Monday, 20 April 2015

"When all that's left to do is reflect on what's been done."

"The Dam At Otter Creek" Live

when all that's left to do is
reflect on what's been done
this is where sadness breaths
the sadness of everyone

just like when the guys
built the dam at otter creek
and all the water backed up
deep enough to dive

we took the dead man in sheets to the river
flanked by love
deep enough to dive
deep enough to dive
be here now

we took him there and three
in a stretcher made from trees
that had passed in the storm
leave the hearse behind
to leave the curse be here now

For those of you who have been following my blog for some time now, I guess you'll appreciate that sometimes I get fixated on a certain song. I'm not very good with words, so when I come across a song with lyrics that speak to my current emotional condition, I sort of lean on that song to express myself. If I could have one super hero power, it would be the power of song. But, alas, I can't sing, and I mostly can't write. 

I'm kind of mad at life right now, and it seems that, "all that's left to do is reflect on what's been done." And I guess that reflection kind of bums me out more.

To pass the time in perhaps a more productive way, I figured I should share a little bit about the three...yes three trips, Colin and I made to Colfax Pk. in the last month. Colin was preparing for a trip to Nepal, and I for a trip to Alaska, so slogging around on a volcano seemed the perfect training ground.

Just before we left Seattle for our respective international destinations, Colin spoke with Chris Van Leuven at Alpinist about all the activity on Colfax, namely our new route Colin is calling, Kimichi Suicide Volcano. Rather than regurgitate all the information Colin already shared with Chris, I figured I'd just copy and paste the Alpinist report here. I'll add a few additional photos at the bottom too.

Big, Blobby Jugs: Haley and Hart Climb New Route on Colfax Peak 
Posted on: April 16, 2015

Sarah Hart follows Colin Haley's lead on pitch 3 of their new route, Kimchi Suicide Volcano (M5 R AI4+, 1,000'). They climbed the route on April 9 in approximately 6 hours. On March 6, they completed a rare ascent of the neighboring Polish Route (WI6, ca. 1,000'), which contains a rarely formed, delicate hanging dagger. [Photo] Colin Haley

On April 9, Colin Haley and Sarah Hart, taking advantage of an open access road that saved them 10 miles of skinning and 2,500 feet of elevation gain, nabbed a new 1,000-foot route up Colfax Peak (9,440'), a sub-peak of Mt. Baker above Bellingham, Washington.

Haley belays Hart as she follows pitch 2. Their route continues up the ice directly above Haley. [Photo] Sarah Hart

Their route, Kimchi Suicide Volcano (M5 R AI4+), climbs over volcanic rock and up sparse cracks, and follows discontinuous ice into a narrowing chimney followed by a tunnel. The day of the climb, the team left their car at 6:30 a.m., gained 1,000 feet of elevation through the forest, then skinned 4,000 feet up the Coleman Glacier and reached the base around noon. Their route consisted of five roped pitches, protected by cams, nuts, pitons and ice screws. The highlight of the day was finding and then wiggling through the 15-foot tunnel, which they didn't know was there until after Haley climbed through much of the chimney and saw light coming through from the other side. Haley and Hart surmounted this obstacle with their back on one side and legs pressing against the other. From here, the route summited via snow slopes and neve, which the two simulclimbed. They stood on top 6:30 p.m., walked off the back of the peak and returned to their car by 9:30 p.m. 

Haley leading the third pitch on Kimchi Suicide Volcano. "I have three cams and a nut," Haley said with a laugh. "They're all shitty pieces, figuring if I put in enough, one would hold [a fall]." The ice above the mixed terrain took reliable screws. [Photo] Sarah Hart

The mixed climbing was "like Smith Rock but with blobs sticking out," Haley says. "[The blobs] look suspect but are totally solid." Smith Rock, Oregon, made of welded tuff and rhyolite, is riddled with pockets and knobs.

Kimchi marks the third route on the north face of Colfax. The other two are the Polish Route (WI6, 1000', Rogoz-partner, 1990s) and the moderate Cosley-Houston (WI4, ca. 700', Houston-Cosley, 1982). The Polish Route contains a hanging dagger and has been repeated only four times, three of them this winter, Haley believes, beginning with Will Hinckley and Braden Downey in mid January. On March 6 of this year, Roger Strong and Doug Hutchinson made their ascent of the Polish Route; it was Strong's sixth attempt since 1997, as not until now had he found the hanging dagger to be in condition. Haley and Hart also climbed the Polish Route on the same day.

