Sunday, November 17, 2013

The rebirth of Dry Tooling

When I started visiting the plentiful bolted venues like Haffner Creek, Killer Cave or
Bear Spirit,
my main intention was to maintain a minimum fitness level to be able to strike when multi pitch mixed routes like the one above came into climbable shape.
Since the route has perfectly formed right now
I picked a picture of the mighty Rocket Man.

 Most climbers still falsely call it mixed climbing, but the only part that's mixed are the different opinions about the sport. Some do it, like me, as a preparation for ice climbing in the so called shoulder season...because that's where most folks hurt their shoulders. Others do it to get strong for actual sport mixed climbing, which is a similar game, just with some ice added.Then there are those who do it because they don't know what else to do, in a time where ice is still rare, thin, unpredictable,
and skiing rather desperate.
But more recently there is a new wave hitting the Bow Valley. Climbers do it just for the sake of dry tooling, simply because it actually can be fun and physically demanding. And with the generally well protected climbs one can go to his very limits without risking their lives or potentially serious injuries.
Although most consider "the Playground" on Grotto Mountain as the birthplace of pure dry tooling, 
a bunch of other routes exist already well over 15 years, a few examples shown below.
One of the earliest and most known dry tooling routes in the Rockies.
Caveman in upper Haffner Creek had always been criticized due to the lack of ice,
but was still the most climbed hard core route in the area,
simply because it has a lot of fun moves on it.

Another high end classic with no ice at the same venue,
"Fire roasted" with the mandatory swing.

Below an old picture of a route of mine in lower Haffner,
then aptly named "the girl without titts",
because a mixed climb without ice is like a girl without...
Now one of he many lines there who never or very rarely see any ice on it.
Nobody seems to care about the lack of ice anymore.

What I show below are new, still kind of secret areas where hardcore locals put a lot effort into their development. Like the Playground, they are entirely made for dry tooling, but on bigger cliffs in a more scenic environment with southern exposure.
What you make out of this is up to you, and although I have my own "mixed emotions" about this I think it's going to take off in the near future. In my crystal ball I can see climbers doing this year around to open up cutting edge routes and possibly during prolonged spells of foul weather in the Summer.
And hey, it gets you out of the house with some cool people into some cool places. Also a motivating factor to stay fit in a time where Thanksgiving is followed by Halloween and Christmas with plenty of opportunities to gain weight.
Now we just need the industry to catch up with producing fruit boots again, although more and more climbers simply use their rock shoes for it.
Other products on my wish list would be heated gloves, pre heatable tool handles and some sort of turbo boost to get me up some of those amazing lines.

One of the new monster cliffs in development stage.
45 degree continuos overhangs and over  50m long.
Note the tiny climber in the lower left reaching the 20m anchor.

no need to mention that cliffs like this require a certain amount of fitness-
and of course dedication to put them up while lead drilling, like the picture below.
(uups, that looks more than 45 degrees to me)

Another welcome trend with new route development is to stay away from pack rat stinking caves in the shade.
Since there is no ice required for this sport, why not do it in the sun.
The Winter is grim enough.
Bring your T shirt and leave your long johns at home.

One more welcome trend (at least for the men) is that more and more women take up the new sport,
it is not uncommon that girls outnumber the boys in these areas.
A way better ratio than any bar in Canmore or Banff.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

morning magic

Within the last few days there have been a few spectacular sunrises in the Bow Valley. Luckily they coincide with regular breakfast time, so there is no need to set an early alarm to be able to witness them. 
The pictures below are all taken from the front deck of my house at around 7.30

Monday, November 11, 2013

classic early ice lines close to the road

The climbs below formed early this year and are ready to go.
Have fun and play safe!

For those of you who don't know where they are, click here to find out.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

First ice climb of the new Winter

A few days ago I was still drilling new routes shirts off up at Bellavista , well above the 2000m line. 
Sundays brief but intense coldfront brought a rapid cool down with snow here in town and miserable minus 10 degrees - it's time to dust off the ice gear.
Although I don't consider myself an early season ice hunter, 
there are some routes you can only get at this time of the year. 
For one, the approaches are still approachable, with little to no avalanche hazard, 
and secondly, the thin ice has not had a chance to de-laminated yet.
Therefore, the main targets these days should be routes in a high setting with serious approaches, with no cornice build up above. Also, most of those routes have a one time chance to form and what you see in October is the fattest they get for the rest on the season, since they are not actively feeded by a water source - sort of like a hibernating bear.
So, off we went in search for one of those routes, conveniently close to town-
at least as a crow flies, but since we are not crows, it took a little longer.
 Only the beginning of a huge approach with some river navigating by headlamp
closer to the ice after almost 4 hours, the spirits are lifted
borderline snow conditions,
we chose to traverse to an exposed rip to stay away from the biggest slopes
Getting closer. Can we make it under 5 hours?
relieved to have almost made it to the ice
the few mixed moves on the rib are a welcome change to post holing...
...unlike wallowing, which is definitely not a welcome change to post holing.
into thin ice
short ice screws, a calm head and a soft touch are the key to succeed in this environment
 high on the route the ice gets fatter,
but we are fighting the screaming barfies and the early season pump simultaneously 
late afternoon arrives with spindrift and colder temperatures
Late Oktober, there is a short window between sunset and darkness  
On the endless way out we did not bother to find convenient river crossings no more,
the boots will have a long time to dry out,
 enough ice for now - at least for a day or two.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Whyte Museum and Family hikes

