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.


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

Crimp or dyno?

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.

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