Pitch 4, a mixed chimney with big jugs everywhere that narrows down to a 15-foot long tunnel. [Photo] Colin Haley

Because of the long approach, most teams climb Colfax in the autumn before snow covers the access road, but this year it saw traffic throughout the winter because the road stayed open. 

"These ridges [on Colfax Peak] may possibly be the walls of an extinct crater, whose vast hollow is some two miles in length by about the same in width," states The Alpine Journal, Volume 5. "At the point of intersection of the above-mentioned ridges, but beyond it (a vast field with neve filling the intervening space), rises the great peak, entirely snow covered."

Haley adds, "The special thing about Colfax... is that it's so high quality compared to other winter climbing in the Cascades. Colfax has this high-alpine ambiance to it, but with steep, technical climbing. It has this combination of easy access and reliable ice conditions... tons of real blue ice over. It could be in the Alps or the Canadian Rockies." Because of Colfax's lofty height, and since it faces north and is near the ocean, it receives moisture. Mt. Baker (native name: Kulshan) is a volcano, and Haley believes geothermal heat melts and forms water ice on the face and on the rock. "Nowhere else in the Cascades do you see such reliable waterfalls so high on the mountain," Haley says. 

Colfax Peak (9,440'), showing Kimchi Suicide Volcano (M5 R AI4+, 1,000'), the Polish Route (WI6, ca. 1,000) and the Cosley-Houston (WI4, ca. 700'). [Photo] Colin Haley

Sources: Colin Haley, Roger Strong, The Alpine Journal (Volume 5, 1870-1872), Washington Ice: A Climbing Guide, 

On trip number one to Colfax, Colin crosses the snow hanging precariously over the bergshrund, that in any normal winter would be barely exist, to the base of the Polish Route.

Colin leads pitch one of the Polish Route with the populated Fraser Valley below.

I really just like how colourful this photo is. 

Here's me coming up to the belay of the first pitch.
Colin leads off on the crux WI6 pitch. Apparently, before this pitch, he'd never led a free hanging dagger before. Way to go Captain Safety!

Colin approaching the dagger. This is the rarely formed feature of the Polish Route that perennially turns people back.

On the summit of Colfax after completing the Polish Route. 

Time for round two. Here's me as we approach the base of Colfax's north face.

North faces are cold places.

Colin leads the WI4 crux pitch of the Cosley-Huston with skis. It was kind of amusing to watch him catch his ice tool on his skis each time he swung his tool. Hehehehe...

Looking down halfway up the crux pitch. After my Rockies Fat Camp 2015, I felt like the WI4 pitch, even though not super hacked out, was pretty darn casual. Hooray! Progress! I guess I need to come back and drag someone up the Cosley-Huston now. Who's coming with me?!

On the summit again with my lover. 
Colin on the summit of Colfax with the Salish Sea, and the Gulf Islands in the distance.

Colin pauses on the walk back to the Colfax-Baker col.

Me, slogging behind Colin with the summit of Colfax visible in behind.

We attempted to continue on to the summit of Mt. Baker after climbing Colfax, hence why we brought skis with us, but below the Roman Headwall I had a little breakdown when I couldn't feel my little toesies anymore, so we turned around.

I got to lead us over the bergshrund on the approach to the base of Kimchi Suicide Volcano on trip three to Colfax. Here's Colin following me to the belay below the first pitch.

Colin leading on the first pitch. This is where I fell while following. I took a big swinging pendulum fall and gave out a rather loud scream. I think the skiers on the glacier below heard me, and probably thought I'd done something really bad. Oops!

Colin higher up on that first pitch. I kind of over saturated this photo,  you can see the whisps of spindrift that kept hitting us while we climbed this day.

Colin leading out on the second pitch. Again, I mostly just love all the colour in this photo.

One more from the second pitch. Colin finished up by climbing out the ice above.

Here's me following pitch three. Yes, notice my sweet pink ice tool shafts. I'm pretty stoked about that. It definitely helps make the shafts a little stickier, and warmer.

