Friday, December 25, 2009

Holidaze at VMT

Lately we have been settling into life at the lodge for the winter, with the first groups at the lodge. Here are a bunch of photos from the last little bit, I will be making a video at some point here, so stay tuned.

Conditions are great, 135cm HS at the lodge, which is 40cm higher than this day last year. Lots of sun and high pressure right now, so some summits, and skiing in the low angle mid winter sun!

Coastal kids come to play at VMT...woo hoo!

Jas skis across Rugged

Lodge life: Salad, beer, thermos, radio, drill, chips, salsa, etc..

X-mas eve on top of Rugged Peak with Jas!

Skiing thru the burn

Benny getting his behind Jas

The nice

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Let the ski season begin!

Feeling cold? check
Legs burning? check
Lungs aching? check
Big smile on Benny's face (and mine!)? check
Up in the wilds of British Columbia with no one around for miles? check

It must be the start of ski season at Valhalla Mountain Touring. Jasmin and I came up and opened the lodge the other day, and now we are trying to transfer our strong climbing arms to our weak skiing legs! Oh, how the transition hurts!

Right now the snow is about 120-140cm deep with all the alder and brush covering up really nicely right now. but don't take my word for's some footage from today's quick get in shape tour. 3,000' vertical never hurt so bad/good.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Snow at Home, Warm sun in UT

The road trip continues, even as my inbox starts to flood with reports of epic early season powder back in British Columbia - for all of you VMT skiers, my guess is there is about a meter of snow at 2000m near the lodge right now, not bad for November! So while rainfall warnings and low snow levels continue at home in Squamish, sunny days and warm sand stone continue to be the norm in Southern Utah.

Since I last wrote, I spent a few days in Red Rock,NV escaping the cold spell, driving to Moab, UT through a blizzard, taking part in the AMGA Annual Meetings, climbing in Indian Creek, UT and then finally back to Zion, UT. Lots of driving in the desert SW in the last little while, but that is the price you pay for road tripping some times.

Moab was highlighted by good times with good friends before, during and after all day meetings. Sometimes it meant skipping meetings to go and climb down in Indian Creek! When the meetings were done we dropped down for a quick hit at the creek so that Jasmin could send a project from last winter Ruby's Cafe. She easily dispatched it after a few burns, so we hopped in the car to head back to Zion.

Jas was all set to climb with her gal pal Mandoline, allowing for what I call a reunification of the Fembots. These two ladies seem to crush the traditional rock scene back home in Squamish, sending 5.12 trad like it ain't no thing. Now they were going to apply them selves to a few fun days in Zion. Meanwhile my original partner bailed, and I turned to the world of Facebook to find a rope handler for a few days in Zion. Low and behold facebook delivered in the form Jason Kruk. I also had to make a climbing rope appear as well, as after a full season of use my trusty Petzl 9.4mm Fuse had finally kicked it. I can't even begin to count the amount of pitches this rope had put in since March, including new free routes in the alpine, and long sandstone free routes in Zion...if you want a tough handling lightweight rope, look no furter. Luckily Petzl is in UT and was able to connect me with a brand new 9.4 Fuse for the rest of my trip. You can read a review here if you like.

Jason is a (not that young anymore) crusher from Squamish, and he was fresh off a 7 day ascent of Golden Gate on El Cap with his partner in crime Will Stanhope. Those two have been getting into trouble in climbing destinations around the world for years now. Jason regalled me with tales from the captain, and it sounds like he managed to free all but 5 feet of the 41 pitches of Golden Gate. Will sent them all. Proud.

Now it was time to tackle some sandstone. Day 1 we decided to check out the Gentleman's Agreement right above Springdale. Rob Pizem freed this one in February, and graded the first 4 pitches 13b, 12c, 12a, 12a, but after Jas and I went up and checked out the pitches last month, they are more like 12d, 12a, 11c, 11b, so don't be intimidated and go try it! Well it was not in the cards for us that morning. Clear skies, and temps in the 70s meant roaster hot conditions for the pitch 1 tips crack. No go for us after 3 tries each, so we packed up early and headed down the hill for some cocktails in the sun.

