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I like being outside if it's nice out. This includes mountain biking, trail running, sailing, climbing, skiing and much more. If you're going on a fun adventure, let me know!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Skiing around Sproatt

November 27, 2010

Robin was in town, so Tim, Fred, Mark, and I piled into Blinky and drove up to Whistler to go skiing. We headed up the Rainbow Lake trail, where coverage was somewhat marginal. The worst bit was between leaving the trail, and the Hanging Valley, where we had to take off our skis to bootpack through the steep headwall. The snow up high was quite nice though! A very pleasant day for touring and enjoying the rolling terrain up there.

Robin soaking up some of that beautiful November sunshine

Fred skiing up through the rolling meadows

Rolling terrain and lots of snow up high

Mark enjoying a little bit of meadow skipping. The avalanche danger was considerable at treeline.

Looking over at the true east summit of Sproatt. It's all very rolling and rambling up here. The main run off Sproatt was looking too bony today.


Touring through rolling subalpine terrain in the Sproatt/Gin Peak area.


Beautiful afternoon light through the snow-covered trees.

Robin deep in the Coastal powder!

They just don't have powder like this in Toronto, just look at that grin!

Alas it was time to go home. The ski out through the headwall was quite technical, requiring some sideslipping along the frozen icy ground, log rails, and alder gates. It just needs a bit more snow!

Paul Ridge

November 28, 2010

Lena, Sarah, and I headed up to Paul Ridge on Sunday to find something to ski. The skiing turned out to be quite good!

We parked at the chain up area, and caught a ride up with some friendly people. I was just up here a week ago, but this time we were going to ski and not just slog.

Hey that's my lunch!

It was suppose to be a sunny day, but it was cloudy most of the day. At least it wasn't windy and miserably cold like last Sunday. Lena was sporting her pink ski pants from Lulelemon, they're brighter than my ski poles!

Lena skiing off Paul Ridge. The skiing was so good!

The classic, and always flattering, eating shot.


Reflections in Sarah's new goggles. Pretty spiffy.

Skinny skis on the first day out of the season. Those are the same style of skis that Lena used for the Coast Range traverse

Sarah skiing down in her MEC Ninja outfit.


Skinning up through the trees on Paul Ridge

For one last run through the soft snow

And then we skinned back up in the sunset and headed down the road by headlamps. Only a few more weeks before the days (and slogs) get longer!

More photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/richso/sets/72157625490227794/with/5219987515/

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Scottish Tale

November 24, 2010
Nick Elson and I climbed “A Scottish Tale” today, a 420m long iceclimb that forms only during cold snaps (such as with an arctic outflow) in a narrow gully above Olsen Creek. I didn’t really know what to expect, having climbed less than a total of a hundred metre of ice.
The approach is a slog. First, head up the Chief trail, then turn off for the Upper Shannon Fall trail, and finally follow an old overgrown road that parallels Olsen Creek. We left the parking lot shortly after 6am, and trudged up the trail in the dark. The overgrown logging road was miserable, as we thrashed through a slide alder and devil’s club. There is some flagging off the road that marks the vague path towards the base of the climb, but it’s not obvious in the dark. The approach then goes up through steep forest and then some loose snow covered rocks and deadfall to the base of the chasm. A reconnaissance before hand might be advisable to avoid missing the route, like a few friends have.  
The route looked really thin from the bottom, and I was a little concerned if we would make it up. Amazingly, Nick walks up the thin ice without breaking a sweat. Pitch 1 and 2 follow thin smears of low-angle calve-burning ice. I had these Asolo plastic boots which I bought on clearance from Coast Mountain a long time ago. They never fitted quite right, and they didn't fit well today either. My heel moved around with every step, making the low-angle ice tedious. Maybe I'll finally enjoy ice climbing when I get boots that fit.

Nick delicately cruising up Pitch 2 or 3. You can see the upper waterfall at the top.
The climbing got really good on Pitch 3 and only continued to improve with the rest of the route. Pitch 3 involved bypassing two chockstones in the tight gully. Nick cruised up the thin smear of ice, and all I heard was something about good hand jams on the side and how good the climbing was.

DSCN0618 Nick Elson on A Scottish Tale
Nick on the "positively anorexic" chimney pitch. There was another similar section immediately above this.

Looking back down Pitch 3 on the rappel. It goes up this tight chimney/gully feature, with ice on the right side.

I can’t really remember what Pitch 4 was like, probably something involving ice and tools. I was mostly trying my hardest not to slow down Nick, who was probably shivering waiting at the belay for me. The final three pitches go up some really cool yellow ice. On Pitch 5, at the bottom of the waterfall, there was a constant drip of water which made things more unpleasant, but the rest of the ice was quite good. The worst part here was getting showered by shards of ice at the belay. Pitch 6 and 7 continued up the frozen yellow waterfall, with some near-vertical climbing on the last pitch reaching some really interesting ice formations at the top. All the pitches were roughly 55-60m long, and Nick make quick work of leading all of them.