Looking down on the belay at start of pitch four.

And here it is, the ice chimney that we eventually tunnelled through to the top of pitch four. It was pretty mind expanding for this rock climber to be climbing through an icy tunnel only to pop out on a snowfield above.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Girl Power: The Perfect Slideshow with Sarah Hart


I'm doing another slideshow. This time...get ready for will be in Fairbanks, Alaska! Wahoo! I'm going to Alaska, people. I ain't never been! I'll be making a brief stop in Fairbanks to pick up a partner and do a slideshow, before heading to Talkeetna and the Ruth Gorge. My Alaska partner, Mr. Seth Adams, is a Fairbanks local and he thought it would be cool to tack on a slideshow to my brief visit to Fairbanks. I like slideshows, so naturally I agreed. 

For those of you who followed the link on the slideshow poster to my blog, I thought it best to provide a little introduction to myself, and my slideshow topic below. I'm sure most of you Fairbanks locals will know Seth well already, but I also wanted to share a link to his blog, Purer and More Essential Than Yours (seriously, that is the title of his blog!), so you can get to know him a little bit better too. 

Sarah comes from the land of smog and eight lane highways: southern Ontario, and is the daughter of a dirt bike-racing father and shopping mall-loving mother. While her upbringing lacked mountain culture, it was packed full of indiscriminate passion and energy – she was raised to approach everything in life with zeal and 100% effort. Today, this is how she approaches her climbing.

Sarah learned to climb on the limestone bluffs of Lions Head, Ontario, but in 2004 realised that while southern Ontario may be the financial centre of the country, it certainly wasn’t the climbing centre. She now calls Squamish, British Columbia home, where world-class granite is a bike ride away, and she can eat sushi almost everyday.

In 2007 she went on her first alpine climbing expedition to Pakistan in the company of two of her best girlfriends. They were young, inexperienced, and barely scraped by without killing themselves. Eight years later, she’s slightly less Kamikaze in the mountains, and has spent countless hours tent bound in the company of both men and women.

The rhetoric of, “men versus women” is old news, but what about, “men versus women in the mountains”? Join Sarah as she answers some of the alpine community’s most baffling male-female questions like, “who takes longer to pack for a big expedition?”, “who makes better tent platforms?”,  “who eats more chocolate?”, and ultimately, “who’s just plain better?” Well, it’s the girls naturally. Join Sarah as she answers these and other thought-provoking questions in, “Girl Power: The Perfect Slideshow”.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

A picture is worth a thousand words... I won't bother with a thousand, and just include a few words below. Mostly I'll let the images speak for themselves.

I wanted to dedicate a blog post to some of my photographer friends. I'm ever so slowly developing an eye for photography. Well, I should clarify that. I'm developing a taste for taking copious amounts of photos with my pocket sized point and shoot in an effort to produce at least one image that's worth looking at. Turns out, this strategy has started working for me. What this attention to photography has also given me, is a real appreciation for actually talented photographers. As a professional athlete, I've had the privilege of working with some awesome photographers, and I wanted to share with you a few of my favourite photographers here.

Jamie Finlayson

Jamie is not only a budding photographer, but also our local Squamish crusher. Jamie's climbed pretty much all the hard climbing Squamish has to offer, and now has his sights set on Dreamcatcher, 5.14d. He's getting close. Jamie, his wife Natalie, and their two dogs Furgus and Oscar are also some of our best Squamish buddies. Jamie recently had back surgery, the result of a previous life as a nationally ranked alpine ski racer, and apparently falling off a roof or something like that. Only a few short months later, Jamie just ticked a V12. Wow!

Rich Wheater

Rich is probably the godfather of Squamish climbing photography. He’s been doing it a long time, and is the eyes behind some of the most iconic images of Squamish rock climbing. Rich always seems to do an incredible job of photographing the whole story, not just the climber, but the surrounding landscape too. Because, let’s face it, climbing is about a lot more than just the climbing. Rich, and his partner Senja, are also among the first few people I met when I moved to Vancouver way back in 2004. I've been going on climbing trips with them ever since. 

