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.

Después de pasar una semana maravillosa en el Lago de Slocan, me quedé con las ganas de conocer las montañas más altas. El Parque Provincial de Valhalla es un paraíso alpino que poca gente conoce. Está rodeado de colinas y cerros que bloquean la vista de las montañas desde el lago y la carretera. Pero créanme, que vale la pena subir a conocer este lugar de ensueño.

– Valhalla: a mountain paradise
– Valhalla: como indica el nombre nórdico, es un paraíso para quien ama las montañas

The Gimli Ridge trail starts at the end of a forest service road that can be a bit rough. Watch out for the water bars. Once you reach the spacious parking lot at the trailhead, don’t forget about the pesky porcupines who have a taste for brake lines. Cover your vehicle with as much chicken wire as you can muster.

El sendero que va hacia las montañas más impresionantes es accesible por un camino forestal que puede ser irregular, por lo que es mejor conducir un vehículo cuatro por cuatro. Hay un estacionamiento bastante grande para diez automóviles. Una vez allí, no olviden que ya están en la naturaleza salvaje canadiense. Los puercoespines están dispuestos a comer todo lo que puedan, ¡incluso los tubos de freno! Por esta razón hay que cubrir el auto con alambre de gallinero o cualquier otro tipo de malla bastante resistente para evitar a los traviesos animales canadienses.

– Gimli peak looms over the parking lot
– Empezamos el incómodo proceso de cubrir nuestra camioneta con alambre de gallinero
– Filling up on water
– Agua fría y deliciosa

It took us two hours to climb the trail, gaining almost 800m. Once we got to the improvised camping area we were relieved to find a big wall of rocks stacked up to block the wind that tends to whip through without warning.

Caminamos por el sendero durante dos horas para subir casi 800 metros. Al llegar a la zona para acampar, encontramos un muro de rocas construido para bloquear los vientos fuertes que suelen llegar sin previo aviso.

– A rock wall keeps our tents from getting blown away
– Gracias al muro, el viento no destruye nuestras carpas

Good thing because as soon as we had the tents set up a storm blew in. The rain battered us while we tried to cook dinner. The temperature fell and the rain turned to snow. That’s summer in the mountains of Canada for you.

Menos mal porque nada más montar las tiendas de campaña, enseguida llegó una tormenta. La lluvia nos golpeaba mientras tratábamos de cocinar la cena. La temperatura cayó y la lluvia se convirtió en nieve. Así es el verano en las montañas de Canadá.

– Typical summer in the mountains
– Verano en Canadá

I woke up the next morning to an unexpected sight. We were surrouned by curious mountain goats! Tourists come from far and wide to see these solitary animals and we have the luck to find them right outside our tents. The baby goats couldn’t possibly be cuter 🙂

Al despertarme la mañana siguiente tuve un avistamiento inesperado. Estábamos rodeados de cabras de montaña. ¡Qué emoción! Los turistas vienen de todas partes para ver animales salvajes solitarios y teníamos la suerte de encontrarlos justo fuera de nuestras carpas. Los chivos no podían ser más cariñosos.

– What are you looking at?
– ¿Quienes son los visitantes: nosotros o las cabras?

The favourable weather forecast had encouraged us but there was still a blanket of fog in the morning. Not exactly the best conditions for climbing. But still, I really wanted to get on top of one of these beautiful peaks.

La previsión del tiempo nos había animado pero todavía había niebla. No son las condiciones perfectas para escalar. Sin embargo, tenía muchas ganas de conquistar una de esas hermosas cimas.

– Gimli Peak
– Gimli: una escalada de más de 400 metros verticales

Gimli Peak is the most prized climb with plenty of steep and arduous routes. Given the wet weather, instead we chose the west ridge of Mount Niselheim as our objective. Then, if it started to rain, or worse, we wouldn’t be trapped halfway up a big cliff face.

La Cima de Gimli es la montaña más preciada de esta zona por sus rutas empinadas y arduas. Debido al tiempo lluvioso, elegimos la cresta oriental de Monte Niselheim como nuestro objetivo. Así, si lloviera demasiado no estaríamos atrapados en la mitad de una escalada muy larga.

– Our objective: Mount Niselheim
– Niselheim: un buen reto para un día mojado

I really enjoyed the ascent. As we climbed, the views just kept getting better. I was surprised to encounter so much snow still. It looked more like June rather than July. The lakes below in the basin were still frozen solid.

Disfrutaba mucho mientras ascendía. A medida que íbamos subiendo, podía observar vistas increíbles. Estaba sorprendido al ver que quedaba mucha nieve. Algo poco común para ser julio, más bien, parecía como si aún siguiera siendo junio. Los lagos debajo, en la cuenca, todavía estaban congelados.

– Looking down at Mulvey Lake
– La vista hacia Lago de Mulvey

Just below the summit a friendly marmot popped up out of the rocks. They’re usually pretty timid animals but this one was so curious that he practically came up and let us pet him. Maybe he just wanted a taste of our lunch.

Justo debajo de la cima encontramos una marmota. Suelen ser tímidas pero esta era tan curiosa que prácticamente nos tocó. Tal vez quería probar nuestro delicioso almuerzo.

– Friendly marmot
– Una marmota para nada tímida

On the summit we celebrated a successful climb and enjoyed a little break. The fog came and went revealing fantastic views then, suddenly, hiding them again. Everyone likes sunny days but my secret is that I love the fog and the mysterious feeling it creates.

Una vez en la cima celebramos y disfrutamos de un pequeño descanso. La niebla iba y venía, revelando vistas fantásticas y, de repente, escondiéndolas. A todo el mundo le gustan los días soleados pero mi secreto es que a mí me encanta la niebla y su sentido misterioso.

– On the summit!
– En la cima
– Summit views
– Vista desde la cima de Niselheim

On the way back we dropped down into the basin and climbed back up again toward the ridge. There was just a narrow tongue of snow to regain the ridge. From afar, it looked impossible but once there it was much easier than it looks. Just don’t miss that exact spot!

De regreso, bajamos a la cuenca y subimos de nuevo a la cresta. Había sólo una fina lengua de nieve la cual sirve para subir a la cresta. Desde lejos parece imposible pero, una vez allí, es mucho más fácil de lo que parece.

– Getting back onto the ridge after a failed shortcut
– Recuperamos la cresta: hay que seguir la ruta exacta para subir a la cresta desde aquí

The next day we climbed Wolf’s Ears, a jagged peak on the east side of Gimli. The climb was more difficult, both because it’s more technical and because the weather was taking a turn for the worse. There was so much fog I didn’t take a single photo. On our way back to pack up our tents it began to rain hard. We saw that other climbers had arrived and a pair of them were on the classic route up Gimli without a realistic option of descending off the route. Good thing we chose a more manageable objective.

Al día siguiente subimos una montaña al otro lado de Gimli que se llama Las Orejas del Lobo. La escalada fue más difícil tanto por ser aún más técnica como por el mal tiempo. ¡Había tanta niebla que no tomé ni una foto! Al regreso a la zona para acampar empezó a llover fuerte. Vimos que habían llegado otros alpinistas y un par de ellos estaba en la ruta más clásica de Gimli sin la opción de descender con cuerda. ¡Qué afortunados fuimos al decidirnos por un objetivo más razonable!

There’s a lot more to discover in the mountains of Valhalla. I hope to return soon.

Hay mucho más por descubrir en las montañas de Valhalla. Quiero volver pronto.

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