Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ski Touring is fun!

Since about mid November I've been out ski touring, mainly with my I-Pod, and 3 times with partners. It's so nice to be independent and not having to rely on partners all the time. Not only is ski touring a great work out, you also get rewarded with a great run after words-at least so far this year. The downside, same as in ice climbing, are the fairly long drives. Although Canmore lies in the middle of the mountains and is surrounded by 3000 meter high peaks, there is not much skiing to have right out of town. The closest decent destinations in early Winter are Tryst Lake in K-Country and Sunshine or Lake Louise, which is always close to an hour driving. The real good places like Rogers Pass or the Lodge are at least 3h away in good driving conditions, so times 2 makes 6 hours in the car. Coming from Europe I'm still not used to it and the last few years I also got more and more bad feelings about the carbon footprint I leave on our fragile planet. above yesterday's view from Tent Ridge over to Mt. Birdwood-below the beautiful and remote North Goodsir, seen from a ski tour above the BB Lodge.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Winter is in full swing

Well, it's been a while since my last post. Rock climbing took a sudden end beginning of October with a -25 cold snap for a week. After that it never really warmed up again to do anything enjoyable on the cliffs, so I went mainly working at the lodge and spend 4 days drilling a sick new 50 meter line at the Lookout. To the mid anchor at 25m she's about 5.12, and then who knows. I called the line "Supersize it" in relation to it's fabulous neighbor to the right, "Buffet Royale".
In November I had a few ice and mixed outings, but was always struggling for partners, and the conditions were not always that good (warm temps, avalanche hazard and not too many choices close by). For some strange reason I was in good shape and wanted to take advantage of it. I started the season like last year on Nemesis, this time with Simon. After we rapelled we quickly nailed Thriller to round up the day. Another casual day with Marc and Lila on the Chalice and the Blade and an exiting day with John on the Trophy Wall without much climbing, and that was it for the ice. On the Mixed side I got a couple days in at Haffner with J.D., with a quick ascent of Fire roasted (M10/+), which made me pretty happy. My last outing was with Jen and Lila to the unformed Oh le Tabernac. We climbed the bolted mixed start on the right called Mercy Buckets (picture above), which was actually a lot of fun and maybe M7. After being hosed for a few times by bailing partners I got sick of the game and decided to concentrate on some ski touring, since we had a pretty epic start of the winter.

left you can see us approaching the Killer Cave in wintery conditions

Sunday, September 13, 2009

look out for "The Lookout"

High above Canmore, a steep one-and-a-half-hours march from the ACC hut, there is a fairly new cliff in active development. It is called "The Lookout", which is after the Hide Away, the Coliseum and the Notch the latest addition to the "Ecco Canyon". More or less SE facing at around 2100m it gets hit by the sun from early morning until about 2-3 in the afternoon. Most of the established lines are excellent, and some of them are 45m long single endurance pitches and rank among the best lines in the valley. Possibilities for new routes in all grades seam shear endless. The cliff has been in the eyed and checked out from a bunch of Canmorean climbers, no wonder since it is visible from almost any coffee shop in town. There has been sporadic activities in the past 15 years or so, but nothing to make the steep, long hike without a trail worth your while. It is for the big effort in the new route development and trail building of Greg Toss, that this cliff has now turned into a real destination for climbers, especially in the 12 and up range.
The Ecco Canyon currently offers close to a 100 routes and is not even mentioned in any guide book, which also means that it is still seldom visited. Most people who currently climb up there are also the route developers and their friends. Greg Toss has been mainly active on the left or east facing cliffs, Simon Meis and Ross Suchy at the Coliseum, and Ian Perry with wife or Father at the Notch. Thanks for all your hard work!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

wet outside, wetter inside

Kimbi surprised me with a little get away from Canada and the family and sent me for almost 3 weeks back home to Austria, thanks again. I sure was exited when she told me and I had all this plans dream routes on my mind which I wanted to do with my old friends over there. Although I did not climb any of my planned routes due to fairly wet conditions and other wet, mostly self made reasons, I still had a good time over there. For instance, I was able to break a new alcohol record for myself, which is quite remarkable for the age of 40. I saw a lot of sunrises without sun, all of them on the way home from a bar or friends. There was not a single night where I went to bed before one, and in most cases I would not have been able to even spell the word sober anymore.
Toni, who had to drive 2 times to Munich airport at 5 in the morning to get me, is pictured on one of the rare sunny days, on a nice, 6 pitch route in the Lienzer Dolomites. The lower 2 pictures on the left here are taken on my last day over there, which was the accumulation of my 20 days in the darkness of unsoberness. I spare you and myself with the details, but Ines, Lisi and foremost Paul were the unfortunate ones to witness it and I'm sure they are happy to tell you.

