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 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 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 06, 2013

Climbing Takakkaw Falls Route, Little Yoho, and Climbing Back

Ferdl Taxbock on the NE Ridge of Ha Ling in June 2013. This was the first and only time I met him. He was guiding a friend up the route while Aaron B was guiding me up the route. When he saw the IFMGA sticker on my helmet, he asked where I got it and I told him that they were pretty cheap on EBAY. Two months later, Ferdl took a big lead fall in the Bugaboos and did not survive. RIP.

Here's a photo of Arrak from NYC climbing the NE Ridge of Ha Ling 2 months later. By this point, I'd healed enough to guide some moderate outings. This is one of my favorite local routes:  50 minute approach, 10 excellent pitches, and a 1 hour descent. Some people might think it gets tedious repeating the same route numerous times, but I appreciate the familiarity and intimacy that comes with it.

It's been almost 7 months since I hit the ground and broke the bejeezus out of my pelvis. When I think of where I was back in March, it feels surreal to be guiding and climbing again in the mountains. Things are not perfect and the body is still healing (and probably will continue to heal for at least another year), but I feel pretty good all things considered. I still haven't gotten back in to flying but I'm looking forward to that day. 

Ironically, I'm climbing more these days than last year at this time. When I got in to flying, I became obsessed - manic even (imagine that) - and spent every spare minute trying to get in to the air (like when you start climbing and everything else becomes secondary). It got to the point where if I didn't or couldn't fly, it was a bad day. But working in Europe was great for this as I would often drag my wing up the telepherique, stash it in the rocks, and fly back to Chamonix at the end of the guiding day. On really good days, I would find myself guiding a peak with a wing in my pack and a surfeit of other guides around to take the the clients down. I would then lay the wing out on or near a summit, and fly back to camp or the valley. This happened on the Gran Paradiso in Italy and on Russia's Mt. Elbrus, and were some of the strongest experiences I've had in the mountains. Between June and November 2012, I logged over 200 flights and other than work, there wasn't much else going on.  But lately, I've fallen back in with climbing and am enjoying the movement and the effort in a whole new way. It's sad to say, but in many ways, it's not until you lose something (or lose the ability to do something) - that you fully appreciate the significance of what you had. Here's a great blog about someone trying to make it back after a big wreck:  Pretty inspiring that she says she is now climbing stronger then ever. 

Looking over at the Vice President and the President above the Little Yoho Valley.

Shaun K belays clients up the final ice step on Mt Mcarthur.

Jim F from Colorado on the Takakkaw Falls Route. The climb is mostly bolted and you can get away without anything more than 8 quickdraws. That said, I did place a 0.5 and 0.75 on the 1st corner pitch after the traversing.

Climbing up to the cave.

Jim F entering the cave.

The cave is about 80 meters long and gets pretty tight. It reminded me of being inside an MRI Machine and I had to retreat almost immediately due to claustrophobia. After a few good breaths, I was able to go back in the cave and finish the crawl.

Jim F at the base of the final pitch after the cave.

Not a bad place to spend the day.

August 19, 2013

Climbing The East Ridge of Edith Cavell

Nearing the summit of Mt. Edith Cavell via the East Ridge. Sara H photo.

On Aug 11, Sara H and I drove up to Jasper through heavy rain, with hopes of climbing the East Ridge of Edith Cavell. Sara had tried the route a few times previously, but had been shut down by bad weather, road closures or massive chunks of falling glacier. So it seemed about right that this attempt would also meet an early demise. But when we left the car at 4:30 the next morning, the only things in the sky were stars and streaks of light from the Perseid Meteor Shower. Still, thunder showers were expected to roll in around noon so we were optimistic that we wouldn't have to climb the entire mountain. But if there's one thing that seems consistent in the grand scheme of the universe, it's the unwritten law that states something about things happening when you least expect them to.

A fitting start to the day. I opted to do the climb in approach shoes because my boots were aggravating my ankles. This worked pretty well and saved my feet on the long walk out.

Nice weather on the lower half of the ridge.

Cool light and clouds to the east. Sara H Photo.

Around 8 am, we took a break on the flat ridge splitting the lower and upper halves of the peak. The weather was threatening so we decided to wait for a bit and see what would happen. Eventually, the clouds split, the sun came out and we continued up. Sara H Photo.

Standing below the upper ridge. This part is steeper than the lower half of the route but doesn't get any harder than 5.3. And as many people have said, the route might have the best quality rock of any 11,000 ft+ mountain in the Canadian Rockies.

We brought crampons and light axes but could have gotten away without either. Sara H Photo.

Great stone. Sara H Photo.

Having a time above the North Face.

Walking the summit ridge. Since we carried the stuff up,we decided to put the ice axes and crampons to use.

Using Sara as a crutch to stand up straight.

For better or worse, we opted to descend the long West Ridge. For anybody taking this option, it is really beneficial to head down to the Sorrow - Edith Cavell Col proper before bashing down the scree covered bowl. And don't stray too far lookers right in the photo or you'll get nice and cliffed out. It's worth taking the time to make sure you are on a fairly well traveled path the whole way down.

The East Ridge skyline and the North Face from the road. 

In the end, the climb took 12.5 hours r/t. We brought a 60 meter, 8mm rope and used it a few times on the upper ridge. Three Camalots from 0.5 - 1 seemed fine along with 4 - 5 draws.