Saturday, 27 October 2012

Of golden leaves and larch trees...

After returning from our respective Waddington adventures, Colin and I had settled into the usual Squamish routine; sleep until 9:00 am, Sarah makes fruit smoothies, Colin makes eggs, check the weather -- it's perfect -- go climbing, come home, stretch, check emails, and make dinner as the sun sets over the mountains to the west. It's a glorious routine, that I believe, is completely unique to Squamish. Life is good here during the dog days of summer.

Sarah, the sound, and the sun. Rich So's photo.
Colin celebrating the dog days of summer like only my boyfriend can!
By some miraculous turn of events, fall, and the ensuing monsoons, didn't arrive as expected in mid-September. Typically, Squamish empties of its climbing population around this time as seasoned road-tripping climbers pack up and head south, chasing the sun. Colin and I are no different, and after so many years of embracing the "sun chasing" routine, our internal clocks were telling us it was time to get out of dodge. 

And so, despite the near perfect conditions in Squamish, we packed up the Subaru and headed for the Rockies. Brilliantly, the good weather that had befallen us in Squamish, was following us to Alberta. We were headed to Lake Louise where Colin was to meet up with a friend, John, for a couple days of climbing cold, snowy, icy north facing routes on some classic Rockies peaks. I for one, don't want anything to do with that kind of finger freezing "fun". So, I gladly let Colin go romp in the ice with John, while I met up with my friend Josh to get things started with a day of climbing at the Back of the Lake. 

At the end of our climbing day, Josh, a seasoned dirt-bag himself, took a few minutes educate me on how to dirt-bag in style in Lake Louise -- unfortunately, for the sake of a "free" shower next time we show up in Lake Louise, I can't reveal any of Josh's secrets. That evening Colin and John returned triumphantly from a little jaunt up Mt. Temple's Greenwood-Jones. John unfortunately, had to high-tail it back to Calgary to work for the week, so Colin and I spent the next 5 days climbing around Lake Louise, with one brief trip to Canmore. 

I hadn't spent any time in the Rockies since a sport climbing trip in 2008 and I was reminded all over again, just how awesome Rockies climbing really is. Our trip was made all the sweeter as we found ourselves in the midst of fall in all it's colour-filled glory. Everywhere we went we were greeted by scenes of blazing yellow Larch and Spruce leaves... 

Larch trees and the Valley of Ten Peaks. Colin's photo.
The Back of the Lake is most certainly the prize of the Rockies. Perfect quartzite crimps and cracks situated above the oft' photographed Lake Louise. Climbing at the Back of the Lake is an exercise in exposure management, despite most routes being only a single pitch in length. With the quartzite band sitting high above Lake Louise, and Mt. Victoria towering well above, it's hard not too feel intimidated. Fittingly, Colin and I both got scared on the classic 5.12 crack "Scared Peaches", something I will certainly have to come back for!

This is not me! Katie Brown climbing at the Back of the Lake. Boone Speed's photo.
After a few days climbing at the Back of the Lake it was time for a run up the ultra-classic Cardiac Arete on The Grand Sentinel. I'd heard whispers of how awesome this 4 pitch route up a narrow quartzite spire was, but I did not fully appreciate its radicalness until we were on it. The photos will have to speak for themselves....

There she is, the Grand Sentinel. Colin's photo.
Sarah approaching the Sentinel from Sentinel Pass. Colin's photo.
Colin approaching Sentinel Pass.

Colin adding a layer as we head into the shade.
The Sentinel's shadow!
Colin following pitch one.
Sarah following pitch two. Colin's photo.
Sarah following pitch two. Colin's photo.

A brief moment of sun. Colin belaying pitch three.

Another cool shadow down there. Colin following pitch three.

Colin leading up the last pitch. Colin's photo.

Sarah following pitch four to the summit. Colin's photo.
GOING ON HERE! Trying to look good for the camera, and apparently not doing a very good job! Colin's photos.
Cumbre! Colin's photo.

Enjoying our skinny little summit. Colin's photo.

We combined a little sightseeing tour and reconnaissance mission the following day to rest our tired bodies. It was my first time on the Icefields Parkway, and was also a perfect opportunity for Colin to scope conditions on some of the routes that John and he were hoping to climb the following weekend. Probably the highlight of the day was watching Colin talk to the Ravens -- he made one friend in particular.... 

Colin checking out the conditions on Howse Peak. 
After our rest day we headed to Canmore for some visiting and a day of limestone sport climbing at Bataan, a glorious south facing limestone wall above Canmore. Only problem, the approach is about 1.5 hours straight up! 

Finally, while Colin took off with John again, I spent a day climbing with my friend Amelie on Yamnuska, a Rockies classic wall, and one I'd not climbed on before. The company was incredible, we had a great day. The climbing, I don't know if I'm sold on Yam yet?

Amelie following pitch one of The Devil's Right Hand on Yamnuska.

Looking out towards Calgary and the beginning of the Prairies.

Amelie following pitch three.

Amelie leading out on pitch four.

By far the best pitch of the route was the last one. Amelie leads out the big 5.10 roof to the top of the wall.

