Sunday, November 2, 2014


While some folks in the Bow Valley have already been observed in plentiful numbers dry tooling in the shady and dark Playgrounds on Grotto Mountain, others did enjoy the perfect fall conditions lately to soak up the sun on warm rock well above 2000m, on the highest cliff  Echo Canyon has to offer.
When our Lord envisioned "Bellavista", the main purpose of his creation was to extend the climbing season for the poor locals who could not effort to go south in October on a regular basis in order to get some rock climbing fix in before the season closes. 
As the wise man he was back then (and hopefully still is), he took his hand and sliced a big chunk out of the high south flanks of Grotto Mountain. 
Unlike a straight hand of a Kung Fu Master, he did bend his into a half moon shape. With this simple trick he created a satellite dish feature that accommodates two different aspects and provides shelter from the almost constant west winds that seem to annoy most climbers.
And since it is for some reason not a forbidden fruit for a change, we just have to go up there and take advantage of his gift...
without being afraid to be kicked out of paradise.
Sounds like a good deal to me.
Simon Meis prior to a 6 o'clock sunset on Halloween day
 the only rain drops I saw in October, and they where kinda short lived 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Free Solo Masters

I've been wanting to write about this odd and unique event since quite a while but life got in the way. 
A fellow mountain guide from my home town Lienz in Austria,  Peter "Luna" Ortner, had this idea years ago and this Summer he finally made it happen. Most folks probably know him as an Alpinist, among many other big outings, he did the first free ascent of the east ridge of Cerro Torre with David Lama just a few days after the bolt chopping saga. 
This spring he focused on building this foldable, 16m high! climbing wall (EP in Canmore is 14m high). It can be easily transported on a truck and can be put up pretty much anywhere within minutes with the aid of a big crane. Then you blow up the 4m thick air mat (14x14m foot print), crank up the tunes and the competition can start. The rules are simple, climb on sight until you fall off. What counts is your high point and you got 3 minutes to finish the business , but all competitors either topped out or fell off prior to that. After a first and second round there were semi finals for the top 20 and then the finals later in the evening. 
What surprised all of us the most that the event turned out to be an absolut spectator magnet. By the time the Semi Finals rolled around the main square of Lienz was filled with more than 2000 people.
The last time I've seen such a crowd there was at the Carlos Santana concert in 1988.
Some good friends talked me into participating and although I had big concerns I really had a good time and I would not want to miss out on it. 
When do you as a rock climbers ever get a chance to fall from such a hight without hurting yourself? Although everybody knew that nothings gonna happen, it was still a huge adrenaline rush.
Wouldn't this be a good one for Canmore too?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

back from the alps

I just returned to Canmore from another "Summer" in Europe. Most people thought that it was not really a Summer there, since it was the coldest and wettest in decades.
Although it is hard to hide the fact that I was at times jealous when I heard reports on the perfect conditions here in western Canada, we still had a pretty good time over there.
We just had to adopt to different goals, accept to get wet once in a while, and appreciate the fact that it is way nicer to hang out in a bar when the weather is crap.

Lisi Steurer collecting air miles on our 50m project on the water proof Falkenstein

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

climbing is wonderful

In a little bit more than a week I have to leave for another guiding Summer in Europe. It has been a fantastic spring here in the Bow Valley for all kinds of activities and it will be hard to leave this little paradise I call home now.
Here are some of my favourite images from last weeks climbing outings.  
Imaginary Face, 5.9 Back of the Lake
Mardi Gras, 5.11 Back of the Lake
Liquid Sky, 5.11 Back of the Lake
Interstellar Overdrive, 5.11+ Bellavista
Everybody who cares about climbing should know where this is
Zeitgeist, 5.12+ Bellavista
Always Hungry, a beautiful Stellarjay I believe
Bouldering at Cathedral
Coming down from Echo Canyon, an evening shower over
the three Sisters

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Boulder instinct

There is something about bouldering that particularly attracts young people. It must be similar to the desire of climbing trees and other obstacles, unfortunately most of those activities are taken away from adults for justified safety reasons. It's always hard to argue against safety. 
"If you wouldn't have climbed up there you wouldn't have fallen down and you wouldn't have hurt yourself". 
Years ago I got in trouble when I belayed some kids up a tree after I picked up Luka from pre school. You should have seen the undescribable glow in their eyes before we got busted, they have obviously never been allowed to do such bad things before. 
Today we had a quick road side stop from our way back home from visiting some good friends in Golden, and I saw that wonderful glow again.

