Thursday, January 17, 2013

Rocket Man...finally!

Multi pitch mixed climbing was always one of my most favorite activities in the Rockies. For one of the proudest lines in this genre I had to wait a long time to finally climb it. After the first ascent by Raphael Slawinski in late spring of 1999, the route never came into shape until 2 years ago, when the same man teamed up with Jon Walsh to execute the second ascent. A few weeks prior to their ascent I attempted the line with Jeff Relph, but we got defeated by a wrong weather forecast, a dropped tool, and probably a lack of fitness, which inevitably comes along in the middle of a busy heli ski season.
Last Winter the route did not form enough for a serious attempt, plus the epic snow conditions throughout the season had my interest centered more on skiing, rather than scratching my tools on loose rock.
I have almost forgotten about my desire to climb the route until I saw it this year early November already looking good to go, at least from a distance. Then I picked up a Gripped Magazine in one of our plenty coffee shops in Canmore and ran into this article about the top 10 mixed routes in the Rockies. Although I did not agree with the provided list I recognize that it is impossible to please everyone and tastes are always different. Nevertheless, the 10 listed climbs include 6 real good multi pitch climbs, and throughout the years I have done all of them but Rocket Man...another reminder that I should get my act together before I'm too old for this game.
But then the good snow arrived, and attached to it the powder "oink factor", so the ice tools got shelved at the bottom of the gear room. It wasn't until recently that I got out for a couple of cool ice days and then a phone call from a 20 year younger Austrian did the trick.
Alex Hollaus spent a good portion of this and last Winter quietly collecting pretty much every big climb the Canadian Rockies have to offer, but Rocket Man still needed the tick too on his hit list.
So now, with a real strong and fun partner, I did not have any excuse not to go and on Jan.15th we drove up a dark, moonless Icefields Parkway to try the first all Austrian - and ironically - maybe the first Winter ascent of the route.  
Approaching the Monster in first light, we skinned all the way to the base in 28 kick turns...
boot packing that day would have been a trench digging exercise.

"When you go climb Rocket Man you must double zee power!"
Alex wanted to climb the route shirtless, but since there were no chicks around
I was able to talk him into putting on some clothes.

first pitch with the Shadow and unformed Riptide visible behind.

Although we had a fairly warm day for January, the ice was still cold and brittle.
The typical alpine dry ice which formed 3 month ago and has not seen
any water since.
Sorta like a climber without scotch for a long period of time-not very confidence inspiring.

The 3rd pitch was just as dry as 2 years ago and the rock quality did not improve either.
Climbing past the last 3 bolts feels definitely harder than M7.
Following this pitch I made the same mistake as Jeff Relph on our attempt 2 years ago: I dropped my tool high up on the pitch - the first time this ever happened to me. Alex had to lower me all the way to the start of pitch two where it was luckily stuck in the snow, but this incident did cost us some valuable time and me some extra power I don't have available right now. With the little day light left in mid January the clock was ticking against us.

Therefore I passed on the lead of pitch 4, which was also a bit harder than the WI4 guides book rating.
After about 10 more meters of this picture Alex eventually got his next screw in and then committed to a thinly iced up and exposed traverse  to the right, which gave access to thicker ice and a hanging belay on good screws.
From there I could lead to the big ledge in a straight forward WI5 ice pitch about 15m right of the original line.
Since this skips half of pitch 4, and the entire 5th and 6th pitch,
we named this the " Austrian Schnaxel Meister Variation"

Above the big ledge was probably the best pitch of the route. After a run out and loose start (Jon Walsh pulled a bolt on this one 2 years ago) there was fun dry tooling to be had up an iced up corner.

A broken off pillar with a rather unusual foot rest helped us bypass the original M6 dry tooling on the last pitch.

Alex on the last steep ice before the angle kicks back.

We topped out just in time for a beautiful sunset and were able to rappel most of the way
without headlamps in the magically fading light.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


"Cythonna", the Godess of the ice...
 Jonny Simms came up with the name, after he rejected his own initial proposal for a proper route name "Flower Power"-just because I was born in 1969, Woodstock just going off... make love - not war.
I had to explain him during the drive home on the dark Icefields Parkway, that my father was rather renown for his Zither playing skills and my Mother has never left the mountain village she was born and raised during that period. Not to mention that neither of them even knew how to spell 
Rolling Stones or Pink Floyd, and that Jefferson Airplane and Led Zeppelin 
where never intended to fly anywhere. 
They had their Austrian hump ta tah music and the saying "in the mountains there is no sin", therefore  they experienced their very own "alpine flower power", perhaps with the additional help of some Schnapps.
-every fun without alcohol is artificial-
And then somewhere between Lake Louise and Golden, finally alone in the car after dumping annoying me at the PetroCan in LL, 
Jonny finally got it and so CYTHONNA it is.