The next day we decided to try Brian Mckray's new route Silverback which is just left of the classic Monkey Finger. Wow, what a route, and if you are up to the task of long, hard, sometimes wide, and almost always sandy climbing, then you should go for it! The route is quite 'modern' as in bolted anchors and plentiful protection bolts on the pitches. So much so in fact that you really only need 1.5 sets of gear for the route, which in the desert is pretty nice. Granted you need a double set of nuts and finger gear and one of each cam up to the mighty #6 camalot. I will post some pictures here, and get you psyched...but unfortunately we didn't get any shots of the last pitch, which is one of the best in the park. Splitter 12+ finger crack to a roof at the end. WILD. But be warned that the pitch before that is 5.12 OW - number 5 and 6 BD required!

Squeeze chimney p1 - mandatory entrance exam.

Wide, loose and sandy, p2, but wait it gets classic, don't worry!

p3. Classic 11+ Zion funk. Lots of bristlers, so super safe.

p4. gives you some loose 10+ face climbing with lots of bristlers as well.

And then gets into some classic flare climbing with this wild roof at the end.

p5. One of the best in the park, 120' of wild steep hands in this crazy flake feature. So good, and so high off the deck, gotta love it.

p6 is the bear of the route. Starts with tight hands in a flare and then finishes with 5.12- OW. Fun.

Jason gets psyched following the OW. So glad for the bristlers.

Monday, October 19, 2009

More Zion action...Tatooween and Plan B

The fun just doesn't stop for Colin and I...we are keeping the 'dream itinerary' alive with our last two days of climbing.

First up was the relatively new route, and probably seldom repeated Tatoween V 5.11. It lies in the massive south facing amphitheater of Mt. Kinesava on the edge of Zion. WOW. There are so many great lines (and new ones to do) that I really shouldn't tell you about them. In fact stop reading here, and don't bother to come to Zion. It is sandy and loose, the climbing is way over rated. Ha. Back to Tatoween.

So new guidebooks, like the one from for Zion, really get you psyched on new spots in an old area, and that is what struck us about this line. By my calculations it is probably about 1700' tall, and almost every pitch is 5.10 or harder, and the way we did pitches, they were all about 160'. Add the 2+ hour approach and the same for the descent, and you have your self a full fledged grade V desert wall that is all free. What more could you ask for?

We woke early and starting walking at first light. After a cool and sandy approach we arrived at the base just as the sun was hitting us. Highs in the 60s were forecasted which was just barely cool enough for climbing in full desert sun. We didn't stop moving the entire day and climbed pitch after pitch of 5.10 and 5.11. A few broken foot holds were a testament to the rarely climbed nature of the route and the full adventure component it involved. We were a long way away from help if some thing went wrong, so both of us tightened up our climbing a bit, slowed it down, and practiced what I call '4x4' climbing, meaning distributing your weight on all 4 appendages as much as you can incase anything does break. As an example, at some point high on the route, I was linking together 2 5.10+ pitches for another monster 175' pitch, when I foothold snapped, but luckily, or unluckily my fingers were locked into a perfect finger lock, and I pretty much scalped my left index finger. The dreaded flapper pulsed blood and throbbed in pain until I could get to the belay and tape it up tight. Now I am struggling with putting this sucker into cracks, but oh well, it's only flesh and will regrow eventually!

We summited at about 5:30pm, and had 10 rappels, and a two hour walk out. With sunset at 7pm, we knew we had some time of walking in the dark, but oh well, that is the price you pay for gong big in the short fall days. Overall, I highly recommend the prepared for long and sometimes scary pitches of 5.10+, some friable holds and lots of walking. Put your adventure cap on tight.

Mt Kinesava...home to Tatoween and many more classics to come!

Pitch 1: 5.11 fingers

Way up there on the route

Still high on the route.


Summit shang ri many people have ever been here? Maybe a dozen.


Walking in the dark.

Ouch, the dreaded flapper!

The day after, we woke up slow, but didn't want to take a rest day, so at the crack of noon we went into the canyon to check out a 5 pitch route called Plan B, 5.12. Yet another 5 star stellar crack climbing classic of Zion. Pitch after pitch of real deal pulling pretty much exhausted what we had left after Tatoween the day before. With a pitch breakdown of 5.11+, 10+ OW, 12 (3o foot roof!), 12- and 11, we were pretty much in rest day mode at the top. Now being pleasantly worked, overfed, and over caffeinated, the plans start to take place for the next cycle of climbing...stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


We just finished our first few days of climbing in Zion, and I must say, soooo inspired. So much rock, so little time. I compiled a vid of the first 2 routes Colin and I have done. First was Freezer Burn, an old Mugs and Wheels free route, that both of us slipped in the sand on so no send, and second was Sheer Lunacy, a 7 pitch 5.12 to the left of Moonlight. I was super psyched to onsight the route, so a great start to climbing in Zion. I will let the vid do the rest of the talking...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

And so the road trip begins...

