BMC 2021

BMC 2021

Nearly every summer since 2014, I’ve attended a week-long mountaineering camp in BC. There are two similar camps, one fairly big and the other more intimate. The larger camp is organized by the Alpine Club of Canada and it’s really quite impressive the logistics that go into hosting 25+ climbers. Given the ongoing pandemic and just because I prefer smaller groups, this year I decided to join the smaller camp organized by Pierre Hungr and his wife Natelle. After missing out on both camps last year due to the pandemic, I was pretty excited for the whole experience.

Desde 2014 acudo a un campamento de alpinismo que tiene lugar cada verano en las montañas de Columbia Británica. Hay dos campamentos. El Club Alpino de Canadá organiza el más conocido y más grande. He acudido a cinco de los del ACC y me han gustado todos. El campamento más pequeño lo organizan Pierre Hungr y su esposa Natelle. El año pasado se cancelaron los dos por culpa de la pandemia. Así que, este verano estaba muy contento de tener otra vez la oportunidad de escalar con amigos apasionados de la montaña.

– Taking off from our staging area. Photo by Lindsay Put
– El helicóptero nos lleva a la montaña en un santiamén

The best part about this style of mountaineering is the helicopter ride up to base camp. This takes the suffering out of the climbing.

Lo mejor de hacer alpinismo de esta forma es que aprovechamos un helicóptero para llevar todo el equipamiento y comida pesada a un lugar rodeado de varios picos. Te tiene que gustar sufrir para hacer alpinismo, pero si llegas en helicóptero, toda la experiencia es mucho más divertida.

– Landing at the camp
– Aterrizamos en el sitio del campamento

I’ve read some trip reports about ascents of Mount Odin, the largest peak near our camp. Six days is pretty standard to get to the summit and back down. With the helicopter we get to climb not only Odin but a different peak every single day. The experience couldn’t be more different.

He leído algunos relatos de alpinistas que han subido al Monte Odín, la montaña más grande en esta zona. Sus viajes duraron seis días. Aprovechando el helicóptero, logramos escalar no solo el Monte Odín, sino muchas otras cimas también.

– Pierre (reluctantly) putting his feet up for a rest
– A pesar de un tobillo roto lesionado, Pierre sigue organizando todo

Unfortunately, Pierre broke his ankle a few weeks ago. Despite the injury, he manages to organize everything and hops around camp better than most people would with intact ankles.

Por desgracia, a Pierre se le lesionó el tobillo unas semanas antes del campamento. A pesar de la lesión, organizó todo sin pensarlo dos veces.

– Hanging out by the dining tent
– Relajandonos fuera del comedor

Our base camp is located at the foot of a glacier that gives access to several peaks. There’s a kitchen, a dining tent, and a tent to dry out gear and clothes on rainy days.

Nuestra base se sitúa justo debajo de un glaciar que da acceso a varios picos. Hay una tienda para comer, una cocina y otra tienda para secar equipamiento y ropa en el caso de que llueva.

– On the way up to Mount Odin
– La subida al Monte Odin (El pico en esta foto no es la cima. La verdadera cima es mucho más alta)

When the helicopter arrives, Pierre directs everyone to their tent to settle in. In the afternoon we all go to “snow school” where we refresh key mountaineering skills, like how to walk on ice and how to self-arrest an unexpected fall. It’s always good to practice after a break from climbing.

Al llegar el helicóptero, Pierre dirige a cada persona a su propia tienda de campaña. Por la tarde todos vamos a “la escuela de nieve” en la que repasamos varias destrezas como subir y bajar por el hielo y la autodetención con piolet. Ya que no hubo un campamento el año pasado, estoy contento de actualizar mis habilidades.

– Ascending the glacier on our way up Mount Hugin
– Ascendemos el glaciar bajo la cresta del Monte Hugin

In our first climb I luck out and get to stop for a few minutes right at the bergschrund, a gaping crack that separates the glacier from the mountain above. It’s impressive but I sure wouldn’t want to fall in.

En la primera escalada tengo la suerte de pararme unos minutos muy cerca del bergschrund, una grieta grande que se forma entre la parte superior del glaciar y la montaña. Es impresionante. No me gustaría caerme aquí.

– Crossing the bergschrund
– Atravesamos el bergschrund

The climb to the top of Mount Hugin follows the glacier but we have to climb up onto the summit ridge to reach the summit. There’s a short rock step that we pitch out (the leader climbs first, belayed from below in case of a fall, then brings everyone else up on the rope). I enjoy the challenge. My favourite climbs are like this: lots of variety – glaciers, snow, ice, steep rock, even turbulent stream crossings.

