Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Leaning Towers

Somewhere around mid May I got a last minute rare opportunity to visit a remote area in the southern Purcells, the Leaning Tower group. The area is part of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Provincial Park which was founded in 1974 to protect a huge area between Invermere, Kimberley and Kootenay Lake. Since it is a Provincial Park, there is no motorized access and it took us more or less 2 days with very heavy packs to establish base camp below the south face of Hall Peak, the highest mountain in the area.
This project was part of a Patagonia sponsored film/photo shoot with Steve House, Vince Anderson (athletes and models), Christian Pondella (photographer) and Bjarne Salen (camera). Big time helpers behind the scenes were Simon Meis and Brodie Smith who made it all happen.
We got blessed by great weather and stable snow conditions, which allowed us to get awesome footage and eventually accumulated in the possible first full ski descent of Hall Peak without the aid of a rope.
selfish me getting first tracks on Hall Peak
(Steve House Picture)
The biggest eye opener for me though were the endless opportunities for high quality granite rock climbing perspectives. Everywhere you look there are cracks, corners and other features that slice through the steep, mainly unclimbed walls. A perfect alternative to the already crowded Bugaboos 100km north, specially for climbers seeking out new lines.

Thanks to all the team members for their team effort which made this such a special and unforgettable trip for me. I sure hope to get a chance to return to this wonderful corner of BC in the near future.
mind blowing ski objectives, hard to choose what to tackle next
and then the rock, clean, featured and plentiful
northern lights from camp 
the silhouette of Sharks Finn and Hall Peak
Block Tower and Wall Tower to the right, the just beg to be climbed.
Unbelievable, the entire south side of Sharks Finn Tower is unclimbed, what a pity. The right hand , slightly higher  mountain is Hall Peak, which hosts a few moderate routes on the right side and we skied off the back side. 
Here are more high resolution pictures in case you want to visit the place in the future, it might help you with scoping out some new lines, will it be climbing or skiing.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The end of a great Winter

It's June 1st and I decided to put all my ski gear away, I don't think I will need them anymore this spring.
The majority of my work this Winter was spent guiding Heli Skiing in the Adamants, which is located in the northern Selkirk Range. 
It's been my second season up here and I really enjoy this area. 
The combination of having the best alpine skiing anywhere, plentiful tree skiing with small groups of 5 guests and a good crew of guides make this one of my favourite place so far in over twenty years of playing in this business. 
Here are a few images of what is was like up there,
and now let the Summer begin.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bow Peak "Gutentight Couloir"

The name "Gutentight" stems from this fun video of a good friend of ours who stayed in his beloved mountains forever. 
RIP Robson Gmoser
you were with us all day 
face shots in the middle part of "Gutentight"
A few days off work in the middle of March and continuous good stability in the Rockies allowed Andrew, Ben and myself to ski a couple nice lines together.
After warming up on the less committing Boom Couloir with Cassey tackling the first doggy style  ascent, we decided to head for the Ice Fields Parkway a few days later to step it up a notch and check out some road side attractions, this time around dog less. 
A good write up on the first outing
is to be found on Andrew Wexler's Blog

Sitting in the left hand back seat, Andrew's keen eyes for beautiful lines 
(btw. not just limited to mountains ) spotted this thing between the Grand Daddy and Funnel of Death on Bow Peak. Unable to make out if it actually connects due to the travelling speed of a way too fast Audi, many cliff bands and obscured skies, he took a mental note of it and without stopping we cruised northward.
But something changed inside Andrew's brain and his facial features transformed into a strange look that reminded me of a hungry animal sensing a scent while hunting for prey.
None of the other potential food source we spotted on our way suited Andrews high expectations though, so half an hour later we turned around and pulled into Mosquito Creek parking lot. Andrew picked up the scent again and sniffed his way up through the trees to go hunting for his prey...

And what a beauty she was, probably one of the most aesthetic lines I skied in a while.
Snowfall all day made for major spindrift, deep trail breaking and awesome skiing.
into the wild...
the 200m high walls left and right of the choke host some outstanding quartzite rock climb potential
exciting times through the lower choke
me hanging on my ice axe after long lasting spin drift
Wexler Picture
Ben amongst spin drifts in the connecting funnels of the middle part.
deep wallowing to the exit cornice
                         more pictures from the Gutenteight here

Another video I took last year of Robson Gmoser in Sorcerer lodge shows his famous laugh very well. Let's all give it an effort to laugh more in the future, it will make the world a better place.

