Saturday, August 31, 2013

End of Days

With the end of summer fast approaching we continued our assault on the Canadian rockies. Although we had a number of big routes left on our tick list, our bodies were starting to feel the fatigue of long days and we decided they would have to wait until next summer. We spent the last couple of weeks mixing it up quite a bit, doing everything from chill bouldering to single pitch sport climbing to long moderate trad routes to playing tourist along the Icefields Parkway up to Jasper.

We had a blast taking Kristal's cousins out for some easy climbing at Grassi Lakes.

We had a longer than expected day climbing the classic moderate Escargot Corner, which climbs the upper Norquay Slabs. Eyeing up the guidebook, Kristal was intrigued by the Lower Norquay Slabs, and figured we could add some more easy climbing to the day by tacking on a few pitches of 5.9 to the beginning of the route. It turned into a bit of an adventure, with marginally terrifying runnout slab, exceptional dirty crack climbing and much chossy goodness. Here is Kristal getting gripped at the top of the long first pitch of Inclination.

In the end it worked out for the best, as there was a pretty slow party on Escargot Corner. The 2 1/2 hours it took us to climb Inclination meant that we didn't catch up to the them until we began the descent.  They were locals, and upon hearing about our lower slab adventures responded with: "Wow, you're the first people we've ever heard of climbing down there."  Yeah, we noticed.

Escargot Corner itself was much more pleasant, although also suffered from some rock quality issues. The main attraction are these cool fossils that you climb past on the last pitch.

The views of Banff from the top were also quite exceptional.

We were joined by Kristal's parents and brother for some fun sport climbing last weekend. Here is Mark on Union Maid 5.10a at the Spray Slabs, with the Banff Springs Hotel in the background.

At some point we took a couple of days off to wait out some inclement weather, and drove up to Jasper to enjoy some hiking, touring and soaking at the Miette Hot Springs.  Here I am doing what tourists do at the Icefield Centre.

We spent much of the drive scoping out potential climbing for next summer. In addition to any number of good looking mountains we also came across this really cool featured slab. We'll be back.

Of course there were plenty of other things to see during the drive, including a seemingly endless number of glaciers...

These cool bubbling springs...

And excessive amounts of beautiful vistas...

On our last of day of climbing we decided to take a chill day and hike up to Chester Lake in Kananaskis country and the nearby Elephant Rocks. We had a blast doing some easy highball bouldering/soloing.

Here is Kristal on the most precarious looking summit in the boulder field. She was unwilling to stand there for very long.

It was a fantastic way to finish off the trip, with super fun easy climbing on solid well featured rock. The views were also spectacular.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Rocky Mountain Highs

We decided to close out the rest of the summer climbing in the front range of the Canadian Rockies. Despite the sometimes questionable rock quality, anyone who has driven along the Trans Canada Highway cannot deny the sheer amount of rock available to climb on. With route recommendations from fellow climbers and the new Banff Rock guidebook in hand, we had a large list of routes to climb. For the last week we have jumped between Banff, Lake Louise, Yoho and Canmore getting on some awesome long moderates and enjoying the amazing views.

Here is Kristal coming up the 4th pitch of Aftenroe, on Guides Rock outside of Banff.

And on the summit of the Tower of Babel in Lake Louise.

The view of Moraine Lake from the top was beautiful.

We had read of a cool route in Yoho National Park that climbed beside Takakkaw Falls and included a 75 meter cave traverse as the second last pitch. Of course we couldn't resist, and the route did not disappoint. The top of the 6th pitch puts you right beside the thundering falls.

Kristal was super excited by the time we got to the top of the 9th pitch to start the cave traverse. How excited? This excited.

Here I am just about to enter the cave, which was ridiculously cool.

It is a remarkably straight and uniform cave, averaging about a meter across and high, although there was a section in the middle where I had to shimmy on my belly to get through. Just don't forget your headlight, as it is pitch black in the middle.

Of course climbing in the Rockies in August means you have to be leery of late day thunderstorms. We definitely had a few close calls, and had to wait out passing showers on more than one occasion. Thankfully we never got caught on route during the worst storms. After topping out Gooseberry on Tunnel Mountain in Banff, we were welcomed with this view of an approaching storm.

10 minutes later we were being dumped on during the hike back to the car, thankful that we hadn't climbed the route any slower!

Yesterday we climbed Generosity on the East end of Mount Rundle, just outside of Canmore. Here is Kristal at the top of the 10th pitch.

It had some truly memorable pitches of climbing. Here I climbing the cool water runnels on the 10th pitch.

And the views from the top were spectacular. Here is Ha Ling Peak on the other side of the valley, which we had climbed last year.

And Kristal starting the descent, with spray lakes in the background.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Back in the Bugaboos

We spent the past week in one of our favorite destinations - the alpine playground of Bugaboo Provincial Park in British Columbia.  Despite the heavy packs and long hike in Kristal was all smiles.

How can you not be excited to climb awesome rock with this as your backdrop.

We were joined for a couple of days by Kristal's parents, and we had a great time taking them up the West Ridge of Pigeon Spire.

Despite some heavy fog and threat of bad weather we managed to make it up and down the climb before any real rain started to fall.  Here are Kristal's parents on the summit.

And here we are coming down the glacier in the fog after the climb.

Kristal and I also ticked off another long climb during our stay. Here she is standing on top of Snowpatch Spire, after climbing the classic South East Corner (aka Wiessner's Route, aka the Snowpatch Route).

Unfortunately the weather wasn't all that cooperative during this trip. Here is mist surrounding East Post Spire, as we were making our way back to the hut after being rained off of McTech Arete.

Of course even when the storms are rolling through, the Bugaboos is still a surreal and beautiful place.

And having unfinished routes on the tick list isn't necessarily a bad thing. It just gives us an excuse to come back again next year.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Rest Days

After Darrington we realized we had climbed 19 of the previous 23 days, and figured a few days off would be nice. On previous trips through Washington we had always looked at Olympic National Park on the map, but being on a peninsula it's kind of not on the way to anywhere. We finally decided to check it out and spent a couple of days hiking through rain forests and along coastal beaches.

Of course we see a lot of forests and mountains through climbing, so we spent most of our time enjoying the beaches.

Knowing there were sea stacks along the shore, we even packed some climbing shoes and found some cool formations that actually provided some reasonable easy climbing (these were supposed to be rest days after all).

The beaches were littered with enormous dead trees, which provided some awesome root climbing and fun scrambling.

The tide pools were teeming with life, including anemones, crabs, starfish and mussels.

Kristal told me to go stand near the water for a picture and I just happened to be attached by this rogue wave when she took the picture.

I am always amazed at the beauty of the ocean and we had a fantastic couple of days sightseeing. We capped it off with a trip (only a little out of the way) to the Mount Baker Hot Spring. Just what our recovering muscles needed to cap off a few days of rest!