Friday, May 27, 2011


This is what it looks like from space when we get a wet and cold upslope storm in the Rockies. Upslope here in Alberta means basically that seasonally warmer air from the mid western plains of the US moves with the aid of a big low pressure system eastward and meets colder air from the arctic somewhere along the Rocky Mountains. This constellation generally happens in the springtime, when the jetstream is further south and people are usually seeking sunshine after a 7 month Winter. We are in this wet flow since well over a week now and it slowly starts to suck. This morning we woke up to almost a foot of new snow here in town and it's still dumping. On top of this Canmore is hosting the first boulder world cup in Canadian history today and tomorrow and the conditions could not be worse. Too bad for the organizers and all the volunteers who put so much effort into this event, I'll be down there regardless to show my support (I hear they serve beer!).

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


There is not much going on with me right now, the weather kind of sucks lately but always turns out to be better than the forecast tells you. Last Sunday, May 15th, I had the pleasure to be guided through 2 classic multi pitch routes by the "Hausmeister" of Yamnuska. Raphael showed me two of his favorites up there, 'Yellow Edge' and 'Jimmy and the Cruisers', which are both excellent in their own character. On Yellow Edge we skipped most of the fixed protection in order to show that there is no need to retro fit the route. Please leave this one the way it is, bring a set of Camalots and Stoppers and enjoy one of Yams finest pieces of climbing history. Two days later I had to cancel a ski tour to Joffre last minute because my family got a bit sick. As it turned out I caught the same bug the next morning and was the first time out since last summer. Actually not totally out but a sore throat and a runny nose kept the energy level low. Now I'm finally ready to go again and the weather is barely good enough for mushroom picking. I searched for morels in a burn with no success, but ran into a peaceful grizzly instead. Although it was not the first time I had a close encounter with a bear, it is always a powerful experience to be so close to this impressive animals.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mt. Victoria NE-Face

Almost exactly a year after my first attempt with Andrew we lucked out with yesterdays weather and conditions and skied of the main summit of Mt. Victoria. It had just stopped raining when we pulled into the parking lot in Lake Louise at 3.30 in the morning, and the spirits were not too high. The 3 tequila filled girls from the Chateau were still on the hunt for some boys and did not make our departure any easier. A non supportive, half inch crust and lots of avalanche debris from days prior brought us to the upper bench below Collier and the start of the glacier, where we experienced the delayed sunrise to the east.
Our objective, basically just left of the Summit in the center, sees the first light at 6.30.
The weather is slowly improving and warm, moist air gets replaced by cold and dry. The finally supporting crust was covered with 10cm of new snow from last nights storm.
Big crevasses on the upper glacier bench call for caution, I would not want to be there during bad visibility.
This time Ross Berg was joining us, freshly imported from the coast and still keen to ski.

After crossing the bergschrund it was time to boot pack. Definitely one of the more exciting places to start up a steep face like this. You either want to make sure that you are absolutely certain about your stability assessment, or have no clue at all and just go for it. I personally thought it should be o.k., since Andrew and Ross started to follow me.
The higher you climb the face, the more peaks are starting to show. Here is Mt. Collier and the rocky Mt. Hector in the back ground center.
Andrew takes the lead through the shallow 55 degree section. Here our crampons and axes were scraping on the rock for about 10m.
Higher up on the face with the frozen Lake Louise way down there. A very intimidating exposure for ski touring, feels more like alpine climbing indeed.
And finally at the summit by 9 o'clock sharp, other people have a hard time meeting for climbing in the Summit Cafe at that time.
The views were almost out of this world, the Goodsirs in the left foreground, and the Bugaboos with Howser tower and Mt. Conrad to the right on the horizon. Mt. Huber is the little guy in front below.
Hungabee on the right, then Neptuak and the beautifully shaped Deltaform. The NE face of the Sickle below and left in the sun.
After a cold half hour wait on the summit, Ross dives in first, with Lefroy in the background.

Andrew styling down the face, he finally got his equipment issues sorted out and ditched his telemark gear.

Some impressions on the face from the boys.
Ross lower down on the glacier ripping the dry powder from the previous night.
A look back at the face, it looks soo much better after you've skied it.
Something strange happened on the way down below the glacier. We got ready for some shitty skiing on breakable crust above an isothermal snowpack, but instead we enjoyed real good corn snow all the way to the Lake. Even the Lake was more frozen than when we crossed it in the morning. After our early start in the warmer, rain soaked snow, it must have cooled down just enough to freeze more solid again. Good and bad is a very fine line mid May.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Corn alert on Mt. Smuts

