steam and skin up the hill on my tele sticks. I would then duck in to a phone booth, change in to a borrowed alpine set-up, and emerge with fixed heels and a cape.

I don't spend much time riding the lifts, so I learned a ton about ski hill etiquette. For instance, I learned from my British peers that the chairlift bar must come down within 0.3 seconds of getting on the chair. I don't know how many times these guys smashed me on the head with the cold steel before I learned The Rule. I also learned a new expression: Mood Hoover. Apparently, some of the other students in the course were not overly fond of one of the instructors so they graciously bestowed this name upon him. But of all the awesome things I saw and heard during this four day course, the undisputed high-light came when one of the older students, an English Bloke on leave from the Royal Air Force, became disgruntled over some unproductive feedback from an instructor. The conversation went something like this:

Instructor: "Hey Jimmy, you're screwing up x, y, and z."

Jimmy: "I know what I'm doing wrong. What is my tactic?"

Instructor: "Well, the hip socket, pivot, edge control, pressure, hands back, weight, stance..."

Jimmy (getting agitated): "I know what I'm doing wrong. What is my tactic!"

Instructor: "Well, blah blah blah edgie wedgy, forward lean and a little de-canter."

Jimmy (about to blow ): "I know what I'm doing wrong! What is my tactic!!!"

The back and forth went on like this for some time and I would be lying if I didn't admit to formulating an escape plan for when Jimmy pulled out his RAF assault rifle and commenced the blood-letting. But the altercation blew over with little more than some elevated blood pressure and Sunshine Ski Resort was spared a massacre.

The position I often found myself in during the course.

February 10, 2009

Argentine Action

Paul in front (yellow) and Andrew on right (green) in Patagonia, 2007.

Since 1999, I have spent part of almost every winter in South America. Sadly, I will not be joining the southern brothers on this year's tour. In hopes of minimizing the effects of Latin America withdrawal, I will be living vicariously through some friends for the next few months. Paul Mcsorely, Andrew Querner and Will Stanhope are on a climbing trip to the Turbio Valley near Bariloche, Argentina. If you haven't heard of this place, don't worry - no one has. Paul has a special talent for stringing words together and he has been kind enough to share some stories about the team's progress. Enjoy.

Just a week has passed since the three of us met in Bariloche Argentina, and as any seasoned Latin American traveler knows, a week can feel more like a month. Within 48 hours of being on Argentine soil, our young ropegun Will Stanhope, was keeled over on all fours, emptying the precious contents of his belly onto this sacred ground. Though we had planned to head up for a climbing warm up in the nearby Cerro Cathedral/Refugio Frey area the following morning, the day was spent nursing young Will. When Will's condition didn't improve, Andrew Querner and I, in an unprecedented display of teamsmanship, headed up without him. As we set off up the trail some 500m from the parking lot, I too was reduced to my knees and added a rich fertiliser to the arid Agentine soil. We doubled home, karmic account finally in check. The culprit: street meat; Hamburgesas and Chorizo con Pan. After a good night's sleep, we all stumbled up the trail to the Frey hut and enjoyed a couple of sensational days on the legendary stone of Cathedral. Andrew and I managed an ascent of the Campanille Esloveno (Slovenian Tower), which sports views across the glaciated volcanoes of the border region and the fabled valleys of Cochamo, Chile. The stone is a combo of Chamonix and City of Rocks, replete with golden splitters and ubiquitous patina holds. When he finally emerged from the recovery room, Will freed an old aid line noted as A2 in the Guidebook. 12+ spicy for the young Gringo.

Our next challenge is getting supplies for our mission into the unknown Rio Turbio. We will take horses up the Valley and after a few weeks amongst the granite peaks, rafts (Canadian Tire quality) will help us return the 42 KM back to civilization. Right now we are sitting on a fat stack of goodies such as 2kg of Pig fat (for making tortas friatas), multiple litros of the vino tinto and enough salami and cheese to stop my heart right now...Stay tuned

Paul in Patagonia, 2007.

Will in Patagonia, 2007.

February 05, 2009

Ski Course Photos

It's been almost a week since the end of the ACMG Ski Tour Training so I won't go in to too much detail. In short, the highlight of the course for me was rooming with the caustic Dave Edgar. For those who know him, this will come as no surprise.

Otherwise, a sincere thank you to the Banff Employment Office and the Arc'teryx Scholarship Program for lessening the financial strain of these courses.


James M skiing below the Bonney Glacier.

Puttering around on the way to Asulkan Pass.


Inside the Asulkan Cabin.

Smart people know that the best way to build a snow cave is to have other people do it.

Everyone needs more practice at sitting under a tarp in the snow.

Let me show you where we really are.

The skin up.

The view from the Asulkan Cabin window.

February 03, 2009

Yen for Ski

This shot just appeared in the current issue of Ski Canada. Although the photographer caption would lead you to believe otherwise, the image was actually taken by the prolific Ryan Creary. One nano second after the photo was snapped, I lost all composure, rotated hard left, augered in and bit my tongue.

Well the week of ski touring at Rogers Pass with the ACMG Inspectors passed without much ado and I have been celebrating ever since. It's not that anything monumental happened, but this was the last course I will have to take in the eternal stream of ACMG courses. From this point on, it's all exams to the finish line. I will post some photos from the course in the coming days.

Otherwise, just watched the latest Woody Allen Movie, Vicky Christina Barcelona, and laughed my ass off.