Monday, June 2, 2014

a last one?

May 31st should have been my last ski touring day of the season.
After getting talked into skiing one more time I thought we might as well make it a good one and try to ski of Mt. Smut. Driving into Kananaskis Country early morning the light was just good enough to see that there had been a substantial loss of snow pack since I was there the last time 2 weeks ago.
There was no snow to be seen anywhere on the valley floor as well as the crossing over Smuts Creek into the Commonwealth. 
Nevertheless we shouldered the skis and left the car, ready to walk for a while.
Well, the combination of knee deep marshes, a neck deep raging creek and a half dozen Canadian Geese dropped our psycho meter to just below zero and about 5 minutes later we were back at the car.
So we drove a few k's up the road to Burstall parking lot and headed for Robertson Glacier.
It actually turned out to be quite a pleasant day in the mountains. We were able to ski almost right from the car to the top and out again and the skiing on the glacier was similar to corn snow after it softened up. We also spotted some fresh grizzly bear tracks crossing the Haig Glacier at 2800m, a sign that spring has definitly arrived.

Rob H. popping out in the sun high on the glacier,
with the shadows of the rock pinnacles of Mt. Robertson painting a piece of moving art.

Here you can see the lack of snow on the south facing slopes of Mounts Commonwealth and Nestor beyond.
Rob Hill Picture

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


Recently I ran into this quote below from Nick Bullocks Blog ...always a great read btw., maybe at times a bit depressing but such must be climbing life on the Island overall. Or maybe I just don't get the british black humour... 

“We ain’t getting any younger and we should stop relying on our bodies for fulfilment – it’s a fucking dead-end street!!”
Just turning 45, I agree that there is a certain amount of truth to this statement, but I certainly try to see the inevitable fact of aging a bit different.
Greg Toss on his  "younger than yesterday"  (not in Ceuse)

Climbing the other day with even older guys than myself I got inspired by their drive to still push their personal limits. 
They offset the unstoppable aging process with increased training, smarter climbing and a healthier life style overall. 
Is this a bad thing to do, setting yourself a hard goal and work hard for it?
So, if it's not our own body we should be looking for fulfillment, what else is there left to strive for?

Even Rusty himself isn't getting any younger. Although he is sore after the long walk to the Lookout,
 he for sure looks satisfied.

It's better to burn out, than to fade away.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

it all started out with a picture

And it was the picture below that I sent Wexler at 10p.m. in great hopes he might join me the next day. It only took a couple of minutes that I received the message "I'm in! What time?"
Now the pressure was on to find the easiest access to that thing and hopefully get to ski something cool. At the time I send Andrew the picture, which I actually took about three years ago, I did not even know the name of the mountain. At midnight I finally had everything sorted out and finally off to bed for a few hours of sleep.

The line I really wanted to go for is the one almost off the highest point, but is not entirely visible on the picture, so it was certainly a relief when we turned the corner and saw the whole thing connected.

After the typical sluff debris at the run out we boot packed the entire way up in chin to knee deep powder. It was not hard to guess that the descent has the potential of beeing awesome.

After some narrow sections we entered this wicked wide slope which went on and on forever.

A few rock moves placed us on the ridge about 80m below the Summit.

After some ridge rodeo and other fun games we left our skis at the top of a perfect entrance to the face and pushed on without them on a very exciting ridge climb.

The run down the 800m face was memorable to say the least, it's not often that good powder sticks to a steep run like this with barely any sluffing.

The price you pay for skiing hard in the Rockies.
It for sure hurts, but it's a good pain.
This over view of the mountain I took today from the summit opposite side of the drainage,
which provides a great corn objective in the spring.
It shows the line off the main summit on the left which we skied that day,
the other obvious lines have been skied since.

