August 31, 2012

Climbing Mt. Assiniboine North Ridge

Mt Assiniboine beneath an almost full moon.

The weather in the Canadian Rockies is often pretty rough at this time of year, but for some reason, Mike   A and I were given a hall pass and allowed passage up a Rockies classic yesterday. Mike hadn't done much big mountain climbing since a trip to Europe in the 90's when he managed to climb Mt. Blanc, the Matterhorn and the Eiger in nary a fortnight. For some, a hiatus like this would be enough to return them to pure neophyte status, but for Mike, I think the thirteen years rest only served to make him stronger.

We flew in to Assiniboine lodge on Wednesday and climbed the Gmoser Highway under threatening skies. For those who don't know, the Gmoser Hwy is a massive pile of rubble that allows surprisingly easy access to the Hind Hut at the toe of Mt. Assiniboine's North Ridge. The following morning, we awoke at 4:00 am and departed for the climb 1.5 hours later after an unimpressive breakfast of gluten free oatmeal. The forecast for the day wasn't great and there was a menacing cloud looming above the Red Band, and I can't say that I had huge hopes for the climb. But as is often the case, no expectations are often the best expectations, and 6.5 hours later we were on top of the Canadian Matterhorn (minus the fixed ropes and the hordes!).

The weather looks stellar for the next few days and after a rest day tomorrow, Mike A and I will head to Mt. Victoria in hopes of climbing the mountain's classic SE Ridge. Seems like a better way to spend Labor Day then stuck in traffic on Canmore's Main St.

Postscript: Please feel free to check out all the photos from the trip (including the rugged weather on Mt. Victoria / Abbot Pass) here.

Nick S and Mike in hot pursuit!

They caught us.

Mike A low on the route.

Climbing in the clouds on the upper mountain.

Nick S breaching the Red Band.

Clouds can be great because they hide the exposure.

The summit ridge.

I had Mike pose for this shot on the descent.

Of course, had we waited one day, we would have had the stellar weather window.

Mike A on the hike out.

Hard not to look back for another gander.

Looking out the Hind Hut at the base of Mount Assiniboine.

August 22, 2012

Paragliding the Gran Paradiso

Ben M on a 4 hour flight from Chamonix - Bionassy - Plaine Joux and back to Chamonix. This was the day after the hordes swarmed the summit of Mt. Blanc.

Well we didn't nail the day when everyone either flew over Mt. Blanc or top-landed it, but we still got a great flight the following day. Ben M (BM) and I launched from a busy Plan Praz at around noon and got high over the Brevent before cruising over the valley to the Prarion and the Bionassy. After getting bumped around for long enough, we headed over to Plaine Joux where we caught lots of lift that let us make it back to Cham. The flight was certainly a highlight for me and might have topped the Gran Paradiso flight from two days before!

Heading over to Bionassy. I forgot socks...

Cool view of the new Gouter Hut.

The crazy thing about this photo is how many wings are deep in the clouds.


Flying over Les Houches to Plaine Joux

Ben's Ozone Rush still looks good!

Hanging with JOE STOCK! in the Gran Paradiso.

Joe really loves early starts.

Looking good on Italy's highest peak - The Gran Paradiso.

Near the top.

The launch! Joe - professional photographer that he is - switched to video at this point and missed the action. No big deal. I'm sure we'll be back on the Paradiso again soon. Joe Stock Photo.

Looking at Mt. Blanc from the Italian side. We had too many guides so I made myself scarce and launched from just below the summit rocks. 20 minutes later I landed 2000 meters below in the valley. 

20 minutes. 2000 meters. Joe Stock Photo.

Sometimes the sniff test is the only way to tell whose boots are whose. Joe Stock Photo.

August 16, 2012

Guiding the Hornli Ridge on the Matterhorn

Rob P on the summit of the Matterhorn

After one day (and five flights!) back in France, I travelled to Zermatt to meet up with maybe the biggest guide to ever walk the earth - Luke G. Luke was already up at the Hornli Hut with our two clients Rob and Ken. Being slightly sleep deprived from the travel and a final night in Moscow, I said hello and immediately disappeared for a nap.

The lights came on the next morning at 4am and we were out the door by 430. Four and a half hours later, we were standing on the Matterhorn's precipitous summit. The ascent marked Luke's 15th time up the mountain and he nailed the route  like a local Swissy. Thanks to On Top Mountaineering for the great day of work!

Morning light on the Monte Rosa

First light on the lower half of the mountain.

Good vistas

Luke and Ken below the Solvay Rescue Hut.

Ken in the early morning light.

Rob at the Solvay.

Climbing the thick fixed ropes on the upper peak.

Rob on the summit!