Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Canadian Rockies

Me, sad to see Wild Thing melting out and things falling down it.
The Canadian Rockies are the greatest alpine climbing range. Simple. No altitude issues, ease of access (even if sometimes you have to wade through deep snow for 20km) and Canmore, Banff and Jasper as drinking holes close by; I am not sure it gets any better. The main reason though, the Rockies win for best alpine climbing destination, is the wilderness. Jon and I saw few people (minus a group of 80 from Spokane) that were chasing steep alpine climbs.

Perhaps the stories of bad rock, bears (there were many out this week) and long approaches keep everyone away. I love the sense of being really out there; even just a couple of hours walk from the car make you feel remote.

We tried hard to find something fun to climb, looking at Mts Chephren, Andromeda, Cromwell, Robson, Temple and Deltaform, but the 10 day high pressure and very high temps kept us from getting anything done. It might seem like a ton of effort ( 2 x 24 hour driving days, 1 x 40 km hiking day to see conditions of the Emperor face, a 2am start to try a route and hundreds of other kilometers driven to look at routes and only 3 rock pitches climbed at Lake Louise) for nothing. But we had fun, we did get a lot of exercise and laughed a bunch.

Sometimes everything lines up minus one key ingredient - conditions. No Problem, we will be are a few more photos from the trip.
Jon, testing the snow, yes, snowshoes were helpful.

Me, Asteroid Alley and Shooting Gallery, living up to their names,  above.
Moraine Lake, tourist walking on thin ice, shorts and t-shirt weather

Sunrise, taken under Mt Andromeda

Looking up at the sun hitting the upper wall of Andromeda Strain

Reflections on the hike to Mt Robson's Emperor Face.

Beautiful colors in the water on the way to Mt Robson's Emperor Face

Mt Robson, Emperor Face

Emperor Falls

Valley view below Emperor Falls

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Journey

My home woddie
“The journey is the destination” and all the other trite sayings about being in the moment, forcing us to be excited about the process of training, about the pain and effort of repeated movement, of practice making perfect movement and eventual execution of routes has always bothered me. Bothered me because I always felt it somehow belittled the need to have a huge end goal. Would I train for the sake of training? Would I run just to run? I have needed and used big goals as good motivators over the years. Would I be happy without the passion of heading towards a big goal.

Very hard wood cut into blocks with shallow drilled holds make excellent drytooling holds.
 Something clicked with the process recently; I have been stuck in the process of everyday life for the past year, the grind of house building, of moving, of work, of films, of love and of injury. All of it combined to make life full and eventful. But all of it forced me to get excited by small incremental achievements on my home wall, or a longer distance run faster or a steeper slope skied better. 

Somehow I managed to find the joy in the process without a clear goal in mind. Those small gains made me happy. I thought that not having a clear goal would make with train without passion. Trapped in a white 12’ high x 20’ long carport tent on a wooden home built wall has turned out to be a small oasis. I took great pleasure in setting routes and then failing to finish them at first, making a move or two closer to completion ever few sessions. Finally I have completed all of them and can now link them.

The joys (read expensive) parts of home building.
I have big goals again and somehow the day to day gains seem more important; I finally have finished a cycle of training that coincides with an alpine climbing trip to Canada.  I have a strong and motivated partner that was just in Chamonix and in the swing of things. Lets hope conditions are good.

Alpine dreams.
 More when we get back.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Reduce, Reuse & Recycle! Crag Slippers

Reduce, Reuse & Recycle Fridays!

Old running shoes are now my craving slippers
Looking for ways to clean out your closet this spring and perhaps this weekend? Wondering what to do with pesky old running shoes. For a few years now I have been cutting the backs off of my old running shoes when I cannot run in them anymore and use them as crag slippers. 

They are great for between burns in Rifle, or anywhere the approaches are short and not too steep. I use them to walk the dog in the morning, or when I have just forgotten something in the car. A great way to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Spring Alpinism

Me, Hallett's Chimney, a while ago, thanks Tom for the photo!

Spring always brings a bit of hope for me.

Long, warmer days generate a shift in desire from cold snow floating and long ski tours, to slow, methodic and often panic filled moments of alpine climbing.

Such a strange thing, let's be honest; powder skiing is the best fun you can have in the mountains. Hands down the best. Yup you read that right. I am yet to have a bad time floating on powder. How can you? It is somewhat magical, that simple.

Alpine climbing though, well, that is another story. The approach is hardly ever fun, nor close. The pack always weighs too much. It is freezing leaving the car and then you are sweating immediately. Wind, darkness, getting lost, and the constant wondering if the climb is in condition, if someone has beat you to it, etc. Who wants to do this?

Then you get to the climb and you have it all to yourself and now you might just actually have to climb it. It is cold and tools start to scratch around and crampons scrape and you wonder where the warm up climb, like in the gym, is. Too much gear clanking around, is it the right gear?, why do I even have so much gear (Josh Wharton never has this much in the photos I see of him)?, pack full of belay coat and extra gloves and other junk because the easiest way home is down the other side of the mountain. Does the gear hold in that iced up crack I kinda beat out, should I have used a longer sling, a shorter sling? Is my partner paying attention? Is he stoned again ( I live in Colorado).

Me, Alexander's Chimney, a while ago, thanks Brian for the photo
Then suddenly you are in the swing of things, your mind clears because you have no choice. It must. You must go up and you must apply all of your earned skill and knowledge so that you get the most of the experience. You squeeze every bit of doubt and suffering out of your mind because you packed your bag, you walked the long approach, you put yourself in this position. That, I think, is the beauty of climbing, it mimics the uncertainty of the world, the chaos, the fear and doubt; but you control the only aspect of it that you can - you put yourself there. You chose to do it.

It is rare, but those times that you are pushing your limit and everything is going well and you have completely zoned out all the negatives and self doubt make alpine climbing so much fun. Those are alpinism's powder days. Trust me, they are few and far between, interspersed with hard days that make you reflect on your choices of sport, but when they come they are so sweet.

After a bit of time off (you know if you don't count the trips to Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, Alaska, Nepal and all of the days working in Colorado the past year) to get rid of some nagging injuries, I am very excited  for this spring!

Thanks very much for the continued support from SCARPA and CAMP and the new support from RAB (who make some really kick ass alpine climbing clothes, sleeping bags and Tents - remember Integral Designs!!!) I hope to bring you some fun photos and trip reports soon!