40m of rock and ice mushrooms lead to fantastic 55m ice pillar
Jonny, just 5 minutes before he took a 12 meter whipper into the first belay. Maybe you should not play games like that with your middle fingers before you start a serious route.

Unfortunately the rock was to compact for decent protection,  so the drill had to be activated.
Lot's of spin drift and little avalanches that day, luckily the route was steep enough to  give shelter from the elements.

Friday, January 4, 2013

impressions from new years day

This Sylvester night was one of the first ones in a long time that I actually got to see the fireworks at midnight. Usually I just hear them - annoyed that they woke me up, yet another time. More importantly though, I got to spend that moment for the first time with my wife and kids, and since we were invited to a party at a friends house, a whole bunch of other good friends and friends of them were present.
The reason I'm sharing this rather boring details with you is that usually at events like this the alcohol is flowing like Cougar Creek in Monsoon June. Therefore,  when I did manage to call my skitouring engagement in the morning, they were already off without me towards the mountains. 
Ski partners have no mercy on late and hung over pals. 
So there I am, up and running (espresso kinda works for me), so I just jump in the car and try catching up with my buddies. Past Banff and now with some time on my hand to think about my situation I came to realize that I will never get to see them anyways. By the time I hit Castle Junction a back up plan sprung into my mind. I've always wanted to ski the SE face of Mt. Whymper, but never found it to be the right conditions. Due to it's steepness and aspect it was always left for a spring day and corn snow, but then it never looked too appealing anymore. Since the chute threatens the Banff/Radium Highway, the park boys with their nasty explosives usually make a big mess in there. So skiing frozen avalanche debris did never appeal to me too much. 
Therefore I thought it was the perfect time to ski it, no bomb crater and avi debris yet, a stable snow pack with no sun crust yet, and maybe even some pow turns.
A nice way to ski into 2013.

first view of the summit once I popped out of the fog. I decided to climb the peak over the south west side
in order  to leave the ski line untracked for the descent.

Mt. Stanley and the ice climbs on the Headwall rising out of the valley fog

The Goodsirs again, a couple days prior I got to see them from the other  side
from the top of Mt. Rogers.

traveling through the burn is always fascinating 

The south facing chutes of Chickadee Valley,
seen from the summit.

Summit views towards Chimney Peak and Mt. Quadra.

...and off we go into 1300m of fall line goodness

...and 10 min later close to the highway

big surface hoar growing, not just on the trees,
watch out when this stuff gets covered!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Full speed into the next year

The last 2 weeks were just a wild ride between one great ski tour to the next.
Canadian Winter at it's finest.
the burns are a bit of a trademark of 93south,
thanks to the big Kootenay wild fire in 2003
Can you believe it, it's me...Bodadondonk Blvd.
Wexler photo

Andrew still trying to give his tele's a good run for their money...
Floe Shoulder

Stephane from Montreal ripping the "Raven" at the upper Asulkan at Rogers Pass

close to the top of Mt. Rogers, with Tupper and Sir Donald sticking out  of the  clouds

looks like Doug Scott after he broke both feet on his epic fall on the Ogre
-the last steps to a very windy summit ridge of Mt. Rogers

Amelie and Stephane from Quebec- on their way up to Lookout Col,
they managed to do some serious milage with their regular downhill gear
next year they plan to return on lightweight touring gear, I better start training now.

Another slope in the Rockies which most people ignore...
good for us

Surprise Pass at it's finest.

Not telling where this is, other than it's just above the last larch tree.

popping out of treeline in the rockies usually involves those magic larch trees,
the only peculiar conifer that sheds it's needles in the Winter.

Simon taking a breather on the exhausting boot back up Super Surprice
The season is still young and there is no
'bootbackxerciser' to get you prepared for this  

Wexler goes exploring far back on Floe Shoulder, HWY93south

Simon setting a perfect uptrack to Mt. Rogers

Ben F. demos his interesting uphill technique.  One foot in front of the other and he uses two poles and an Ipod.
Unorthodox and rather unusual,  but it seems to work for him.

Ben "living the dream" Firth... 

...not bad for the Rockies!

Greg and Irene Toss setting their own track to Goodness.

Simon M. on new ground high above Lake Louise

The first skier and the last larch tree under the Shadow of Haddo.

Snowboarders are humans too

Another one of those magic runs in the alpine, the SE face of Fairview

Jamie H. on Fairview

daily routine at first, cold light

Andrew W. always on the lookout for something sick
What will 2013 bring to us???
Happy new year to all!