Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Ok, this is going to be short because I just accidentally deleted an entire blog post.  Yep, I'm a rookie in these Blogging waters...

Update: we've been hanging out in Bozeman Montana for 4 wonderful days.  Last thursday we left Canmore Alberta and ground out 12 hours on the road.  Our chosen path took us along the Rockies and through Kananaskis Country, Waterton and Glacier National Parks.  Originally we had intended on spending a little time in both of the latter.  But, the weather was not at all inspiring (rain and cold) and so we just kept the peddle to the meddle.  The weather has been perfect, the hospitality generous, and proximity to outdoor recreation unrivaled.  In the short time we've been here we have trail run, mountain biked, hiked, rock climbed, hot spring (ed),

Our wonderful friends Moe and Heather Witschard have been wonderful hosts!  Moe and I met at Rocky Mountain School of Photography over six years ago and have been good friends ever since.  Our connection to the mountains and our mutual admiration for adventure were evident from the get go.

This morning brings change as Tiffers and I hit the road once again!  Our objective this afternoon is to enter Yellowstone from the Northern entrance and seek out the Boiling River Hot Spring.  This geological wonder is purported to be something extra special.  Beyond that... we'll just have to see.

Tiffers playing captain during our exodus from Canmore.

Lots of big RV's prowl the American West.  Watch out for the Rental ones!
Moe celebrating his new Kegerator.  We helped him get all the kinks out.  Hmmmmm IPA.
Ahhhhh Moe!
Moe and me living the good life at Norris Hot Springs.  This enormous wooden tub is drained every night.  The water flows in under the slats at 120 f.  5 greenbacks get you in the door.  Several nice micro brews are available; in addition to pizza, burgers etc.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Polish Rocket and Beyond

This mug is the tell tale sign of freezing belayer syndrome (don't worry; that setup only looks cross loaded).  One motivator for coming to Canmore was to sample some of the fabled limestone crags...when conditions are normally a little too hot at many other areas around the country. So far we haven't seen temps above 45. That might not sound too cold, but combined with high humidity and wet holds, all I can say is Brrrrrr.  That said, the locals have (with zeal mind you) assured me that the cold muggy conditions currently present are entirely out of character with the "normal" weather paradigm.  Think Seattle in January at Little Si, and not one of those balmy el nino years.  Despite these gnarly conditions we have still had a great time here.  And, someday I hope to return with some better weather, and perhaps some much needed power.  4 days of sport climbing in 3 weeks has definitely taken its toll on my fitness.  But whatever, sport climbing is neither right?     

 When the hands behind the neck thing doesn't do the trick, there is always the more balmy, and less comfortable palliative for numb fingertips.  Don't try this at home folks!  The diurnal warmup normally consisted of 4 laps on the 11b somewhere up on the Upper Wall.  Not sure what the name is.  I'd like to name it screaming barfy pants though.  Please note the pain revealed in my squinty Clint Eastwood impersonation.  You can't quite see the tears unfortunately.

But, this blog isn't really about me failing on every route I tried at Acephale; about all the incessant and often inflammatory rhetoric inspired by the heinous conditions.  No, this one goes out to my friend Pawel "the polish rocket"!  Yesterday afternoon, when conditions couldn't hit any lower (and after a week worth of effort), the Rocket (sound it out P-o-v-el) dug deep and sent his first 13c.  His grit and determination were nothing less than inspiring.  My jaw dropped as he pulled past his high point and proceeded to walk through the remainder of the route; most of which involved hard pulls on marginally wet rock.  It is always quite motivating to watch someone do their hardest route, to forge past doubt, and cut clear the smoke and mirrors that cloud our potential. 
After the send I went up and shot some photos.  It was cool to get behind the lens and see first hand what the action was all about.  

Here is a grab shot of the scenic waterfall encountered on the hike to Acephale.  The crystal clear water combined with the colorful rock just grabs me.  
Here is Pawel givin' the rig a go with a crowd cheering him on. The campfire shown in the background was all that glued our sanity together. And, it certainly made our clothing smell oh so good!
Regan shown here working some serious stick clip magic.  The locals were quite gregarious, told great stories, and on whole were a terrific bunch.  
Yours truly about to melt off the Hood.
Tiffers putting the finishing touches on my new Toque!

The Polish Rocket.  Priceless.

Beers were in order after Pawel's send.  We headed into Canmore to savor the ambiance of the Grizzly Bear Brew Pub.  

Christian and Jackie were incredible hosts!  We owe them for allowing us harbor on those many in-climate days.  And, their son Mathew was quite entertaining to boot!  And so, tomorrow brings change as we depart Canmore.  Montana!!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Into the Wild!

Today marks our first full week in the Canadian Rockies!  Weather wise, we have seen sun, clouds, rain, snow, effects of the wind, and generally cold conditions.  Notwithstanding this veritable weather lottery, we have managed to get out and experience some of the most majestic terrain in North America.  Also, my finger managed to mostly heal up and I've been able to get on some limestone!  It is great to be back on this type of rock.  The last time I believe was in Ceuse roughly nine years ago.  So far I've spent one day climbing at Grassi Lakes just outside of Canmore, and one day up at Acephale.  The day after climbing Acephale I was quite sore in all those 'steep' pull muscle groups (i.e. every sinew of my back); and it was obvious to me that I haven't climbed in the gym or on anything that physical in a while.  It has been a blast not 'working' on anything hard, but just climbing whatever looks fun.  After spending the last four days touring Banff, Yoho, and Jasper National Parks, I'm quite psyched to get back on some rock...  Much has transpired since Mazama; so I'll just throw some pictures out there with minor footnotes.

