Friday, December 24, 2010


Merry Christmas to all of you out there, I truly hope you have a joyful 2011 and play safe in our wonderful mountains.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

a few days in the Bugaboos

I just returned from a 4 day trip to the wintery Bugaboos. CMH hosted the annual Guides training session up at their luxurious lodge. Like every time I've been to those sessions I enjoyed beeing up there with so many fellow guides, catching up with everyone and at the same time learn a lot of new skills for my profession. The skiing was great and the fun level high, I'm looking forward to a new Winter season in the neighbouring Bobbie Burns.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ghostly ghost

The cold air is back! After fairly warm temperatures for the past 10 days we are back in the -20 range. My annual outing with Marc Piche brought us to the South Ghost, and for our first climb we choose "Malignant Mushroom". Looked like we were the first party to climb it this year, and the quality was so good that we decided to do a second lap on it in the warming sun.
After this we switched to the other, shady side of the valley and climbed "Wicked Wanda", which was also in nice shape. Of course a bit colder over there, but luckily no wind, which is rare for the Ghost.
We drove to the park boundary, but I would definitely recommend a heavy duty pick up truck for this.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sacre' Bleu

Today I got a chance to get out climbing with Raphael Slawinski and Steve Svenson from Seattle. We "seatteled" for Sacre' Bleu after it's been reported to be in challenging conditions. As it turned out, the climb was worthwhile the long walk, very different to the fat ice you usually encounter up there. Below Raph on the first pitch, climbing the thin ice during moderate snowfall and spindrift.Raph is at the spot where Steve and Barry turned around a few days earlier. He then took the left hand pillar onto a ice glaced run out slab. A total of 55m gets you to a bolted belay on the left.Steve Svenson leading into the virgin ice of the steep last pitch, another 55m to a very rusty bolt belay on top. Since I was the youngest in the party today, which rarely happens lately, I had the pleasure of being guided by two strong "oldies", thanks!
Raph is doing a last second check of the anchor as Steve leans back. I kinda like the look on his face.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Super hero ice on Bourgeau

Out for my first ice climb this Winter, probably the latest I've started the season in a decade. Well, at least it was worth the wait, as the climb is in perfect shape right now with one swing plastic ice top to bottom. The top pitch is as easy as it get's, only short steps of vertical, intercepted by little ledges. Very warm temps today with no overnight freeze made the ice a bit wet though, the picture on the top is taken on the approach, and you can already see wet streaks everywhere.
Views from top of the last pitch-the advantage of climbing alone is that you don't have to place any screws. The downside, you still got to drag a rope in order to get down.
The first time today that I noticed an ice pillar back in Healy Creek, seen right from the parking lot of Sunshine ski area. Is this "Faux Pas" or a new line, does anybody know???
By the way, Bourgeau right is not in, actually not even close. And the Icon of Sunshine road, the plentiful Bighorn Sheep, obviously enjoyed the warm weather too.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

desperation ski touring

Lately I've gone up a couple times to Norquay for some ski touring labs out of sheer desperation. There is just not enough snow around here in the rockies to go on a regular skitour without major damage to your equipment or yourself. Norquay works actually surprisingly well if you want to focus on the uphill and getting some fresh air in. You can start at the Juniper and gain 720m to the top of the American Chair, which is closed right now. Coming down is industrial at best, but so far I have not hit any rocks yet. Do it before 2 p.m., otherwise you are in the shade most of the way. A decent outing right above Banff, no people and great views. Watch out, I saw some fresh Grizzly bear tracks up there, something you would not expect at this time of the year.