Chris Christie

I didn't really know Chris until he joined Jasmin Catton, Kinley Aitken, and I on a trip to the Waddington Range as our token male photographer. Chris is awesome, he does everything. He's a bad ass mountain biker, a bad ass big mountain skier, a bad ass cyclocross racer, and not to mention one of my fellow MEC Ambassadors. Chris always makes me chuckle because he'd be the first to tell you that he doesn't necessarily like all the exposure that goes along with climbing photography. Whenever I'm out with him on a photography mission I can hear him muttering to himself from his photographers perch about how much he's freaking out. But, he's always stoked to join in on a mission, and always takes AMAZING photos! I love Chris' work!

Andrew Querner

Andrew is like a 5.14 photographer. I don't mean he only takes pictures of people climbing 5.14's, I just mean he's that good. I get the impression he takes climbing photos to keep himself busy when he's bored. Mainly, he's a sought after documentary photographer, whose work has gained the attention of media outlets like, The National Post. Obviously, his eye for telling a story with his photography is evident in his climbing photography too. Below is an image from a series of his work titled, "Shelter from the Storm". As a climber, it's pretty impressive to me how much tension and emotion I can gather from this image of Sarah climbing an alpine route in the Rockies as a storm rolls in. 

Rich is like my little brother. I’ve watched him grow up in the mountains, and I’ve watched him develop as a photographer. I liken Rich to famed coastal explorers John Clarke, or John Baldwin. He has the incredible ability to suffer. His adventure of choice is long obscure mountain scrambles, all the while with his ridiculously heavy DSLR camera in tow. Despite the enormous amount of suffering he puts himself, and his unsuspecting trip partners through, he always comes away with incredible photos of smiling, happy people. Unlike some of the other photographers included here, Rich has another full-time job so he doesn’t get to updating his blog, or Flikr site very often, but when he does it’s full of not only incredible images, but detailed trip reports too. If you need beta on some mountain your friends have never heard of, then check out Rich’s blog. It’s probably got the detail you need, including where the best pee spots are on the approach.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Patagonia 2014/15 edition II

Since returning from Argentina, I've been getting distracted with fun adventures around home. I can't decide if the very unseasonably small amount of snow we have this year, is a good thing, or a bad thing, because I've sure been having fun climbing...and driving really high (not that kind of high!) on logging roads for ridiculously long ski tours.

Mid-winter bouldering temps, and no rain. Wicked! Photo, Jamie Finlayson

Second day on skis this season, and my first day out after returning from Patagonia was a 35 km ski traverse. My incredibly gifted, and grumpy, friend Rich So took a few silly photos along the way which I thought you might get a laugh out of as well. Photo, Rich So.

I. Look. Like. A. Smartie. Photo, Rich So.

Photo, Rich So.

The "Unlikely Alpinist" himself, Mr. Richard So with the oft-coveted, seldom climbed Vulcan's Thumb, Pyroclastic Pk., and Mt. Cayley in behind. Cool fact, in the language of the aboriginal people that inhabited the Squamish river valley, Mt. Cayley was called, "Landing Place of the Thunderbird". That's pretty cool! This group of mountains holds interest to Geologists too, as they are a part of the Garibaldi Volcanic Belt. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Marius and Adriana halfway through our 35 km grunt, along the extensive Powder Mountain Icefield. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Rich just before we ripped skins and skied our well earned 700 m run to the bottom of the Callaghan Valley. Photo, Sarah Hart.

I got suckered into another Rich So death march a week after the Powdercap Traverse. This time Justin joined us as we made a traverse from the summits of Mt. Tricouni, to Mt. Cypress with a little bit of steep ice shredding along the way. Here, Rich and Justin confirm that we're going to right way, with the sweet looking north face of Mt. Tricouni in the background. Photo, Sarah Hart.

This is out of order but, whatever. Here's JB booting to the summit of Mt. Tricouni. Photo, Sarah Hart.

This is a new thing, it's called the "Alpine Unicorn". You're going to see more of this. Promise. Photo, Rich So.

