Monday, December 13, 2010

Bow Hut

It was a very dark and very stormy night. Had it been any darker or any stormier, we would have stopped driving. But we pushed on slowly over Rogers Pass, because we had an invitation from Ross to spend the weekend with him, D'Arcy and Deanna at the Bow Hut. We weren't about to miss the guaranteed spontaneous fun.
On Friday morning we met up in the parking lot for the trip up to the hut. It was a perfect day in the Rockies - still, mostly clear, and a little bit cold. The Bow Hut it stunning from below - a palace perched high on the rock:

In the next few days we had good turns on the glacier above the hut in the fairly flat light. We had the whole hut, yes the whole hut, to ourselves, for wine and cheese followed by gin-fueled dice games.
D'Arcy getting powder turns:
Apres-ski at the lodge - perhaps the carbon monoxide is getting to me?

The superb weekend was made more memorable by a spectacular crash on the ski out, in which Ross and then Andrew met the same rock, landing in a pile and leaving the trail strewn with gear. Thanks to Andrew's control on one ski, the worst damage was done to the ski that met the rock:

Then we got lost - or rather, off the main trail - thanks to some sneaky navigation by Ross and myself. The shortcut turned into a bushwhack, bringing back fond memories of eastern glade skiing.

The drive home was even more epic than the drive there - nine more hours of dark and stormy night driving. But worth every minute - thanks for a great weekend all!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Balu Pass

"Minus 17! But it's our first night out this season!?"

Sunday morning in the van. In general car camping is comfortable enough at these temperatures. Warm sleeping bags and a down duvet keep the chill off at night. A hot cup of tea and our small heater do the job when we're not actually in bed. It's the transition between these two states which can test one's resolve to keep doing this.

We've thought about installing a propane heater for a while. Thermostat. Timer. Mmmmm...just imagine the toasty mornings. But they're expensive, and drilling holes in the van and messing around with propane fittings seems like a recipe for a DIY disaster. Maybe next year.

(I say that every year.)

Joined by Nick and Steve we got our winter permit paperwork sorted out with minimal fuss and headed up the Connaught. An icy wind blew down the valley and it felt shockingly cold.

Rather than thrashing through the alder to get up high we simply went straight to Balu Pass to yo-yo up and down the variety of short runs there.

Greg Hill passed us. As usual.

Our first run was a little rough on the skis. The unconsolidated snow hid the lurking rocks but didn't support our weight and there were a few base gouging clangers that I still haven't had the nerve to investigate. We eventually figured out where the snow was better. At the end of each run we took turns pointing back up and saying "Okay let's ski that one next".

A fine day out with a good skiing and minimal effort to get there.

All the pics.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Asulkan Cabin

Last year the ski season started with a real bang. This year? More like a scraaape!

It was a little rough getting to the cabin, but getting back out was full combat skiing (to steal a phrase from Nick). Nevertheless we did get to the hut, and I think for possibly the first time ever in November, we spent two days skiing above the hut, rather than down below in the tree triangle.

Our first order of business had been to make a quick repair. The ACC had let us know that there was a problem with the propane line and that there might not be any heat. Thankfully Sylvain at the ACC recognized Fred's name on the list of people going to the hut (they had skied together years ago) and he suggested a possible fix. Upon arrival we jury rigged a propane line de-gunker and soon had the heater humming along at full blast. It would have been a cold night otherwise.

We had the hut to ourselves on the first night. On the second night we were joined by John, Jeff 1, Jeff 2, and Dustin (who we already knew) and Shane and Ben (who we didn't know). It's a long story as to how we know these guys. John, Jeff 2, and I all suffer together through a yoga class in quiet dignity. Fred also knows them through mountain biking.

Then there's Dustin. When went to the Asulkan Cabin in November 2005 Fred had asked Dustin to join us. At the hut Dustin met Jeff 1. They hit it off immediately and they now live together in Nelson. So this trip was an anniversary of sorts for them.

We had a ton of fun with them in cabin and I hope we can do this again some time. As for skiing with them? I dunno, not sure I could keep up!

