Sunday, January 25, 2009

Where's the Snow?

Out for a day mission to the Duffy with Ross Berg on Saturday. The snowpack had been getting nuked by a weeks worth of inversion, but we were committed to finding something, anything, to ski...

It was my first time driving by Whistler since I have been on the coast and I really couldn't help but laugh. Where was all the snow? The hill was looking very bare and I wasn't sure what was in store for us further north. I hadn't heard of anyone really skiing anything in the alpine recently. We pulled in to the Cerise Creek lot to clear skies and decided if the snow sucked, we should try and at least get on top of something. I had to be back in Vancouver that evening, working, for the Lil' Wayne concert. The north aspect of Mt. Vantage looked appealing due to its proximity and the fact that maybe we could find some sheltered snow that hadn't been affected by the sun.

Ross trying to decide what mountain to ski off
Skiing through the biggest surface hoar crystals I have ever seen, some were 10cm big!
Ross and a single crystal
Snow-wise, surface hoar has an unusual, albeit, delightful taste and texture
Cumbre! Ross trying to decide if we should ski the big line off the top.
We ended up picking a conservative line, found good snow, and had a great run back to our car. I dropped Ross off in Whistler and made it back to the big city in time for a 45 minute nap before the concert. What we need now is some snow!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

White Winter Hymnal

I found myself back in Canmore at the start of January for the ACMG ice training for the alpine guide program. Historically, I haven't done a ton of ice climbing, coastal winters are usually more conducive to skiing than climbing. This year I got VERY EXCITED to climb ice and haven't touched the sticks save for one furious morning of vertical with ski fiends Ross Berg and Andrew Wexler.

Rogan's Gully during the ice training
Olivier playing the 'client'...

Examiner Todd Craig showing us how it's done
The mandatory days on ice really got me motivated to get out and swing my tools on some hard Rockies classics. Luckily ice crushers Jesse Huey and Ian Welsted are perpetually stoked on this crazy sport and were game to indulge me. The silver smear of the Sea of Vapours suddenly appeared on the Trophy Wall high above Banff, calling out to be climbed. No one had ventured up there yet to climb it this season, it's always fun to try for the first ascent of the year.

Weaving around avalanche terrain on the approach to the Trophy Wall
Me starting up the first pitch
Ian following pitch one
You gain a couple thousand of vertical in the approach so when you step onto the ice it feels like you are on El Capitan - the exposure is intense. Here is Ian starting the second pitch.
The second pitch proved to be HARD, with Ian soul searching on the sharp end for two and a half hours (!) Here's Jesse not psyched on our freezing hanging belay...
The 'Sted doing battle on the most engaging ice I have ever followed... Rime ice, drytooling, and hooking on weird, pasted-on ice blobs...
On the crux pitch. After this pitch we could see that maybe 80 feet of hard mixed climbing would lead to cruiser WI5 to the top. Unfortunately, a late start, careful management of avalanche terrain, and the route's difficulties all contributed to slow progress. It was getting dark.
A bruised, but safe, team already psyched on round two!
I kept postponing my return to the coast, keen to give the route another go. It wasn't in the cards for me unfortunately, but I hope Ian and Jesse get up the thing! Before I left Jesse and I had some great days out together, and I am already itching to get back to the Rockies. I am glad not to have to drive anywhere for the time being, however...

M-ing at Bearspirit