It doesn't look like we're getting snow anytime soon, at least not here on the east side of the Rockies, so this might be something to keep the frustration level at a minimum.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Heli Crash on Ama Dablam

Another sad day for mountain rescue, this time in Nepal. This accident cought my attention, since I was at the same mountain on the same spot years ago (1997). Those days we could not even imagine that someone would attempt a rescue from this exposed mushroom ridge, and the equipment has not changed since then. A pilot and an engineer had to give their young lives for someone who was not even hurt or in any particular danger. That is the sad part of this story for me.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

arctic air

Since about a week western Canada is under the influence of cold arctic air with (hopefully) the peak temperatures today. At least the wind shifted from NE to SW, which is always a good sign for warmer air down the road. The slightly waning moon allows for some wicked morning shots once every 28 days. Due to some cloud coverage in the east there was no alpenglow on the peaks this morning, but the resulting softer light makes a nice substitute. The moon (or correctly said the earth rotation) moves actually faster than you would think, about 3 minutes for the distance of it's own diameter. This fact only comes apparent to the human eye when he is close to the horizon.In this cold weather I'm not inclined to go outside the house at all, unless I have to. My only activity lately is getting fire wood downstairs and clean up the toys from the kids.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

first ski tour

Yesterday, after a few brutal days of indoor sessions at the managers meetings in Banff, I finally got out to enjoy the wintery landscape we have right now here in the Bow Valley. Since there is not enough snow right now in the rockies to do a proper ski tour without hitting rocks, I went to Sunshine ski area and up the still closed Goats eye mountain. After escaping the minus 22 at the parking lot with a chilly northerly wind, I was pleasently surprised by warmer air up high with almost no wind. I even managed to have a long hang at the top without even putting a jacket on. Great to see the magic winter wonderland again.
As you can see, Bourgeau left is in great shape right now with no signs of previous activity. I was surprised that with all the desperate climbers out there looking for some smears of ice 3 hours up some wired drainage, that such an obvious classic has not been explored yet. The picture below shows the starting zones of the bowl above the climb. I think you are safe climbing it right now, but I would keep an eye on it if there is more snow or wind in the future. I don't trust the Nov. crust layer at all and with more load it might become a serious issue. Play safe and have fun and let's hope for more moderate temperatures in the near future.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Exactly 10 years ago, my parents, four friends and myself set out for a "good bye" ski tour close to my hometown Lienz in Austria. I was supposed to fly out the next morning for yet another half year of heli skiing in Canada. It was a splendit day with lots of powder and smiles on the way up in a tranquil winter land scape. Almost at the summit, we triggered a huge size 4 avalanche and we all went for the ride of our lives, which turned out to be over 1000m in elevation over rocky terrain for most of us. It was a miracle that all but one survived, and that's what I'm celebrating today. My father died with the age of 60, doing what he was so passionate about in his beloved mountains. The doctors said there was no pain.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Regarding my previous post, I had a request for more information on the location of the new routes, so I thought I might as well post them.

A-The flame turns blue proj. 37m
B-Dream Machine 5.11, 40m (60m rope works when lowering to mid anchor)
C-Wet Dream 5.11+, 20m or 42m into B
D-Halloween parade 5.10+, 17m
E-Zeitgeist 5.12+, 30m or 45m into F
F-The show must go on 5.13-, 45m (60m rope works to lower to Zeitgeist anchor)

As you can see, there is a lot more potential up there, and the cliff band continues. For motivated drillers, there is a fixed line up route B which gets you all the way to the scree ledge on top of the routes for more development. There is also a fixed line on the far left side of the picture, close to the obvious corner. This one is a few years old and left by Ian Perry I think, it looks very brittle and I would not trust it anymore.
The views from up there and the obvious white trees at the base of the routes. I think if you would bring a battery powered coffee grinder, you could probably make chalk out of it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Time to move on!

