Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Freedom to Ski

Skiing on Remembrance Day from one of the world’s most beautiful, remote alpine huts really was a privilege that I do not take for granted. One quick look around and I know that those Canadian soldiers couldn’t have had a hard time finding inspiration fighting for this incredible freedom I now have.

Each year this week marks not only Remembrance Day, but another special day as well: the beginning of my ski season. We left our warm beds in Canmore early Saturday morning and began the adventure with a treacherous winter storm as we drove along the Kootenay Highway. With chains and 4X4’s, we drove through more than a foot of snow to the trailhead for Jumbo Pass. Five kilometers and a few beers later (our bags were a little heavy), we were at the hut watching the snow dump down, discussing plans for tomorrow’s ski day.

A quick plot reveals we have over a meter of powder on our doorstep, and 20 cm’s of fresh overnight storm snow. Too excited to enjoy my coffee, I put my skis on and shuffle the 15 m to the right of the hut and take my first turns of the season in delicious, untouched virgin snow.

Looking West from Jumbo Pass Hut at Eagle Spire.

The beauty of Jumbo Pass hut is that it is surrounded by great ski runs in every direction, and offers everything from gentle 25o treed slopes, to a cascading series of 35o bowls, to thrilling couloirs. As the snow kept falling and widening our options, we managed to cover pretty much all the terrain around the hut throughout our five-day stay. Ridiculously good early season skiing.

The last day rolls around and I feel like my ski legs are just starting to come back to life. The clouds open briefly, and I look across the valley wondering if this place will be the same next year. There is a strong push for the development of a ski resort on the Jumbo Glacier, which will significantly impact the quality of backcountry skiing and hiking in this area. I like looking around and seeing endless evergreen filled valleys and untouched white peaks, but if you come here next year, you might see a resort town and gondolas ferrying people to the top of Jumbo Mountain. On the bright side, this 11, 000er will be easy to check off on your list!

So as I leave Jumbo Pass Hut, I recognize the spirit of the soldier in me, and vow to stand up for the freedom of access and preservation of these wild, remote places we have here in Canada to enjoy.

Jumbo Pass Hut, November 11th, 2009. Long live ski season!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hind Hut!

Here are some photos of the hiking/scrambling/mountaineering into and around the R.C. Hind Hut I did this fall. More fall trip reports and photos to come very very soon, I promise!

Andy giving Kirstin a hand across an icy mountain stream on our way in to R.C. Hind Hut via Lake Assiniboine.

Lake Assiniboine. Route goes up the light colored scree and through the obvious break in the right cliff bands.

On the bone dry glacier, Mt. Assiniboine E face on the left.

No visibility and too much snow & ice to climb Assiniboine, we headed down Gmoser's highway to the Lodge for some entertainment.

Andy heading home in wintery conditions!

Friday, September 18, 2009

There's a time for play, and a time for work...

I'm in what feels like a giant lull in my outdoor pursuits, and a great high in my work. This is strange for me, and I really haven't felt this since I was doing my undergrad. To add to the real low in my postings of my adventures is that I broke my camera! I've put in an order for the Canon G10 but it won't be in for another couple weeks. Funny how attached you become to your camera sometimes... I really miss that little guy, the way it fit in my pocket...

Anyways, this weekend Ian's parents are coming to visit so hopefully we will get a bit of hiking in. Booked a table for a nice dinner at the Banffshire Club Saturday night, and I am looking forward to getting dressed up!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Summer Madness!

Me, Dan & Carsten atop Castle Mountain.

Big changes in my life since my last post...

I moved down to Canmore! There were so many reasons why Canmore was right for me. First, I wake up, and I see mountains. Second, I wake up, and I smell mountain air. Third, I wake up, and the climbing and skiing is right outside my door. Ya know what I'm sayin?

So here I am, well into the summer with fall approaching faster with minutes subtracted from each sunset. Hmm so let's see... where did I last leave the story?