And that concluded our little Rockies holiday. It was time to get back to Squamish for a few more sends before mother nature turned on us in all her fury. 

This one's for you mom!

I recently spent a few days with MEC's videographer, Laurence Warriner, and photographer Chris Christie, to help them put together this little video. Laurence and Chris did an incredible job!
Yes, seeing myself on the "big" screen only further confirms the hunch that I'm a total dork. And let's face it, there's no amount of video or photographic wizardy that can correct that part! This one's for you mom....

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Now I can say, "I've been there!"

I don’t know how many countless times I’ve driven past the viewpoint of the Tantalus Range along the Sea-to-Sky Highway. Totally captivated by the glaciers cascading over the slopes of Serratus, Tantalus, and Dione, I inevitably blurt out, “I really want to go there!” 

But going “there” is not easy see, the Tantalus Range, though spitting distance from my home in Squamish, is guarded by the mighty Squamish River. There are no bridges to cross the Squamish, and those who finally act on the words, “I really want to go there”, must resort to more creative means of access; a 150 metre tyrolean traverse 50 metres above the fast flowing river, a canoe launched from a few hundred metres up-stream whereby paddlers must make a frantic diagonal approach to the trailhead due to strong currents, or a relatively inexpensive – by helicopter flight standards – flight to the glaciers above. 

So imagine my delight when my Waddington buddy, Chris Christie, asked if Colin and I would like to join him on a short trip to the Tantalus. He had a free heli flight to redeem and there would be room in the helicopter for us!

On September 7 Colin, Chris, Chris’ partner Julie, and the legendary Bruce Kay all piled into the helicopter for the 10 minute flight to the Jim Haberl Hut at the Serratus-Dione Col. Our goal was to climb the new route Dehydrated on Dalwhinnie 5.11b on Dione’s south face. Put up by Marshal German, Jamie Chong, and Conny Amalunxen in 2011, there wasn’t a lot of beta available regarding the quality of the route, but it looked fun, and the climbing was on the warm south face. Works for me!

We climbed the route on September 8, under still perfectly sunny skies, in two groups of two, Chris and Bruce, and Colin and I. There was the obligatory late season moat jump to get onto the rock, which increased the excitement factor of this otherwise pretty tame route. Chris wore his ever present go-pro helmet cam, and capture the whole ordeal on video. It's pretty funny...

Dione Moat- Go Pro from Chris Christie on Vimeo.

Turns out the climbing was great fun and the rest of the route went off without a hitch. Here are the photos to prove it…

Colin engaging in some kung-fu trickery to safely cross the moat, change into his rock shoes, and begin the route proper. Sarah's photo.
More moat action. This time Bruce prepares to make is own giant leap of faith. Colin's photo.
The southwest face. Pretty nice looking! Colin's photo.
Colin leading out low on the route. Sarah's photo.

Colin leading out on one of the upper pitches. Sarah's photo.
Sarah leading low on the route. Chris' photo.

Colin mid-way up the route. Awesome photo Chris! Chris' photo.
Colin pondering our next pitch in the glorious sun. Sarah's photo.
Colin following the south ridge of Dione to it's summit. Sarah's photo.
Cumbre with Bruce and Colin! Sarah's photo.
Sarah following the south ridge to the summit of Dione. Howe Sound, and the ocean, is visible in the distance. Chris' photo.
Bruce on an awesome little knife edge ridge we encountered on our descent. Colin's photo.
Sarah and Chris during our descent down the long south ridge. Dione's summit is the highest point on the skyline. Colin's photo.
Looking west towards the ocean. Sarah's photo.
Traversing easy snow slopes back to the Haberl Hut at the end of the day. Colin's photo.
After completing our climb, we intended to wake at the leisurely hour the following day, take a few photos with Chris, then hail our helicopter ride back to town in time for sushi at Kozo Cafe. Those plans all changed when I rolled out of our tent only to discover that we were completely engulfed in cloud, with almost no visibility.

This was almost certainly a very bad sign, and my fears were confirmed when Colin poked his head out the tent door and swore. Crap! Our helicopter wouldn't be picking us up in this! We had plans, appointments, and climbing to do, so, we hastily made the decision to pack up our stuff, throw it in the hut, and race out of the range with nothing more than a puffy jacket, headlamp and a few bars. Neither Colin or I had done the hike out before, and now we were doing it in near white out conditions. But what's the worst that could happen, we end up walking in circles on the glacier for a few hours? And so, we left our friends, raced towards the river, and the excitement that awaited us there.

Recall if you will my previous description of the nightmarish means by which one must "escape" the Tantalus Range. Our run from the range meant we must cross the gapping Squamish River via the feared 150 metre cable walk. Ok, I may be talking it up a little here, but it was pretty darn heart pounding nonetheless.

During our "run" from Tantalus, Colin descends heather slopes towards Lake Lovely Water. Sarah's photo.
And, here you go folks, the cable crossing. That's a person out there inching their way across. Sarah's photo.
Turns out, an hour or so after we made our own cut and run decision, Chris, Bruce, and Julie decided the same and made a race for the river themselves. In true Chris Christie style, Chris captured the whole cable crossing on go-pro. Enjoy....