Thursday, December 20, 2012

short days and long nights

Within the past 2 weeks, there was not a single day I was not outside with either Guests, Friends or Family, taking advantage of the short days leading towards the Winter Solstice. Lots of pre dawn starts and 'coming home after dark' outings have been the norm lately. The early Winter (or late fall according to the calendar) is treating us very well this year, consistently good skiing and ice climbing is amongst us since mid November.
Thanks to everyone spending time with me out there lately, I'm a lucky man.

Trevor Linden switched from hockey skates to skis a few years back,
 the only body checks are with trees now.
As a hobby hockey player and fan of the game,
I was honored to spend a couple days with former Vancouver Canucks Star  Trevor Linden
and his friends playing in the Rockies.

Lorne, the "Ober Oinker" of the group, ripping it up on
this seasons first decent of Emerald Lake Slidepath.

Here are my two girls.
Bella still enjoys the bed time stories from Mum,
specially when it's cold outside and a warm fire is crackling  besides the couch.

Moments of anticipation... heading for the huge north chute of Cathedral Crags,
a 1500m elevation drop straight down to the TransCanada Highway.

Josh Lavigne and Simon Meis bootpacking up Cathedral Mountain,
Rocky Mountains

Simon Meis getting in deep...

...and out again. The fine art of surfacing on the lower slopes of Puff Daddy,
Rogers Pass

Walking back to the Visitor Center after a phenomenal run on Puff Daddy,
Rogers Pass

Jamie Hood on the Highway line off Grizzly Shoulder,
Rogers Pass

Kitty Hawk and Unicorn to the left

Steve Swenson on the first pitch of the Unicorn,
David Thompson Highway

the downside of dropping into unknown terrain without checking it beforehand-
two lessons learned:
 short and light ski touring ice axes are not suited to chop steps in steep water ice
don't leave your rope in the car after you have decided to bring it the night before
into the Light

Thursday, December 6, 2012

back in the yellow jacket

 For a total of 5 weeks spread over 3 different areas I am scheduled to work in the famous yellow jacket again. Therefore I was invited to go west over Rogers pass to Revelstoke and beyond in order to participate in Guides Training and Area Set Up. It was great to see so many familiar faces of the industry again, and spend time with old and new friends. At the same time there are always interesting topics presented by world class presenters, simply a melting pot of the current knowledge of mechanized winter guiding.

Dec. 1st
opening day of the  Revelstoke ski area, as seen from the helicopter...
looks a little sad lower down.
As far as it goes for ski areas, we got a way better coverage back in Alberta.
Guides Training in Nakusp
due to the rainy and warm weather we could not fly the helicopter for 2 days
We made the best out of it and relocated the avalanche triage exercises into the BC bush
Tranceiver Guru Manuel Genswein explaining the Nifty Difties of the Device.
P.A. rushing for the next victim 
found it!
Thankfully conditions slightly improved for Area Set Up in Revelstoke.
Although it was raining in town every day we managed to get our fair share of powder skiing in.
I let the pictures tell the story.

It was a fun 4 days in Revelstoke and I'm looking forward to
work with the boys and gals there for a couple weeks in January.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Close call on Wilson

The seldom formed route "Dancing with Chaos" on the impressive south walls of Mt. Wilson.
Unfortunately the incredible upper pillar never touches down, but would make a good contender for a perfect mixed start.
In my opinion, a good, bolted multi pitch mixed route should involve some challenging ice which never or very rarely touches down.
Some of my favorite examples are "Nightmare on Wolf Street", "The Real Big Drip", "Cryophobia" and of course the mighty "Rocket Man". 
Chris had to turn away as he could see disaster unfolding.
It doesn't matter how many guides patches you wear, the mountains are unforgiving if approached carelessly.
Below I try to describe a close call that happened on the climb, just as a reminder of the importance of  proper equipment.  
A seemingly excited Steve Holeczi showing off his brand new "idiot straps".  Things are all good  up to this point, the stoke meter maxed out.
Shortly thereafter the moment of horror. Steve dropped the all so important ice tool and guess what happened...well before the tool had a chance to fly into the abyss, it caught on the new straps and everything was fine. One could only imagine how things could have unfold if he did not have those straps. I'd say good Karma, Steve. 

Shortly thereafter, still mentally recovering from this near miss, Steve was able to continue the climb as if nothing ever happened. His mind at ease now, knowing that his tools are secured to his harness in case of another mishap.

