Wednesday, July 28, 2010

going light in the Bugaboos

11 years after my first private visit to the Bugs I finally made it back again to this amazing granite spires. The goal was to climb "Sendero Norte" on the 500m east face of Snowpatch Spire as free as possible in one day car to car. With Topher Danahue from Colorado I had a strong and motivated partner and the weather was in our favour.
After leaving the parking area at 3:45 we got our first view of the full east face of Snowpatch Spire at the toe of Snowpatch Glacier, where we filled our water in the last stream.
Magic light on the final approach below the impressive East Face
Since we where both in less than disireable physical shape, we tried to go as light as possible. 1x60m 10mm single rope, 1x60m 8mm haul line, 6 draws and 4 runners, 3 lockers, 2 ATC, Camelot 4, 3, and Mini Cams single, everything in between double, set of rocks 1-8, light rain jacket each, 2 liters of water and lots of bars, 2 head lambs and 2 helmets, well needed toilet paper and sunscreen of course.
Topher, the crack specialist, made an impressive effort to on sight pitch 2, which is certainly the crux. He went for a good 10m whipper after slipping out of the moist crack 2 thirds into it and then aided the rest. This was fortunately the last time we had to refer to aid, except one bolt on the upper crux roof a few pitches later.
Below is the good looking 3rd pitch, a hard 11+, which Topher was able to on sight.
I was lucky to get to lead the awesome split pillar of the route, a 55m corner which is probably one of the better granite pitches in the 5.10 range in Canada.
Topher following the upper part of this amazing feature. Although the last 15m were wet, it was still quite climbable due to the face holds on the right side of the corner.Perfect clean granite was the theme of the first 8 pitches of the climb.

The short 5.11 pitch below the roof was tricky and wet going to the anchors. Overall we found the rating quite stiff, on the other hand we probably did not have the perfect conditions due to wet or moist cracks and heat.

I got to lead the second crux pitch through the roof at mid height. Everything went well on this entirely bolted pitch, until the boulder problem past the roof. I kept slipping off the micro crimps on the sun baked right side of the corner and had to use one point of aid to get through this spicy section.
Below Topher works his way up the following pitch, a perfect hand crack which gains the lower angled upper part of the route.
We left everything on the top of this pitch and I led a long 70m pitch (63m according to the topo), which was a real challenge for me. A very thin corner with micro cams and mini stoppers, only rated 11-, but for me as a sport climber it felt more like 5.13. We did not double up on the small sizes and I had to pay the price for it with some run outs. I also chose the wrong feature in the upper part of the pitch and we had to make a tension/rappel traverse back to the line, which cost us 20m and a stopper. Now it was Topher's turn to climb the short 15m pitch called the "changing corners". Although he tried for half an hour to figure out which way to go, he finally gave up and came back down to the belay. It was not an easy decision for him to give up so close to the top with lot's of daylight left, and I was not motivated enough to give it a go either. Burning toes and heels plus some darker clouds with distant thunder helped us with the decision to bail.
For me it was still a splendid day out in the high country with good company and as a non crack climber a big challenge. And what the heck, we even made it down to Bugaboo lodge for dinner, thanks again to the awesome crew in the CMH Bugaboo lodge for being such great hosts.
I would also like to thank Jon Walsh and Chris B. for their cleaning and bolting efforts and their vision for this grant free line. And last but not least, thanks to Topher who pushed me to step out of my cozy cragging comfort zone to join him for this adventurous outing.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Alpen glow at the Notch

Yesterday Derek, Tak, Ryan Creary and myself hiked up to the Notch in the afternoon heat. The goal was to climb and also to wait for the perfect evening light for shooting. Ryan and Derek took care of the latter and I got to climb lots. At the very end I got a chance to take this (unaltered) shots, just to give you an idea about the surreal light up there.This swing by the way is not posed, it's mandatory for "Fire in the Sky" 12b

