April 28, 2009

Tequila Time

Nine times out of ten, being wrong is not a good thing. Whether you went for the wrong tick mark on the onsight burn, put your money on the wrong horse, fell in love with the wrong person, or chose the wrong costume at Halloween, being wrong can have far reaching, humiliating and sometimes crippling consequences. As someone who is wrong about most things in life, I should know. However, there are those rare moments when being wrong turns out not so bad.

It's been two weeks to the day since the ACMG Ski Exam ended. For those familiar with the intricate workings of the ACMG, this two-week marker is a Candidate's personal D-Day. At some point on this day, an e-bomb is likely to appear in the Candidate's inbox. This e-bomb will contain a great deal of writing that the Candidate will ignore in their frantic rush to find the only two words that matter. These words, of course, are Pass or Fail. Despite the fact that I spent much of the winter preparing for the exam, when it was all wrapped up, I was 100% confident that I'd blown it. So when the email appeared in my inbox at 1400 hours, I was tempted to label it Spam and call it quits. But being a glutton for pain, I went ahead and opened it. To my utter shock and amazement, the email said something about passing.

The Chief performs an advanced snow stability test during one of many top secret training missions this past winter.

April 27, 2009

Rock Climbing Season

Viva Las Vegas. An old photo that I took last year around this time at Red Rocks.

Just got back from a short and sweet two-day sport climbing trip to Skaha. What a relief from the last seven months of winter. While it was dumping snow snow in Canmore, I was burning my dome at The Doctor's Wall, Morning Glory and Great White. I guess each season comes replete with it's own hazards.

It was interesting getting back on the rock after a few months on plastic. Although the arms had some extra juice, the footwork was not exactly that of a European on the World Cup. The fact that I was terrified of falling with a bolt at my waist didn't help matters. But hey, isn't that the beauty of sport climbing? You can suck and not get hurt.

A toast to rock climbing season.

April 22, 2009

Black Diamond Photo

I took this photo on the morning of our second to last day in Alaska's Tordrillo Mountains. Man, it brings back memories. No food. No energy. Terrified of grizzlies and of the impending bushwack. We'd spent a foggy night camped below Old Man Pass and woke up to a 3000 foot descent followed by a 3000 foot climb up scree and shale. I'm going to miss Alaska this year...

Camp below Old Man Pass. Joe Stock Photo.

Grizzly tracks near camp.

The white path that extends from the top of the snowpatch to the cameraman's feet was made by a Grizzly sliding on its ass. Joe Stock Photo.

Atop the final climb of the traverse. Old Man Pass would be in the top left corner of the photo. Dylan Taylor photo.

April 19, 2009

Mt. Columbia Skullduggery

It's an amazing phenomenon. One can barely sneeze in a Canadian National Park and yet somehow these monster trucks have been granted permission to drive up and down the Athabasca Glacier. Where is The Monkey Wrench Gang when we need them?

Left Canmore at 4:30 yesterday morning in hopes of day tripping Mt. Columbia. For some strange reason, Josh L and Ryan C were suffering from the same delusional whimsy. So we piled in to my chariot and drove 2.5 hours up the Icefields Parkway to the Athabasca Glacier. The weather wasn't ideal as we started out, but atleast it managed to hold just long enough for us to ski about 15 kms to the base of the peak. Faced with only two options (death or retreat), we chose the latter and began the slow ski out. By this point, the weather had completely socked in and we remained glued to the compass and GPS almost the entire way back. Eleven hours of skiing and zero turns. Perhaps the death option would have been the way to go, which is exactly what Josh must have been thinking when he tried to hurl himself into a crevasse in the fading light. Next time buddy!

Ten minutes in and 650 more to go.

Josh and Ryan sneak under the seracs on the approach to Mt. Columbia.

Thinking the weather might hold...

In the Trench below Columbia and still thinking the weather might hold.

Josh groping around in the white room. Good thing he charged his glow-suit!

Ryan Creary Photo.

This picture would normally retail for $800 but Ryan was gracious enough to lend it to Global Alpine in exchange for a life time of shooters at Hooligans. The photo was taken near the end of the day as we were about to ski down The Ramp. Our line of descent was too far skier's right and when we went to cut left, Josh punched through a snowbridge. Well, he never really punched through because when the trap door opened beneath him, he managed to roll hard right on to solid ice and avoid taking the plunge. Author's note: Josh is actually 25% cat. Here you can see Josh standing on the ice while I futz with the rope. We eventually climbed back up a few hundred feet in order to gain the the better line of descent. What struck me about the incident was how the day went from zero to sixty in less than a nano-second . One minute we were skiing down the glacier not thirty minutes from the car, and the next minute buddy is almost in a slot, the wind is howling, the light is fading, and a situation is brewing. It's not the first time that I've seen things go south in a hurry, it's just that sometimes you forget how fast it happens.

April 13, 2009

Ski Exam Photos

Downclimbing from St. Nik on the Wapta.

Too tired to write much tonight, but here are some photos from the ACMG Assistant Ski Exam. I hope you enjoy perusing them half as much as I did experiencing them...

A lovely evening in the snowcave. Of course, this is a lie. Anyone who's spent time in snowcaves knows that there is no such thing as a lovely evening in a snowcave.

Trying to get up Mt. Justice on the Albert Icefields. This day went south shortly after this photo was taken.

Mt. Justice goes south.

Pictures can be so deceptive. For instance, this photo gives the impression of an enjoyable day in the mountains.

The Starfish.

Fifty percent of every day was spent recording stuff in a yellow notebook and then stuffing it in the side pocket of form-fitting schoeller pants.

Notice the vacant stare.

April 03, 2009

Shooting the Shooter

One of my goals in life is to capture professional photographers with my $29 point and shoot camera. Here we have Ryan Creary at Rogers Pass.

Just got back from a handful of days spread between the Walkta Icefields and Rogers Pass. As the name suggests, the Walkta is not exactly the most exciting terrain on earth and I doubt that TGR will be filming there any time soon. However, if you're looking for a venue to wander around in a whiteout while getting absolutely throttled by the wind, look no further. Ergo, the Walkta Icefields is a perfect training ground for masochists, people who hate to ski powder, and those of us who are fortunate enough to be training for an upcoming ski guide exam.

It's a strange phenomenon, but for some reason, it's almost impossible to catch a professional photographer in focus.

Ryan Creary tries to shoot the illusive neutrino.

Ryan and Stefan on some highly technical terrain on the Walkta.

On to Rogers Pass where the Chief and I spent a day logging significant uphill mileage with very little downhill payoff. We took turns guiding each other around some rather obscure terrain, and the Chief did an excellent job at playing client. He stopped when I told him to, moved when I told him to, stayed in my track, and forked over all his food when I ran out and started to bonk. I, on the other hand, did not play as well and I received a few tongue lashings for my weak performance. "Wexler! If you don't want to play, just say so!" The Chief was heard saying when I failed to follow in his track.

On our second day at The Pass, the Chief and I were joined by Ryan Creary. Ryan documented most of the day's shenanigans and I am confident that some of those photos will come back to haunt us. Of course, there is also the possibility that we will make it on to the cover of the MEC Catalogue and become extremely wealthy and famous.

RC bootpacks up to a top secret location.

The Chief donned his classic 80's fluorescence for this shot.

The Chief and and his bounty.

The Chief contemplates the kingdom and asks himself, "What the hell is Wexler doing here?"

The Chief thanks The Spirits for not being present when this debris came down.

Even snowboarders get faceshots.