The wind was howling, snow was swirling and visibility had been reduced to about 10 feet. A pure whiteout. The kind where you can't tell up from down and left from right. Stop skiing and look down at your skis and it feels like the ground is moving underneath you. Vertigo takes control and the only way to keep it in check is to turn and look through the thick fog at your partner who appears to be floating on skis in a sea of white.
I was roped up to Mr. 20ish-Grade-VI and I was sidestepping up the glacier, my ski pole probing the ground in front of me out of fear that there was a lip somewhere. Minutes before Brad and I had been skiing around unroped in search of cached gear when he let out a yell and dove backyards away from a gaping drop off. We were both disoriented from the fog so we dismissed the drop off as a combination of vertigo and perhaps a wind lip. We were wrong. Way wrong.
"Go left," Mr. Older-Canadian-Dude yelled, staring at his gps. I was way off to the right and I really didn't want to go left. Better to err on the south/right side of the glacier instead of pushing left. Somewhere to our left was a drop off. We all knew that but we thought it was way left, like 1/4 mile left. But Older-Canadian-Dude insisted once again. "The gps says go left. Go left." Brad, in the lead on rope with Older-Canadian-Dude and Mr. 20ish-Ski-Patrol, consented and changed his course, veering left, up and over the rock band and across the glacier.
"I think we should stay right," I said half- heartedly. But by now I was tired of arguing with the gps guy, so I stood and watched them push left. Brad skied ahead, gliding across the snow and into the fog. One minute he was there, floating in the fog. Then he was gone and 20ish-Ski-Patrol was on his side, skis digging into the glacier, the rope pulled tight and digging into the snow.
I took off running towards where Brad had dropped. A wind lip? Crevasse? No one knew. I approached slowly to where he had disappeared and saw a gaping hole.
Brad had fallen off a cornice and he was down there somewhere, hanging. ( Read more... )
Rock climbing around of Canmore, Alberta is the polar opposite of mountain climbing in the Canadian Rockies. The rock is generally solid, there is good protection - and the sport routes are bolted like gym climbs! A great way to pass a day, after being terrified out of your mind on some route in the mountains, is to hit the many sport areas around Canmore and clip bolts all day. Once you tire of bolt clipping head over to Yamnuska for long (5-6 pitch) routes that have decent protection and where you know you'll be off before dark! Below are photos from Grassi Lakes, Mt, Rundle and Yamnuska. For more information pick up Bow Valley Rock by Perry, Martin and Dougherty.
We were up at 4am and out on the trail by 5am - trudging up the Snow Coach Road towards the Northwest bowl of Andromeda. The approach was tedious, 2 hours of hiking across moraine on a faint trail followed by and hour up an icefall - weaving in and out of crevasses and up and over steep ice, one foot on gravel the other front pointing on ice. After about half and hour of scary route finding we crested the glacier and picked our way across a very scary crevasse field, finally reaching the bergschrund and base of the route in 3 hours.
The planned on going on Skyladder (II) and coming down the East Ridge (II). Skyladder was an excellent straightforward climb. 3,000' of steep snow and ice climbing to a ridge crest. The route began with about 1,000' of 45 degree snow with good protection followed by 1,500' of 45 degree ice. Brad lead the snow and I lead the ice and we simul-climbed the entire route. After the ice face we had 500' of easy step kicking to the ridge. The route then traversed the summit snowfields via easy hiking in ankle deep snow all the way to the summit. ( Read more... )
July 6th; Saskatchewan Glacier - We are camped on the upper reached of the Saskatchewan Glacier in Jasper National Park. We woke up around 9 this morning, packed up and then headed over to the Parks office at the Icefields were we filled out a permit for Mt. Columbia. Originally we had planned to go up the Athabasca Glacier and set up the paper work as such. The sign up process took about an hour (groan) and afterwards we headed out. The Rangers warned us of icefall and suggested the alternative Saskatchewan Glacier route but we opted for the faster and more direct route. At the parking lot I said to Brad, "I'm feeling kind of nervous."
"Me too," he replied. We thought about it for a minute but then dismissed it and drove to the parking lot. However - once there we sat for a minute. "I don't feel good about this," Brad said.
"Me neither... how about the Saskatchewan Glacier route?" I replied.
So we agreed and drove back to the Visitor Center and changed our registration. ( Read more... )
The alarm went off at 5:30 am and we were up and drinking coffee by 6 am. Our plan was to climb the East Ridge of Edith Cavell. The guidebook stated that the route could comfortably be climbed in a long day.
We began hiking in at 6:30 am. The hike began with a nice trail that is beneath the massive north face and the Angel Glacier, and then up a trail branching off which took us into the high country and up to a snow slope leading to a col. We trudged up the snow slope kicking steps in snow that was at most 40 degrees. At the top we got a good look at the East Ridge: it begins with a scramble up 4th class rock that then leads to a snow gully which one follows up to the upper ridge. ( Read more... )
For our first climb in the Canadian Rockies we chose an easy route: the East Ridge of Mt. Nestor (II, 5.5) - a 9,744' peak that lies off the Spray Lakes road south of Canmore. The guidebook referred to the route as "an enjoyable afternoon climb" so we felt good about sleeping in.
While packing up in the morning, I pulled off my helmet and pointed to the space blanket duct tapes inside in. "You might want to bring one of these," I said to Dave.
Dave looked at me and laughed, and with a very dramatic gesture he ripped his space blanket out of his helmet, flung it inside the van and slammed the door. Our fate was sealed (and you can guess what happens next). We began hiking at the abysmally late hour of 9:30 am and by 10:30 am we were off the trail and 4th classing up to the base of the route.
The route is a 2,500' with snow, ice and rock up to 5.5. The lower portion is mostly 4th class with bit of easy 5th class here and there. The middle of the route had a lot of snow on it and the top portion, the crux, has a roof traverse pitch that is rated 5.5 in difficulty. ( Read more... )