An hour later Steve is happily following the second pitch, the memories of the close call already erased by the mind blowing climb.
I certainly did not forget the trauma earlier on the route and learned my lesson for the future.
I truly hope we can all avoid future near misses with sharing this particular incidence with the public.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

powder pleasure close to home

One must not always drive to Rogers Pass to get some powder turns in. A couple of days ago I took advantage of the Parent-Teacher interviews and brought Luka out for a Papa-Son quick hit on Mt. Norquay. The ski area is closed during the week and the Great American Chair has not opened for the season yet, so it's always a treat to get on it before the masses shred it to an eternal mogul slope.

untouched slopes high above Banff

gotta get the first yard sale  of the season out of the way
Luka could not resist the temptation of treading the top station Teahouse as a terrain park...

...which resulted in the second garage sale of the season.
I guess I should have brought the helmet.

the virgin Lone Pine run with the closed ski area below

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

tumbling towards Winter

After our arrival from Europe we had a mixed bag of weather, kinda typical for late fall here. There was still some rock climbing to had on the rare sunny days, but overall it was more pleasant to choose activities where one could wear gloves.  I certainly did not get out as much as usual, due to a combination of a bathroom reno, a lack of motivation,
a good week of  rock scaling work and the much needed recovery time afterwards.
Nevertheless, whenever I did get out playing- a combination of rock climbing, dry tooling, mixed climbing, slack lining, pond hockey and ski touring- I certainly had a lot of fun and I did not want to miss it.

"Premonition" on the Wild West Wall, South Ghost

spindrift shower on pitch 3 of "Nightmare of Monsieur Hulot"

Looking back after another great adventure on the Stanley Headwall
Nightmare of MH connects the skinny pillar in the center with the upper right curtain.

Sunset over the front range seen from Gap Lake

Tim McAlister demonstrates the art of a way too short of a scalers lunch break.
Eating, napping and dreaming about the next big trundle at the same time.

Ian Welsted in his element...sometimes scaling feels like full on alpine climbing.
The suffer factor is high, the rock loose and the outcome uncertain.
Once a year Jeff Relph and I master the ability to choose routes which are way over our head,
and somehow manage to pull them off.

The local Canmore dry tooling area of the future. SE facing,
30-50m high and desperately overhanging and an approach less than an hour.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

the 50 mile guiding diet

Last Winter I logged down almost 15000km on snowy and icy highways in order to work as an independent guide here in Canada. So this Summer in Europe, I tried to offset my carbon footprint a bit with the intension of making a living as close as possible to my staging area, a lovely little mountain town called Lienz.  The furthest I ever had to drive to any of my guiding outings was 75km, from the "high alps" up north to the Dolomites in the south. 
Below are a few impressions of some lovely people I was guiding, and what this area has to offer.
Sarah on the exposed descent from Toblinger Knoten. A very steep Ferrata climbs the north side of the peak, a much easier one leads down the south side. The previous day saw us on top of the peak on the upper right, the Paternkofel.
The Buellelejoch hut, where we spend the night, would be in the upper left hand corner.
With Kerstin and Michael I climbed the normal Route to Cima Grande. We left very early that day to escape the crowds, therefore we could also enjoy the sunrise quite high on the mountain.

A classic Dolomite Panorama high above Cortina. Cinque Torri at the bottom center is a climbers paradise, a mixture between cragging and traditional multi pitching with easy access. Many a climber learned experienced the first footsteps into the alpine rock world in this setting. The massive Antelao, second highest peak in the Dolomites to the left, flanked to the right with the rugged rock pinnacles of the Croda da Lago.

July brought a lot of snow to the central alps. There was barely a day without precipitation and lightning storms were part of the daily menu. This is a cool crew of 4 young men who decided to fight their way up Grossglockner with me, despite a foot of new snow and a stiff wind. 
The same mountain and the same conditions a week later. I started out with a family of four, but 3 of them decided to stay at the last hut, the "Adlersruhe". The only one left was the youngest of us all, Frederik, who did not mind the bad weather. As an award we were the only ones on the summit of the highest and most popular mountain of Austria.

On the first day of a 6 day hut to hut traverse of the Dolomites around Cortina. The Gamble Family from California fought their way through ups and downs, in the end I think the challenges we had to face brought us all a bit closer together.

A little ways off the trail Sarah was lucky to find the world famous Edelweiss.

Spectacular sunset from the deck of the Lagazuoi hut. From there one can see the 5 highest mountains of the Dolomites.

