June 26, 2009

Adventures At The Lake

Chris Brazeau finishing the day on Heathens (12c) at Lake Louise.

Met up with Chris and Cody for a good session at Lake Louise the other day. As usual, the Golden Boys climbed significantly harder than their Bow Valley counterparts. Of note is Brazeau's uncanny ability to send despite being totally laid out for most of the winter with a blown ACL. When pressed to reveal the secret behind his sending prowess, he swears that baking bread (intense kneading) and a steady diet of Bill Maher videos are key.

Chris and Cody at the Air Voyage Wall.

Brazeau on Jason Lives (12d / 13a)

A headless climber on Jason Lives (12d / 13a). A few years ago, climbers in Japan started cutting off their heads in order to reduce weight on hard sport routes. Although reluctant at first, Canadian climbers have finally started to embrace the practice.

Being true Canadians, we decided to go ice climbing on the other side of the valley after pumping a few laps on the super fun Incomplete (12c)

June 21, 2009

Climbing in Bolivia

Ever dreamed of roaming the Bolivian Altiplano and climbing in the fabled Cordillera Real? Read this article in the latest Gripped Magazine and let me know if I didn't succeed in changing your mind.

June 18, 2009


Paul Mcsorely reaching for a hold that nobody ever uses on Flight of the Challenger (12c) at the Pet Wall. Apparently, when you are strong like bull, you can pull off nothing. Will Stanhope took a rest day from sessioning the Cobra Crack to hang from the top and shoot. This is probably the coolest crack I have ever climbed.

Just got back to Canmore after a few days climbing and hanging with friends in Squamish. The change of scenery was just what a brother needed after a long stint in the Rockies. The granite was pretty good too.

Jasmin Caton egypting on Vital Transformation (12c). Like Jasmin, the crack is hard and beautiful. Unlike Jasmin, the crack is really effin painful.

Will Stanhope one falling the Cobra Crack. If I didn't know better, I would have wanted to try this after watching Will almost float the thing. That said, it is probably the hardest crack climb in the world. If you look close, you can see Will throwing down some pretty rugged hand and finger work.

The happy couple Will and Jason.

The lake at Murrin Park has looked a little spooky ever since a truck rolled on HWY 99 and spilled oil in to the water.

While out on the coast, I learned of the deaths of Jonny, Micah and Wade. The team was climbing in China and was probably hit by an avalanche. I didn't know the guys well but we did share some close mutual friends. Over the years, I'd heard and read a lot about Jonny's adventures. The guy charged hard but also had the rare ability to capture the experience in thought, words and film. It's a tough thing to do and Jonny did it well.

Everyone knows the risks and everyone knows it's dangerous. But unlike most people, alpinists see the risk not so much as an opportunity for loss, but ultimately, as an opportunity for gain. What is there to be gained from walking hand in hand with Death on a beautiful rock spire in the middle of the Asian nowhere? For most, probably nothing. For some like Jonny, Micah and Wade, enough to risk their lives for. "Regardless of the outcome," says Jonny in his movie Long Ways, "There is always something valuable you take home that makes the rest of life much more rich."

Take 10 minutes and watch Jonny's movie below. About 1 minute in, Jonny asks, "What is it that's calling you? How are you gonna get there? What's it gonna take?" Simple questions. Hard answers. Micah's line about wearing "yamakas bigger than this bivy" is pretty profound as well.

RIP Jonny, Micah and Wade.

June 08, 2009


The late Trevor Petersen's Ice Tool bolted to the summit of Blackcomb Peak.

Sunset from our camp in the Whistler Backcountry.

Just finished a few days of guiding in the Whistler Backcountry. Man, it's tough to beat the coast when the weather is good. That said, when I think back to the years I spent wearing a life-jacket and floating around in my tent while guiding in the torrential Cascades, my enthusiasm is somewhat tempered.

Other than this trip's perfect weather, I'd have to say that the highlight of the past three days came in the form of a question posed by a British woman while riding the Peak 2 Peak Gondola. After striking up a limited conversation with the said woman after she nearly vomited when I opened a can of onion and tomato tuna in the enclosed space, she managed to compose herself just long enough to ask us why all the trees were cut down directly below the gondola?

"Not sure," we replied. "Probably has something to do with how they laid the cable."

"Yeah, " she went on, "but don't you suppose that if a car came off the cable, it would be worse to smash in to the ground than the trees?"

We smiled gently at the sweet woman and told her that we didn't believe hurtling thousands of feet in to old-growth timber was part of Whistler / Blackcomb's contingency plan.

The Peak 2 Peak Gondola and the clear cut below. Do you think that if this thing fell down, it would be better to plummet in to a) the trees or b) the ground?

Otherwise, just completed a first draft of an article for The Ski Journal. Photographer Ryan Creary and I teamed up for the project and I think it will be pretty cool. The piece is basically about becoming a ski guide in Canada. Not exactly high literature, but I try. The funny thing about writing is that I fight the process tooth and nail. On any given day, I would pretty much rather scoop out my eyeballs than sit down and write. And yet, I seem to sign up for the torture repeatedly. The good thing about this is that in my procrastination, I manage to take care of every other outstanding chore and detail in my life. If this sort of drivel interests you, check out the piece's intro below:

It’s a beautiful spring day on BC’s Albert Icefield. The sun is shining. Visibility is good. The glacier is well covered and our small group of four is strong and moving fast. If all goes to plan, we should reach Fulgurite Peak soon, and notch a few thousand feet of vertical before returning to the snow cave. In theory, this is a good day. There’s just one major glitch, it’s day five of a nine-day ski exam and the guy riding my ass is an ACMG Examiner.

After a few hours in the lead, I am faced with a critical juncture. Do I take the group to a high pass on the right, or do I continue straight ahead to a col that is hidden from view? It should be a simple decision. Consult the map. Read the terrain. Execute. But I am too worried about making the wrong decision to see clearly. I probe a safe area and ask the group to hang tight. I check the 1:50000 foot map, look around, check the map again and try to arrive at a rational decision. The rational decision does not come. It is a perfectly clear day and I feel like I’m wandering around in a whiteout. Instead of seeing the terrain, all I see are two possible outcomes to whatever decision I make: pass or fail. Choose wrong, and I feel like an entire winter’s work, and focus and sacrifice will be negated in an instant. I take a deep breath and try not to think about the implications of failure.

A big thanks to everyone who helped me out with info and stories!

Sunset in the Coast Range.

Practicing the art of head-first, backwards self arrest.

These guys really enjoyed the self-arrest thing.

I mean they really ate it up.