October in the Rockies, so far so good.
Seems really busy to me, although I'm not really working these days.
My Wife Kimbi is doing her shifts in the climbing gym part of the newly built Canmore Multi plex, 
or better and cooler "Elevation Place"- therefore I keep myself busy driving the kids 
'to and fro' various venues after school. It's funny how you can suddenly transform into a
 'stay at home Papa', 
after being the sole provider for the past 3 months and gone most of the time, especially the whole month of September. Trying to bond again with the kids is definitely a new challenge which I welcome and enjoy so far. Winter work is starting soon and there will be 
way to long a times apart from each other.
Winter came early to the Rockies, by mid October we some of us had (or read could have had) 
good ice climbing conditions in the higher alpine regions and some Ueber keeners have been skiing on the zee glazzchiers.
  Above picture shows a close up of the magnificent lines in the upper part of Lefroy,
seen from Sentinel Pass. Objective Hazard? you judge for yourself.

A few pictures of mine are to be seen at an exhibition in the Whyte Museum in Banff.
One of my images was chosen to be the feature image of the exhibition 
and has been all over the local newspapers. 
I feel very privileged to have some of my pictures presented amongst very respected photographers like 
Pierre Lemire, Roger Laurilla, Greg Yavorsky and Brad White, to just name a few.

And then we had a fair bid of hiking time this fall.
 Luka surprisingly really enjoyed it and he was the one pushing for it. 
Bella had to tag along a couple of outings, 
and although it took a bit of convincing sometimes, she has been a trooper. 
It's a lot of footsteps up Sentinel Pass for a little 7 year old.
 Our return to Larch meadows got celebrated with a big hug,
now civilization and car is within reach!
Mts Babel and Fay,
15 years earlier I climbed the other side of Babel with Mama Kimbi,
back then the first female ascent of the east Face and maybe still the only one so far.
The famous fall colors of Larch Valley, maybe a week too late for it's prime, but still impressive.

Bellas 'back walk over' on Sentinel Pass.
Just above the Pass with Mt. Levroy behind,
stunning icelines for the future are already to go...
Not bad for Thanksgiving.

Bonfire at the "Playground" 
At the Summit of Mt. Yamnuska early October
stunning fall colors below. 
Luka seemingly excited to be amongst the "Master Mixers"

Thursday, October 3, 2013

another Summer in the Alps

It has become a bad habit of mine not to post anything on this site during my stay in Europe.
It's not because of bad JuJu, there is simply not enough time between guiding, family and old friends 
to sit in front of a computer.
And then, back in Canada, I don't know what to write anymore...
the last three and a half months feel like waking up after a gorgeous dream and only remembering some bits and pieces.
here are some of those flashbacks...
after my arrival I went almost straight to a guides exam 
to the Oetztal Alps.
still lots of snow due to a very bad spring, but this would change soon 
the main objectives of this exam were short roping on alpine ridges 
and mixed terrain, plus classic ice faces up to 60 degrees.
Fast forward to my last days in Europe, here at the rock exam 
at the Wilder Kaiser at the end of September.
Short roping (above) and alpine rock routes (below)
were high on the agenda.
Michael, a young candidate,
between multiple rain showers at the Verdon like rock
of the Waidringer Steinplatte.
Max at one of the best cliffs above my hometown,
high and north facing was the key to success most of the summer.
One of my best friends and most steady climbing partners, 
on one of the big north faces we climbed together during
 the heat of the Summer

rare sunlight on the 800m north face of the Zwoelferkofel
above the village of Sexten

Beautiful, but crowded as usual, at least during the high season-
the area close to my hometown Lienz with the highest mountains 
Austria has to offer.
On the way to Austrias highest mountain, the mighty Grossglockner.
"Phantom der Zinne" at the north face of Cima Grande di Lavaredo,
another adventure with Christian

Typical run out climbing at the Tre Cime, 
at least you don't hit anything in case of a fall.

Seeking shelter in world war one caves during one of the rare 
thundershowers of this Summer.

Kimbi on our annual multi pitch adventure in the Dolomites, Oma is watching the kids.
My son Luka developed a taste for multi pitch climbing and  real summits,
We climbed a couple of long routes together,
followed of course by a nice treat or two at the hut on the way down.
a proud Luka with the Karlsbader Hut awaiting us with it's Apfelstrudel and cold beer.

Bella learning the jump technique in order to take the slack out of the system
A very special reunion climb with my slightly older brother Walter,
28 years after our last climb together.
With my good friend and Mountain Guide Lisi on my last real climbing day in the Dolomites,
we participated in a fun climbing comp called DOLOROCK and it was a blast.
Hope to see you all next year!