Friday, December 23, 2011

Another season begins...

And here is a video to prove it! Back at blogging again...look for regular updates.

Monday, August 29, 2011

I am alive...

And finally have some time and inspiration to write something down!

'Summer' as the time between June 21 and September 21 is commonly referred to, has been an enigmatic entity in my life this year. We usually think of Summer weather starting in the beginning of June consisting of shorts, swimming and big climbing days, but alas in coastal British Columbia, we accept the fact that it is often June-uary - cold and wet. And La Nina kept its icy, er soggy grip on us on the coast. So after getting home from Italy psyched and strong, the projects were lined up, and soaking wet.

No worries, a new bike entered my life, and to Benny (my dog's) delight I spent way more time spinning pedals then clipping biners. But June-uary had another laugh, in the form of 'the hand of god' as my friend Brad calls it. It is the phenomena of riding wet rooty trails on the coast and your bike just flies out from under you like the hand of god pulled the tablecloth with dinner all set...and dinner came crashing down to the floor. I was dinner, and one of my ribs and my intercostal muscles were the china. Benny sat on the trail watching me in pain with the wind knocked out of me wondering what I was up to. There were animals to chase and trails to run, could I get on with the show? I hobbled out the last 5km of my ride and ate some pain killers knowing all too well I had done some damage. Xrays, the doctor and the physio confirmed a broken rib and nothing too much worse. "Can I climb and bike?" asks the wounded exercise/endorphin addicted victim. 'Light exercise is fine, but let pain be your guide.' I guess I have a high pain tolerance, because two days later I was doing things like climbing Freeway (10 pitches, 11+) and working on my 13c severely overhanging project with good progress...with the pain of what felt like someone stabbing me in the abdomen being my guide. I quickly adapted the 1 day of biking, next day of climbing, with working on a new multi pitch project as my summer schedule. And alas July became Jul-ember, cold and wet, and I soon realized that my goal oriented climber mentality was taking to trying to ride new bike trails cleaner and faster more than failing again on my project.

And then it was August, and I had nothing to show for it climbing wise, but man was biking so much fun! My two month staycation of no work and just play in Squamish (with a broken rib) had evaporated and it was time to work again for pretty much the entire month of August, with a few days of frenzied, and I mean the tiger has been let out of its cage recreation. So of course, there are no good pictures of June and July, but the theme of my August has been stopping to smell the flowers. I have spent the last 3 weeks up at my backcountry ski lodge in the Valhallas, doing maintenance, glading, and best of all a bit of hiking guiding. Literally, stopping to smell the flowers, and wow, why have I not done this before? So let my photos be a guide of what I have been up to. Follow along...and in case you were wondering, I 1 hung my project before leaving to come out here, so it has burrowed its way into my brain gnawing at me to come and send it when I get home this week.

August, a time for fun in the sun, right?

Smelling frozen flowers, La Nina laughs again!

Don't worry summer showed up...

Ya, it really is like this here every day, skipping through wild flower meadows

Shannon Ridge line still holding lots of snow for August

Heather on top of Big sister with some big Valhalla views.

Jasmin and I then had 2 whole days off together for the month of August, so we decided the best idea was to cram as much as humanly possible into the 48 hours as we could. Saturday was my pick, the 35km 7 summits in Rossland, an ultra classic ridge crest mountain bike ride that is literally single track forever. It was that good. Sunday was more Jasmin's pick and a bit of mine too...we climbed an alpine rock route on the west face of Gimli, the showcase peak of the Valhalla Range. Then on Sunday night we basically fell asleep on the dinner table. But our Kootenay Klassic weekend was well worth it.

Buff singletrack and wildflowers...forever!

More 7 summits

It might have been 4,000' up, but it was also 6,500' down!!!!

Jas summitting on Gimli

A close up of the ice breaking up in Mulvey Basin below Gimli. Its the middle of August after all, time for the lake to thaw!

I love this shot, south face of Asgard on the left, Valhallas stretch to the north, this is where Jasmin grew up, lucky her!

