December 25, 2013

Start of Another Winter Season

Bryan W skiing on the run Allouette in Rory Creek - CMH Bugaboos.

There is something about starting another heli-ski season that highlights the passing of time. Where did the last year go? How did it go so fast considering that a good chunk of it was spent convalescing on a couch? Whatever the case, I feel fortunate to be back at work, pounding it out on the snowy battlefield, loading skis, digging pits, eating too much food and getting blasted by arctic rotor wash. This probably sounds tongue in cheek but it's not. Sometimes, there's nothing like a big wreck to remind you how good the everyday really is. Happy Holidays!

Josh Briggs revving the engine for the ride in to Professor Falls in Banff National Park.

Josh B on one of Professors many pitches.

The final pitch of Professors. 

Another view of the final pitch. Two days later, I guided a long time client Jim F up the route. It was a bitter cold day with temps dipping down to -22C at the base of the route. This made for a cold morning bike ride.

Jim F climbing in to the cave on the final pitch.

Bryon W doing snow safety on a beautiful day in Rory Creek.

December 18, 2013

Apple iPad Commercial And Behind The Scenes With The Baffin Island Pirelli / Base Shoot

A couple of good videos / commercials for a snowy day in Canmore. I worked safety / snow safety on both these shoots and it was great to team up with the Camp 4 Collective each time. This style of shooting is quite intense with potential for big reward or catastrophic failure, and you never really know how it's going to turn out until the last minute.

In the Apple commercial, we spent six days in the area but were only able to shoot for two days due to weather. We spent about fourteen hours strapped to the Central Howser Tower to get ten seconds of footage for the commercial. On the first day of shooting, the weather turned and the winds picked up and we almost had to spend the night on the summit. On the second day of shooting, the clouds closed in right at the level of the potaledge and we had to haul it to a higher level and set it above the clouds. In the end, the sea of clouds made for some spectacular scenery.

As for the Baffin Base / Ski Shoot, the challenges are pretty well documented in the piece below. Looking back, it's funny how the biggest problems end up creating the best results.

The Apple iPad shoot from the Bugaboos is now live. Our section from the Central Howser Tower is the final 12 seconds.

Premontato from Adrian Moat on Vimeo.

Behind the scenes look at the Baffin Island Base / Ski shoot from last year. 

December 02, 2013

Kootenay Mountain Culture - ACMG Ski Guide Exam in the Bugaboos

A photo from the latest Kootenay Mountain Culture that I took during the 2011 ACMG Ski Guide Exam. This was taken from the Crescent Traverse. The prominent ridge in the background is the NE Ridge of Bugaboo Spire. I was lucky enough to be working in the area all winter and have been doing so every winter since. Not a bad place to work!

December 01, 2013

Bugaboos Apple iPad Photo Shoot

Hilaree O jugging to the top after the shoot.

A few months ago, I posted some climbing shots from the Bugaboos. At the time, I couldn't say too much about the project because it was still on-going. But now that the commercial is out, there is no need to remain tight lipped.

The shoot was for the new Apple iPad and the guys running the show were the Camp 4 Collective - the same team that put together the Baffin Island Pirelli Tire project. The basic storyline went something like this: girl in tent is flipping through her ipad and then the camera pulls out and you realize that the tent is actually a portaledge strapped to the side of a massive, rimed-up wall. In the end, we got really lucky with the weather and everything worked out - read: we got the shots and didn't have to bivy on the summit of the Central Howser Tower. But it was close! In the end, this style of shooting is always an adventure and I look forward to doing more in the future.

Here are some behind-the-scenes shots from Jimmy, Renan and myself.

Day 2 of the shoot after pulling the ledge above the clouds to get the shot. Jimmy Chin Photo.

Me and Jeff R hanging out on top and trying to stay out of the shots. Jimmy Chin Photo.

Jimmy and Renan getting the indoors shots.

Renan going over the edge on Day 1.

Jugging with a heavy and expensive camera!

Hilaree and Renan on Day 1.

Cool plug for the Bugaboos.

Flying around on the morning of Day 2.

Pilot Paul making it look good with Pigeon in the background.

Hilaree O jugging to the top on Day 1. The weather took a nasty turn at this point and I think we all thought we would be spending the night out. Thanks to Paul M who plucked us off despite the strong winds. This was the most impressive piece of flying I've seen.  Renan Ozturk Photo.

October 30, 2013

Radical Reels at Banff Mtn Film Fest 2013

Chasing Summits from shams on Vimeo.

