Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Snow Study and M-ing with the 'Sted

I just spent eight days in the comfortable Kokanee Glacier Cabin out of Nelson, BC completing my CAA level 1 avalanche operations certification. Each day we'd tour out to talk terrain and dig pits, while evenings were devoted to classwork and lectures. It was great to be immersed in snow science for a week without distractions. The week's temperature hovered around -25°C which made for brisk early morning trips to the weather plot.

avi 1
Our ship into the backcountry

The beautiful 'hut'

Full snow profiles

Dan on the axe

It was a very comfortable learning environment, indeed, with satellite wireless, gourmet fine-dining, and enough great people to never have to worry about cabin fever! Thanks to all my classmates for being so cool.

It was sad to finally leave. I swung by my friend Ian "the 'Sted's" place in Nelson to find him knee-deep in debris from a home reno project. 'Never buy an old house just because it has character,' he told me. Ian was still keen to go climbing, though, so we drove to Golden to search for pillars. We ended up hopping on the Asylum, a modern mixed route I had always wanted to try ever since I saw it in the Beyond Gravity movie. In the light we could see that the crux dagger hadn't come in very close to the rock. I was unsure if we had the cajones to send through this section. Only one way to find out, though!

Ian Welsted
The 'Sted at the base of the Asylum.

A sender of wintery faces the likes of the Eiger Norwand and the Denali Diamond, the 'Sted was rock-solid on the thin, scrappy mixed pitches.

Thin pillar action.

Funky, thin ice.

The 'Sted attempting the crux pitch. We failed here due to Ian's tiring forearms and my paralyzing fear the fierce dagger we were gunning for would come detached with me still clinging to it.

The 'Sted warming up cold hands before the crux pitch

Happy holidays!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Kicking and Scratching

Just spent a couple weeks in the Canadian Rockies and Montana kicking and scratching my way up frozen waterfalls..

Nemesis on the Stanley Headwall

Jen leading out of the cave on Nemesis

Responsible Family Man
Bozeman hardman Nate Dogg on the slog up to the awesome Responsible Family Man in Hyalite Canyon

Saturday, October 25, 2008


I spent the first two weeks of my trip to Yosemite this fall working on a project I would ultimately fail on, a new free route on the right side of El Cap. After receiving a hot tip from our buddy Alik, Will Stanhope and I worked on freeing the Waterfall Route (an old A4), eventually committing to a wall-style attempt from the ground. We would turn around on our second day, unable to surmount unstable death blocks and friable rock. Here's some photos from our try:

Here's a photo that Tom Evans took from El Cap Meadow:

After our defeat it was time to relax and have fun... as best as you can in Yosemite. This means laid back bouldering and a lap up Astroman with Will and Jen.

Friday, August 29, 2008


This August I spent several weeks in the Canadian Rockies and the Bugaboos. The summer has been full of work and some weeks it was hard to stay motivated and get out and climb for myself. Evening sessions were common. Will Stanhope and I became interested in a project that would be both a lot of fun, and easy to try after a day of guiding. We wanted to break the speed record on the Grand Wall, set over a decade ago by Guy Edwards and Sig Isaac. On our second try - and my second time up the route this year - we broke the 1:44 record with a time of 1:13.33.

Celebratory beverages
Drinking celebratory pilsners we had stashed after the climb.

Surprised by my fitness, I was off to see what I could do in the Bugaboos.

Snowpatch E. Face
Most of my efforts of the trip was directed at this beautiful piece of stone, the mighty East Face of Snowpatch.

It's amazing how close to camp this awesome face is - no alpine start is needed! Day one saw my talented soon-to-be mountain guide partner Jen Olson and I on The Power of Lard, a German route on the Tom Egan Wall, the right side of the East Face. The last pitch is one of the most amazing splitters I have ever seen. The Germans originally rated this pitch 5.13c and named it the Endless Struggle. With no expectations, just a willingness to try really hard, I onsighted the pitch. I can't claim the 5.13 grade though. Despite being 9a crushers, the Germans must have been very inexperienced crack climbers.

Jen Olson on the Power of Lard
Jen following one of the many quality pitches.

Jen then went back to Canmore to pick up Ines Papert, while I hung out in basecamp.

Applebee Camp
Talking shop with Jon Walsh and Cory Richards in Applebee.

There was a huge crew in Applebee so finding awesome partners was never a problem.

Will Stanhope even showed up for a quick hit with Chris Brazeau. Always prepared for the bad weather tent sessions with a copy of Chatelaine.

Pigeon Spire
The Bugs is designed for hot-lapping it seems, so I couldn't help but huck a lap on the Snowpatch Route and the NE Face of Pigeon. The latter resulting in a traverse of Pigeon and a super fun day out in the mountains.