La escalada al Mont Hugin pasa por nieve y hielo, pero hay que subir a la cresta para llegar a la cima. Hay un pequeño largo en roca (así se les llama a un tramo de una escalada que corresponde a la longitud de la cuerda, es decir al máximo 60 metros). Me alegra el desafío. Me gustan más las escaladas con mucha variedad: glaciares, nieve, hielo, rocas, incluso arroyos turbulentos.

– A quick bit of rock climbing just below the summit
– Escalamos un paso divertido para acceder a la cima

The view from the summit isn’t exactly as we’d hoped. This summer there have been a lot of forest fires due the the heat wave and a lack of rain. There’s a lot of smoke. Even with the smoke, it’s impressive to be on the summit of a high mountain, looking down onto the immense glacier below.

La vista desde la cumbre no es tan hermosa como esperábamos. Este verano ha habido muchos incendios a lo largo de Norteamérica occidental. Por eso, hay mucho humo. Aun así, es impresionante estar en la cima de una montaña y ver la inmensidad de los glaciares que hay debajo.

– Enjoying the views from the summit of Mount Hugin
– Nos impresionan las vistas desde la cima de Monte Hugin

The camp is pretty comfortable. There’s an icy little lake just beside camp and the bravest jump in. For the rest of us, there’s an on-demand hot shower. In the mountains, surrounded by ice, a hot shower is quite the luxury.

El campamento es bastante cómodo. Hay una laguna justo al lado y los más valientes se bañan al regresar de la subida. También hay una ducha con agua más caliente. En la montaña, rodeada de hielo, una ducha caliente es un verdadero lujo.

– Relaxing after a day of climbing
– Nos relajamos después de una buena escalada

We all eat together in the dining tent. The food is excellent, thanks to Natelle, who is a talented cook.

Comemos todos juntos. La comida es excelente, gracias a Natelle, a quién se le da muy bien cocinar.

– Dinner time
– La cena

The tents are comfortable too. Mine is new and huge – big enough for four people. That gives me lots of room to stretch out. What a nice change from my usual half-person ultralight tent.

Las tiendas para acampar son cómodas también. La mía es nueva y grande, suficiente para tres o incluso cuatro personas (personas muy cercanas, es decir).

– This tent “peg” isn’t going anywhere
– El viento no va a estropear esta carpa

It’s hot everyday except the morning I climb Mount Odin, the highest peak in the area. Even though it’s 35C in the valley, only a few km away, a strong wind whips across the summit. Glaciers make their own weather.

Hace calor todos los días excepto el día en el que decido subir al Monte Odín, el pico más alto. Aunque hace 35 grados en el valle a solo unos veinte kilómetros, hay un viento fuerte en la cima. Los glaciares crean su propio clima.

Mount Odin

After reaching the summit, we descend along a ridgeline that extends for miles, eventually rearing up again into sheer rock towers. It’s super fun to traverse along the ridge, dropping down and climbing back up over endless undulations.

Después de subir a la cima, bajamos por la cresta que se extiende muchos kilómetros hasta las torres de rocas en la distancia. Es muy divertido seguir la cresta, bajando y subiendo sobre las olas de la misma.

– Contemplating the long ridge walk ahead
– Contemplamos la larga caminata por delante

Receding glaciers leave behind the most unexpected things. Look at this boulder precariously balanced on top of three pebbles, for example. That seems super improbable to me, but there it is.

El retroceso de los glaciares deja atrás cosas inesperadas. Por ejemplo, mira esta roca grande que está parada sobre tres piedras pequeñas. ¡Qué improbable y qué inestable!

– Some very improbable things occur on glaciers
– Se pueden encontrar cosas bastante extrañas cerca de los glaciares en retroceso

The camp has a mascot, Pierre and Natelle’s dog, Debbie. Debbie is sharp. She likes to spend the day relaxing in the sun but she often disappears for hours at a time. She comes back wet, dirty and panting. Who knows what adventures she gets up to!

Pierre y Natelle tienen una perra muy inteligente. Le gusta pasar el día relajándose al sol, pero a veces desaparece por muchas horas. Vuelve mojada, sucia y respirando profusamente. ¿Qué aventuras vivirá?

– Debbie monitoring her camp
– Debbie vigila su territorio

Normally, the ascents that are easily accessible from such camps involve a lot of glacier crossings and snow travel. This camp is different. There are many more technical rock climbs than snow walks. Lindsay, Christian, and I climb the most striking feature on the horizon, Frigg Tower.

