Thursday, November 16, 2017

Bow Hut Remembrance Weekend

After our trip into the Bow Hut 3 years ago for Remembrance Day, I was pretty convinced it was never going to happen again. Last time, we had to hike in with our skis on our backs the entire way in and out from the hut along the summer trail. It really wasn't that fun. But, when Kyle saw Alex's post about heading back up there, it just seemed like the right thing to do (funny enough, we actually met Alex on the original Bow Hut trip as the result of a very similar facebook post). To our surprise, we were able to ski right across Bow Lake and ski all the way to the hut along the winter trail that follows the canyon. It made for a much more enjoyable approach.
Touring up the recently frozen canyon. The winter route is in
Once we arrived, we had a quick lunch then made our way up to the practice slopes for some laps. The light was flat and the snow was a dense wind crust, but it was great to get some early season turns in. We didn't find any crevasses, but there was a cave that tunneled down under the glacier with the entrance at the bottom of the practice slope.
Touring up above the Bow Hut to get some turns in on the practice slopes
Guillaume, Kat and Kyle getting ready to ski
Alex goofing around on the practice slope below Mount St. Nicholas
Checking out the cave was the highlight of the weekend. We spent some time in there on the first day, then returned on Sunday to do some crevasse rescue practice out of the entrance. In the evening, the entire group of people that were staying at the hut skied up to the cave and we lit it up with headlamps, cranked the tunes and enjoyed the ambiance. Its not often you can say that you had a party in a glacier!
Kyle at the entrance to the ice cave
Checking out the beautiful ice cave below the glacier
Beautiful ice
Cool reflections and Kyle crawling out the exit
 We attempted an ascent of St. Nicholas on Sunday morning, but with whiteout conditions and thin snow-bridges (snow was about 50 cm - 1 m in most places), we were having trouble navigating the crevasse field below the St. Nick - Olive col. Instead, we skied back down the glacier and did a quick run up the Onion before finishing up the day with a few more laps on the practice slope.  
Saskatchewan boys skiing down the glacier
The only summit of the weekend, the Onion
It was a fun weekend of catching up with old friends and making some new ones. One of the best parts were the new boots I had acquired this fall. Thanks to Landon at Surefoot in Whistler for all the bootwork, its going to be a fantastic season of backcountry shredding!
My new boots all punched and ready to go - thanks Landon!
Big raven on the deck at the Bow Hut
The ski out was quick but there were lots of rocks. We still need a few good dumps of snow before the lower elevations will be truly ski-able, but I am pretty hopeful that this is going to be a great ski season.
Massive Yaminuska group heading in as we make our way back to the car

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Grizzly Peak Shoulder Season Scramble

What do you do in the shoulder season? Go scrambling! Kyle and I invited ourselves along with Em, Trev and Owen for a great day out in the mountains. We met at the petro-can at the crack of 9:15 (significantly earlier than Emily's original plan of 10:30) and piled into the Subaru to hit the road. As we drove towards the mountains, they looked very snowy, and our original plan of trying the Middle Sister in Canmore seemed like a bad idea. Kyle frantically searched the scrambling book for something short and easy that we could do in the snow and still make it back to Calgary for Owen's plans at five. We settled on Grizzly Peak just before we hit the highway 40 turnoff (just in time). It is a 7km easy scramble just before the highway 40/Spray Lakes Road intersection. It has 900m of elevation gain and none of us had done it before. It ticked all the boxes.
View of Mt. Packenham and Mount Hood with lots of wind off the ridge
 The trail was easy to follow and started climbing immediately from the car. The path contours around the south end ( right side) of Grizzly Peak and gains the col between Grizzly and Evan Thomas. There was one main fork, marked with some orange flagging in a tree. We took the upper (left) trail that climbed a few short rock steps then followed a narrow path through small plants and grass contouring across a big open slope. We hit a bit of snow here, but the main snow line was just above.
Owen looking stylish as always
 As we climbed above the snowline, we lost the trail and started breaking our own up towards the col. The snow was drifted knee deep in places, and the ground was wind-scoured and slippery with ice in others. We chose to ascend a steep ridge to gain the col. Having hiking poles made a huge difference on the steep icy scree.
Making our way up the snow slopes to the col between Grizzly and Evan Thomas
Views down the valley
Cold and windy at the col
At the col, we were barely able to catch our breath after the steep slog up the ridge. The wind was howling and it was cold! We hurried to put on layers, hanging on tight so that they wouldn't blow away. It was pretty uncomfortable and we got moving immediately. We could have been a bit more prepared for the cold and snow.
The final approach to the peak
We climbed the last snow slope to the summit ridge. It looked like some nasty weather was heading our way from south toward Kananaskis Lakes, but we had amazing views from the top. To reach the true summit, you have to cross a short narrow section of exposure, but everyone navigated it with ease. We reached the top in 1:45 from the car.
Final push to the summit with Kananaskis Lake in the background
Kyle breaks trail to the top
Small section of exposure to the top
Emily on her way up
Kyle at the top of Grizzly Peak
After a short stop on the summit, it was a speedy decent back to the col, glissading through shin deep snow. Instead of heading back down the way we had come up, we chose to continue down a snow gully which was much more enjoyable (although it would have been awful to go up). We passed a few others who were on their way up and warned them about the high winds on top. After a brief stop for lunch, tea and chocolate under a tree, we continued down and out of the snow. We took an alternate trail down and ended up in the cliff bands below the open slopes we had traversed on the way up. It turned out to be a much more difficult way across and involved more scrambling. This is the way that you would end up going if you took the right fork below the first rocky cliff bands on your way up the trail. It wasn't too technical but was much slower than traversing the grassy slope.
Descending the snow gully
Down climbing through the cliff bands (below the main trail)
We arrived back at the car in 3:30 round trip. Despite the snow, we were able to make quick work of Grizzly Peak. What a great way to spend a beautiful October Saturday! There is definitely snow out there and I am really excited for ski season.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Fall Climbing and Hiking on the Coast