Well fall usually means a few things for me. Work slows down (or stops). Temperatures drop. The truck gets packed. The southwest beckons. All of these things have fallen in to place with a few modifications. This year we have a camper and the dog is our new co-pilot.

This year the journey started with a stop in Smith Rocks to break up our drive to Utah. Now I must say that Smith Rocks climbing is my kryptonite. It totally defeats me, or at least I let it get to me way too much. I am not, and have never been a good crimper and techy face climber; give me a thuggy crag or steep endurance jug haul any day. When I get to Smith, my ego is crushed and I take my climbing down almost a full number grade. But you know what? It is refreshing to have climbing not be about chasing grades, and to be about the line...a lesson we learn a little latter on in this installment. When I at home in Squamish, I guess I get caught up in the numbers, as its your local crag and you have done so many of the lines that you might as well push yourself harder. Then you leave town and try and chase those grades...but put the brakes on, and get back to my traditional climbing routes, where climbing is about the line and the ever so cliched journey. But you know what? It is!

So I had fun trying to onsight classic Smith 5.12 after classic 5.12 and either falling once or dogging the shiznit out of them. For me I guess the line of the 2 days was onsighting the classic Sunshine Dihedral, which they call 11+ with scary gear, but I guess its all relative to me the crusty old trad climber, as it felt way easier and safer than some run out slab like Dreaming.

Beleive it or not after two days we were so cold, and had no skin left on our tips so we started driving for Utah...being chased through eastern Oregon by a blinding blizzard. That is what is supposed to happen on our way home in late November, NOT on the way south in early October! Oh well.

We rocked down to St. George to check out some of the classic limestone of the Wailing Wall and Cathedral Cave. This place has been raved about for a few years, and well its pretty good fun. I think I have been spoiled miserably by going to Kalymnos last spring, and my ideal desert location will always involve splitters and red sandstone, but we had a great time - I mean who wouldn't love this place, great rock, soft grades and plentiful bolts! We did a few of the classics in the cave and tried our best on the wailing wall, but by the next day, the north winds had kicked in and we couldn't even warm up with out freezing our digits off. At least my new super puffy Outdoor Research Virtuoso Down Coat was a welcome and necessary addition to the pack.

After freezing our butts off we ran down to the truck and heading down to St. George where we pumped out a few laps on the un-inspring but extremely fun Chuckwalla and Turtle Walls. 40 feet of super steep jug hauling with your shirt off, who could complain.

But of course the conversation between Jas and I went back to what inspires us to climb, and these sport routes in St. George were just not cutting it. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE sport climbing, all you have to do to believe me is go check out my scorecard! My first love, and true motivator is always the long traditional free routes of the world, like my last post about the Space Buttress. So we decided it was time to check some places out for the next part of our journey - next stop Zion and the seldom visited Kolob Canyon. We had to be in Salt Lake for this weekend's American Alpine Club Cragging Classic so we only had a day to check the place out. Our decision was to check out the sport climbs (I know, more sport climbs!) Namaste and Huecos Rancheros. UNBELIEVABLE. Kolob is amazing and we got to look at the line of 'Wind, Sand and Stars' a IV 5.12 free route that we are going to do next week for sure. But for now here are some shots from Kolob, that just don't do it justice. Go do these routes, if only for the 2 hour round trip walk in the South Fork Canyon in green meadows and tree stands at the base of 1500 foot sandstone walls. That is what inspires me to climb...

Next stop, cragging classic and then Zion!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

First snows...

Just a quick hit to celebrate the changing of the seasons, and that it was ushered in with new snow across BC. I was working in the Whistler Alpine region, and awoke to 5cm of new snow yesterday morning, and after talking to Dale up at the lodge, there was a fresh dusting there as well. Deep powder days are not far off now, and our season is almost fully booked!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Space Buttress (and beyond...)

So I finally had some time to head to the mountains for some climbing of my own. I love being a mountain guide, but it is always great to hit the hills with your amigos and have a little less responsibility on your shoulders. But then again, when you head to the mountains with your friends you tend to step up your game a bit.

For me, I knew where I wanted to go. For years now I have been staring at the improbable looking geometry of the Space Buttress of Mt. Gimli in the Valhalla Mountains. Whether it is from the north at my winter home at Valhalla Mountain Touring, from ascents of the super popular South Ridge of Mt. Gimli, or across the valley from Kokanee glacier park, this buttress has been calling its siren song to me for years.