Well, there is not much going on for me right now, sorta transition from developing a new area and waiting for snow. The ice was slow to come this year but I bet with the recent cold temperatures there is some fun stuff to play around right now. I brought my drill down from "Bellavista" yesterday, someone told me it's bad to leave it out all winter, and I think I've done my fair share of swallowing dust this fall. My time off between work and family the last 3 weeks were pretty much occupied with drilling, cleaning, trail building and lots of walking. Since the new area is a 770m hike from the car and I've done it 12 times, I could have gone to Mt. Everest from sea level. The result of all of this are 6 beautiful routes, one will be really hard, one really easy, two in the 11 range and two in the high twelves or so. 80 bolts, 3 drill bits and 6 anchors with chains and biners, plus my Ipod were sacrificed. I hope it will pay off next year, as a little sanctuary when the Lookout gets crowded. Regarding my Ipod, I forgot it up there one evening, and when I showed up next morning it was gone. Since I knew exactly where I left it and there where no other human beings around, I have a feeling a pack rat took it into his "shiny item collection". I truly hope the rat has the same musical taste like me and he can enjoy some austrian hump ta tah songs until the batteries or the thief itself dies.
If anyone is into some ice or mixed climbing, please let me know. I have the next 9 days off and I'm looking forward for a new challenge again.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

the definition of alpine climbing

When I climbed my first routes in Canada such as the north face of Chinamans (sorry, Ha Ling now) or Yamnuska I called it alpine climbing. Cliffs like that in Europe were considered as alpine climbing, simply because it was happening in the alpine (above tree line more or less). Now here in Canada I've been told that this is not alpine climbing, maybe alpine rock climbing at best. Not that I want to argue with this, but nobody to this date was really able to tell me what ingredients are needed to call an outing alpine climbing. Although I heard comments like: there has to be ice somewhere on the route, like the picture above, or you have to suffer a cold bivy (or suffer more with spending a night in a snow cave with a chain smoker like me).If you look in the canadian alpine bible-Selected alpine climbs in the Rockies-there is a wide variety of climbs, a lot of them resemble what Chinamans or Yamnuska has to offer. What is the difference between Brewers Buttress on Castle versus Direttissima on Yam? Or a Gmoser Route on Louis or the East face of Mt. Bable, the list goes on and on. Anyways, if someone could help me out in describing alpine climbing to me in a few sentences, it would be much appreciated. Whoever comes up with the best description which makes the most sense, I will by as much beer as he/she can drink in one evening in a local pup of your choice.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

David Lama-response to Cerro Torre

This is already old news, but I thought I post it here as a bit of a defence of David Lamas actions on the Compressor route of Cerro Torre. I am also impressed with Davids blog, well worthwhile reading. This guy evolved from a pure gym climber, winning pretty much anything on plastic before he had the first signs of pubic hairs, to a great all rounder in the mountains. Don't underestimate the guy, I'm sure we will hear lots of him in the future.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

drilling and stuff

Last week I went up to the major cliff band, which is the continuation of the Lookout, to drill another route there. I started the new development before my first aid course with a 40m line of perfect stone. As we know since a few years, the potential up there is almost endless and so is the work. So since everyone else is out there searching for ice right now, I decided to have my workout closer to home and at least start this fantastic new area with a few lines, so we can hit it next spring. I hope more people get encouraged by this and join in with some hard labour. If you don't have a drill and want to help out, mine is hanging up there and I even charge the batteries for you. Since this area is separated by a good 10 min walk from the Lookout, I thought it deserves it's own name. "Bellavista", which is italian for beautiful view.
Right now I'm sitting at the lodge, struggling with Power Point in preparing a presentation for guides training on last winters helicopter accident. I would like to share the picture below with you, all I can say is the 3 passengers walked away with no scratch, which is quite unbelievable. There was definitely a bit of alcohol involved that evening.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

seasonal closure

Last week would have been a perfect week to play around. One could go rock climbing, ice climbing, alpine climbing, hiking, mountain biking and God knows what else. This is the time of the year what makes living in the Rockies so attractive, this is the reason why I chose to live here a long time ago. And what do I do? I spend the whole week in indoors at a "advanced wilderness first aid refresher". After the test, which I still doubt that I passed, I got the wildest stomach flu, which pinned me down for the last 24 hours. Although I enjoyed learning a lot of useful skills on the course again, I'm just not used of sitting from 8 to 8 in a class room anymore. As soon as I felt a bit better this afternoon I started packing away my rock climbing gear for the winter. If you can trust the forecast, this will be the end of a great climbing season for me. I've had the pleasure of climbing lots this year, sharing my excitement with a lot of wonderful people on tons of different cliffs, and full filling most of my little climbing goals I set myself in the spring. A big thanks to all who shared a rope with me this year, and sorry for all my smoke you had to inhale. You are the reason I still try to keep going. And now let's make the most of the upcoming, long Winter.
photo Derek Galloway