Normalmente las subidas accesibles desde estos campamentos implican glaciares y nieve. En este campamento hay muchas escaladas más técnicas. Lindsay y yo subimos con Christian a la torre más impresionante, la Torre de Frigg. Frigg y Odín son dioses de la mitología nórdica. De hecho, muchas de las montañas canadienses llevan nombres de dioses nórdicos.

– Lindsay and Justin climbing up the east ridge of West Frigg Tower. Photo by Christian Schlumpf
– Lindsay y Justin subiendo por la cresta oriental de la Torre Frigg Oeste

The climb is fun and challenging and takes us all day, exploring our way up the surprisingly steep ridge.

La escalada es muy divertida y lo suficientemente desafiante.

– Lindsay powers up the cliff
– Lindsay sube por el acantilado

Even though the tower is steep, the top is flat and relaxing, a perfect place for a picnic. It feels great to reach the summit. But best of all is taking off my climbing shoes.

Aunque la torre es empinada, la cima es plana y relajante. Lo mejor es quitarme los pies de gato (así se les llama a las zapatillas para escalar roca).

– The summit of West Frigg Tower is surprisingly flat and relaxing. Good place for a picnic. Photo by Lindsay Put
– La cima de la Torre Frigg Oeste es sorprendentemente plana y relajante. Un buen lugar para un picnic

In our week together, I manage to climb five peaks and really enjoy each of them. I’m really looking forward to next year’s camp! I hope there’s less smoke, but I’m sure it will be fun no matter what.

En nuestra semana juntos, logré hacer cinco escaladas y disfruté mucho de la experiencia. Tengo muchas ganas de regresar el año que viene. Espero que haya menos humo, pero sé que va a ser divertido de todas formas.

– Sunset over the Gold Range. Mount Hugin in the background. Photo by Christian Schlumpf
– El anochecer con Monte Hungin al fondo

Valhalla Climbing

Valhalla Climbing

After spending a fantastic week canoeing on Slocan Lake, I really wanted to explore the mountains higher up. Valhalla Provincial Park is an alpine paradise that few people ever visit. The interior of the park is hidden by big hills that block the view from the lake and road below. But, believe me, it’s worth the effort to hike up and explore this enchanting place. Continue reading “Valhalla Climbing”

2015 in 12 Photos

As 2015 draws to a close, I feel the need to look back and reflect upon the year. I’ve had some great adventures and lots of good memories.

January - Sea kayaking in Belize
January – sea kayaking and whitewater canoeing in Belize
February - learning jungle survival skills with two ex-military in Belize
February – learning jungle survival skills with two Guatemalan ex-military
March - Getting accredited as a PADI Scuba Rescue Diver in Honduras
March – getting accredited as a PADI Rescue Diver in Honduras
April - trekking in Nepal
April – trekking the Manaslu Circuit and barely surviving the earthquake in Nepal
May - walking across Scotland from coast to coast as part of the TGO Challenge
May – walking across Scotland from coast to coast as part of the TGO Challenge
June - Absorbing backcountry skills in Colorado
June – absorbing backcountry skills in Colorado
July - Hiking the famed West Coast Trail in unbelievably dry conditions
July – hiking the famed West Coast Trail in unbelievably dry conditions
August - Navigating crevasses and conquering alpine peaks in BC
August – navigating crevasses and conquering alpine peaks in BC
September - Canoeing peaceful lakes in Alberta
September – canoeing peaceful lakes in Alberta
October - volunteering with rescued puppies in Turks and Caicos
October – volunteering with rescued puppies in Turks and Caicos
November - Cycle touring through Sri Lanka
November – cycle touring through tea plantations and cloud forests in Sri Lanka
December - living like a local in Melbourne
December – celebrating my 7th and final continent in Australia!

My first 5.10a

My first 5.10a

I’ve just lead my first 5.10a! For those less familiar with rock climbing grades, that’s a level of difficulty that takes some real effort to reach. One guide describes it like this…

5.0-5.7: Easy for experienced climbers, where most novices begin.
5.8-5.9: Where most weekend climbers become comfortable.
5.10: A dedicated weekend climber might attain this level.
5.11 & up: The realm of true experts; demands much training and natural ability

Three years ago I sprained my ankle quite badly in a climbing fall. The ironic part is that my climbing partner and I were practising falling intentionally as an exercise in getting over the natural fear that we all feel when there’s nothing but rock and air below us. There was more slack in the rope than we’d realized and I fell further than expected. My ankle twisted as I bounced off the cliff right before the rope caught me. So much for an exercise in getting over the fear of falling!