Next I decided it would be fun to host an adventure right out of our backyard, so I convinced Joel and Paul to join me on a romp up our backyard mountain, Skypilot, for a winter ascent. It was awesome fun, and easy, as evidenced by the jerry-rigged crampon that Paul was able to climb the mountain with after his centre bar broke. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Joel heads towards the final summit tower of Skypilot. We climbed most of the route in near whiteout conditions. It made it a little more exciting. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Paul and Joel follow me up the final snow filled gully to the summit. Photo, Sarah Hart.
Alright, I'm procrastinating here. I should be sharing stories about Patagonia. But, I just can't quite figure out what to say other than the same old climbing trip report jibber jabber. So, in an attempt to break from the norm, I've got a little historical comparison for you. This season, among other routes, I climbed the Argentina, 600 m 6a+, on Aguja Mermoz, and the Austriaca, 350m 6a 50 degrees, on Aguja de L'S. I've got a selection of slides from Colin's first trips to Patagonia, including images of these same routes. Turns out, it's kind of cool to look at his old photos from 2003, and 2005, and then see my photos on the same routes from 2014/15.

Argentina, 600 m 6a+, Aguja Mermoz

Mark Westman following the initial third class ramps in 2005, on the Argentina. Photo, Colin Haley.

Here, Jenny leads off on the same third class ramps in 2014. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Mark following Colin through an iced up chimney just above the third class ramps in 2005. Photo, Colin Haley.

Mark following Colin across a low angle ramp above the icey chimney, to the start of the more technical climbing in 2005. Photo, Colin Haley.

Jenny climbs across the same low angle ramps to the base of the technical climbing in 2014. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Mark following the poor quality 5.8 chimney's in 2005. Photo, Colin Haley.

Me following those same low quality 5.8 chimney's in 2014.  Photo, Doerte Pietron.

Mark leading into the higher quality rock in 2005. Photo, Colin Haley.

Doerte following through that same improving rock in 2014. Photo, Jenny Abegg.

Hey, that rock is looking better now! Mark following higher on the west face. Photo, Colin Haley.

Mark at the base of the crux pitch in 2005. Photo, Colin Haley.

Me, leading that same crux pitch in 2014. It was a fantastic pitch. Photo, Doerte Pietron.

This is looking down that same crux pitch in 2014, to the same ledge in Colin's photo from 2005. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Here I'm leading one more pitch on the west face before joining the lower angle north ridge in 2014. Photo, Doerte Pietron. 

Mark on the lower angle north ridge in 2005, with the west face of Aguja Guillaumet visible behind. Photo, Colin Haley. 

A shot from 2014 of a similar location. Doerte, and Jenny follow the low angle north ridge, with Guillaumet visible behind. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Mark just below the summit of Mermoz in 2005. Photo, Colin Haley.

The girls in 2014, at just about the same spot. Photo, Sarah Hart.

A typical dudes summit shot from 2005. Is Mark giving us "blue steel"? Photo, Colin Haley.

And what's this? Mark Westman, still playing it up for the camera in 2014. Photo, Sarah Hart.

This is more like it. An all girls summit shot in 2014. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Taking in the views from the summit of Mermoz. Photo, Doerte Pietron.

This was kind of exciting. We had to slide down this fin of rock with hundreds of metres of air below us. I wore a hole in the crotch of my pants I was so gripped...literally. Photo, Jenny Abegg.

I had to include this photo. As sketchy as this looks, it wasn't, and it was pretty much the raddest rappel horn ever! Photo, Sarah Hart.

Doerte setting up the first rappel back onto the west face of Mermoz. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Back where we started, and it wasn't even dark yet! Photo, Sarah Hart. 

Austriaca, 350m 6a 50 degrees, Aguja de L'S

Jenny on the approach to the Austriaca in 2015. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Photo, Sarah Hart.

And here is a photo on the same route from Colin's very first trip to Patagonia in 2003. Photo, Colin Haley.

Recognize that ridge? Jenny crosses the same ridge seen above, during our 2015 trip. Photo, Sarah Hart. 

Here's a party of three beginning the final pitches to the summit. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Me following Jenny to the summit in 2015. Photo, Jenny Abegg.

Here, Bart Paul rappels off the summit of Aguja de L'S in 2003. Photo, Colin Haley.

And Jenny rapping off the summit tower in 2015. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Jenny walking back across that beautiful ridge on the descent of de L'S. Aguja St. Exupery towers behind. Photo, Sarah Hart.

And just like that, back at the airport and time to head home. Photo, Sarah Hart.