Our first night after leaving Mazama was spent at Trout Lake in Hoodoo Canyon (just off of highway 20).  The next day we were privy to an incredible double animal whammy.  We had just returned from a lovely morning hike to Emerald Lake, and had just started some mid day fishing attempts (at Trout Lake), when within 20 minutes we witnessed one Black Bear, One adult Moose, and two young Moose!   We literally felt like we had just walked into an Animal Planet episode.  At one point the Moose were no more than 20 feet away which rattled some nerves.  However, they soon left us for the lake.  After which I  managed to reel in a few Trout for a mid afternoon snack!  Tiff pan fried them up and we were off!

From Hoodoo we angled up to Metaline and then East towards Cranbrook, spending the night at a nice rest area off the highway.  The following day we made it to White Swan Lake Provincial Park and its fabled Laurier Hot Spring.  Upon arrival at the spring it was a mass of humanity.  It didn't help that we had sauntered in on a Saturday.   We were both quite happy to find almost nobody there the next morning.  It was a 85 dollar fine for nude springing.  Needless to say we kept our clothes on.  There are three sweet tubs.  The topmost clocks in around 105 f.  And, the Laurier river in the background is the perfect tonic when things get too hot.

After driving another 30 kilometers on a series of logging roads we hit the free camping jackpot.  

We felt truly blessed to be pulling our new rig into such sublime wilderness.

Here I am doing some strumming on the ol'e guitar.  I've recently replaced the strings and digity dog, it sounds miles better!  Though, I sound like a bucket of rusty nails.  Still twas nice.

The Paint Pots shown here are one of attractions between Radium and Banff.  Six years earlier I had stopped by this site.  They are located in the northern part of Kootenay National Park.  The ochre soil was used by the the natives back in the day for paint and other cultures oddities.  In the late 19th century it was mined by the white settlers...and finally we have it in a quasi protected state.  There are mining relics still within the vicinity.  

Tiffers just looking cute as can be during a short hike up Marble Canyon.  

We found many of the shorter diversions worth our while despite feeling inundated by concrete, railings and the ubiquitous tourists.  Still a great way to stretch the legs!

Upper Johnstone Canyon is well worth the short 2.7 k.  Don't expect a modicum of solitude on this one.  But, the water eroded limestone gorge, crystal clear falls, and suspended walkways are justification enough.

Though I won't probably have time for the sport climbing at Lake Louise, it certainly looks spectacular.  

This was shot during our first hike at Lake Louise.  Recommended by our good friend Gordy, the trail took us along the lake, up to a tea hut overlooking a receding glacier, and looping us by Lake Agnus before depositing us swiftly back near the Mega huge hotel.  

The water here is just jaw dropping.

This is me making my best hungry grizzly bear impression.   

The following day we pulled into the Lake O'hara parking lot looking to get onto the limited capacity bus that usually gets booked months in advance.  Two bus loads a day is all that is allowed into the Lake O'Hara area.  

Our friend Pawel who just happened to be in Canmore climbing at Acephale joined us; and much to our pleasure we all found spots on the bus!  For anyone who might find themselves up here... the 14 canada bucks are completely worth it.  The place is not only stunning.  But, the high alpine route that navigates steep slopes, ledges, talus fields and the many rugged cirques makes for quite a memorable day!

Here are some more shots from our day.  

Tiffers and myself finding time to pose down during our ascent of the Huber ledges portion.  

With rain speckled across our long term forecast, we were stoked to find a bluebird day like this.  It definitely just wouldn't have been the same in the rain.

The peaks here just go on forever...

This fungus we found during our hike up the Wilcox.  The ascent is mild and gives breathtaking vistas across the valley to Athabasca and the Columbia Glacier.  I've no clue what species this is.  It was orange and I just had to snap its picture.

 The mighty Athabasca Glacier.  For 50 canada bucks you can actually ride on a bus up the glacier.  No, they won't womp up the ensuing icefall...but, probably a nice tour for those folks who haven't had the pleasure to walk on a glacier before.  Been there, done that.  And frankly, that's alot of dough.

Tiffers posing down with Mt. A in the background.  I'm a sucker for this type of cornball photography.

And little ole me on the way down the Wilcox

And so, within the week we will be migrating South.  It's not that it is too darn cold here.  But, we simply have too many places we want to see.   Just a few more days of sport climbing hopefully.  Too bad the weather forecast isn't looking lively.

We've thoroughly enjoyed our stay thus far.  And, we especially appreciate our friends Jackie and Christian Rawles who have given us access to their pad, great advice on the area, lent us their Bear Spray (though we have fortunately not had to use this.  That said, we have seen a Grizzly Bear!!), and fed us the most amazing Pancakes!  Thanks you'all!