The paragliding movie Chasing Summits was one of a few great films at Radical Reels. 

It's been a time since I last went to Radical Reels at the Banff Mountain Film Fest. More often then not, travel or apathy are to blame. But this year the stars aligned and I found myself at the show. Josh Dueck, of sit-ski back flip fame, did a great job hosting the event and the line-up of films was awesome. 

Of course, every one is going to have their personal likes, but to me, there were two stand-outs. The first was the paragliding film Chasing Summits. Basically, three Euro guys went to Pakistan's Hunza Valley and flew paragliders amongst some of the highest and most bad-ass mountains on the planet. From a pilot's perspective, this was a really impressive journey and in typical Euro style, they pulled it off with many laughs and a good look in to the local culture. They made the adventure as much about the local people and culture as it was about their flying and I find this style very refreshing after getting bombarded by some of the North American look-at-me-being-rad films. Plus, the soundtrack was pretty good.

Chasing Summits seemed to be well-received by the audience, but I couldn't help but wonder if the film was lost on the crowd as a whole. Do you need to be a paraglider yourself to appreciate how far-out this sort of activity is? I remember watching people fly around before I got into the sport and it just looked like a bunch of fat, old, lazy dudes bobbing around in the sky. Not terribly exciting. But after learning a bit more about the sport, you quickly realize how little there is between you and the ground. 

 The Sensei  - replete with wisdom, laughs, great climbing and a tight narartive.  

The other film that really appealed to me was the climbing film The Sensei. In short, this was the story about the teacher / student relationship between aging Japanese rock-master Yuji Hirayama and the super strong - if not a little unpolished - American climber Daniel Woods. A great look at the contrasting styles between East and West, age and youth.

And if you're looking to eat up a few more minutes of your day, here are two worthy videos from the flying world. 

October 28, 2013

Olu-Deniz Speed Flying

After procrastinating for the past year, I finally edited the mountain of Gopro footage that I took while flying in Turkey last Fall. I went to Olu Deniz for two reasons: 1) to take an SIV course with the renowned Jocky Sanderson and 2) to learn to fly smaller wings. The venue was ideal for both and it was not uncommon to log 4-5 flights / day. In the end, I managed 90 flights during my time there. It's hard to imagine a more idyllic flying / vacation venue. There's even good rock climbing nearby! I hope you enjoy the video. There's a good sand crash at the end if you make it that far.

October 27, 2013

Canadian Alpine Journal 2013 - Baffin Island Base

The back cover of the 2013 Canadian Alpine Journal. I took this photo in May 2012 while working on a film shoot in Baffin Island. The jumpers are Timmy D, Jesse H, and JT Holmes. The location is the Shark's Fin in the Sam Ford Fjord. Thanks to Sean Isaac for editing the journal and using the shot!

We skied three great lines on this trip. Here is Josh H and Josh L in the Polar Star Couloir.

The interminable Jimmy Chin climbing the AC Cobra.

The AC Cobra is the highest line stretching in to the clouds in the center of the shot.

Josh L near the top of the Cobra.

Jesse Hall at the top of the Cobra.

JT Holmes before jumping off the Shark's Fin.

A foreshortened view of Carlyle's Couloir that Josh Lavigne and I skied on the last day of the trip - named in the memory of Carlyle Norman.

October 25, 2013

Flying from Lady Mac

Launching from Lady Mac 8.5 months after going in to the ground from the same spot. Conditions were a little more civilized this time. Thanks to Andy G - The Handy Man - for shooting the academy award winning video on his phone.  If you take the 30 seconds to watch the clip, it's best to do so in HD. Wing: Gin Yeti 19. Harness: Gin Speedrider.

I can't imagine that it's ever easy to revisit the scene of a heinous accident. At the same time, it's amazing how quickly the mind and body can heal and forget. Last winter, I made a painfully bad decision to launch a Firefly 16  from Mount Lady Macdonald in terrible conditions. I crashed after about 2 minutes in the air and wrecked myself. As bad as it was, I dodged a bullet that day. It's crazy to think that I got lucky by only breaking my pelvis, back and sacrum, but it's true. Things could have ended a lot worse.

Post surgery on Feb 16, 2013.