Good things take time, and this time I was patient enough to wait for the right time. Although there where glimpses of corn snow this year it was never perfect. There was either not enough melt or not enough freeze-or there was enough of both and not enough melt to soften the freeze, or it was limited to a narrow elevation band and/or the very right aspect-and then it snowed again. Today it was simply perfect and I hit my ultimate corn goal in K-Country for the season, the SE face of Mt. Smuts (picture below shows the face a couple weeks ago). If you ever wanted to ski this one, go do it NOW! Zero avalanche hazard, fast travel and secure skiing. Here is the time line which worked perfect today:
4:20 leave Canmore
5:15 leave car
8:00 Summit
8:10 start skiing from right hand summit
8:30 (optional) put skins back on and go for a second lap to peak lookers right, because it's too good to go home yet.
11:00 Cappuccino in Canmore

Since I was alone today I can only come up with some landscape shots I took on the summit, hope you still enjoy them. Below Mt. Birdwood and the NW face of Mt. Sir Douglas looming to the south, maybe one day a goal for some of Canmore's extreme skiers.
Looking in a NWerly direction, the mighty East Face of Mt. Assiniboine and Mt. Eon to the left.
Looking over Tent Ridge and Spray Lakes towards the best moderate corn snow objective close to Canmore, the south flank of Nestor.
Looking across the summit ridge towards the remote Royal Group. I skied straight down the right hand summit, since it is more easterly aspect and therefore corned up already.
1000m of perfect corn snow ahead, at least no challenging route finding on this one.Looking back towards the summit slope, you can see the barely penetrating footsteps bottom left. Crampons were very useful, if not essential, so was one ice axe for the way up.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Haddo Peak

Yesterday was my first time ski touring in the Lake Louise area this season, which is pretty strange. I guess with highway 93 and K-Country being closer and in such good shape, there was no reason to go there this Winter. On the other hand, there is a reason why the mountains around Lake Louise are so popular, they are simply beautiful.
Andrew and myself always wondered if there is a way to ski off Haddo Peak. You can see it in a distance from the Highway, but the most upper cruxy part is somewhat hidden, until you are almost right there, so only one way to find out. Above you can see the line of ascent, we had to drop down from this point in order to gain a bowl behind the blue jacket. The rest is pretty obvious until the cliff band below the summit. 5 minutes after I took this shot Andrew lost one of his skies on the way down, and spend the next 3 hours looking for it.
This unfortunate incident left Ben Firth, Josh Briggs and myself the option to tackle the line without Mr. Steep.
The initial 500m of the climb are north facing, until the slope changes to a easterly aspect. Pretty serious avalanche country and spectacular surroundings, including a frontal view of Mt. Temples North face.

About 100m below the summit, from where I took the shot above, we made a group decision to turn back. The snow got isothermal in the heat of the day and we did not trust it anymore. We should have come earlier, but we did not expect it to be that hot at almost 3000m.

Ben in the lower part of the run, where we took a steep couloir far skiers left. Mt. Fairview and Lake Louise ski area behind.
The run down was actually really nice, some corn, some settled powder and a bit of hard crust lower down. After rejoining with Andrew we headed up to Surprise Pass for a bonus run and then skated out over the still frozen Lake to the Chateau.

In the parking lot I got a rare glimpse of some uncovered body parts of some of the most wanted men in the Canmore chick scene. No wonder those guys are so in demand, above "Mr. Sexler" showing just enough skin to make you crave for more, and below Mr. Firth just about to unveil his Big Ben. Gotta love those spring days!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Mt. Stanley-North Face

It's been quite a turbulent life lately so I'm running a bit behind with my posts. Last Wednesday we had a real fun day out with a bunch of good people on a big face. We hit Mt. Stanley during a snowy day and got some fresh powder on it's steep north face. I did not get a chance to make nice pictures due to the white out conditions we had most of the day, but I hope these images give you a glimpse of what was going on up there.
The approach was more involved than I thought, for about 2 hours one must travel under constant objective hazards like seracs, huge cornices, man eating crevasses and 40 degree avalanche slopes ending on top of unsupported cliffs. One advantage of the bad weather was that you can't see what lurks above you.

A rare weather window allowed us to get a glimpse of the beautiful corn snow objective on the other side of the valley, the stunning south face of Mt. Whymper.
After all the hazards on the approach it was quite weird to have a comforting feeling in the 45-50 degree north face , I guess Marty was relieved too.
Jeff and Richard (Ducky) also came along, as well as Craig McGee. This made a total of 5 of us which was good for boot packing up the face and also made for fun conversations.

Ducky proudly presents his hair style, or should I say the lack of it. He says his head is the solar panel which charges the sex machine below. Not much charging going on that day though, hope he has a built in back up generator somewhere.

Marty Schaeffer in the summit white out. He did win the award of the best looking face under the ugliest hat, way to go!

Great snow and bad visibility on the way down.
As a 'bonus of the day' we decided to ski straight below the face all the way to the top of the ice climb "Nemesis", from there a sloping ledge brought us back to the main slopes past the Killer Cave. This way is less exposed to the hazards I described above and gives you better fall line skiing too. If I do the face again, I will also go up this way.