Right. So, I signed up to be hut custodian at the ACC's Castle Mountain Hut for 5 days in early July. So off I went to do some climbing and take care of the coolest, smallest hut you've ever seen. Thursday night we packed up, and made it down to Canmore in time for a quality night at Zara's! Man is that place steamy on a summer night. Ladies, if you are single- you need to go here. Up at Castle we climbed Brewer's Buttress, Lookout Buttress, and the Layback route. The climbing was super interesting, and had a good alpine feel.
Ces't moi leading the top-out pitch on Brewer's.

Did some jet setting down to Santa Fe & Albuquerque, New Mexico for an academic conference where I presented some early findings from my research. Took off on the last day of the conference to do some hiking in the Sandia Mountains just outside of Albuquerque. Super cool to step off the city bus and onto the trail.
Embudito Trail in the Sandia Mountains, NM.

After the conference I met up with my family in Canmore for a week of hiking. We chilled in Cmore for 2 days, and me and my sis even got out climbing one day. Then we headed up to Sunshine for a jaunt on the Bow Valley Highline Trail. Saw some grizzlies and moosetlets up close, and did a bunch of cool side trips from Egypt Lake and Shadow Lake Lodge where we stayed for another few days. After the hike we went down to the Southern tip of Kootaney National Park to Cross River Cabins for some serious R&R baby. Unexpectedly met some very spiritual people there that were truly in tune with it all.

Me, Mom, Dad, Julie & Ryan in the Healy Pass Meadows.

On the way outta there I met up with Dan for some climbing at Back of the Lake. The next day Ian & Carsten (who were fresh off of their ACC/TNF Leadership Course up in the Neptunes) met up with us to climb Grillmair's Chimney's, which was actually my first route on Yam!

After all this fun in August I had to spend a painfully long time in Edmonton. Thankfully when I left this time, I left forevaaaa! Well, not really... I still have to go back to the Uni to teach on Wednesdays, but I can live with that. Canmore has been good to me, I went out climbing on Monday and did that ever feel good to start the "work week" with a nice climb (Ballista on Tunnel). The good news is that the mountains remind me how cool my research is, and I’ve actually rekindled some of that love I have for my work. Noice!

Dan climbing at Grassi Lakes, Canmore.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bye-bye Skiing, Hello Climbing

Spring has been filled with the last few glorious days of skiing, as well as the first glorious days of the climbing season. Skiing and climbing in the same season- what a luxury! I could definitely get used to that sort of mixture in my daily life.

To finish off the ski season, Ian & I drove down to Canmore and stayed at the ACC clubhouse- a highly recommended, super cheap accommodation for anyone who loves mountain culture. Our first day there it was Ian's interview day at Sunshine Village for a spot on the prestigious Ski Patrol. So while he was in his interview, I skied by myself all day! Apparently this sort of thing is useful for improving your technique. The place was empty- I only managed to get on a chair with 3 other people that day!

The next couple days we spent with Dan up at Bow Hut. We skied up Mt. Collie (3,143m) on a gorgeous spring day. Unfortunately there was a humungous cornice on the summit, so we made it to within about 100m of the summit.

Dan looking up at Collie Shoulder. The summit is just on the left outside the photo.
Mt. Ayesha's famous wind-scoop.
Mt. Gordon.
Me, smiling and ready for the final descent back to the hut.

Okay, so here's where the climbing season begins! And as you can tell from this photo... maybe we were a little too excited to get out climbing!
Carsten cleaning a route at Barrier Mountatin, K-Country, in a snowstorm.

A few weeks later, Ian & I climbed Mother's Day Buttress. This photo is from pitch 6, with Lake Minewanka in the background.

Since Ian is working & living at COE (Custom Outdoor Experience) for the summer, we have been climbing in Nordegg quite a bit. Carsten came up from Canmore for a few days and we climbed Mt. Abraham via the Shoulder Route (5.8 IV).

Above is the last couple pitches before the long scree walk to the summit.
Ian & Carsten taking a look at the the route, just after we got caught in a pretty exciting thunder storm. Thats Lake Abraham behind them.
The happy summit party picture :)
On the descent, there was a beautiful rainbow to add to the scenery.
Carsten on the descent of Mt. Abraham.

