Friday, December 16, 2011

Man Yoga

Raphael and I finally got around to synchronize a day off, which gave us a chance to try out the latest addition to the Stanley Headwall. Man Yoga is predominantly a rock route with a mix of bolt protection and lots of good natural gear. 4 pitches of this give you access to very aesthetic finish on steep ice. The picture below show the route on the day of our ascent, as you can see the rock is pretty snow covered, which resolved in a lot of time consuming cleaning and hard to find placements. Despite the less than ideal conditions Raph managed the first onsight ascent of the route, gratulations!
leading the all natural gear pitch one.
pitch 2 was probably the hardest lead of the day, due to the snow covered, slabby nature.

pitch 3
pitch 4
pitch 5
All the smaller images or the ones you can see a yellow jacket are curtesy of Raphael Slawinski.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Anorexic Queen

Last weekend I finally made it out to the mountains again, and for the first time this year into Stanley Headwall. My partner Jon Walsh had to get a rope from the base of 'Men Yoga', so with no specific goal in our minds we skied up to the base. On route we looked around for options to climb, and it seemed like we both were attracted to the very skinny looking 'Uniform Queen'.
Below a few examples of how different this route can form, if it actually forms at all. This time around we had it obviously pretty thin, and 4 years ago I had it very fat. According to the guides book description I guess the first ascent was somewhere in between.
Above you can see pitch one as almost pure rock pitch, although the white spots are actually frozen snow. The pitch protects well on rock gear and is 50m long.
Jon following pitch 2, delicate climbing on a thin layer of ice with less than stellar protection.
Flash back to November 2007, this is when the route formed the last time to my knowledge. The same pitch was a walk in the park. Here is Marc Hammer enjoying his first time at the Headwall.
Jon leading out on the incredible 3rd pitch, something really rare to get as a Rockies Winter climber. Perfect rock and very fragile ice with great, natural rock protection. Already out of sight at the top of the pitch was the first and last ice screw placed on the first 3 pitches.
Flash back again to 2007, the entire pitch was iced over, I could only get one piece of rock gear in, the rest were bad screws. Still a great climb then, but an entirely different experience.
Suffer Machine in the center and the skinny pencil of the Uniform Queen to it's right, as of Dec. 10th. Fiasco is left and looks pretty thin too, but also got climbed last week. Game on!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Trophy Wall

Almost a month ago, just after our Zion trip, Lisi and I planned to climb something on the Trophy Wall. We packed our gear the night before, but contrary to the forecast, temperatures in Canmore at 7 a.m. showed a way too warm +11 degrees with the wind threatening to uncover the roof of my house and blow it towards Exshaw. After a long breakfast, fruitlessly discussing alternative options, we decided to go for the hike anyways. If nothing else, Lisi would get to see the approach trail and we get some fresh air and exercise in. We used bikes for the dry golf course road and barely had to pedal with the wind in our back. The warm weather made me (unfortunately not my partner) strip down to my last layer an soon we arrived at the base of our goal, with little intentions to actually climb it. After a closer look with no visible running water and other climbing parties, it was hard to argue against "not giving it a go".
It's always amazing how different the Trophy wall forms each year, and how regularly you can climb there already early season. We initially wanted to climb the Replicant (center line) since it had not been climbed yet this season and appeared to be relatively fat. At the base I realized that I forgot my helmet (what else is new), so we decided to go for the Terminator (left line). At least from below it looked like that this climb had more sheltered belays to offer than it's neighbor to the right.
First pitch was surprisingly easy, the few rock moves are protected by 2 bolts and one pin, and the overhanging pillar is short and offers plenty of no hand stances, like it often is the case with mushroom features. The wind was annoyingly strong, but it was warm and the belays at least were sheltered from wind and falling ice, which were both plentiful.
Lisi arriving on the first belay and leading out the "false" amazing second pitch (below). This pitch uses a cool ice ramp out left and was really a variation between the Replicant and Terminator that avoids the continuos steep pillar of the latter. We later named it the "Termi-Cant", unbeknownst to Lisi what the second syllable might stand for.
The holy tree on the approach, just before the scrambly rock steps under 'ten years after'. I always give him a hug on the way by for good luck, so far it seems to work.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

images of a mountain

Mt. Rundle is probably the most photographed peak in all of Canada. Although by far not the highest - it's not even a ten thousand footer - it seems to attract the eye of any viewer. It even lacks a pointy summit, shear rock faces and a glacier, which should be classic trademarks of a stout peak.
The reason for the mountains popularity probably lies in the simplicity of the shape, something artists often strive to achieve but rarely succeed in.
My wife is gone for a few days and I got the kids, so before she left I went for a quick morning stroll up Mt. Norquay to catch a few more images of Rundle with the ever so important chinook clouds as a backdrop. As a reward I got some nice powder turns in down the Great American Chair. This was the last time I had a chance to be alone up there, the hill is opening tomorrow, by far the earliest in years. Ski season is upon us, even in the Rockies.