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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!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer Solstice

Happy summer solstice! As Roland aptly puts it, "winter is just around the corner. From now on the days will be getting shorter and the nights, longer." To celebrate the occasion, Mark organized a group of VOCer's and friends to watch the sunset from the top of the Cypress ski area. This was the second year that I've gone up for the solstice sunset and I think I'll have to continue doing this in the future. It's just a great way to end a day of work.

A chain of emails and message board posts later, a few cars filled with eager skiers and hikers arrived at top of Taylor Way. Dynafits, alpine bindings, and telemark bindings!

A short fifteen minute hike in ski boots was required to reach the snow on Collins. We left the parking lot at 8pm, which gave us just enough time to get to the top before the sunset.

Ski time! Barren ski runs on Black Mountain in the background, along with English Bay.

Lena skiing up through grass and rocks on the way to the top of Sky Chair. There are so many lonely ski chairs waiting patiently for the snow to fall again.

Sunset through the trees.

Sunset over Howe Sound. Beautiful.

Silhouette of Lena and the solstice sunset.

Christian, dressed and ready for a ski traverse.


Bowen Island.

Happy solstice! We weren't the only ones up here, but I'm surprised more people weren't up here skiing. There must be other summer sports or something like that...

After enjoying the brief sunset and hot chocolate, we skied back down the way we came up. The skiing was actually pretty good.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Hart and Dain-Owens Blaze Through Squamish

Hart and Dain-Owens Blaze Through Squamish

Over the last few days, the Canadian-American duo Sarah Hart and Susie Dain-Owens have pulled off the Squamish Double-Double with their recent link up of Banana Peel and Over the Rainbow on the northwest face of the Apron (30,000 cm), nearly in a single twenty-four window. The duo has pursued this highly coveted link-up for several years, but torrential rains have thwarted multiple attempts. In total their feat involved 60,000 vertical centimetres of free climbing over millions of granite crystals. The pair estimated that they climbed the link-up in six pitches, with extensive simul-climbing and walking between pitches.

Hart and Dain-Owens began climbing at 7:30 p.m. on June 8 at the base of the Stawamus Chief, summiting the Banana Peel Route (5.16/2) one hour later. The party took advantage of the unseasonably cool conditions to cover the large amount of technical terrain on this slabby test-piece. They then went to bed and woke up to a house devoid of coffee or cream. This minor setback was overcomed with a visit to the Squamish Farmer's Market, where the team re-fueled with locally baked pastries. After top-roping a few more steep crack lines in Murrin Park, they drove to the base of the Apron. They began climbing the route Over the Rainbow (5.14-5) at 6:00 p.m. on June 9, passing a party enroute, and then summiting and completing the linkup at 7:30 p.m. that day. "My foot flew out just as I dyno'ed to the crimp - luckily Sarah 'my down jacket stuffs down into a silver tube' Hart was above me, shouting beta so I could get the redpoint on TR!," Susie said. Echos resembling hyenas laughing could be heard through the valley as they neared the summit. "It was incredible to summit the Apron, it was so radical. It was a pretty sweet line that we took," Hart writes.

The team is now resting at base camp, waiting for another weather window before attempting their next objective. Stay tuned.


Date of Ascent: June 8-9, 2012

Banana Peel on the Apron -1:00
Over the Rainbow on the Apron - 1:30

Total time of the all-free link-up (including yoga, coffee, etc.) - 24:00

Every expedition needs a photographer.  However, Rich "I'm So Scared" So was unable to keep up with the Hart-Dain Owens duo, and was left behind at the bottom. Photo by Sarah Hart.

Dynos for dinner! Susie Dain-Owens stylin' yet another pitch during her free ascent of Over the Rainbow, Apron, Squamish, BC. Photo by Sarah Hart.

Summit of the Apron. The team descended back to sea level in under thirty minutes. Photo by Sarah Hart.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Coleman Headwall - Mount Baker

After two weekends of climbing, I was craving snow, blue skies, sunshine and mountain views. Greg picked up me up shortly after 5am and we headed eastward across the border towards Mount Baker. We were a little behind schedule, as Greg had to wait five minutes before McDonald's switched over to their breakfast menu. I'm not sure why he didn't just pick me up first and then to McDonald's so we could both order some morning grease. Mount Baker contrasts against the flat valley fields and it was hard for us to avoid staring at our possible ski line in the early morning light.