In times when wild places like Stanley North face turn into a mogul slope after one day of perfect conditions,
it is for sure nice to find those untouched outings right in your back yard.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Three Rockies days in a row.

After getting sick for the first time this Winter during Easter break I felt weak and sans energy. But I knew the skiing had to be unreal out there and I finally stopped dragged myself out into K-country for a solo mission, just to see where I was at. Since our stolen ski gear never surfaced, I had to re-activate my old Dynafit Manaslu "boingers" with some half broken bindings for an unexpected adventure in my immidiate backyard. After skiing the regular Buller chute with a foot of new snow over a very stable and supportive snow pack, I decided to go for a line I looked at for years. The big cornice that usually threatens the entire couloir was gone and the snow looked good all the way up with no wind effect or avi debris. This was the day to do it, and so I decided to poke my nose in.

everything went well and I got higher in what promised to be a great ski down,
hard to get lost in that one
Selfie half way up where the chute widens again,
this was the first time I could see that hidden cornice.
It was a small one but certainly unsupported and overhanging.
From now on I made my way up a vague ridge feature to stay away from the potential party pooper above me.
As I topped out on the ridge and started to climb towards the summit, there was a sudden whumpf and
a hole opened just 2 feet away from my track and the cornice released down into my ski line.
Although it did not take out my up track in the upper half, it certainly took out the whole lower part you can see in the  first picture. So much for all the good snow I was looking forward to ski...
I had to put in the slow 4 wheel drive for the last 300m of the choke.

The next day Ben F. and I had an early start in order to beat the radiation on the east facing top slope of Haddo. We tried this line a couple years back with Josh Briggs, but sloppy snow conditions below the summit made us turn around. This time we hooked up with Kyle C. from Golden in the parking lot at Lake Louise. The last time I skied with Kyle was in the Bobbie Burns when I was still guiding there and he was the maintenance man. Good ol' days.
overall a wintery day, pretty high on the mountain was the first time we got into direct sun rays...
...but cloud cover with the occasional little snow shower kept the surface cold and powdery.
The Sphinx Face of Mt. Temple looming behind Ben.
Due to a logistical error of our intricate planning procedures we did not manage to summit.
(read: us idiots did not think we need a rope and left it in the car although it was obvious we had to climb a rock band just below the summit, dahhdushbags)
 ...and we could not blame any bad conditions on it, other than our own stupidity.
regardless, we had a fantastic powder run down and afterwards a little bonus boot pack to a col west of Surprise pass which gives you access to a wonderful couloir down the backside. Kyle (in the back) in particular seemed to enjoy the boot pack and had a hard time keeping his inner feelings under control.  
And then, just as I was ready for a rest day, Wex finally got out from Camp Bugaboos and we had to get amongst it for the first time after his accident at the start of last Winter. We figured the last time we were out together was on the Narao couloir over two years back. Jason Kruk from the coast joined us last minute for what seemed to be a casual outing to the north chute of Mt. Bell.
10min into the day Wex already lost his ski pole on the intricate hiking trail to tailor lake.
Luckily he is used to mishaps like this and has already developed a technique for lost item recovery in isothermal snow.
After 10km of schlogging past Taylor Lake we finally saw our goal, but we could also see something else.
A narrow slot left of the main line was slicing it's way almost all the way to the summit.
Neither of us had been in this area before so this came as a pleasant surprise to all of us. At this point we did not know if the line would connect all the way to the summit ridge or not, we had to wait for 2 more hours to find out.
Wexler Photo
That's why I like to bring the young lads with the strong legs.
Back in the skis higher up I was ready to go ahead again.
Beautiful pink quartzite can be found left and right of the main chute and would make a summer climbing visit worth while.
Photo session close to the Summit with Jason checking out the entrance to our line.
Since I let the youngsters have first tracks on the boot pack, I thought it's my turn to go first.
Gotta clean it out and make it safe for the boys!
Jason Kruk photo
This is the wider middle part of the Hells Bells Couloir;
 there you can really rip it before it narrows again at the bottom.
Jason decided to ski another arm of the new line which joined  the main chute a bit earlier,
here I snapped a picture of him in the lower part of the main chute.