After another week of hiking guiding Jasmin went to the coast to climb in the Tantalus range with her dad for his 60th birthday, how cool! I am still at the lodge, in major labor camp mode, alternating days of firewood and staining the lodge, staring at the wood letting my rage to play build, and finally exploding in my random day off of epic kootenay mountain biking. Last week I rode in Kaslo, a great 2 hour ride called the access trail, lots of single track and technical hill climbs. Then the other day I was riding some local stuff near New Denver, and was stalked by a cougar, but luckily my ballsy hound scared the cat off...I guess (thankfully) cats don't like dogs! And finally today I went for the local ball buster, a lap up the Idaho Peak. Idaho is quickly becoming famous for epic 5,000' car shuttle mountain bike laps, but me being the avid ski tourer and slightly anti mechanized travel type, decided to bike up the logging road to the summit. The cars driving by to hike from the summit ridge made me feel like I was at the front of the peloton on the tour de france, blown away that I would even consider powering my self up the 20km/5,000' uphill. In my head I conjured up bumper stickers like "I bike to shuttle drop offs." because in the end why do we have gears and pedals? But 2.5 hours later we (Benny and myself) made it. I had heard rumors of some epic ride down the north ridge so I decided to give it a try and followed the bike shuttlers tracks. Half old mining roads (eye watering fast) and half crazy good singletrack it was an epic ride. I snapped a few shots from the top. Enjoy, and get out there and have fun!!!!!

Yeah, the theme of the Kootenays in summer, epic vistas, epic wild flowers, epic biking, and epic use of the word epic.

Kilometer 19 of the climb, one more to go, summit in sight!!!!!

Views to the south of Kokanee glacier

Valhallas, with Gimli on the left side horizon.

Cool view across the mighty Slocan Lake to my neck of the Valhallas, Big Sister and Vingolf are visible to the trained eye. Very cool to see 2 summits I had been on in the previous week from here! New Denver is the town on the lake.

Hoping the trail on the ridge was the right one to follow! It was!

My partner in crime ends the day the only way we know how to around here, by jumping in a river (or a lake!)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Catching up: Italy

Well, it seems like my last post about April skiing in the coast range, roger' pass and Alaska disappeared into the matrix somewhere. And as winter is SOOOO far away on the calendar (but not in weather here on the coast!) I am going to move on to some posts about Italy!

This year Jas and I decided that our European travel itch would be scratched in northern Italy. Rumors from our ex-pat mountain guide friends that live in Chamonix told tale of great food, quiet crags, steep limestone with tufas and rest days on the beach. Did I mention the great food and tufas? Well, we pulled the pin and made plans to visit Castelbianco, Italy, a small town just inland from Albenga, located between Monaco and Finale Ligure. Rolling green hills, medieval villages, cherry trees, rivers, gelato, pizza, fresh herbs, the beach. This place has it all. And awesome crags with very few people. We were psyched. So we spent the next two weeks getting fit in this valley, mostly climbing at a few crags, and quickly tackling some harder projects after getting fit.

Jas had spent the previous month hitting the bouldering coop in Squamish and actually using the hangboard. Me? I just kept skiing 6 thousand foot days as I worked 33 days straight teaching and examining ski programs for the AMGA. So needless to say my arms were NOT fit. It felt pretty humbling to be flailing on 11+ for the first few days, when the memories of my last days on the rock in the fall were of firing a few 13s in a couple of tries. But by day 8 on the rock after 5 months of zero climbing and training I was back to sending 12+, so it felt good to be back in shape. Well, rather than chat too much, here are some photos to capture what life was like in the far eastern coastal corner of Italy. Did I mention huge blocks of Italian hard cheeses for just a few euro? And the gelato?


Castelbianco and the Terminal Crag...steep tufas!

Tolmachevo 7a, a brilliant route at Terminal.


Approach to Erboisteria crag.

