December 30, 2011

Back in the Bugaboos

Flying around in the black and white. I went so far as to strap myself to the outside of the helicopter to get this shot.

Well it's been a long time since I penned something and wanted to put out some photos before the New Years coma kicks in. Two days after returning from Colombia, I started work at CMH Bugaboos and have been here ever since. The skiing has been nuts so far and we are currently in the midst of a three day storm that has dumped about a meter in the hills. Thank you El Nina. You are welcome here anytime.

Happy New Year!

Jay shredding the home drainage

Tina on Black Forest

Jay takes flight

Lauren on Black Forest

Skiing an old burn


Lots of face time

J Mac on Grumpy's

J Mac always brings the correct form

Christmas Day - the last time we saw the sun.

December 06, 2011

Colombia Country Side

Alaska Ben at a local market near Chicamocha Canyon, Colombia.

After a few short flights last Sunday, we jumped in the van and drove out of town to Chicamocha Canyon. The canyon is rumored to be the second largest in the world (after The Grand Canyon) and boasts what is also rumored to be the longest cable car on the planet. At first, I was skeptical about the cable car claim, but after riding in it for 30 minutes each way, I am a believer. Part of the canyon has been turned in to a National Park in recent years and it is a cool place to behold. There is also good flying in the park although it might be a little macho for the rookie pilot.

Gateway to the National Park.

Our host - Team Richi - with Chicamocha Canyon in the background.

The unofficial longest cable car in the world. It goes all the way to the ridge in the background.

A cool statue in the park.

Local mercado.

A tasty corn concoction. 

Local game of pick-up football.

Tile work at the mercado.

More tile work.


This guy recently showed up at the fly-site hostal looking to take some lessons.

Aerial view of the market.

December 03, 2011

Learning to Fly

Looking out at Bucaramanga from the Las Aguilas Launch, Colombia

For the past six days, I've been hanging in Colombia and learning to fly. Buca is a really good, consistent place to learn with strong thermals in the morning, good ridge soaring in the afternoon and excellent debauchery at night. After a day and a half of ground handling, we did our first flight - a five minute sled ride to the landing. Since then, we've managed twenty flights up to one hour and fifteen minutes in length. We've also bumped up against the cloud base and accomplished a few entertaining top landings - all good fun for a radio controlled monkey! Looking forward to four more days before heading home for the long, cold winter. 

Busy day at the launch.

It took me 17 flights before I felt confident enough to take a photo.

The shuttle-bus manager.

Lunch time at the villa.

Advanced maneuvers.

Post flight.

Cool evening light at the LZ.

During my first hour+  flight.

Gettting picked up just before the rain.

A quiet moment at the launch.

November 27, 2011

Colombia Paragliding

The launch site above Bucaramanga, Colombia.

After years of threatening to visit Colombia, I finally made it. I flew from Quito yesterday, and spent the night in Bucaramanga. Buca is a mellow university town that reminds me of Mendoza, Argentina.  Needless to say, the nightlife goes off.

Colombia is well known for many things but most people don't associate it with world class paragliding. I didn't know anything about it either until I started looking around. But after spending the afternoon at one of Bucaramanga's launch sites, even a neophyte like me could tell that it is a special place.

For the next 12 days, I'll be taking a paragliding intro course here in Buca. There'll be a few days of ground-school before taking to the air around mid-week. If all goes to plan, I will never walk down another mountain again.

The flight from Bogota to Buca.

Like British Columbia but with an O instead of a U.

The local swill

The fly-site casa.

The launch site above Buca.

November 24, 2011

Climbing Chimborazo, Ecuador

A cold morning on the summit of Chimborazo.

I have a rule about not waking up before midnight to go climbing. Unfortunately, I broke this rule on Chimborazo yesterday. To ease the pain of it all, I set the alarm tone to "crickets," hoping that the pleasant sound of these tiny winged creatures would soften the waking process. But at 11 pm, even the sound of crickets is hell.

By 11:50 pm, Johann and I were out the door and on our way up the mountain. The sky was overcast for the first few minutes, but as is typical in Ecuador, by midnight it was starry and clear. We walked for almost an hour before arriving at the glacier. Chimborazo has changed a lot in the twelve years since I first climbed it. Sections that used to be easy snow walking are now dry, icy and laden with rocks. In order to avoid taking a painful rock shower  later in the day, it is a good idea to be off the mountain by 9 am. Hence the early start.

I'm not sure what time we arrived at the Ventimiila summit because it was too cold and windy to check. It must have been early though because light had just appeared in the sky. I snapped a few photos and we headed down the steep track.

From Chimbo, we drove to the town of Banos at about 5000 feet - the lowest elevation we've seen since arriving in Ecuador two weeks ago. Banos is a mellow place that styles itself the adventure capital of Ecuador and many tourists pass through here on their way to visionary experiences in the jungle. Unfortunately, the ready supply of oxygen infuses the locals with an unprecedented ability to make lots and lots of noise. They may call it music and song, but do not be fooled, it is neither music nor song. At first, the timing of the noise is tricky to predict. In reality however, the schedule is executed with Swiss-like precision. Rest assured that the moment you lay down to sleep, or pick up a book to read, or try to engage in any restful activity, the noise will begin. In Banos, the art and science of-noise making is a time honored tradition and it is treated with great awe and respect.

Despite the noise in Banos, it's been a great trip! Johann and I got lucky with the weather and conditions, and managed to scrape our way up a few classic peaks. We will return to Quito this afternoon and Johann will fly home tomorrow. I leave Ecuador the following day and will head to Colombia for a few weeks before returning to Canada to face yet another winter. 

Thanks for checking in!

A brief clearing of the mountain and the route did not inspire much confidence. It looked dry! But the route was in surprisingly good shape as long as it wasn't cooking in the sun.

Passing the many memorials on the way to the Whymper Hut on Chimbo.

Johann arriving at the Whymper Hut at 16,400 feet.

The Whymper Refugio

Cool evening light in the skies over Riobamba.

View from the Hut Keepers room at the Whymper Refugio.

Sometime around 1 am on the way up. It was still warm at this point.

Sometime around 6 am on the Ventimilla Summit. 

Johann on the cold summit of Chimborazo.