A few weeks ago, Kyle and I spent a week on the coast, hanging out with my family and our friends. We got to do a few days of climbing in Squamish, went for a hike up to Brew Lake with my family and went to a wedding. It was a great trip!
Kyle on Joe's Crack (5.9) at Pixie Corner
Kyle off the start of High Mountain Woody (5.9)
High Mountain Woody
Another shot on High Mountain Woody - a really fun, long climb with a great view
Tristan walking off the Malamute after climbing High Mountain Woody (5.8)
Getting off the ground on Penny Lane (5.9) in the Smoke Bluffs
Tristan showing off in his approach shoes
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Getting the beta for Chasing Rainbows (5.10d)
Tristan chases rainbows
Views from the road up to the Brew Lake trailhead
Successful hike to Brew Lake
Strong family photo
The Strongs plus Kyle!
All dressed up!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Ultimate Everything - Upper Echelon Finish (16 pitches, 5.9)


The Ultimate Everything is a 10 pitch trad route on Echelon Wall that starts above the apron and makes its way to the top of the second summit of the Chief. Most pitches are in the 5.8 to 5.9 range with the final pitch being 5.10. Kyle was feeling really solid after a good season of climbing and a great warm up day at the crag, but wasn't very excited about leading the crux at the end of 17 pitches of climbing. To avoid that last 5.10 pitch, we opted to finish the route on the final two pitches of Upper Echelon, which go at 5.8.
Dotted red shows Ultimate Everything. We climbed St. Vitus Dance to the right of south gully then followed memorial crack up the apron

Route up Ultimate Everything with our traverse to Upper Echelon drawn in red
Upper Echelon in red with Ultimate Everything drawn in white (our traverse dotted white)
We started from the bottom of the apron at 7:15 am. It was a nice warm September day and there was nobody on the route above us. We climbed St. Vitus Dance (5.9), followed by Memorial Crack (5.9) to the top of the apron. St. Vitus Dance was the crux of the day, with the 3rd pitch (5.8) being a long, sustained hand crack that really tested my stamina. Kyle led the whole thing like a boss.
Jenny cleaning on St. Vitus Dance
Kyle working his way up Memorial Crack in the shade
Memorial Crack was a nice alternative to Broomstick Crack and was much more direct. We got to the top of the apron and started hiking up through the forest, following the trail for the Squamish Buttress. There was an obvious fork to the left that we followed to traverse the South Gully. The start of the Ultimate Everything is marked by a bolt at the bottom of the first pitch.
Kyle at the base of Ultimate Everything after the traverse through South Gully on an obvious trail
Looking up at the first peak of the Chief
The first pitch was bolted slab followed by some crack climbing. I took the second pitch up a left facing corner, but got off route by heading too far left. After a bit of freaking out I got back on route and continued up to the top of the pitch. Pitch 3 was another bolted slab pitch up to a ledge. The whole route went from ledge to ledge, so I never felt much exposure on the climb. There was some forest walking too, and it was strange being up high on the chief yet walking through the trees.
Kyle at the bottom of pitch 2 on the Ultimate Everything
Beautiful day in Howe Sound
Scrambling up to the base of pitch 3
Pitch 3 slab
Other climbers on Squamish Buttress
Kyle checking the beta at the "Lunch Ledge"
The upper pitches were a little bit more interesting, with some hand cracks and dyke climbing. However, despite being called Ultimate Everything, I don't think this climb was the ultimate of much. Most of the fun pitches were actually down on the apron, but it was a still a really fun day out and a mellow way to get to the top of the Chief. I think it was a good alternative to Squamish Butt Lite, with less exposure.
Pitch 5 
Pitch 6
High above the highway and finally into the sunshine
Finishing off the dyke pitch (7) with a ledge walk
After pitch 7, we left the Ultimate Everything by traversing left down a ledge (~50m) to join up with Upper Echelon. We had to clamber over and under a big tree that was down and looked like it could slide off the ledge at any time. The last 2 pitches started up a bolted slab from the landmark of a shoulder-high bolt. We cruised to the top and enjoyed awesome views of Howe Sound, Squamish and Diamondhead.
Tree scrambling to traverse off Ultimate Everything and over to Upper Echelon
Looking up from the bolt that marks the start of the Upper Echelon pitches (route heads left)
Two pitches of 5.8 slab takes you to the top!
Diamondhead in the distance
Top of the 2nd peak of the Chief
Happy to have the climbing shoes off! Sore feet or dye from the Anasazi Moccasym??? A bit of both
Rack rainbow - trying to be artsy
Stoked!