Jen and Ines showed up that afternoon and we made plans to try Divine Intervention, a new route on Bugaboo Spire's east face.

Ines on Divine Intervention
Ines leading the first block.

I ran into Crosby Johnson and together we hatched a plan to free a route on the left edge of Snowpatch's east face. The route started on the original Beckey route but then aimed left to beautiful virgin pillars. Crosby was a good friend, but we had never actually tied in together. It was an honor to rope up with him for such an adventure.

Crosby Johnson

Crosby on Snowpatch
Crosby following a quality 5.11 corner on the route.

It was a pretty amazing trip, the Bugs are a very special place. It is good to be back in Squamish now though. The temps are good and I am very psyched on my latest project: freeing the old aid line Cannabis Wall with Will Stanhope.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Patagonia 2008

I am settled now back in Vancouver, lining up work for the summer season and rigging the occasional show at GM Place.

This season in Patagonia was amazing, they are already calling it the 'Season of Dreams'. I am very proud of all my friends who managed to climb inspiring lines. Colin and Rolo on the Torre Traverse, Freddy and Dana on their Fitz traverse, the Hubers on La Silla, and Tobey and Jesse on their beautiful St. Exupery FA. Will and I had so much fun hanging with all our new and old friends in El Chalten. Without these people, the trip would have been only full of all that nasty alpine climbing stuff!

After a frustrating battle with the Aerolineas Argentina airline strike, we managed to negotiate a 2-day bus ride that would take us into El Chalten, the town that is the access point for climbing in the Cerro Torre/ Fit Roy groups.

Will booking a flight in Spanglish.
We landed in Chalten at 3am to clear skies and immediately started hiking into the Torre Valley. Sun-up offered breath-taking views of the range.

Torre Valley
Crossing the Torre Glacier enroute to basecamp in the Torre Valley.
The weather closed in on us before we were able to attempt anything, but we were back up a few days later psyched on trying a new route on Poincenot.

DNV Direct on Poincenot
Our new route on Poincenot 'the DNV Direct'. Completed over 3 days in mid-January, it went at VI 5.11 X A1 1700m.

splitter 11a fingeys
A pitch of perfect fingers high on Poincenot.

Poincenot's west ridge
Will following the ridgeline on day one.
The route was huge, over 50 pitches long; hard, with many pitches of steep 5.11; and dangerous, with some of the worst loose rock either of us had encountered on granite. The 2 brutal open bivies we suffered were enough to make us want to play safer. The views of Aguja Desmochada from our vantage on Poincenot were too stunning to forget. Despite its proximity to the Niponinos basecamp, this, the steepest tower in the range had seen very few ascents and had never been free climbed.

Our original plan was to attempt a free ascent of the Huber-Seigreist line 'Golden Eagle'. It started on the west face, but avoided the steepest part of the headwall to the left, and climbed on the chossier south face. So we settled on trying to free climb on the west face, in the vincinity of the Wilkinson-Sharratt line 'the Sound and the Fury'.

Our free route on the west aspect of Desmochada, (V 5.12b 800m). A variation to 'the Sound and the Fury'.

Will leading the start of the headwall - STEEP! SPLITTER!.

The crux pitch went at mid-5.12. Tips fingerlocks ended upbruptly in the corner, and forced overhanging liebacking up the outside edge. The pitch was capped by a finger splitter remeniscent of the Optimator at Indian Creek. When Will reached the belay our tag line hung in space 5 feet out from my belay.

The higher we got, the better the rock was! Perfect hands forever.

Will and I exhausted on the summit at dusk.
The descent was hairy, and we finally got a blast of full-force Patagonian wind. We touched down after the last rappel with about 35 meters of our lead line, and 15 of tag - the rest was chopped dealing with the multiple stuck ropes. We literally stumbled back to basecamp and collapsed for 24 hours before we had the strength to hike down to town for some much needed rest.

The weather opened up again and we were forced to climb some more. Our objective this time was the beautiful north aspect of Aguja Innominata, a face I had snapped a photograph of during our Poincenot ascent.

The beautiful north face of Innominata with 'Blood on the Tracks' marked. Will and I made the first integral free ascent of this route first done in 2006 by Wilkinson-Sharratt-Tureki-Taki.
Finally, the weather closed in for a few weeks of much needed rest and we carried our gear out of base camp. Our plan was to establish a camp on the east side of Fitz Roy for an attempt on the North Pillar of Fitz. That's all it was though, an attempt. We were pretty fried at this point of our trip and rappelled after a very uncomfortable bivy on the route.

Fitz Roy
The approach gully of the North Pillar route.
And with that, our 2 month trip came to an end. This was truly an amazing expedition on world class routes. Thanks to the community in El Chalten, my partner Will Stanhope, and trip sponsors Mountain Equipment Co-op, Metolius, Five Ten, and Power Bar.