Looking up at the upper three pitches. This photo was taken on the rappel. We climbed up the leftmost smear at the bottom and then traverse onto the centre smear and then the fat ice above.

I was pretty stoked at the top.

After climbing Scottish Tale, Nick felt it was good enough to include in his select classics ice climbs on the Coast (the list is here). Above Nick's head is some of the overhanging ice daggers that threatened our descent.


Nick rappelling off a boulder, with the backside of the Chief visible behind him.

We traversed climber’s left just below the top of the waterfall, and made the first rappel through lots of annoying gear-snagging shrubbery. Fortunately our rope pulled easily here, but on two other rappels we weren’t so lucky. By the time we reached the bottom, we had to pull out the headlamps again for the stumble through the forest and overgrown road. It was relief when we reached the backside trail, and finally bombed it down to the car and re-fueled with fish and chips at the Wigan Pier.
Time wise, it was 5 hours for the climbing, 3 hours for the rappel, and 3.5 hours for the approach/descent. The rack consists of lots of short screws, and an solid assortment of rock gear. Thanks for another fun day Nick!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Little Diamond Head

November 21, 2010

It was a cold and miserable start to Sunday morning. I was still feeling tired from the previous day of skiing bottomless powder at Baker. We stepped out of the car at the gas station in Squamish, and contemplated heading over to Nick’s house for tea, guidebooks, icecream, pasta and climbing movies instead. Stefan and Bram thought it was going to be a short day, so they loaded up on powdered donuts, Gatorade, and other 7-Eleven delicacies. Bram had even told me the night before that we were going to go at a relaxed mellow pace. Meanwhile I wandered over to McDonalds to get a sausage egg McMuffin, since I knew I would need the extra calorie and fat boost.

We parked at the chain up area, we chained up right when the snow started. After walking up the road for a few minutes, we bumped into some familiar people, Kaja’s parents, who offered us a ride up to the parking lot. This was much appreciated as we had a long day ahead of us.

The skin into the Elfin Lake hut was mostly a faded memory to me, as I tried to keep up with Stefan’s long legs, and Bram’s fast gliding coltex skins. Who knew you could draft uphill. It took us over two hours to get there (2:06), including a stop at Red Heather to compare moustaches with Evan, Greta, and Chris who were also out for the day. We joked about getting Stefan a pedometer so he wouldn’t skin faster than 4km an hour.

I looked at the map in the hut, and realized that there was still another 2000ft to climb up, and plenty more distance too. Stefan and Bram didn’t believe me at first, and they were still convinced it was a short daytrip. None of us wanted to leave the warmth of the cabin first, as that person would have to break trail up towards the Gargoyle-Columnar col. I’ve never been out in this direction before, at least not up to the saddle, so I was quite excited about the potential for a new line on the map wall. Stefan and I took turns breaking trail up to the col.


We skied down a short run from the col, and then proceeded on the long gradual slog up to Little Diamond Head. It was frigidly cold (-20C) and then there was the bone-chilling wind. Our exposed ridgetop position didn’t help either. I was breaking trail in my softshell, primaloft puffy, balaclava, neck warmer and toque. Stefan and Bram were happy to stay behind me, as they claimed the photos of them from the front with the fog in Howe Sound looked a lot better than a shot of them breaking trail to the summit. There was something about them being tired and out of shape, but I didn’t believe it. They both offered to break trail home though.



We were in the clouds for a brief moment below the summit, and once we were on top, we tried to enjoy the spectacular views of Howe Sound, Mamquam, and Tantalus, while thinking of how the sun was setting and it was time to go home. That’s the beauty of November, you get nice early sunsets. The summit isn’t really a summit either; it’s just the natural stopping point before continuing along the loose scary south ridge of Atwell. But it’s a spectacular spot.



We descended creamy smooth snow off the south face, and then skied some thigh-burning sastrugi, and then made another climb back up to the col. While skiing down the buttery powdery snow off the other side, and gazing at the alpenglow over Mamquam, and I could only think of cheeseburgers at McDonalds. We climbed back up to the Elfin cabin, and warmed up everything inside while enjoying some tea and banana bread.

DSC_3285 Slogging in November


We slogged out to Round Mountain and descended the tracked out slopes down to Red Heather by headlamp and moonlight. We joked about trying for a sub-ten minute descent to the parking lot, but instead I opted to snowplow most of the way down trying to avoid numerous rocks. Stefan thinks I should get skis that do the work for me. We still had to walk another half an hour down to the car at the lower chain up area, while trying our best not to fall on the snowy road. While sitting in the freezing car, we unanimously decided to have dinner at McDonalds. I think we left the upper parking lot at 10:30am, and made it back to the car at 7:30pm.