My next little adventure was with the Alpine Club to climb Ha-Ling's NE face in Canmore, AB.
Ha-Ling's famous face, before the sun had touched it that day.
After this route, I became obsessed with dihedrals! OMG this pitch was wonderful. All I wanted to do was climb dihedrals.
The happy summit party picture! Susan, Luc & Kyler doing the happy dance!

I couldn't quite bring myself to go back to Edmonton right away, so I went to stay with Ian for a few more days in Nordegg. I tagged along on a crevasse rescue course that was going on, and actually it worked out really well since I hadn't practiced a rescue since September!

Mike trying to find a crevasse to fall into on the Boundary Glacier.
Ausi & team ascending the Boundary-A2 Col.
Descending the Athabasca Glacier after coming over the Boundary-A2 Col.

Summer is definitely in full swing now, and so I went out to Jasper for 8 days for a climbing leadership course put on by Rescue Dynamics & The Alpine Club.

The day before the course started, Carsten, Dan, Emily, Ian & I went to clip some bolts at Lost Boys.
Day 1 of the course we went over anchor building & gear placements. This is a 4-point equalette anchor- the strongest, most secure anchor you can build. You can also build a 2 or 3 point equalette if you have bolts/pitons, or 3 solid pieces of pro. Use a 5 or 6 meter prussik with clove hitches on the pieces of pro, and over-hand limiting knots below these.

The whole gang at a rappel station on Goats & The Machine in Hidden Valley. We did four 30 meter rappels, 5 people in 1.25 hours. Efficiency is key!
Rocky Mountain Sheep on the approach to Pedrix.
Ernst giving Dan a hand belay on one of the short-rope sections.
Summit carin of Roche a Pedix.
Hidden Valley and all it's glory, with Roche Miette towering in the background.
Dan belaying Ernst on the final pitch of the Layback Route in Ogre Canyon.
Day 7 and we're back at Hidden Valley. Dan cranking the roof on the 2nd pitch of Tick Paralysis.
Cyril rapping down beside us, putting in some new rap anchors.
Up on top of Cyril's Slab Emporium, with Roche Miette in front of me.
Roche Miette brewing up a storm.

That's it for now. This week Ian, Dan, Carsten & I are going up to Castle for a few days to climb, so stay tuned for those picture and more (New Mexico, Banff Highline Trail, Wiwaxy Peak)! Also, please let me know what you think of my pictures! I am really trying to improve my photography skills, so any help I can get I always appreciate it. Climb on baby!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sunshine - Mt. Shark Ski Traverse

Easter weekend entailed a whole lotta skiin' baby! The recipe for the trip was perfect, with our two good friends Emily & Dan, warm spring temperatures, and long sunny days. There were Easter festivities, including how my mom puts it we "Ate the Easter Bunny". The trip started off with blue skies and warm 3 degree temperatures as Emily & I skinned up the cat track at Sunshine ski resort. We met up with the rest of the group, Mike & Alicja who also skinned up, and Ian & Dan, who took the gondola up (lazy boys- at least they took our packs!). Sunshine meadows was everything I had heard it was and more.

Here is Em & I after skinning up.  We're ready for some rock and roll!
Choosing the best route from Sunshine Meadows to Citadel Pass.  We went along the right tree line.
Em took this photo below, Ian & I getting a closer look at Citadel Pass.
Skiing is sort of like heaven.
Psychedelic Dan- almost at Citadel Pass.  Getting late in the afternoon, and we still have a nice big 600m cooked south facing slope to descend.  Yay!  My camera battery died after this, so the following pictures were taken on Emily's camera.  Thanks Em!
After arriving at Police Meadows Cabin at 10 pm the night before, we headed out a little tired the next morning, off to Naisette Huts today! 
Valley of the Rocks was awesome- insanely interesting terrain.  Once you get out, you get lovely views of Mt. Assiniboine and Og Lake. 
Almost at Naisett Huts, just after Og Lake. 
Rockin' out. 
I am ready to go skiing!  A day of touring around Naisett Huts before skiing out the next day.
Back at the Naisett Huts after a great ski day. Now for some afternoon coffee!
Another spectacular trip with great friends.  Can't wait for the next.