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What a great fall

I keep on telling myself that this is it, this is the last day of rock climbing this season, and then catch myself touching rock again. Although I was working the last couple of weeks up at the Bobbie Burns, I got out for Thanksgiving weekend and could not stay away from the Lookout. Since I have climbed every single route at the upper Lookout already, Greg T. was very kind in giving me one of his projects, although he could have easily climbed it himself. "Burn one down" is a very good 12+ to the first anchors, which accommodates a sit down no hands rest. But after this, the extension is one of the best routes of the wall (how often did I say that now?), and I was blessed to get the first ascent on this one. The rock quality and the moves would fit really well to the lower wall of Acephale, like the upper part of Nemo. I think the grade of the extension is no harder than 12d, so two 12+ stacked on top of each other. I'm sure it will become another classic up there again.
Simon and I had a great day on 3 brand new routes for us on Thanks giving Monday. First we bagged the first ascent of my new route left of Tetris, it's called "wasted on the way" and goes at 12-, slightly harder than it's right hand neighbor. Then we went downhill to finally visit the Echo Cave, where I was able to flash a partially wet 12c called "Morpheus". Juggy, overhanging climbing suits me and the route felt more like a 12b to me. For our last goal of the day we chose "Destination Unknown", which was really hard and awesome. Although only a few meters apart, the route has a completely different character than Destination, and since I'm not a good boulderer, it felt like a solid 12d. I would highly recommend this little subarea to anyone heading up to Atlantis wall, very unique climbing with unbelievable pockets for rockies standards. There is plenty of potential for new route development, so don't forget to pack your drill. Remember, those batteries don't get better sitting in your garage for a long period of time.
And then there is always the family, I know I have not been the best dad and husband lately, too much caught up in my own goals. I'll sure try to make up for this selfishness as soon the weather craps out for good ...does this sound like selfish again? But first I have to endure a 5 day first Aid refreshers indoors with the best weather forecast imaginable, oh would I love to go to the Ghost for a few days and do some of those grand multi pitch lines.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Kurt is gone

Kurt Albert, the "Albert Einstein" of free climbing, died today after a 18m fall on a minor "Klettersteig" in Germany during guiding work. With Kurt we lost one of the most important and influential climbers in history. In the late 60ties at the age of 17 he climbed already the hardest routes in the Alps, including the Walker Spur on the Jorasses, and with 18 the Eiger North Face, years before Messner did it. Besides all his live time achievements in the forefront of hard Alpinism over 30 years, he is probably best known for his invention of the Red point rules in 1975. you wonder why his nickname was Einstein
Kurt on "Fight Gravity", a 5.12 free solo in the mid eighties, when most people did not even know of the existence of hard routes like that.
Kurt was always involved in the evolution of climbing. He started with the age of 14 with hard Aid, then painted red points at the bottom of old established Aid routes as a sign that they have been free climbed. He was a top boulderer in the late 70ties, when the world boulder did not even exist in Europe. He made countless rock climbing trips around the world, climbed the first 12+ on the big dolomite faces in the eighties, made ground breaking first ascents all over the world, like Royal Flush on Fitz Roy, Raiders of Storm in the Paine and Eternal Flame on Trango, to just name a few.
When I heard the sad message from Scott's cell phone at the Lookout, I was just heading up for another try on the hardest sport climb so far for me in Canada. I told myself that this attempt I dedicate to Kurt's spirit, so I gave it all, like Kurt would have done, and surprisingly succeeded. Kurt, you where the man I was looking up to when I started climbing as a teenager in the mid eighties, and I thank you for that. The worlds climbing community lost one of it's best.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

rainbow without rain

I know it's getting old, those sunrise shots, but I just love this time of the year. It's not like summer where one has to get up at 4 in the morning to catch the magic light. Now you can crawl out of bed at 7:30, make yourself a coffee, take a few shots and get lucky with a rainbow framing it.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Done Deal