Friday, May 29, 2009

amazing light

Another sunny day in the Bow Valley and probably beyond. Derek and myself took advantage of it and went for the first time to the Coliseum this year. There we got treated not only with great climbing in an intimidating surrounding, but also with some amazing light from mid day on. The cause of this was a forest fire on the far side of Spray Lakes, about 50km away from us behind a 3000 meter high mountain range. The smoke it caused dimmed the sharp light of the sun into late sunset colours for the whole afternoon. There were even pieces of ashes falling down the sky, and back at the car the windshield was covered in gray dust.
It was good to be back at the Coliseum after one and a half year of my absence there. I always wanted to go up there again, but it is amazing how hard it is to find climbers to go with you. The area is right above Canmore and you can reach it with a 2 min car drive and a good hour hike, which is actually shorter and less strenuous then going to Bataan. The Setting of the upper wall, aka "Saddle Up Area", is truly fantastic and unique for a sport climbing area. 45m long routes start out on an already airy scree ledge, and the scenery is sugarcoated with a 50m waterfall, which is fed by the melt water of a huge snow bowl below the summit of Grotto Mountain. Why is nobody ever up there?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

big move!

Today was another gorgeous day at Bataan. J.D., Todd, Zak and myself tried our skills on a new route left of Skylounge. Nobody knows the name so we called it Simons route, a real nice addition to the upper Bataan area and probably a classic for the grade. After a few meters you enter a juggy and fun overhanging section to a good rest, from there straight into the crux, a sick long move (check the pictures of Zak, and he is not the smallest guy in town) off a bad side crimp. After that a few long moves with initially bad feet to an easier section and a well deserved rest, before the technical crux at the last bolt. And that's all for sale at 13a, isn't this a great deal! Later that day I climbed the linkup from the bolt below the crux into Skylounge, I belive a better route then the original start to the Skylounge and a letter grade harder. Both routes a highly recommended.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

strange choices

Here we go, every few months I feel motivated enough to write something. Since I finished my Heliski season end of May the weather pretty much sucked here in the Bow Valley. Whenever it was good enough to go climbing, I went up to Bataan with Derek, who is working hard on his new guide book of the Bow Valley. Therefore we climbed lots of routes in the lower part of Bataan, and although I did most of those climbs in previous years, I got reminded again how much good quality climbing there is to have. Most of the climbs are long (20-30m) and in the mid elevens to mid twelves, with the majority in the high elevens and a handful of really nice tens. Most of the time we were alone or at most maybe 3 other parties, which we only saw on the way up or down. This makes you wonder, where are all the other climbers? I found out today, and actually last weekend too, when I took my kids to Grassi Lake. What a GONG show it is up there, there must have been well over 100 climbers up there, and about twice as many spectators and hikers passing through, and probably well over 50 dogs, most of them off leash (BTW I love dogs!). Almost all the climbs are dominated by greasy pockets, which present them selves with a moist inside (actually can't remember a time when they were really dry), and the setting is kind of ugly, with the exception of the areas close to the lake. So in short, why is everyone migrating to hell, instead of striving for paradise? Is it the lack of knowledge? The guides book certainly covers Bataan quite well and gives most routes 2 stars, and deservingly so. Is it the approach? Maybe, but even if you are really unfit, you make it in one hour to the first climbs, and maybe the next time you are a bit fitter. Most climbers are fit to begin with, they go to Grassi because of the short approach, but then they go for a run or a bike ride afterwards for cardio, go figure! If you live on the Cougar creek side of town or if you come from the Highway, it takes about 20-30 minutes to drive to Grassi, versus 1 minute to Bataan, by that time I am half way up the mountain already. Is it the grades? For a long time Bataan was considered as a hardcore area with no warm ups, which was partially true 15 years ago. Things have changed rapidly in the late 90s and early 00s, and it should not be news anymore that Bataan is actually THE 5.11 paradise in the Valley. 5.11 is generally a grade which most sport climbers should be able to manage at one point in their career, and it's also the grade I saw the most people climbing or hanging on at Grassi today.
Don't take me wrong, I kinda like the tranquility up there with no crowds, I'm just curious why it is that way. Oops, it's 9:30 right now and the sun is still hitting the upper wall of Bataan with a great orange shine, wish I could be up there right now!This is actually not a leader fall, in case you wonder! After all the bad stuff I just told you about Grassi, I should actually say something nice. There is a time for everything, Grassi is good if you only have a few hours for a burn, or if you have kids like me who like a few moves on rock, or as a good intro to the sport, since there are some really fun and easy routes in the 5.6 to 5.10 range.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

my favorite B+W from this ski winter

"When the helicopter is gone, along with the white noise of travel, expense and the complications of life, the only thing left is the naked black and white of alpine winter, where even the green of the trees seems to retreat into monochrome, as if colour itself were a waste of warmth. The guides track is the only remnant of humanity, a serpentine beacon leading the way to fun, friendship, challenge and adventure." (Topher Danahue-Bugaboo Dreams)

What makes these pictures special for me is the fact that they are all made during regular ski operation with me guiding a group and no special set ups. They are also done with my little G9, which proved to be a useful camera during guiding work.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Mixed up

The reason I'm not writing much lately is not that I would not have enough time, more so the lack of climbing is the issue here. Since the beginning of December I have only made it out twice, each time to Haffner Creek with J.D. Le Blanc for some labs on the mixed-slash-rock lines there. Both times were real good fun and a great work out. J.D. kindly sold me his old fruit boots from Garmont for a good deal, and they certainly add more to the fun factor compared to my old, heavy rig. Tomorrow I have to leave for another 2 week heli skiing stint, and then I truly hope I can get out in my next week off on something longer. This last week I had a chance to spend a bit more time with my family, which was desperately needed.