The old town of Finale Ligure

On one of our 'rest days' to the beach in Finale, we decided to do a 7-8 pitch seaside traverse we had heard tale of. A few hundred meters of 5.5-5.10a climbing about 10m above the sea sounded like a good idea to us! More on the feet then the arms, so it qualified as a rest day climb, especially since I just wore approach shoes for it.

Rapping in to the sea

Yeah, life is pretty good!

Next post: Arco!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Super Tour of the season?

It had to come to an end...the best season of powder skiing I have ever had at Valhalla Mountain Touring. Something like 80 of 90 days of the calendar winter with measurable precip. WOW...that just says to me, non stop blower pow with no weak layers. I have never skied so much deep powder over 35 degrees in my life. So many new lines opened up at the lodge, and so many runs skied in the best conditions ever.

But it had to end, and now I have been home on the coast for a week, and am in the midst of teaching a Ski Mountaineering Guides Course for the American Mountain Guides Association in the Coast Range of BC. Of course, I had to squeeze in 1 ski tour on my only day off for the next month - take that with a grain of salt, as my 32 work days will all be skiing!

I tried to rally Jason Kruk and T-Tony Touch...Jason was in with out hesitation as he spent most of the winter in Patagonia suffering, but Tones couldn't ditch on work...again. Oh well. Jason hatched the plan, a link up of 3 stellar North Faces in the Duffy Lake zone just north of Pemberton. The Duffy is like the Roger's Pass of the coast range, only just getting REALLY discovered in the last few years. Road side, big glaciated vert easy access is the name of the game.

This Trifecta includes the North Face of Matier, which I had skied once before (and guided in summer too many times to count!), the north face of Slalok (#1 on my skiing hit list on the Duffy) and the North Face of Taylor into Heart Strings (which I didn't really know about). On the map the stats are pretty sweet, about 9,500' of total ascent, tons of glaciers, and maybe 12-15km of mountain travel. All in a loop from the car, so no shuttling hassles. We were concerned it might be a long day, and I had to get home not too late, so Jason knocked on my door at 5am for the 1.5 hour drive from Squamish. In hindsight, we made a big mistake in the morning, as we got to the quality Mt. Currie coffee company about a half hour before they opened, and didn't want to waste any time, so we opted for the gas stations finest blend and baking. Little did we know how fast we were going to cruise the day.

The tour plan...too good to be true?

I wasn't too worried about the fitness aspect...I have been averaging 6,000' of vertical a day out touring for 6 of 7 days a week for about 2-3 months now, so I guess you can say my baseline fitness was doing alright. Add to the that the fact that I had just had 3 days off, which I haven't had since Dec 12th. Energy ready to burn! Jason, I wasn't to sure about...but I always know he can dig REALLY deep. Two years before we did the 50km, 7,500' vert Garibaldi Neve traverse in 9.5 hours, so I knew he was good for it.

Jason in front of the Matier Icefall with Slalok behind. Cold, stable weather and snow means we can sneak into the hills in the danger zones.

So at 6:50am we were off, head phones on for us both, (me with some awesome XX remixes), stripped down to some light clothes, charging ahead in the early dawn light. We opted for the direct and committing approach up from Joffree Lakes just to the climbers right of the icefall, with the confidence of a low avalanche danger and cool temps with no solar effect just yet. As we inched higher and higher the fresh snow got a little deeper, with about 10-15cms of new from the day before laying untouched by the wind on all elevations and aspects. It was going to be a good day!

By 11:15 am or so, we were on the summit of Matier, taking it all in. We had beat a group staying in the near by Keith's Hut to the summit, and had about 11 heli assisted ski tourers dropped in our zone.

Working our way up to Matier

************WARNING!!!! ELITIST TIRADE!!!!!!!! **********************
I have no problem with heli skiing and heli assisted touring...IN NON-ROAD ACCESSIBLE LOCATIONS!!!! We were on the summit of Matier before noon, with out starting in the dark, 5,500' up from the car. Do you really need to kill our winters anymore than burning the gas to drive up the highway by getting a helicopter to the top of a peak that is accessible EASILY under your own power from the car? I don't think so, and to further put my nose up in the air, I think we did DOUBLE the downhill vertical for the day than the heli-assisted ski tourers did!

