March 31, 2009

Osprey Photos

Ben Venter climbing in Patagonia in 2006.

Joe Stock skiing in the Tordrillo Mountains in 2008.

These shots recently appeared in the Osprey Catalogue. You know you are big time when your photos appear in the Osprey Catalogue.

March 27, 2009

T is for Training

Figure 1.1 The Chiefsicle

Just got back from a 2 day training mission with The Chief. I learned a lot, which is good, but I can't claim to have made a single quality turn in the 10,000 feet we climbed and descended. Once this ski exam is done, I'm going to have to scare myself on a big face just to remind myself that I am still a skier. Of course, that will have to wait for the alcohol poisoning - scheduled for immediately after the exam -to work itself out of the system.

We ended up doing a circumnavigation of Mt. Gordon on the Wapta Icefield, and like most trips to the Wapta, the wind howled. The Chiefs moustache took the brunt of the storm as noted in Figure 1.1 above.

The original plan was to spend a second night camped out on the ice, but after the circumnavigation was done, the Chief dropped the, "Hey Wexler, why don't you try guiding me back to the Bow Valley?" bomb. I obliged, and a few hours later I was choking on a Barpa Burger.

The Chief and The Map.

Camp at 9000 feet below Gordon Pass.

Interview with The Chief.

Getting absolutely throttled.

March 25, 2009

Mountain Equipment Coop

A photo in the current MEC Catalogue from a 2007 trip to Nepal.

Joe Stock during a 2008 Traverse of Alaska's Tordrillo Mountains. Last spring, MEC hooked myself and two friends up with financial assistance for a ski traverse of The Tordrillos. Click HERE to see photos and read the story.

March 19, 2009

Random Spring Days

Bow Valley Sunrise from the Trans Canada.

It's been a while since I last posted something of insignificance, so I'll try to make up for it here. The Yankee Doodlers - Jeremy and Danny - took off about one week ago and I was sad to see them leave. They were the uber house guests and might want to consider writing a how-to book on house-guesting. At the end of the day, I guess it's a pretty simple equation: clean house plus good company plus lots of beer in the fridge equals A1 house guests.

Before Danny had a chance to split for his native Idaho, I managed to talk him in to a quick lap on the Wapta. The ACMG Assistant Ski Exam will be taking place there starting April 6th, so I figured it might be a good idea to refresh my memory of the area. The last time I tried to get up there in January of this year, we ended up turning around before the Bow Hut due to touchy conditions. Stability wasn't much better this time around, but we managed to get up on the glacier and puttered around near Mt. Gordon and St. Nik. The wind absolutely throttled us, but it was still good to poke around.

Prior to heading out on the Wapta, I spent a day guiding Christian Milette of the CBC on some local ice. The entire session was filmed and I am confident that something will come back to haunt me.

Danny managed to snap this shot of the famous Blue Ghost that is rumored to live on the Wapta. Danny Uhlmann Photo.

The Blue Ghost trying his best to make sense of an upside-down map. Danny Uhlmann Photo.

A futile attempt on St. Nik. Danny Uhlmann Photo.

Danny retreating from St Nik.

This slab pulled out just across from the Bow Hut and was not there when we skied up in the morning. Danny Uhlmann Photo.

The following day, after saying goodbye to Danny, The Chief (formerly known as The Prince) and I thundered up to the Kicking Horse Pass area to practice beacon searches and rescue sledding. The day was marred by both success and catastrophic failure. On my first attempt to locate three buried beacons , I honed in on the nearest signal and started probing with vigorous thrusts. When I didn't record a strike, I re-checked the micro-grid and went at it again. Nothing. Strange I thought. I abandoned the area and moved on to the next beacon. I honed in on the second signal like a blood-hound and began a disciplined and deadly probe sequence. But to my surprise, I again recorded no strike. "Chief!" I cried, "what the hell is going on?" The Chief put down the stop-watch and sauntered over. He calmly took the probe out of my hand and began to poke around in the snow. "That's it," he said as he probed ever so gently. "But I probed in that same spot," I protested. We dug the beacon out and gazed in horror as the soggy pizza box that we'd used as a target was riddled with probe holes. "Oh Dear God," we said in unison, "I hope I didn't just probe right through the beacon." Of course, that's exactly what I did. $300. Boom!

Chief Poo-Neh-Na-Neh required a sled rescue after learning of the beacon tragedy.

The alarm went off the next morning at 4:30 am and unfortunately it wasn't in error. With one eye still closed in sleep, I groped in to the kitchen and engaged the stove top espresso. Once both eyes were fully functional, I rallied over to Mike T's place, and drove 2.5 hours up the Icefields Parkway to the Rampart Creek Hostel. Once there, we met with a rowdy and eager group of Yamnuska Semester Students who were keen to spend a couple of days learning the ins and outs of multi-pitch ice climbing.

Instructors and students atop the ice climb Shades of Beauty.

A student demonstrates excellent technique and perfect handwear on Day 2.

Adam and Vlad learning to multi-pitch ice climb.

The Great Danes serving up a fine cup of morning power.

Back in Canmore on Sunday morning. When the car looks like this, it might be time for a session at the ski hill.

March 16, 2009

The Glistening

Jeremy Allyn's car after a day on the Emerald Slide Path.

I don't remember the last time I slept in past 9am. Man it feels good to wake up slow, nurse a cup of Pete's Java and chill out to the sonic accompaniment of The National. After last week's deep freeze, Spring seems to be poking around the Bow Valley. I'm ready for Winter to sail south and I won't cry when it's does. It's been long and cold and the thought of a hot stone and coastal road trip sounds pretty good.

In the meantime, I've been hosting a couple of good Yankee-Doodler Friends for the past few days. Danny Uhlmann, Jeremy Allyn and I all used to work together at the American Alpine Institute and we've shared a bunch of good times together over the years. Jeremy is still recovering from a broken ankle suffered a year and a half ago, but he's managing to hobble up some the Rockies classics. No doubt, this is due entirely to his fancy Petzl Nomics. In 2007, Danny and I worked and climbed in Bolivia and I would be hard-pressed to think of a better wingman. On that trip, we managed to pull ourselves away from the La Paz nightlife for just enough time to climb the super classic West Face of Huayna Potosi. To read a short and juvenile account of that trip, click here.

Danny U after a bout at Haffner.

Danny's screw after losing round 1. The climb managed to knock him off before he could finish screwing it in.

Me and Jeremy moments before getting hassled by the Banff Police for mischief.

Going out a roof at Haffner.

Josh Smith on another big roof.

Climber on the Boyd Mystery.

Josh Smith on the Boyd Mystery.

March 10, 2009

Another Round With The Military

The top-secret training ground.

Man am I glad that's over. It's not that the work was bad, but spending four nights, with a cold and fever, in -25 degree weather is rough! Damn near crippling infact. When we finally skied out from our top-secret hiding spot near Castle Mountain Resort yesterday, I nearly cried. The only thing keeping me from the full break down was an acute sense of what the Military Boys would do to me were they forced to witness such an unimpressive display.

Laid out in the tent. Nik Rapaich Photo

Nik's Biosphere. Nik Rapaich Photo.

Inside the troops tent. Nik Rapaich Photo.

Is it a hat or is it a snow-ball?

Bad troops were sent to the snow pit.

Really bad troops were sent to the freezing chamber.

If you ever see this flag... Run!

March 04, 2009

Pema the Dog

My brother's dog Pema. I'm not quite sure what this has to do with alpinism, but holy hell this dog is cute.