June 08, 2009

Coastal

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.

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