Tying the Knot

We got married in October! A tiny wedding, we spent a week on Grand Manan Island in New Brunswick at my parent's B&B with just our families. The ceremony itself took place at an idyllic rocky cove within walking distance of the inn. The sun was shining, seals played in the water, folks waved was great! And in the tradition of this blog here's an arm's length "summit" shot:

There are a bunch of photos here if you can stomach other people's wedding photos :)

Of course weddings are about family and friends. After leaving the island we made our way first to Montreal for a quick visit with Brian (and lots of bagels) and then to Keene Farm in the Adirondacks.

The Adirondacks hold a special place in both our hearts. I've spent more days and nights in the Dacks than I care to count, along the way learning to climb and ski in these hills. And it was on the Wright Peak ski trail that Brenda and I first met, although admittedly that day was more memorable for the horrendous skiing than for the meeting of my future wife. I think only 3 of 7 people skied out under their own power that day!

And then everyone came to us!

Ross made the trip from Edmonton; Martin and family from Dundas; Bruno and Sheri from Connecticut; everyone else from Montreal and Ottawa. It was brilliant to see everyone, especially in this place where we all have such good memories of days gone by.

In many ways it was if nothing had changed; just another weekend in the Dacks. But then I'd realize that a teenage son (or daughter) was sitting at the picnic table with us, someone who wasn't even born when we first came to the Dacks and began drinking Scotch under the very tree that we were now sitting under.

Climbs were climbed...

Songs were sung...

And the old traditions were kept alive...

What else can be said? Thanks to everyone who made the effort to be there with us. It wouldn't have been the same without you. Have a look at the rest of the photos.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Cathedral Park

Just like last year we went to Cathedral Park for the Labour Day weekend to try the Matriarch-Macabre-Grimface Traverse.

And, just like last year, it snowed.

Saturday evening:

Sunday morning:

Oh well. We were visited by a friendly deer.

And tried to take artsy photos of snow covered wild flowers. Me with a new camera that Brenda got for my birthday.

We'll try again next year, before Labour Day. More photos here.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mount Rogers SE Ridge

Update June 2017:
Google killed the Picasaweb photo service so the photos in this post no longer click through to larger versions. Here's an album containing the photos:

Brenda and I are slowly working our way through the "low hanging fruit" in Rogers Pass. Mount Rogers seemed to be the next peak within our grasp. We hiked up to Hermit Meadows on Saturday afternoon with designs on a half traverse that would take us up the southeast ridge and then down the large south facing snow slope between Rogers and Grant.

We found the Selkirks North guidebook to be a little confusing in its description of the route; you can approach on the east side or the west side of the SE ridge, begin at the middle or at the end, avoid difficulties on the left, or possibly on the right, or even travel right over the ridge and join it again at a later point, all with varying degrees of difficulty. So we weren't exactly sure what we would be getting into.

Coincidentally, on the hike up we ran into a fellow, who shall remain nameless, that we kind of knew but mainly by reputation, who would also be trying Rogers the next day. He was leading a small group that would be going up by the way that we planned to come down, so after dinner we strolled over looking for some advice.

It was a really weird conversation. I dunno, some folks you click with and some you don't. Everyone has different reasons for being in the mountains. We decided to ignore the "advice" we were given and stuck with our original plan. It was the right choice, and in retrospect we were reminded of a quote: “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts” (Bertrand Russell).

The route was a fine, typical Selkirks ridge route. We went up the ramp to the notch on the ridge, and from here followed the SE ridge, sometimes on the crest (low 5th class), sometimes on climbers right (4th class). We had the rope out at a couple of points, but mainly this was to allow us stay on the ridge crest proper and avoid the less aesthetic 4th class rock on the east side.

Eventually the SE ridge joined the summit ridge above the Rogers-Grant col and from here it was mainly snow to the top.

This is the north side of the Swiss peaks (Grant, Fleming, and Swiss) a view that we have never seen before. The classic Swiss Peaks traverse goes from right to left.

As always it took longer than expected. 5 1/2 hours up. We hung out on the summit for a while trying to identify various peaks in the distance. Pretty sure we could see Mount Columbia and South Twin on the Columbia Icefields. The snow was getting sloppy on the way down but everything was pretty well bridged and we made good time down from the col and back across the glacier.

We met this fella just below the toe of the glacier and made a minor detour so as to not disturb him. I assume "fella". Do female mountain goats have horns?