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cerro Torre controversy

There is something I have to get of my chest right now. For those who followed the recent controversy about the Red Bull film project on Cerro Torre with David Lama, I would like to bring some of my thoughts forward. First off, in most articles and responses there are again a lot of bad words used about the first ascent of the compressor route by Cesare Maestri. Although everybody is entitled to his own opinion, I find it really sad that there are so many people out there who have never even been in Patagonia commenting bad on Maestri and his route. I have been there, I was fortunate to climb the route in 1992, and I climbed a lot of routes Maestri put up in the Dolomites and the ones he did the first free solo ascents. Maestri was one of the leading climbers in the 50ties and 60ties in Europe and was mostly known for his bolt free solos of big limestone walls in the Dolomites up to stiff 5.9. He also made it a habit to down climb every route he soloed up, which is, even in today's standards very impressive. Maestri was also one of the first climbers who viewed climbing as his profession, and therefore had to self promote his ascents. Most other famous climbers in that period made their living as mountain guides or hut keepers. Due to this fact he was always perceived as a controversial person within the climbing community. In the case of Cerro Torre, he found an unusual sponsor, who financed the at those days very expensive expedition. Atlas Copco, who built the infamous "Compressor", was willing to pay the big bugs if Maestri would actually bring the 400 pond monster up the wall and actually use it too. And did he ever use that thing, and parts of it are still up there just 50m shy of the summit, a testimony of human will power and the ability to suffer.The Compressor route on Cerro Torre is still one of the best alpine routes I have done, despite the controversial style, and I have out most respect for Maestri's tour the force. Nowadays the style is easy to criticize, but in the late 60ties and early seventies it was almost normal in Europe to put up routes in that style in the Diretissima area. We all know know that it was a dead end road, and luckily the climbing community learned form it's mistakes in the past. Please respect the fact that climbing was evolving over the decades and still is, what we consider as kosher these days might get criticized or even laughed at 30 years down the road.
Not only in Europe we went through this "darker age" of climbing, North America is full of bad examples too and we should take a close look at our own climbing history before we down talk an era which had it's time and place in climbing history. So please stop badmouthing Maestri and his achievements, he was always one of my climbing heroes.Now back to the Red Bull topic. I really don't understand the huge fuzz a lot of people make lately because of a few bolts. Those are not the first bolts added to the route, in 1994 a German team of strong climbers (Robert Jasper and Joern Heller) bolted a rappel route down from the shoulder to make the descent safer. There were at least 2 fatalities I know of in this section due to failed anchors, and I almost died there too. Luckily I hit a ledge after a 25m fall and got away with a broken pelvis. The above mentioned rappel route got widely excepted by climbers and got used regularly on the way down and nobody raised a big stink about it. Due to glacial melt back this rappel route got harder to use over the years and the mountain guides from red bull reestablished a new, safer line.
This is not the first route which got altered after it's original ascent. Although there are many bolts already on the route, these are only 6mm bolts and just hammered in a 6mm hole with no expansion device. Considering this and their 40 years of age, you can imagine their holding power. Big parts of the line Maestri choose don't follow a natural line, so in order to free climb it one must choose variations away from the blank granite. These variations might require additional bolts in order to free climb them safely. Although Lama did not apply this action yet, I would support it. Even ultra classics like the Nose on El Capitan had bolts drilled for the first free ascent, and nobody dared at the time to give Lynn Hill a hard time about it. There is hardly a classic route in the Bow Valley anymore where there are no bolted anchors. Other routes like Kahl Wall, where the previously run out crux pitch was turned into a sport pitch with multiple bolts, mutated to one of the most popular routes on the wall. The NE face of Ha Ling has every anchor bolted and there are at least 5 protection bolts in 5.6 terrain, and nobody seems to care. There are many routes in the Valley who got established top down with a Hilti and it seems to become a widely accepted practise, at least Maestri bolted ground up.
Don't take me wrong here, I am not intending to criticize any of those actions, all I'm trying to say that we should not preach water and drink wine.
To lighten things up, this is my climbing partner Hannes Wallensteiner in 1992 demonstrating the at that time way more colorful outfit. It's amazing what climbers got away with those days. In 92 Hannes summited Cerro Torre already twice, the only person at that time besides Ermanno Salvaterra, the patagonian legend. That year Hannes and myself also made the first reported 1 day ascent of the Compressor Route, with strategic help from Ermanno.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Lady MacDonald SE Ridge

Although I see the upper part of the ridge from my house, I never got around to climb it. As it turned out, it was a very worth wile scramble close to home. I left home at 9 and got back for lunch, just before the first rain shower. Still very unsettled weather in the Bow Valley, which prevents me from trying some of my bigger goals.The view back the ridge towards Grotto Mountain about 3 quarters of the way up. Some cool fossils can be found right on the ridge about 100m below the summit.

