Showing posts from 2014

Post-solstice blues

Solstice just passed. With barely eight hour of daylight and the occasional spell of minus-thirty weather, it may have felt like winter for some time already, but now it’s official. On my last outing, while attempting a chimney system on an obscure north face, spindrift repeatedly darkened the sky. At belays, Pete and I stamped our feet and swung our arms to avoid the dreaded “hot aches” (as my English companion euphemistically called them). Booting down a snow gully, the beams of our headlamps shone across a white, untracked surface, our steps from the morning already erased by fresh sloughs. “Avalanche!” Pete shouted. Instinctively I jumped to the side. Fortunately the slab that’d cut loose was a thin one. I enjoy winter climbing, I really do, but its pleasures can be of the masochistic variety. Maybe that’s why I’ve always liked climbing in late autumn: freshly formed ice, just a skiff of snow on the ground, temperatures barely below freezing... However, this past fall I didn’t

Summer's Almost Gone

"Summer's almost gone, Summer's almost gone. We had some good times, But they're gone. The winter's comin' on, Summer's almost gone." - The Doors Steve Holeczi’s name appeared on call display. “There’s a cool-looking corner system just left of Homage to the Spider. Wanna go check it out on Tuesday?” I thought briefly about the sport-climbing fitness I’d lose by going into the mountains, but in the end adventure won out. I even agreed to meet at five in the morning. *** After just a few minutes of wading through long, wet grass in the grey light of dawn, our shoes and pants were soaked. The sky might’ve been clear now, but the night’s downpour lingered in the mud on the trail and in the dark streaks on the rock faces above. “The north side of Edith is completely wet. Think it’s worth walking all the way to Louis?” Steve wondered. I’m a believer in Steve DeMaio’s saying, that no matter how a route loo

Mentoring on Denali

1995 Humble Horse on the north face of Diadem Peak was my first “hard” alpine route. Or at least it was the first route I’d ever done where you couldn’t sit down anywhere. Stopping for a drink and a bite meant kicking out a foot ledge in the ice, hanging the pack from a screw, and carefully fishing out bottle and sandwich. Anything you dropped, be it a piece of ice or a snack, would end up in the ‘schrund hundreds of metres below. Still, given all the gear I dragged up and over the route, it couldn’t have been that hard. Empty, my pack weighed nearly three kilos. A board-stiff Gore-Tex suit, plastic boots, Footfangs, a Canadian Tire sleeping bag, a bulbous Peak 1 stove: today I wouldn’t like to hike with that kind of weight, much less climb vertical pitches with it. Luckily twenty years ago I didn’t know any better. Cody Wollen on the first roped pitch of Humble Horse. 1998 The night before the climb we slept comfortably, if briefly, in Jim Sevigny’s Eurovan. We were