Back in June, four months after the crash, I hobbled back up to the launch site. The hike took forever and I basically crutched my way up and down. The experience was a small victory and wasn't as emotional as I thought it might be - I think I only cried for half of the 4 hour hike. Since then, I've gained a great deal of strength and figure I'm at about 80 %. The recovery curve is still pretty steep and there are significant gains every week. I think a big part of this is due to the time spent working out / looking at girls in the gym. A few months ago, I was lucky to have Cindy Jagger from Own the Podium donate a few hours of her time to put me through the paces. She gave me a comprehensive routine that combines strength, agility, movement, and flexibility and I try to get at it at least four days / week. Hugh Simpson from Active Motion Physio also donated some time and  added some crippling exercises to the mix. A huge thanks to both Cindy and Hugh for the help.

So what's it like to return to a place and a scenario that almost proved fatal in the not so distant past? Well, although the place was the same, the conditions were completely different. In fact, I have never seen it so calm at the launch. If ever there was a time to fly off Lady Mac, it was then. I quickly changed into some warm clothes, unpacked the wing and clipped in. The mental focus that goes in to launching a small paraglider or speed-wing from the side of a mountain is all consuming and I felt myself falling back in to a familiar, trance-like mode that I hadn't experienced in some time. It felt really good.

Limping around at the Lady Macdonald launch back in June.

October 15, 2013

Climbing on the Howser Towers in the Bugaboos

Climbing fixed ropes to the top of the Central Howser Tower with Pigeon Spire in the background.

Well, another summer guiding season has come to an end and the countdown is on until the heli-ski season begins. For this year's final gig, I was lucky to team up again with some of last year's Baffin Island crew for a spectacular film shoot in the Bugaboos. The plan was simple: land a helicopter on the top of the Central Howser Tower, rappel down a few pitches, set up a portaledge, get some footage with the helicopter, jug-up and fly home. But as the saying goes, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. Or more aptly, until the weather shits the bed and the helicopter can't get the shot or even pick you up...  On day 1 of the shoot, most of us thought that we would be spending the night shivering on the Tower when the clouds enveloped the peak and the wind started to howl. But with the sun setting in the sky, the convective activity broke up and the pilot was able to pluck us off despite the high winds. It was an impressive piece of flying and we were all grateful to make it back to the lodge. Needless to say, I really appreciated sleeping in a bed that night.

Coming around to the East side of the Towers (lookers right).

The frosty west side of the Howsers (North, Central, South and the Minaret) from left to right.

Jeff R rapping down early on day 1.

Rapping down to the ledge on day 1.

On the final day of shooting, we broke through the clouds and had the best view of the Howsers I've ever seen.

Morning light on the Howsers.

The newest landing in the CMH Tenure.

The call sign says it all - FNOB. Paul Maloney Photo.

Bird's eye view of the landing on the Central Howser Tower. Paul Maloney Photo. The small dug-out circle on the looker's left made for a relaxed perch in an otherwise airy place.

On the final day of shooting, we were forced to haul the ledge above the clouds so the helicopter could get the shot.

Jeff R jugging to the top.

Looking across at the South Howser Tower.

FNOB passing in front of Pigeon Spire.

Shots in the can and going for the top.

September 21, 2013

Mountaineering in Cerise Creek, BC

Pierre H on the East Ridge of Matier looking over at the Twin One Glacier.

It's been a few years since I worked on the coast and did a full week of instructional travail. So when the opportunity came up to spend a week getting pounded by rain with 13 of my favorite mountaineering students, I figured what the hell. 

The location was Cerise Creek off the Duffy Lake Highway and when the sun is out, it's hard to imagine more perfect alpine scenery. But Lord knows, the sun does not always shine in British Columbia. After four days of blue skies, the weather turned and transformed our dry camping spot into a swamp. The upshot to this was that it made my Thermarest feel more like a water bed. The downside was, well ... do you have an hour? But in all fairness, the blueberry picking was really good and the west coast vibe reminded me of the many years I spent working in and around North Cascades National Park. Plus, the students were great and the other instructors - Pierre H and Matt V - provided good comic relief.

The early part of the week brought perfect weather.

Ice climbing on the Twin One Glacier.

Mirror image.


Heading below Mt. Matier on our way to Mt. Hartzell.

The summit of Mt. Hartzell

And then the rain. 

Student belay on the East Ridge of Matier.

Swamp camp

Heading up Matier.

Wandering around in the fog.

It's hard to trust a guy who doesn't drink coffee or alcohol.

Team work

The berry picking in Cerise Creek at this time of year is A+.

Making pancakes is a great way to pass time on a rainy day.

Be gone!