Just another leisurely Sunday stroll in the local mountains. Highly recommended slog, but maybe start a bit earlier in the day next time. This trip actually seems quite similar to Fred, Greg, and Don's trip here six years ago.

Bram's Photos

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Real Cypress Peak

Nov 14, 2010

Scott and I had an excellent day up at Cypress Peak, enjoying both a summit, sunshine, and turns. For those who are unfamiliar with the difference between Cypress Peak and Cypress Bowl, here's some mountain statistics that we came up with.

Cypress Bowl
The Real Cypress Peak
Lift System
2 high speed detachable chair lifts, 4 fixed grip chair lifts
Line ups
Up to 30 minutes
Peak Elevation
Vertical Rise
Ski Runs
Beginner 13%, Intermediate 25%, Advanced 35%, Expert 8%
Advanced 100%
Length of Ski Season
Four months
Eight months
Current Snow Depth
Skiable Terrain
240 ha
460 ha
Snow Making
35 Snow Guns
Cypress Creek Grill, Crazy Raven Bar and Grill
Pubs in Squamish
People sharing the Mountain


Scott N. on the summit of Cypress Peak, just as all the clouds started to clear, with valley fog below. We've only been here in the summer previously.

From the summit, we bootpacked back down to our skis as it was too rocky up there. And then we skied down the West glacier twice before heading back up to col and down the East glacier.

Wow. What a way to start the ski season! I'm looking forward to exploring the Coast Mountains.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Capilano Mountain

October, 2010

I was looking for a fun place to explore locally, somewhere not too far away due to the short October days, somewhere that was on the map wall, and something that was midly obscure. Capilano Mountain fits those requirements perfectly. It's actually quite beautiful once you get pass the logging roads and the steep trail through the forest. The alpine rambling up there is better than anything else on the the North Shore mountains, with lots of clean granite and tarns. I don't know a lot of people who have been up here and rambled towards Capilano Mountain, though it seems to be on the back of everybody's list.

The day started with a 30 minute drive north to Furry Creek. Turn off the highway at the Golf Course, but continue along the road going north for a bit, then turn right onto a gravel road. There's a gate here, but it sounds like it's rarely locked these days. The roads have changed slightly compared to the Scrambles book, but you'll know you're off in the wrong direction if you don't end up crossing a bridge after a few kilometres. After the road got a bit steeper and rougher, we switched gears into our mountain bikes and continued pedalling up the road for another hour.

From the trailhead, we climbed steeply on a good trail through the forest until breaking out at Beth Lake. From Beth Lake, the trail continues up steeply again (did I mention this is the North Shore?) until breaking out onto a more sparsely treed ridge with good views of local mountains.

The trail continues along a bench on the south side of a ridge, with good views towards the Lions and Brunswick. At this point, a few hours into the trip, you still don't get a good view of Capilano Mountain yet.

It's never completely open, and there were always some patches of trees and to deal with in between these granite bouldery meadows and shrubberries.

Lisa walking along one of the many tarns up in the sub-alpine area below Capilano Mountain.

Lisa jumping above a tarn in the subalpine area below Capilano Mountain

Just another rough day for Martin.

Lisa hiking up along granite ledges on the way up to Capilano Mountain

After passing through a few tarns, the trail becomes more indistinct. We went around the south side of a rounded bump, and then continued up through granite steps and blueberry bushes to get to the summit. I'm not sure what the easiest way up is, and some route finding skill would help here to avoid any unnecessary bushwhacking.

My apple pizza on the summit. Mmm. I'll take this over a bagel sandwich any day.

I convinced Martin and Lisa to leave Vancouver early so we would have plenty of the time for the trip. Now it was time to catch up on some sleep on the summit of Capilano Mountain.

On the summit of Capilano Mountain.

Lisa descending one of the many granite steps on Capilano Mountain. Be sure to note where you came up, as there are some cliffs to avoid.


DSC_2188 Capilano Mountain
Capilano Mountain is visible above. We followed the granite steps and bush on the right side.

Unfortunately it started to get cloudy and cold, signalling that it was time to leave this meadowy wonderland. By the time we reached our bikes, our knees were getting sore from the steep descent. The trip was capped off by the exciting descent down through the overgrown road on our bikes. Unlike the access to Sky Pilot, I think a bike definitely saves time on the way up and down here. By the time we drove back to Vancouver, it was already raining, signalling the end of the scrambling season, and the start of the ski season.

Go check it out!