This year a new guidebook came out for the West Kootenays, and that is always a good motivator for getting after it. The description in the book says that the Space Buttress on Mt. Gimli is one of the hardest technical alpine rock climbs in Canada. Now I don't know about that, especially with what some of the Canadian alpinist crankers have been sending, but it does provide for 1000 feet of slightly overhanging rock climbing, with a few points of aid waiting to be freed. I recruited Jeremy Blumel, the merry prankster, granite crankster for a go at this is the video of our trip.

We spent 1 day checking out the route to see if it would go free to the half way point, 1 day trying to send the first crux with out adding any bolts, and then went back up to add a variation and send to the summit. What a line...thanks Dave Lussier et al, for your pioneering efforts in this backwoods mecca of BC.

After a few days of getting scared in the 'pine, Jer and I shifted gears big time, and decided to hit the quartzite climbing mecca of the Back of the Lake at Lake Louise in Alberta. The most scenic, compact cragging I have done in a long time, it was super inspiring to climb their for a few days, and Jer and I set our sights on the two trad classics of the region, Scared Peaches (12a) and Where Heathens Rage (12c). So fun, here are a few shots of Jer going for the send on Heathens...Thanks for the shots Fiona!

Jer definitely NOT on kitty litter in the alpine

The classic Heathens Whipper

Team orange on the Space Buttress

Monday, August 10, 2009


I finally got some time off, and it coincided with a cool down in the weather in Squamish. In case you missed all of the whining from your friends in BC and the PNW, it was ridiculously, record breakingly, motivation destroying hot for along time here. Vancouver and Seattle both recorded there hottest temperatures EVER, yup, ever. It hit 104F in Seattle. We don't have AC on the coast here, just lots of lakes to swim in. So glad that is over with.

So less than 48 hours after the heat wave breaks, Jasmin and I miracuously have some shared time off, and we are packing puffy coats, yup insulated jackets (!) into our bullet packs to head up on the multi pitch classic University Wall in Squamish. It was so great to be wearing fleeces and long pants again in the first week of August with sticky temps on the granite. If you haven't heard of UWall it is one of the steepest and cleanest (at least for the first half) pieces of granite crack climbing in Squamish. Long, hard and reverred, this climb has it all, steep, overhanging thug fest wide climbing, and delicate and run out face technician pitches.

I had been on it a few times before over the years. My first time was with Steve "The Roadie" Seats back in 2001. I could not really climb 5.12- trad back then, but boy did I try. And Steve did too. He was a bit of a mentor for going for it on lead, and tried pretty hard with no fear of falling and its consequences. To this day I try and embody some of those traits while trying to send! We got schooled back then, pulled on lots of gear and I even had to do a hook move on my nut tool to get us off the last pitch which was missing a few fixed knifeblades making the free climbing possible!

This year I went back up in June with my buddy Jesse Huey who has a love-hate relationship with the climb (which many people do!). And alas neither of us sent, but I only hung on pitch 2 due to its early season wetness. I was pretty content with my performance, until Jasmin lit the fire under my ass to really send it with no falls. So we headed back up, and I am happy to report that I dispatched with it, pretty psyched. You can see my description on the link above. Here are a few shots of the day, enjoy!

Jas on P2 leaving the Shadow corner for the UWall free variation.

Me being content and mellow after sending the first 3 5.12- pitches

Jas following the funky p4.

Jas following the exciting p6 free variation, run out on the wafer thin flake on the right!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Wow, an update!

I know, it has been a long, long while, but that is the nature of the chaotic summer life I live. One week I am on Rainer, the next in Boulder, then Squamish, and who knows a helicopter flight to some alpine climbing. Not having a steady schedule can throw you for a loop sometimes, and blogging is one of the first things to be a casualty. Well, now I can update you and throw some pics and ideas for adventure your way...

I will catch you up with part one here, and the return to alpine guiding/climbing. One of my first trips this year was for Mountain Madness guiding the Kautz glacier route up Mt. Rainier. If you haven't climbed Rainier, it is an incredible mountain, that is quite a great achievement to climb and a perfect stepping stone for climbing the big glaciated mountains of the world. The Kautz Glacier route is a really fun climb, that starts with a few pitches of easy ice climbing to a nice steep glacier walk to the summit. On this trip we were met with heinous winter weather, and a perfect sunny summit day, followed by a visit from the Jet Stream, winds lashing us on our last night on the mountain. Overall, some hard work and a great climb, here are some shots:

Ahh, the first day of summer...and 6 inches of new snow at 9,200'!