The famous and abounded Teahouse on the regular hiking trail is always a bit of an eyesore to me. Although I like the principal idea of it, I don't get it that someone gets away with this. The half finished building is rotting away up there since over 15 years, and nobody from the town officials seem to make the builder clean up his shit.

Friday, July 16, 2010


This morning I went for my annual East end of Rundle tour and soloed the classic Reprobate. I must have done this outing at least 10 times over the years and although it might sound boring, it always presents the necessary challenge for me. It's not like you remember every move or even pitch, since there are probably 12 or 14 of them on this 400 meter wall. I actually never climbed the route on a rope so I can only guess. This time it took me 2.5 hours from my house to the top, riding my bike to Whitemans Gap, which is 20 minutes longer than a few years ago. I'm not getting any younger and the cigarettes certainly don't help either, especially on the ride up.What I really don't get is that classic routes like Reprobate don't get climbed more often. In my opinion EEOR offers longer and better climbing than Yamnuska with a shorter approach and faster walk off. Or have you seen water runnels like this on Yam before? Eeor's Tail, the route just to the right of Reprobate, is another one of my favorites up there, go check it out, you will not be disappointed!
When I took of my climbing shoes on the top my mind was wondering back 7 years. At the time I did not have kids and I came to this wall more regularly. One afternoon I was able to solo the 3 routes side by side each other, Reprobate, Quasar and Eeor's Tail, 1200m of good limestone climbing. Today I was quite happy to go home after one route, got to have melt cheese sandwiches for lunch with the family and crazy Aussie Simon Bew (if you don't know who he is, it's probably better anyways).

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Stampede, rain, cold

The first time for me in 17 years of Canada to visit the famous Calgary Stampede. Pouring rain all day and a high of 10 degrees in mid July made we wonder why I moved here.After the Canadian anthem the Cowboys were ready to play with the poor cows. Although impressive what those guys can do, it left a bitter taste in my mouth after witnessing the harsch treatment of these animals.

Luckily the next day was way nicer and we saw the sun again after it's 2 day absence.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Planet X

Yesterday I finally had a good day climbing back at Planet X. Besides climbing lots of routes I was able to shoot a lot of pictures too. There were about 15 climbers back there, which is quite busy for Canadian standards, unless you go up to Grassi lakes. All in all a fun day with good company.Marc Bourdon, who came from the coast for a 2 week vacation with his family, flashed "Shooting Star", 12d (above) and is seen below onsighting the beautiful "Meconium", 12a
Kirsten A. on the first pitch of "After Dark", 11b, a classic warm up.

Derek G. makes the upper crux sequence of my route "Cosmos", 13c look like a walk in the park.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

first taste of Summer

In my opinion, and I'm not very picky, today was the first real day of Summer. No shirt all day and shorts, and you appreciate a shady place or some water where you can hide from the heat. And it wasn't even close to 30 degrees yet. I biked up to Grassie Lakes and climbed the NE ridge of Chinaman's Peak today, I haven't done an outing like that yet this year, so I figured it is about time to get some exercise. I haven't done anything aerobic since my last ski tour, and it definitely showed. The beautiful day left with a gorgeous sunset an hour ago.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

not much going on these days

That's right, not much going on these days worthwhile mentioning. After a week of renos, family and marginal weather I got out today again with Derek. After contemplating where to go we decided that the Lookout would be our best bed. The hole day was unseasonable cold and it was drizzling rain all day long. Up there we met up with Greg and Aaron, and we got treaded from them with a nice smoky, including a warming fire. We did manage to check out a very cool, new project from Greg, called "Diamonds on the inside". This route, 45 meter of overhanging climbing on perfect rock, will become another classic at the Lookout, probably in the 13a or b range. So much to do, so little time.