Showing posts from 2011


One of the cool things about playing in one's home mountain range is going back to familiar places and seeing them in a new light. Like, say, tiptoeing up delicate mixed ground and thin ice right next to the massive Weeping Pillar. Contrived? You could say so. Fun? You bet! 2008. Eamonn Walsh and I took a few days off and went on a little road trip up the Parkway. Our friend Dana Ruddy was away, but that did not stop us from crashing in his basement in Jasper. From there on the first day we climbed "No Use In Crying" , an unlikely four-pitch line well left of the Upper Weeping Wall. On the second we took care of some unfinished business on the left margin of Curtain Call, calling the result "Cyber Pasty Memorial" in honour of a perennially untanned friend who had recently given up ice climbing. On the third we headed back up to the Upper Weeping Wall to try a line to the right of Weeping Pillar we had spotted two days earlier. The first pitch went up an intimid

Creeping old fartism?

You know you are getting long in the tooth when you start reminiscing about days gone by. Steve Swenson refers to this unfortunate tendency and other signs of advancing age as "creeping old fartism." I try to guard against this dreaded syndrome, but still catch myself occasionally telling some bored youth about the time my partner and I made the first (or was it the umpteenth?) ascent of the north face of Mt. Forgettable... All the same, every December 1 I cannot help thinking back to that day in 1997, when by all rights I should have gotten the chop. I wrote the following story not long after the event. *** "Rumour had it that Dave Thomson had put up an M8 on the Stanley Headwall: Teddy Bear’s Picnic, the direct start to the unformed pillar of Suffer Machine. I had no clue about M-grades, but an eight sounded exciting. I had to have a go at it. And so the morning of December 1 found Dave Campbell and me hiking up to the Headwall. There was little snow, but it was col

Just sport climbing

A casual reader of this blog might get the impression that its author is an alpinist. Such an impression would be largely mistaken. Sure, I might scramble up the occasional peak, but if the amount of time spent doing something is any indicator, I am first and foremost a sport climber. In fact, since coming back from my last foray into the Bugs in mid-August, I have done nothing in my free time but clip bolts. There is a kind of uncompromising honesty about sport climbing that sets it apart from other, more forgiving forms of climbing - such as alpinism. Take the Dogleg on the northeast face of Mt. Chephren, a route Pierre Darbellay and I climbed in late winter 2008. It stands out as one of the most intense experiences I have had in the mountains. On the first day we climbed high up a mostly easy couloir, bivied, then the next morning started up the vertical chimneys that top the line. As our second day on the face wore on, blue skies were replaced by driving snow. With nowhere to biv

Postcards from the Bugaboos

As soon as I got back from Alaska I headed out on the rocks. Three weeks on a glacier does not do much for finger strength, and I wanted to be ready when summer hit. I need not have hurried. July was cold and wet, with a deep snowpack lingering up high. I suppose walking around in the rain and trying to keep my digits warm, be it in Echo Canyon or in the Bugaboos, made me appreciate real summer when it did finally arrive. I was not always big on the Bugs. In the four or five hours it takes to drive from Calgary to the trailhead one passes so many fine objectives it is easy to get sidetracked. But as years passed and I ticked off routes on Yam, Windtower and Temple, I found myself increasingly looking for adventure among those granite spires. This summer alone I have already made the short but steep approach four times, and I might not be done yet. Two very different routes have been the highlights of my Bugs season thus far: one shorter but more technical, the other longer but, well,