Ski conditions were fast getting up to the Black Buttes via the Grouse Creek route. From the outhouse, there was enough snow to skin directly to the open avalanche slopes. The route up the Coleman Glacier was in excellent conditions with only a few open crevasses on the ski route, ski crampons were useful until 8000ft, when the snow transitioned from a solid crust to soft early-spring conditions.


From the col, it was a mix of bootpacking and steep ski switchbacks. I was starting to feel the effects of a lack of sleep from the previous night and a busy work week. A quick nap on the summit was in order, as the weather conditions on the summit were excellent with warm temperatures and light winds. Everybody was hanging out up there, brewing up tea, eating lunch, doing yoga and enjoying the views of the North Cascades and the San Juan islands. Has anybody held a yoga class up here yet? After a short nap, it was time to look for the entrance.


The snow conditions at the top of the face were actually corn and chalky powder instead of ice as I had envisioned. Slowly, turn by turn, we committed ourselves onto the Coleman Headwall. I made one turn, and then another. My skis were holding a good edge on the soft layer of corn snow. The slope ahead of me slowly rolled off and I could only see a few turns ahead. I looked back up at Greg, who was also looking uncomfortable with the terrain, but assured me that we were in the right spot. It was a blind rollover ahead of us, with nothing below, therefore we must be in the right spot. Reassuring isn't it? I made a few more turns to the left and noticed rockier terrain and more sastrugi formations. This can't be right, I thought. I started to think back of the mental image that I took of the descent while skinning up the standard route and quickly realized we were too far to the west, heading towards a dead-end descent of the Roman Nose.


Realizing our mistake, I made an exposed traverse rightward on firm snow to reach the main open face. I looked up and down, confirming our location on this massive hanging wall of snow and ice. We made slow turns down the face, making careful turns on this wildly exposed slope. The angle was only in the upper forties, but this wasn't the type of terrain to make a mistake in. I'm not that comfortable with my bindings yet, this was my second day with Dynafits and I'm glad they worked as advertised.

Greg launches into a turn on the upper Coleman Headwall

Steep turns on the Coleman Headwall.

I'm glad Greg was able to pull out his camera as he waited for me to reach his solitary position on the slope. Photo by Greg W.

With one hand firmly grasping his picket, Greg worked his way down the soft snow. Sluff managment became an issue in the lower half of the slope and we paused between every few turns to let the snow tumble over cliffs below.

Me leading the way down towards set of bergshrund at the bottom of the face. Photo by Greg W.


The skiing was certainly a level above any of the skiing I've done to date. The bulk of the skiing isn't that steep, the upper pitch is around fifty degrees, with the bulk of slope averaging forty five degrees, for basically 2000ft. The icefall at the bottom, the multiple bergshrunds and the very scary possibility of rockfall or icefall makes this moderate slope much more challenging. Greg and I both thought that even if the conditions were perfect and everything seemed in our favour, we weren't sure we would/could ski it ourselves. It's quite easy to look at ski websites these days and read various casual trip reports of steep skiing, but ultimately for me, getting motivated to go out and make steep turns still takes a lot of effort from me. It's much more comfortable reading about difficult skiing from the comforts of my desk chair.

Greg skiing away down the Coleman Headwall.

The final crux of the descent, involving a three foot drop over a bergshrund guarding the exit.

Home free. Hurray!

View of our descent line through the ice cliffs, seracs, and cliffs

From here, it was a lazy ski out on firm to slushy isothermal snow on the Coleman Glacier and Grouse Creek. It was a relief to be back in familiar terrain.

Skier in the shadows on the Coleman Glacier.

Parting shot of Mount Baker. I love being up here in May, with just the perfect combination of sunshine, easy access, snowy glaciers and plenty of elevation gain.

If you ski fast over asphalt, there's less wear and tear on your ski bases right? 

We descended the orange line. Photo from WikidSteeps.com. Round trip was probably a hair over 8000ft. Needless to say, the beers and pizza that evening were delicious.