June 29, 2010

The Welsteds

Lisa, Brooke, Kruk, Pablo, Simms and the Groom

My good friend Ian Welsted got married this past weekend. After almost forty years of bachelorhood, he met a fine woman about 2 feet taller than himself and with a significantly higher IQ, and decided to lock it down. Props to Kristina.

I first met Ian on a road trip to Yosemite in 2000. What stands out about that trip was not so much the scary pitches he would lead, but rather, the dire conditions he could endure while rolling around in the dirt at Camp 4. If I didn't already understand the meaning of Dirtbag before that trip, I certainly understood it afterwards - said with the greatest respect.

Ian and Kristina's wedding took place in the hills just south of Golden on a hot and sunny day. Coming from the Bow Valley, this felt like the first real day of summer. Most of the usual suspects were in attendance and it was a pleasure to see almost everyone.

Kruk, Pablo, The Simulator

Please, no photos. Kruk and Pablo riding in The Golden Child.

Wexler, Lisa, Kruk, Pablo, Ian, Brooke, Simms, Thoren and Kitt.

June 25, 2010

Zig Zag

Gery U following Zig Zag's 5.11 traverse on pitch 6.

Spent the past couple of day's climbing on some of the Bow Valley's finest stone. Started with another visit to Lake Lousie with Ms. Carlyle N who was gracious enough to session the full 40 meter Scared Peaches with me. I was scared this might turn in to a protracted battle - consuming me for much of the summer. But for once, fate smiled down and hooked me up with a send. Wow. What a pitch. A must for any aficionado of the Air Voyage Wall.

Rallied to Yamnuska the following day for a lap on Jon Walsh and Sean Isaac's newish route Zig Zag. I'd heard good things about this 8 pitch, 5.12A and was stoked to check it out. So after a few false starts due to weather, Gery U and I finally got on it. Props to Jon and Sean for the awesome route! Super fun climbing, great stone and an airy position makes this as good as any line on the cliff.

Gery U starting the first pitch.

Mrs. Wexler on the crux of Pitch 2. Gery Unterasinger Photo.

Followig pitch 2.

Following pitch 3.

Gery's diet consists of hard limestone.

Pitch 5.

Following the airy 5.11 traverse on pitch 6.

Whoa! Another perspective on pitch 6.

Gery leading up the 5.12 crux on pitch 7. I was shooting directly in to the sun.

The final 5.10+ pitch is one of the coolest top-outs on zee cliff.

The hike down.

June 22, 2010

Scared Peaches Again

Gery U starting the last pitch of Scared Peaches on the Air Voyage Wall.

The problem with talking about plans is that eventually, you might feel obliged to turn the talk in to action. So after telling various climbing partners that I wanted to try The Full Scared Peaches no less than a bazillion times, I finally gave it a burn over the weekend. The pitch is about 40 meters long and I've heard it gets a grade of 5.12c. The first half of the route is one of the most classic crack climbs on the planet and checks in at about 5.12a. When this is linked into the upper pitch, it is unquestionably the best pitch in the world! Hahaha. Ok, maybe not the best pitch in the world but close!

This past Sunday, Gery U and I went to check it out. After climbing the first pitch of Air Voyage followed by the upper pitch of Peaches, we gave the route a top rope burn. Gery then dispatched the thing like it was 5.8 while I managed to scream TAKE! right below the top. Truth be told, the route was so good I didn't want to send.

Gery lowering from the top pitch of Scared Peaches.

Shelly N and Sarah F on Mr Rogers.

I think Shelly has done the climbing model thing before.

Andrea E making the stretch across to the start of Peaches. This can be desperate if you are under 5 ft 6.

Stretchy pants recommended.

June 17, 2010

Khan Tengri 2004

On the road from Almaty to Khan Tengri Base Camp in 2004.

Since it's been pissing rain in the Rockies for the past three weeks, I haven't been taking too many fresh pictures - which is too bad cause the light and clouds have been pretty cool. Managed to get out to the Back of the Lake for two good days of climbing over the weekend, but apart from that, the local weather has been rugged. On Sunday, strongman Gery U, aka The Hampster Hunter (ask him abut this the next time you see him), and I pumped out 10 pitches between 5.11 a and 12b. Of course, I uttered the T-Word on most of these climbs.

But even if the rain doesn't do much for the climbing, it can do wonders for a man's nostalgia. Since I haven't been taking too many photos, I decided to pillage the old external drives to see what I might find. What I came up with were a few shots from a 2004 trip to guide Kazakhstan's 7000 meter Khan Tengri. I went there with my good friend and client Dave C. Dave is one of those tough Aussies who is unaffected by both altitude and alcohol, and these attributes served him well both on the mountain and in Almaty's various watering holes.

We tried to climb the mountain from the South Inylchek Base Camp. This route is steeper than from the mountain's North Inylchek Base Camp, but is also much safer. Infact, while we were there, eleven people were killed on the other route when a serac collapsed above them.

Unfortunately, we didn't summit the Peak on that trip. We ended up spending four nights in a snow cave at High Camp, but we never got the weather window. We did summit 20,000 ft Chapayev however which made us feel less worthless.

It is still a goal of mine to return to the Tien Shan Mountain Range. Of course, this has nothing to do with the climbing and everything to do with Almaty.

Getting ready to fly to Base Camp.

Camp 2 at around 18,000 feet.

Climbing above Camp 2.

Dave getting throttled at 20,000 ft on the summit of Chapayev. We climbed up and over this peak to reach High Camp on Khan Tengri.

In the snow cave at High Camp.

A snowy Camp 2.

Looking down at Camp 2.

June 05, 2010

Grizzly Season!

Mt Athabasca with a pretty meaty size 2.5. The slide smoked a significant section of the regular climbing route.

Just got back from a few days with the British Military on the Icefields Parkway. Climbing aside, we saw 8 bears on the drive home. After the first 4 Black Bear sitings, we were getting pretty fed up with the Bear Jams created by the gawking tourists. But the 5th encounter turned out quite different when a Sow Griz and two Cubs stepped out of the trees. This was the coolest animal siting I have seen in the wild. Which begs the question, is the Icefields Parkway wild? To be honest, it seems more like a zoo or safari these days. I'm beginning to think that Parks is staging these sitings just to boost tourism. You know, the same way they dye the glacier lakes that blue-green colour. As if to prove my case, five minutes after saying goodbye to Mama Bear and her Cubs, we rounded a corner and spotted another Griz. From this point on I am carrying bear spray to the grocery store.

Nik R loving life in the cook shelter.

A tribute to the furry creatures. Click twice on the video to watch the larger version.