Shortly after this gorgeous sunrise we headed up to Yam again. Derek was offering me a belay on Yamabushi and I could not refuse. The weather was chinooky as you can see on the pictures. We had it all, heat, strong winds and a little rain. I still don't know why it went so well today, but maybe it was the pressure of being my first and last chance this year to red point the route. And so I did, leading every pitch first go, like Derek 4 days ago. A big thanks to Will and all his partners for putting up such an outstanding climb, I know it's a lot of work and hope that it will get climbed way more often in the future. The line deserves so much more traffic with the way it's set up as a multi pitch sport route, fully bolted. And also a big thanks to Derek for beeing my belay slave, I totally appreciate this.
Here are my suggestions for the grade, a little different than Will, but he also mentioned that he had a hard time with the grading after having spend so much time on the wall. P1/5.10+, P2/5.12+, P3/5.11+, P4/5.12-, P5/5.12-, P6/5.12, P7/5.12, P8/5.11+. Although the grading is not super hard, it is still demanding until 5 meters below the rim. Despite the overhanging nature of the route, the climbing is very varied and most of the cruxes are actually quite technical. We used 13 draws (some back cleaning), a 60m lead line and a 50m twin rope to haul the little bag and to rappel "Lord of the rings" afterwards. On P2 we left 3 hard to clip draws in place to make it easier for repeat attempts, please leave them there, it's for a good cause.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

a little weather hint

This early morning view of Mt. Lougheed never fails. When you see this cloud cap over the highest peak in the viewing range of Canmore, be sure to bring an extra layer and at least a wind jacket. Even if the forecast calls for sun all day, be sure she's gone by latest noon.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

50 days

Time runs by, even when the weather is bad. It's been 50 days since the last time Derek and I have been up on Yamabushi. Nevertheless, Derek managed to red point the rig, leading every single pitch. This was probably the second red point after Will Gadd did the first ascent in 2006. A very impressive effort on Derek's part, since he did not know the route very well and he had to clip all the draws on lead, where Will had it rigged top to bottom. Derek also had to deal with damp holds in the crux section of pitch 2, had to haul a bag almost every pitch and had to belay me following the route, where Will had someone jugging. Don't take me wrong, I don't want to downgrade Wills achievement, I think it was an astounding effort on Wills part. Not only he put multiple days in to actually establish one of the finest sport routes on Yamnuska, he also had the vision of freeing it in one single push very late that year with lot's of time pressure before the winter arrived. I've personally never been a big fan of rope bags on alpine rock routes, but I must say it came in handy today. The flap provided the only place where we could flake our two ropes and were able to change into rock shoes without soaking them.
After weeks of bad weather we had some wintery conditions to deal with. Lot's of snow on the approach and on the few ledges on the route. Like the last time, we opted to rappel the nearby "Lord of the Rings", which paid of big time and saved us from hiking down in the snow on the back side.
Above you can see Derek leading out of the morning mist into the roofs of pitch 2.
From the belay ledge after pitch 3 you climb 3 pitches in a row through the upper roofs. 12a/b/12b/12c and after that (picture below) a 35m vertical crimp and search fest which is hard to rate and to memorize, feels like another 12c. This second last pitch has probably some of the finest rock Yumnaska has to offer, and the exposure is unbeatable. It is mid afternoon by now and all the snow below on the approach slopes from this morning has melted of already.The view from the parking lot in the morning versus the evening, it's amazing how much a nice day of sun can do to the snow.
Now it's time for me to put in my first red point attempt, I'm looking forward to the challenge and hope I don't have to wait another 50 days for it. My time is running out soon, got to go back to work in October. If anyone is keen to go up there with me, please let me know, you will not regret it.