Showing posts from February, 2011

Peak bagging

Perhaps as a result of the current La Niña episode, it has been a cold and snowy winter in the Rockies. This, combined with generally lean ice conditions, had me looking for mountain adventures that would keep me warmer than hanging around at a belay for an hour. Ski mountaineering was the obvious choice. Below are some impressions and snapshots from a few recent outings.   Cathedral Mtn (3189 m) A few minutes into the skiing I glance at the temperature display on a watch clipped to a pack strap. I do a double take at the -46 C reading. It takes me a few moments to realize that the watch is in difference mode, and is reading the temperature difference between the inside and outside of the car. An unsupported snow slope gives us pause, visions of being carried over the cliffs below dancing in our heads. We bypass it by booting straight up to a level bench. However, on the way down we carve turns down the slope we avoided on the way up. What has changed in the meantime? The sight of

Off the couch

I find that these days my interest in drytooling waxes and wanes. What a contrast to the golden age of putting metal to stone! In the late 1990s and early 2000s, along with a crew of similarly dedicated friends, I spent my winters first figure-fouring and later heel-hooking across cave roofs, arguing about whether the latest test piece was M11 or only M10+, traveling to Colorado and Quebec to compete... It was a lot of fun but it could not last. Drytooling as it was practiced back in the 1930s or so, before colour photography was invented. Learning to figure-four on Power to Burn , Waterfowl Gullies. Photo: Robert Rogoz. For me, the fire went out on a late-winter day in 2003, ironically one of my best days of drytooling. I had been spending a lot of time at the Cineplex, unlearning the figure-fours that had been such a staple in the dark ages of leashes and big boots, and learning the fine art of hanging from heel spurs. On the day in question, having freshly redpointed Musashi , I

Skiing? Really?

I have always said self-righteously that I am saving skiing and aid climbing for when I am old and decrepit. I suppose I must be hitting that certain age, because recently I found myself skinning uphill with not much more than a thermos of hot drink in my pack, only to turn around at the top and ski back down. Even worse, I caught myself having fun. Who would have thought it would ever come to this? Hanging from gear and calling it climbing cannot be far behind. Mt. Whymper along the Radium Highway. By the time eponymous Edward made its first ascent, he was far less fit and drank far more than when he made the first ascent of the Matterhorn that made him (in)famous. Juan Henriquez putting his head down on the way up, with the delights of Haffner Creek far below. I have heard it said that ski mountaineering begins when the skis come off. If so, then Eamonn Walsh is a ski mountaineer par excellence. Scott Withers skinning across the sastrugi on the summit plateau. Juan having a bl