Even though I went back to climbing again not too long after the injury, it’s taken me a long time to make a lot of progress in terms of skill. This summer and, in particular, the last few weeks something seems to have changed. We’re having some beautiful autumn weather with crisp mornings and sunny afternoons. I’ve been climbing at a new crag that I just love. It’s protected from the wind and the leaves are all changing colour to a vibrant yellow. Maybe it’s my love of autumn or perhaps it’s just that I’ve climbed a fair bit this season, but I found myself trying harder routes and doing well on them.

First 5.10a!
First 5.10a!

Yamnuska’s Intro to Alpine Climbing

Yamnuska’s Intro to Alpine Climbing

Glaciologists estimate that the Canadian Rockies will have no glaciers remaining by 2050. That’s shocking for a landscape that was carved out by massive iceflows and is one of the world’s premier places to enjoy and explore alpine terrain. It also means big changes for the millions of people living downstream of the rivers fed by these glaciers. It’s hard to imagine how these cities will function and survive with only seasonal water flow.

That’s a bit of a round-about way to introduce an article about a course on alpine climbing, hosted by the guiding company Yamnuska, that I took part in during the latter half of August. Alpine Climbing is all about accessing these kinds of wild landscapes in as safe a way as possible. It’s a combination of mountaineering, rock climbing, ice climbing, and efficient movement over rugged terrain. My motivation for signing up with Yam for this course was to experience this alpine world for myself and to gain the skills to become a more autonomous climber.

August snowstorm on Mount Rundle
August snowstorm on Mount Rundle – an exciting start to a great week

Continue reading “Yamnuska’s Intro to Alpine Climbing”

Climbing in the Ghost

Climbing in the Ghost

There’s a little-known oasis of rock and forest only a short drive from the buzzing metropolis of Calgary. The name gives a hint as to its mysterious allure. This is The Ghost.

Ghostly morning mist
Ghostly morning mist

I’ve travelled to many places and experienced many landscapes but perhaps my favourite is the front-ranges of the Canadian Rockies. Gun-metal grey cliffs rise above green valley floors, piercing the sky with their unforgiving jagged towers. This is an abrupt landscape. In other places the flat grasslands of the prairie slowly give way to rolling foothills. Those foothills gradually become bigger and steeper, eventually revealing rocks and cliffs. Before you know it, you’re in the mountains. Here in the Ghost it’s different. Imagine peacefully strolling along a calm, flat field of verdant green when suddenly you run up against a massive vertical cliff.
Continue reading “Climbing in the Ghost”

Rock Climbing Road Trip

Rock Climbing Road Trip

There’s nothing quite like a road trip. You get to see so much more than when you travel by plane, or at least you see it at a much more relaxed pace. If that’s true, then a rock-climbing road trip must be one of the best kinds of road trips. You stop in a few select beautiful spots for a few days, you explore the broad landscape looking for shapes and contours that appeal to you, then you zoom right in on the smallest of details. Ah, that’s it, you exclaim! A tiny ridge of textured rock that you’d missed before. Now that you see it – now that you feel it – you’re able to get over the crux of the route you’ve been working your way up (and continually falling off) for the last half hour. Continue reading “Rock Climbing Road Trip”

Climbing in Red Rock Canyon

Climbing in Red Rock Canyon

I’ve just spent the last week climbing in Red Rock Canyon with climbing partner Jonathan and some new friends.

Desert views
The colours of Red Rock Canyon

 

 

While everything here in Canada is still frozen, the weather in Nevada’s Red Rock Canyon is ideal at this time of year.

Stretch

It feels great to get a taste of summer and to climb outdoors again.

Crimp or dyno?
Concentration

Desert-like Red Rock is famous for its sandstone formations which make for some great climbing. It rarely rains here but when it does the sandstone turns soft and brittle. On our second day we woke up to a big rainstorm that drenched the entire area. So the following day we set off to find a limestone cliff recommended by some local climbers.

Is that the crag over there?!?
Searching for the crag

After five hours walking in the desert and scrambling up a narrow slot canyon in search of the climbing area we decided to make it a hiking day. Climbing could wait for another day. Turns out that when we turned back we were no more than a few minutes away from finding the crag.

cactus
Desert life

It turned out to be a great day anyway and a good opportunity to explore the desert.

and bullet holes
Where did we park the car again?

And being only a short drive from Las Vegas, we got to enjoy some of Sin City’s famed nightlife.

The Strip
The Strip
Fremont Street
Fremont Street