Mid September it seemed like old man winter was coming in with a vengeance. Almost giving off the feeling that he had something to prove, like it was an attempt to silence all the worries of globe warming. With the sudden drop in the snowline came an instance spike of early season stoke. As the peaks of Rogers Pass started to take shape into the wonderful winter wonderland we all love, I my head started to fill with thoughts of ski days gone by. Watching as the things I’ve skied starting to fill in. Reliving those powder filled moments of joy and excitement. Getting pretty stoked to get back on the skis and search for new adventures.
Unfortunately, work and other projects kept me from sampling any of the gloriously tempting early season fluffies. So I kept on daydreaming of memorable moments from adventures had. Reliving the moments that once upon a time were nothing but daydreams themselves. Last season ended up being one that full filled a lot of daydreams, creating memories and moments that I am sure I will keep forever.
As abruptly, as it went from summer to the onset of the next ice age, my morning views went from snow capped peaks and majestic forests to skyscrapers and cookie cutter houses. My walk along a tranquil dirt path to the worksite, was replaced by a drive through a seemingly never-ending ash fault labyrinth of suburban communities. Leaving me to continue to relived those captured daydreams, as I helped to light up Calgarians lives, one colored bulb at a time.
One of my biggest daydreams that came to fruition last season was being able to walk out the door of my house, click in to my boards and go skiing, right from the doorstep. Through the help and amazing generosity of a good friend and great man Andre Dugit, we got to live this daydream in the Rhonde Alps region of France, just outside of a little town called Beaufort.
Last season was filled with all sorts of memorable moments, both competitively and creatively. At one point I actually got to combine the 2 aspects of the sport into something that is very similar to a daydream of an event, which I once had. A nice mix of atheism, artistic creativity and straight up adventuring…
Now that the final countdown of the 2013 urban alpinism season has begun and my head is filled with goodtime memoires from last season, my excitement to get back out adventuring is starting to skyrocket. I learned a lot last year and I am really looking forward to taking my new skills and insights out to play in my home mountains, and looking forward to spending some quality time with old man winter.
There is something special about running that I really enjoy. Running has a different sense of appeal than climbing, skiing or biking. The simple beauty of only needing a pair of shoes and the ability to tie your laces in order to have a great time, creates an undeniable attraction.
The pure simplicity of only having to think about moving your feet, free of any attachment or restriction, produces an irreplaceable sense of freedom. The fact that there is no chain to lube, no bases to wax or ropes to untangle, I really like. Not having to worry about getting pinch flats or forgetting your beacon, just knowing that all you need to do is a little “loop, swoop-n-pull” maneuver and you are off to a world of good times, is pretty sweet.
Over the years I have always had other activities than running as my main focus for playing outside. But I have always had a pair of shoes and remembered the basic maneuvers need to be successful with them. My shoes have taken me on some very fun adventures over the years, from the cobble and concrete of Venice, to the lichen and granite of the Columbia Mtns, with lots in between.
A few winters ago Mel and I went over to Italy to attend the 2011 Ski Mountaineering World Championships in Claut IT. At the start of our trip we flew into Venice, we got in rather late in the evening, and some how manage to find our hotel in the maze of streets. First thing the next morning we went for a run, hoping that the exercise would help our bodies adjust quicker to the 9 hr. jet lag. The night before we had been lucky to find our hotel, but navigation is easier when you are moving slowly, so needless to say, we quickly became rather disorientated as we ran around the labyrinth of narrow streets, forever present canals and street side venders that make up the magic that is Venice Italy. Since our time in Venice was short going for a run was a great way to see the city, we even saw places that most tourist don’t.
Growing up I did a lot of hiking with my family. My parents took my sister and I on trails and alpine rambles all over Western North America. As a kid I was not always excited or into the idea of having to carry a pack for days just so that we could have a “nice view”. Now as I get older and have learn’d how to appreciate a “nice view”, I cannot be more grateful to have gone on all those journeys as a kid and it makes it extra special to go do some of those hikes and trips again, now just at a different pace.
Last summer Mel and I went over to Kootenay National Park, to do the Rockwall trail. I did this hike with my family when I was 6 or 7 and I think it took us 3 or 4 days. It is a beautiful trail that traverses over 3 alpine passes and along side majestic hanging glaciers and massive limestone walls. The hike is a series of trails that link up creating multiple options of varying lengths. We went from Floe lakes to Helmet Cr then out to Marble Canyon.
It was an awesome hike when I was a kid and just as amazing as a run now. I think in total we did over 55 km in about 8.5 hrs. It is a beautiful area and great trail to run, with lots of gradual climbs and stellar alpine meadows.
Due to the pure and simple nature of running it can be enjoyed in many different ways in many different settings. Whether it be a nice 45 min jog around some urban trails, or a multiple day adventure thru the forests and ridgelines or a speed ascent of a peak. The simplicity of running enables you to easily adapt to an environment.
Over the years I have always used running as great way of pushing myself. Doing the same run year after year, creating personal standards that I strive to break. When I was younger I used to do most of my running on trails, but now that comfort level in the mountains has increased I have start to look beyond the trails and into the peaks.