Sunshine above the clouds on the way to High Camp on the Kautz Glacier Route.

After this trip I found some time to actually do some climbing in Squamish, and was able to get up a few routes, like the University Wall, which I only hung in one spot due to abnormal wetness, or my impatience to climb the route before it was dry! I spent a great deal of time climbing in the dihedrals on the Chief as well, avoiding the crowds and climbing the steep and impeccable granite of the sky crag ledge zone. If you are up to the task, the routes Men Holding Hands, Getting down on the Brown, and Brothers in Arms are all 5.12+ trad routes and are all AMAZING. Check it out on, which by the way, is an amazing resource for online route info. I even got a chance to do my favorite route in Squamish, with my favorite person in the world: Freeway with Jasmin! If you haven't done this route, GO DO IT NOW! So good, 8 pitches of impeccable granite, short cruxes, good gear, great positions. We honored the gentlepersons of leisure club with our 3pm start and were back down at the car at 7pm, having both cruised the route, which is a good fitness gauge to feel like you can waltz up 5.11 cracks.

Jas starts up Freeway at about 3:15pm

Happy climbers on Freeway

After this I was onboard for 2 weeks of alpine guiding and instruction with Kuan and Mike for Canada West Mountain School. The boys were here to learn the skills of mountain travel and I was going to try and show them how. We started off with a week in the Spearhead Range near Whistler, where we climbing summits like Blackcomb and Decker and learned stuff like crevasse rescue and snow anchors.

Finally last week, we flew into the Tantalus Range and the luxurious Jim Haberl Hut for some more peak bagging. With high pressure all week, we managed ascents of the SE Face of Dione, North Face of Serratus and the East Ridge of Alpha. All classic and amazing, it was a great way for these guys to end their trip out to BC!

The boys summit the E Ridge of Alpha

Finishing off the North Face of Serratus with Dione in the background

Mike cooks up some burgers a the hut. Alpine climbing is so hard...

On the way up Serratus

Well, summer is slowing down, and the next 2 weeks have a bit more alpine guiding on tap as well as the Squamish Mountain Fest. I am forcing my self (so hard, I know) to take off for about a month to climb for myself from late August through September...time to climb in BC before the fall gets here! Time flies when you are busy and climbing all the time!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Help Find our Missing Freinds!

Some great friends are out climbing in western China right now, and they are overdue, having missed plane flights. They are attempting some cutting edge alpine climbs, and are some of the greatest folks around. Stateside, a search and rescue mission is being organized with 2 friends enroute to China and a few more headed to go help out. Right now we just need everyone's positive thoughts for a good outcome and donations if you can afford it, to help with the rescue costs...

For more info, and to donate, check out:

Thanks for your time, and please feel free to forward this around to any one else you know!


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Kalymnian Vacation Continued

So lots of times my posts are about some things that are a bit more adventurous, but this place is hedonism at its finest. Pure fun, no stress (except which 5 star route to climb, what beach to swim at, and where to go out for dinner) and very low on the adventure scale. But that is okay, I will be home in Squamish in 2 weeks, and I can have plenty of adventure with mulit pitch trad routes on the chief and then summer alpine rock season will be in full swing. For now, I will continue to clip bolts, and take big safe whippers.

Here are a few more photos to keep you jealous or stoked, you choose.

However, we did come across one guy who has truly inspired me here. This place is very international, with climbers from every country in Europe and North America. A dozen languages are probably tossed around at the cliff every day. But one group of Spanish climbers has a member of their team who is pretty rad. You see he has one leg, the other is missing from the hip. He huffs it up to the cliffs every day on crutches, and then procedes to throw himself on routes up to mid 5.12. It is truly a unique style, and has to be seen to be appreciated. He climbs 'a muerte' which is espanol for 'to the death' a popular spanish climbing phrase to try as hard as you can. He truly tries until failure and takes some big whips, yelling 'puta puta puta!!!!' when he falls. You can look that one up for yourself.

The 1 legged Spainaird showing us how its done on an 11d.

Anyhow, some shots to keep you psyched...

Jasmin on our mode of transporton the rest days.

Checking out the ruins of an ancient castle on the island.

Sunset over the climbing sectors.

Our friend Clee, cruising a 12b Amphora at the Odyssey Sector