Jason works his way along the exposed summit ridge of Matier

Back to our story...we dropped in on Matier in knee deep blower pow...epic big sluffing turns on 48 degree terrain. With gravity on our side, we blitzed down the Matier glacier to the flanks of Slalok.

Can you say psyched?????!!!!


A quick 1500' climb got us to our next summit. I think it was about 1230pm. How was that possible? We were worried about getting this done before dark, and now we had 7000 grand in the bank, with 3,400' of blower pow at our ski tips! So, nothing to do but drop some more 45 degree pow! And for a LONG WAYS. Slalok is a skiers line, sustained and sweet for a long time. It's like an amazing heli ski line that you don't need a helicopter for!

Jason on the way up Slalok

Me engaging high gear off the summit of Slalok

Jason in the meat of the run down Slalok with the icefall in the background.

We stopped in the low elevation range of 5,000' or so right by Joffree Lake to take a second period break. With a 2,000'+ climb up Taylor to come, we decided to suck down the H2O and munch back the calories (I was fueled almost entirely by my mother in laws ridiculously good organic baked goods!). Feeling good, I just got in front and charged the trailbreaking at a 2,000' an hour pace that felt like I could do forever, and in a little over an hour, we were on the summit of Taylor. A beautiful skin across the broad craggy summit ridge had us looking down yet another sweet 45 degree north face. WOW, I didn't even know about this line before today, and it couldn't have been sweeter.

Jason in front of our run down Slalok, on the way up Taylor.

Having skied about 100 days this year, I let Jason go first on every run, as I almost always go first as the guide all season long. He was PSYCHED. But his legs started failing him a bit for non stop 40+ degree 1500' powder shots. So I teased him as any good friend would do about stopping in the middle of the run and we shouldered our skis for the 10 minute boot pack back to the ridge to drop into Heart Strings, another classic run, tucked into the cliffs and trees that would bring us back to our cars no sweat.

Jason looks for his line down the north face of Taylor

Dropping in on Heart Strings...another classic.

And at 3:48pm we were back at the car. To be honest, I felt like I could easily do another 3-4 grand of vertical...I was so invigorated from so much great skiing and feeling so fit from a long season in the hills; its great to feel that way, as those days are all too rare. I relished in the after glow of a safe and successful mission in the hills with a good friend, and we blitzed home down the highway to some quality tunes and a great dinner out with some awesome friends to celebrate my birthday (which was the next day!)

Thanks Jason for being a super psyched and motivated partner for big lines on the rock and the snow!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

March Madness

Well, March is almost over, and here is a video I made in the beginning of the month, but I have been WAY too busy skiing powder to remember to post this one on the blog.

3-4m snowpack right now, no persistent weak layers, cold fluff everywhere from summits to valleys.

Enjoy the video!

Friday, February 25, 2011

The fun just continues

4 new ski runs in the last 2 days as my buddy Tony is here helping me 'hut keep' during a self guided week. Here is a video of a new line we skied today we named 'Fireball' because at the bottom of the run Tony reached into his pack and pulled out a flask of the hot cinnamon whiskey. Now that is class, and that is how runs get named! Enjoy, I know I did!!!!!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

And it just keeps going...

Still blower, still deep, still skiing steep with more bravado then normal.

Here is a quick vid from this afternoon...face shots and sluff management!!!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

When it all comes together...

The snow pack, weather, time of year and people all aligned last week, and the result was maybe the best week of the last few years of ski touring here at Valhalla Mountain Touring.

I should have stopped to take more photos and pictures, but oh well, the skiing was just too good. Here is a quick taste of what we sampled.