A few weeks ago I went out for my first run in awhile. I headed up the Balu Pass trail in Glacier National Park. The trail starts at Rogers Pass and goes for 6.5 km up Connaught Cr to Balu Pass, the trail gains about 800m over the 6.5 km. From the pass I headed north towards Balu Peak (also know as 8812) along the SW ridge, which has some really nice 3rd and 4th class scrambling up it. The view from the summit is awesome and gives you a stunning vantage point of the Selkirks. It was a beautiful spot to go for run. Check it out here http://www.movescount.com/moves/move15846463
It is super fun to mix running into the mountains. To be able to cover large amounts of terrain and get to amazing spots. All by simply tying your laces tight and trying not to trip over your toes, is something that I hope to be able to do for many years to come.
I spent the summer of 2006 in Waterton Lakes National Park (WLNP), which is down in the south west corner of Alberta. Waterton is a beautiful area, where the Rocky Mtns meets the Prairies. It is a very dramatic landscape, full of vibrant colors, ascetic ridge lines and attainable summits. It is a very arid area, where the valleys are filled with lodgepole pine and spruce trees. The majority of the park is rocky treeless alpine. Being that it is on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains the rock quality is exceptually poor and I am pretty sure the mountains get shorter every time you climb one due to the crumbling nature of the rock. This makes for rather poor climbing, but has created an amazingly great environment for scrambling and ridge/mtn running.
The summer that I lived in Waterton, I was there as an Initial Attack Fire Fighter for Parks Canada. Unfortunately the majority of the park is rock and lighting seems to natural flank all around the park but never in it, which makes for a rather less than exciting summer of fire fighting action. Due to the natural high winds of the area (50 kmph is a normal breeze) and valleys filled with dead pine and spruce (due to a pine beetle out break in the early 90’s some areas of the park have more dead wood than living trees) the potential for a very large catastrophic fire to occur is definitely a very real fear. So because of this forever present threat, during fire season the park always has a helicopter on stand by. During my summer there we would do 2 smoke patrols a day. The thrill and excitement of flying in a helicopter wears off pretty quick when you have to spend 2 to 3 hrs a day flying around looking for smoke that is never there. The one thing that never did get old about all those flights was being able to gain a very extensive bird’s eye view knowledge of the summits and ridge lines of the park, which started the idea of trying to enchain them all in one push!
When you look on google earth there is 24 peaks that fall within the boundaries of WLNP, my daydream was to someday link them all, in what I estimate would be a very solid 4 day push, during which you would maintain an avgerage elevation of 2000m. During the summer I was living there I tired a few different missions and in total I think I knocked off 18 or 19 summits, the longest enchainment being 2 days in which i climbed 9 peaks and travel approx 70km. But was never able to attain my ultimate day dream. Since that summer I had not returned to the park and the dream of “24 in 4” was forever burning away in the back of my mind.
Until last summer….
Mel and I went down to WLNP last summer, with the initial intention of giving the “24 in 4” idea ago. Unfortunately mother nature was not entirely into the idea and as we drove into the park at 6 in the morning, we saw a nice coat of the fluffy white stuff covering all of the peaks, pretty much to the 2000m line and the skies were very dark and unwelcoming. So we quickly change plans and decided to start a trail in the valley rather than heading straight to the high alpine. I knew right then that my daydream would have to wait for another time, but nonetheless we were still gonna have a stellar time and push ourselves.
We end up having 2 very, very solid days in which we were covering approx 35-50 kms and over 3000m vertical a day. We did not tag nearly as many summits as we had intended but we did circumnavigate pretty much all of the western section of the park.
To finish off our adventure, we paddled down Lake Waterton to Bertha Bay to camp for the night. It was pretty awesome way to finish the trip and treat our very sore knees and feet.
This might not have ended up been the mission that I have been dreaming about for all these years, but nonetheless it was a very good one, not soon to be forgotten or repeated. Maybe someday I be able to put a “tick” next to “24 in 4” but until then, it is kinda nice to keep it as a daydream.
Ever dream of being able to step out your front door, click into your skis and start skinning. To walk up thru the fields and forests for an hour or so, to then arrive in a beautiful majestic alpine playground. A playground filled with stellar chutes, ascetic ridgelines, marvelous vistas and a plethora of skiable summits all coated incredibly lushes blower powder.
In this alpine wonderland you would to be able to shred to your hearts content. Then once you started to get hungry, from all your mind-bending, heart pounding, face shot filled moments of epicness, you could ski down into the neighboring valley, sit at a café enjoy a burger, some fries and espresso. All the while drinking in the glorious afternoon sunshine.
Once you got your sufficient recharged of grease, caffeine and vitamin D. You could toss your skins back on, and proceed to walk back up into the same alpine playground. Once there maybe pick off a few more stellar lines, before you decide to go for the final shred down back to your home. Where you can unclick from your skis right at your front door and can stop to marvel at what a fantastic day you just had.
Now doesn’t that just sound like to good of a daydream for it to ever come true?
I always thought so…
But then I moved to France for the winter, into the prefect little chalet in the Beaufortain Valley. It’s a very magical place where all these kind of daydreams can come true.
As the cloud layer started to lift off, after a record breaking month of June, in which we saw as many heavy rainfall warnings in one month as we did heavy snowfall warnings for the entire winter. There started to be patches of green and grey mixed into the thick blanket of white that had been covering the alpine playgrounds of the Columbia mountains.
Then with a little help from the sun and some more rain, the snow really started to disappear and make the alpine scream ” Come play”.
more alpine adventures to come…