Friday, February 27, 2015

you only know if you go

Although as humans we always like to know what's going on and have a distinct desire to predict the future, it is the unknown which we seek when going on our little adventures outside the comfort and temptation of our plentiful coffee shops and Elevation Places in town.
The great unknown in our case was, if the line on the west summit of Mt. Whymper we spotted last spring goes or not. Also, in order to catch up with some gossip that built up during this Winter I had to find a special goal for Wex and Josh to lure them in for the much needed boot backing. 
With below's picture I set the hook.
The question mark on the X shaped couloir right of the center of the picture was the hidden parts we did not see from this angle, and how big the cornices would be threatening the entire line.
The first part of the lower left leg of the X was pretty straight forward 
and delivered boot packing at it's finest. We made quick progress, 
even with our heli ski pampered legs.

At the intersection of the X things got a bit narrower and rock steps seemed to block the passage.
Doubt started to show up on our faces and uncertainty started to slowly creep into our initial hype.
After wallowing in deep facets close to the rocks I was able to make an exposed rock traverse out into the upper right arm of the X.
wexler picture
Above the rock step, a few nervous moments in more bottomless facets, until the snow got firmer and more reassuring. This last part of the couloir is very committing since one would be swept over a 30m high cliff if going for a ride for whatever reason.
 There is also a cornice looming above, in our case it was not very threatening thanks to the fairly lame Winter we've had so far.
Should you constantly look up to see if something falls down on you or simply ignore the beast?
Nowhere to run anyways.
We found a fairly easy exit out to the right and into the light of the summit ridge.
The last steps to the summit of a very tired but seemingly content Wex.
Finally, el Cumbre!
Me stoked out of my mind, planting the Austrian flag as a proof of reaching the top,
 and Josh trying to digest Kimbi's home made date squares which he forgot to chew.
wexler picture

Josh and Wex are typical friendly Canadians and therefore offered me to drop in first, and since I am Austrian I took up on the offer. The proper Canadian way would have been to offer the offer back, something like "very kind of you, but why don't YOU go ahead".
 Spending over 20 years in this beautiful country I slowly get the concept, but offers like this I simply can't refuse, screw the proper local customs and let selfishness take over the moment.
Wexler Picture
After a few turns I started a major sluff that ran full path, so I found an island of safety and waited for my friends to ski by and took some pictures. These are all taken above the "no fuck up or you die" zone above the aforementioned cliff band.

You should know that when Wexler shows up with AT gear, there will be some serious line to be skied. No trying to be a hero and freewheeling on this one...

Luckily everything went well and we were even able to keep our skies on from the 
summit to the base, thanks to an exposed short traverse on a shallow ramp back into the lower, 
less committing half.

Joshua in his element, steep and icy...just like Galena

This line was certainly one of the finer lines I was able to ski in the Rockies, simply due to the fact that it was an ad hoc decision to go there
that it was a big ? if she goes
that she actually did go
that it surprisingly skied quite well top to bottom
that I was able to catch up with some good gossip
that it was a great day with good friends 
And now back to the heli ski world, no more boot packing for at least 2 weeks...
omg, I'm gonna miss it!
wexler picture
A big thanks goes out to the young bucks who broke trail for the old man.
Here is a link to a short video Josh put together:

Saturday, February 21, 2015

what it takes to be a "classic'

Recently a guest asked me what it takes to call an ice climb a classic. I try to explain it below with a water fall and it's yours to figure out which one it is...
Although for many a ice climber a very casual day out, it has been an adventure for this young man who just had his first multi pitch experience on ice. Like for so many climbers before, a grand introduction to the world of multi pitch ice climbing.
 The local favourite, fairly easy accessible by bike or a long flat walk, is one of the best choices for the moderate grade. Especially when temperatures are warm and other ever greens like Cascade and Rogans Gully have been melted away by the never-ending waves of Pinnapples and Chinooks. 
This climb is a classic for a reason, and the reason is that it's always there. From the end of October until the beginning of May, it delivers even through the most intense warm spells. Also, the ice on the path holds up against any physical laws, I'm always amazed about the skating rink quality of the ice puddles after a day of plus 10.
The one physical law though you might encounter first hand is the one of free fall, 
9.8m per second per second
Off the bike and into the weapons, might as well get used to them on the last 5min on the outflow of the falls.
The falls provide 6-8pitches of climbing, separated by a couple of short walks in between, with the crux on the last one. Bolted anchors on nice stances speed up the process and provide rappel options for 60m single ropes. There is also the option to walk off and it is recommended to do so in times of high traffic as a curtesy to the following climbers.
This is one of the few water fall ice climbs in the Rockies that can safely provide options for multiple parties if one respects a few basics. 
The upper part of the climb should be avoided at times of high avalanche hazard, at least once a season a big greaser spills over the last crux pitch and covers the gully below in house high debris.
A pretty stroll back to the bikes, with the right timing you can catch the happy hour and a well deserved pint at the St. James Gate.
Those are some of the ingredients needed for a climb to be classic, at least in my opinion.

Friday, February 13, 2015

El Ninjo

It has been a strange and rather unusual Winter so far. We are again in the middle of a so called Pineapple express, which means that the jet stream pumps warm and moist air from the general direction of Hawai over the warm south Pacific towards our mountain ranges. The third one so far this Season and also the longest lasting. 
Here in my little heli ski world bubble of the Adamants things turned out to be pretty good, we were able to stay out of the lower elevation wet snow for the most part and the weather was just good enough to hang out in the alpine lately. The guiding though has been particularly exhausting due to the flat light and extremely fast changing weather conditions.
Unicorn in the Adamant group,
with the clouds lingering around the peaks since a few weeks now.
Another big part of my Winter job is ice climbing. Canmore is a great hub for this activity and I already guided 3 weeks of mostly excellent ice. In the Rockies the warm temperatures were rather beneficial to the ice quality and the comfort factor. So far me and my guests never had to deal with the infamous screaming barfies, an otherwise constant companion in Winter outings in ice.
Pilsner Pillar
For the first time I took my guest up to the very top, another 5 pitches of nice ice to had.
Vito and Motz, friends of mine from Austria, came over for an ice climbing trip and sampled a lot of the harder multi pitch climbs. On one of their later outings in the Ghost Motz got hit by a large chunk of ice on his head and had to be airlifted by Kananskis Country Public Safety. I would like to thank them big time for their quick and professional response. We are so lucky to have those guys staged in Canmore with the rescue helicopter right there, there are few places in North America who have this luxury and potentially life saving service available for back country mishaps.
Motz Wurzer negotiating thin ice with one tool after dropping the other one on the last rock move  on the crux pitch of  Cryophobia...don't wanna blow the on sight because of a little mishap.
Vito Messini puts his tools away and enjoys the perfect limestone bare handed.
This is rather rare for January and another nice side effect of El Ninjo.
BTW there is a hanger missing on this pitch.
Traditional Ale, a climb I put up a decade ago with Marc Piche at minus 25C.
Motz enjoys it at plus 5.