Hope to ski with you here soon!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Young's Peak

Day 2 at Rogers Pass dawned clear again and even colder. -27c is not a friendly temperature for ski touring. The day before we did battle with the cold by skiing in the sun, and that was perfect. The problem is in the -20c range, that skins and ski wax don't really work that well. We left the car with the plan of going up the Asulkan Valley to take a peak at skiing the couloir Forever Young. Usually in Rogers Pass if the weather is good all of the big lines have a track or two in them, as it is home to some of the most accessible high quality ski touring in the world. However, it has really not stopped snowing for a month in BC, and these are the first few days of consecutive clear weather, and only a week or two ago was one of the largest avalanche cycles in a long time in BC. So for good reason people have been a little slower in getting to the big lines.

As we crawled our way up the deep Asulkan Valley, skinning uphill in down coats and face masks, we got to a view point of Forever Young, and instantly both Jasmin and myself knew today wasn't the day. Huge fracture lines were all over the basin, but the only piece of snow that hadn't slid yet was the one in the guts of Forever Young. After skiing a big line on Mt. Rogers the day before, I didn't feel the need to push it again today, even though plan B was still going to put us into some big terrain by going up and down the ultra classic 7 steps on Youngs Peak.

The couloir is dead center. Notice the 1.5 meter + fracture lines left of the chute and right of the bottom. Not today thanks!

I have tried 2 other times over the years to ski to the top of Young's Peak, but both times been thwarted, either by snow/bad vis or touchy avalanche danger. Jasmin on the other hand has been up there twice. So we pushed up and up and up until we reached the last steep step to gain the summit. Classicly, it is guarded by a 40 degree headwall, with some big runouts to the valley below. I mean 3000' of run out to the valley bottom. Fortunately the terrain does bench out below the headwall so you can convince yourself that you won't get flushed all the way out to the valley bottom.

Jas punches up the headwall

Jas felt the urge to put a track all the way to the summit, so I wasn't going to slow her down or get in her way. Fortunately for us, the summit headwall had an old avalanche crown, and then some more recent sluffs and debris, once again giving us the confidence to travel safely through the already slid terrain. Some steep skinning, some booting, then back to skins and we were pushing through to the summit with some more bluebird 360 views of the mightly Selkirks. I am truly convinced that there might not be anywhere in the world as good as this mountain range for ski touring, with its combo of snowpack and terrain. 6,000' lines in blower boot top powder from wild glaciated summits!!!

Last slope to the summit.

Jasmin contemplates the vastness of the Selkirks

Dropping from the summit...only 5400' to go

I think I see the highway...

1 more day of high pressure is in the forecast, but after almost 13,000' feet of skiing and 30km travelled in two days, we will see what we motivate for.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Days off...

With almost 4 meters of new snow in the last month, it was really nice to wake up to some cold and clear arctic high pressure up north in Canada. The snowpack has doubled in depth, tightened up, and the last storm finished off with a sweet icing of cold smoke. All of this has coincided with my first few 'days off' from life at Valhalla Mountain Touring. I know, tough life that I live, having to be up at a backcountry ski lodge full time. But its nice to ski some where different, drive a car, and watch TV in a hotel room!

With the good weather and free time Jasmin and I have decided to hit up Rogers Pass, and our timing is perfect! So day 1 we decided to try our hand at Mt Rogers, one of the bigger summits off the pass. The stats are simple. Put your skins on at the car and start climbing. Climb until its too steep to skin, and then throw your skis on your back. Boot it up to the unskiable summit with ice axe in hand. Look down the 3,000' rock walls off the summit, go back to your skis and slay cold smoke for a LONG ways back to the car. It's about 6,500' vertical feet in one climb up, with a 800' 45 degree headwall at the summit. I like those numbers.

But lets let the stellar photos from the day do the talking!


After 4,000' of up, we are finally getting to the glacier, with good views of the Roger's Headwall

Looking back at some skiers in front of Mt Tupper

Jasmin, and her hot hot pink ski pants leads the way up the 48 degree headwall

Nothing like a knife edge ridge to the summit. Rogers Pass elevation: 1300m. Summit of Rogers: 3200m. It's a long ways down to those valleys

Skiing down the headwall, glad it had slid before we got there, giving us the confidence to travel safely up the old path.

Post headwall powder shladdelling in the alpen-glow. Life is good!