Friday, February 27, 2015

you only know if you go

Although as humans we always like to know what's going on and have a distinct desire to predict the future, it is the unknown which we seek when going on our little adventures outside the comfort and temptation of our plentiful coffee shops and Elevation Places in town.
The great unknown in our case was, if the line on the west summit of Mt. Whymper we spotted last spring goes or not. Also, in order to catch up with some gossip that built up during this Winter I had to find a special goal for Wex and Josh to lure them in for the much needed boot backing. 
With below's picture I set the hook.
The question mark on the X shaped couloir right of the center of the picture was the hidden parts we did not see from this angle, and how big the cornices would be threatening the entire line.
The first part of the lower left leg of the X was pretty straight forward 
and delivered boot packing at it's finest. We made quick progress, 
even with our heli ski pampered legs.

At the intersection of the X things got a bit narrower and rock steps seemed to block the passage.
Doubt started to show up on our faces and uncertainty started to slowly creep into our initial hype.
After wallowing in deep facets close to the rocks I was able to make an exposed rock traverse out into the upper right arm of the X.
wexler picture
Above the rock step, a few nervous moments in more bottomless facets, until the snow got firmer and more reassuring. This last part of the couloir is very committing since one would be swept over a 30m high cliff if going for a ride for whatever reason.
 There is also a cornice looming above, in our case it was not very threatening thanks to the fairly lame Winter we've had so far.
Should you constantly look up to see if something falls down on you or simply ignore the beast?
Nowhere to run anyways.
We found a fairly easy exit out to the right and into the light of the summit ridge.
The last steps to the summit of a very tired but seemingly content Wex.
Finally, el Cumbre!
Me stoked out of my mind, planting the Austrian flag as a proof of reaching the top,
 and Josh trying to digest Kimbi's home made date squares which he forgot to chew.
wexler picture

Josh and Wex are typical friendly Canadians and therefore offered me to drop in first, and since I am Austrian I took up on the offer. The proper Canadian way would have been to offer the offer back, something like "very kind of you, but why don't YOU go ahead".
 Spending over 20 years in this beautiful country I slowly get the concept, but offers like this I simply can't refuse, screw the proper local customs and let selfishness take over the moment.
Wexler Picture
After a few turns I started a major sluff that ran full path, so I found an island of safety and waited for my friends to ski by and took some pictures. These are all taken above the "no fuck up or you die" zone above the aforementioned cliff band.

You should know that when Wexler shows up with AT gear, there will be some serious line to be skied. No trying to be a hero and freewheeling on this one...

Luckily everything went well and we were even able to keep our skies on from the 
summit to the base, thanks to an exposed short traverse on a shallow ramp back into the lower, 
less committing half.

Joshua in his element, steep and icy...just like Galena

This line was certainly one of the finer lines I was able to ski in the Rockies, simply due to the fact that it was an ad hoc decision to go there
that it was a big ? if she goes
that she actually did go
that it surprisingly skied quite well top to bottom
that I was able to catch up with some good gossip
that it was a great day with good friends 
And now back to the heli ski world, no more boot packing for at least 2 weeks...
omg, I'm gonna miss it!
wexler picture
A big thanks goes out to the young bucks who broke trail for the old man.
Here is a link to a short video Josh put together:

Saturday, February 21, 2015

what it takes to be a "classic'

Recently a guest asked me what it takes to call an ice climb a classic. I try to explain it below with a water fall and it's yours to figure out which one it is...
Although for many a ice climber a very casual day out, it has been an adventure for this young man who just had his first multi pitch experience on ice. Like for so many climbers before, a grand introduction to the world of multi pitch ice climbing.
 The local favourite, fairly easy accessible by bike or a long flat walk, is one of the best choices for the moderate grade. Especially when temperatures are warm and other ever greens like Cascade and Rogans Gully have been melted away by the never-ending waves of Pinnapples and Chinooks. 
This climb is a classic for a reason, and the reason is that it's always there. From the end of October until the beginning of May, it delivers even through the most intense warm spells. Also, the ice on the path holds up against any physical laws, I'm always amazed about the skating rink quality of the ice puddles after a day of plus 10.
The one physical law though you might encounter first hand is the one of free fall, 
9.8m per second per second
Off the bike and into the weapons, might as well get used to them on the last 5min on the outflow of the falls.
The falls provide 6-8pitches of climbing, separated by a couple of short walks in between, with the crux on the last one. Bolted anchors on nice stances speed up the process and provide rappel options for 60m single ropes. There is also the option to walk off and it is recommended to do so in times of high traffic as a curtesy to the following climbers.
This is one of the few water fall ice climbs in the Rockies that can safely provide options for multiple parties if one respects a few basics. 
The upper part of the climb should be avoided at times of high avalanche hazard, at least once a season a big greaser spills over the last crux pitch and covers the gully below in house high debris.
A pretty stroll back to the bikes, with the right timing you can catch the happy hour and a well deserved pint at the St. James Gate.
Those are some of the ingredients needed for a climb to be classic, at least in my opinion.