A quick bath for me in a concrete water basin built in 1916 for the soldiers of the first World War.
One can find a lot of sad history along the old front lines in the Dolomites. 

Jonathon Gamble was a real trooper on our Dolomite traverse. 10 years of age but already cranking it on the 6 hour hikes and steep ferratas. This one is called the "Via Ferrata Merlone" and sits right above the cozy Fonda Savio Hut in the heart of the Cadini Group.

Dwarfed under the influence of the north faces of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo...700 meters of overhanging rock... soo much history, good and bad...
They are only about an hour drive away from my hometown and I guided all 3 of them at one point this summer.

Stan, during his afternoon outing, arriving on top of the Gusela, with Monte Pelmo behind in the clouds.

Another pleasure of European huts... a well deserved draft beer for David from Idaho. In the background one of the biggest rock faces of the Dolomites,
the 1200m NW face of the Monte Civetta.

Stan and Gina having a private moment in front of the Nuvolau Hut. This hut sits high above Cortina on top of a scenic mountain and is the oldest hut in the Dolomites. Coincidentally there is a Canadian hut keeper up there since decades providing great hospitality. 

One of the many afternoon lightning storms engulfs the Marmolata, the highest peak in the Dolomites.

A typical day on Grossglockner, imagine the crowds in good weather...

one of the rare breaks in the July monsoon, it only lasted for half an hour though.  This nice couple, Karin and Andreas, left their kids behind with the grandparents in order to spend a few days together enjoying the Osttirol Alps. The rather unusual iron pole sticking out of the rock acts as a belay when the snowpack is higher in earlier in the year. This enables the local guides to extend their guiding season for a few weeks, not a bad business idea. 

Multi pitching above Misurina Lake, amongst my 4 guests Carola, Claus, Ulrike and Mathias I had two priests on one rope. I felt I had a higher level of care than normal, and no cursing that day either.

Ruediger and Walter on top of Kerschbauner Toerlspitze, another sweet climb above the Karlsbader Hut in the Lienzer Dolomites.

The Lienzer Dolomites are still relatively quiet and offer a variety of climbing activities with short approaches from the Karlsbader Hut.
Climbing routes in all difficulties with up to 15 pitches,  5 exciting Ferratas, cragging and bouldering.
It is also a perfect pace to teach rock courses of all levels. 

Theresa is the daughter of the hut keepers of the Karlsbader Hut and works there all Summer...another very good reason to  check out this area.
During the evening break she enjoys the bouldering 5 minutes away from her workplace.
Since she does not have a crash pad, she is always in need for spotters.

Another evenig lightning storm rolls over the Isel Valley towards Lienz, with a population of 15000 the capitol of the little "Subprovince" of Osttirol .
In this area of exactly 2000 square kilometers you can climb 250 peaks above 3000m, more than half of the province lies above 2000m.
There is 3170m elevation gain within 20km from the lowest point in Lienz to the highest, the summit of Grossglockner.

Walter, well over 60 by now and retired, finds his new challenge in life in climbing long multi pitch routes in the Dolomites. The bench he is taking a well deserved rest on I build with good buddies of mine 21 years ago. It stands on top of a rock spire called "Kantenkoepfl", which is considered the hardest summit of the Lienzer Dolomites, since the normal route is rated 5.8.
My hometown Lienz is visible just behind Walters head, exactly 2000 meters below us.
We build the bench out of alpine larch wood, and despite all the warnings, it has not been destroyed by lightning in all those years.

The Gruenfelder couple just below the summit of the Cima Ovest di Lavaredo, their first multi pitch climb ever. They both did a great job and next Summer they want to learn how to do it on their own.

"Rasta Man" Hannes is a young mountain guide from Sexten, climbs 5.14 and establishes about 50 new climbs a year in the  Dolomites. I had the pleasure of running into him and his friends a few times in "his" mountains, the Sexten Dolomites, and the also in the bars around his hometown.
This picture shows him on the crux chimney on the "Via Normale" to Cime Grande di Lavaredo, a very popular guiding route up one of the most prominent mountains of the Dolomites.

If you know where to look for her, you will find this beautiful Madonna camouflaged just below the top of Cima Grande di Lavaredo, a little bit out of the way from the masses. Some good soul put it up there many years ago to protect climbers on the dangerous descent from this mountain. 1600m below us the famous Lago Misurina and the busy hotels and souvenir shops.