A good day out and a good reconnaissance trip for doing the Swiss Peaks traverse on another day.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Brewer Buttress on Castle Mountain

Edit June 2017
Google killed Picasaweb and the photos in this post will no longer click through to larger versions. Here's the full album if you're interested:

A rest day was sorely needed after Victoria but we had booked the Castle Mountain Hut for the following night and now faced the rather daunting prospect of a steep 4 hour hike with overnight packs on the very next day.

So we had a lazy morning, basked in the sun on Ross's deck, and watched the insanely cute Canmore rabbits hop about the yard. But soon, far too soon, we reluctantly packed up our stuff and made the short drive north to Castle Mountain to begin the evening hike. Some day we'll take a real vacation :)

Hiking up to the Hut

Brewer Buttress is a 380m 5.6 rock climb that begins on the large ledge that girdles the mountain. There's a tiny ACC hut here where we would spend the night.

I had been to the hut once before in the mid-nineties and actually climbed Brewer Buttress, but I have few memories of the trip, other than we got caught in a thunderstorm somewhere around pitch 9 and it turned into an epic. And of course I remembered the shitter. Quality! Perched just back from a drop of several hundred meters, it's semi-composting, open to the elements, and offers an unparalleled view up and down the Bow Valley.

Brian relaxing with a cuppa (not on the shitter)

And I had forgotten about the pack rats; the little buggers were everywhere. And fearless. Especially when Ramen is on the menu.

Dinner is served

Up early the next day and climbing by 7:00. Being a party of three our biggest concern was time; Brian and I swung leads in 3 pitch blocks to minimize changeovers, but the biggest time saver was a Petzl Reverso/ATC Guide belay device that allowed the leader to belay two seconds at once. In the end we averaged something like 40 minutes a pitch so we did all right.

It was great to be up high climbing real rock with Brian again. And what an excellent climb this is.

The rock is solid (at least by Rockies standards); the route finding is easy especially with the fixed anchors; and the positions get more spectacular the higher you go. The last 3 pitches are just spectacular. We took the variation ending on the last pitch and I recommend it.

Brian on the variation final pitch

Topping out

What a relief to get the rock shoes off after 8 hours. I haven't done much rock climbing this year and my fingers were red and swollen after 12 pitches of prickly limestone.

To descend Castle you need to walk back north over the summit and scramble down an ugly gully with a few short rappels. It's a bit of a nasty place and I wouldn't want to be in there below another party sending rocks down. With the fixed anchors I wonder if rapping the route might actually be the better option these days? Here's a picture of the descent gully just in case you're reading this blog for beta.

And a link to Brian's excellent photos.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mount Victoria - North Summit

After our successful trip up Uto, Brian, Andrew and I (Brenda) went east to Canmore to join Ross on a trip to the North summit of Mt. Victoria. Victoria is the large glaciated peak immediately behind Lake Louise, so it features prominently in many postcards. The guidebook said it was appropriate for novice mountaineers. Perfect!

Our day began with consulting the tourist maps, at 5am, to ensure that we were headed to the right tea-house. Yes, the route starts at a tea-house, and yes, we were off-route immediately, headed for the wrong tea-house. Good thing Andrew was thinking straight.

Brian and Ross consult the Tourist Information. Which mountain are we going to?

Past the tea-house, up the trail, and around the lower slopes brought us to the glacier by breakfast time. On with the rope, up the glacier, and up the loose rock bands to the snow below the summit ridge.

So far, so good... we had climbed to 10,000'. Now for that last thousand feet. You would think that an 11k peak would only be 10% more difficult than a 10k peak, but somehow that last thousand feet seems to punch above its weight; I speak from my vast experience of now two eleven-thousanders.

The snow was sloppy and steep; it hadn't frozen well overnight. We hummed for a while trying to figure out which way to go. Finally Andrew found the best way up, skirting under the looming cornice that had an unmistakably bemused expression, and up to the ridge.

The cornice chuckles at us. Fortunately, it did no worse than chuckle.

When we got to the ridge, I realized with some disappointment that supper was still a long way away. The ridge was a bit icy, and after that there was a long-ish but surprisingly enjoyable section of rock to the summit.

Looking back at the long path to the summit.

The trip down was a little hair-raising for this novice mountaineer, over ice, soggy snow and loose rock bands. Andrew lent me a hand here and there, I managed to keep my sanity past the telling 12-hour mark, and soon we were past the difficult bits and on the way home.

Ross, with Lake Louise far below.