Well with the weather quickly changing from hot summer to a much cooler fall, and with Whistler already getting a dusting the other day, I figured its high time for at least on more quick bag night before we move into snow camping season. This weekend a small group of us are going to head up to the peak of Mount Cook, above Wedgemount Lake. I just picked up a new Gopro, so we should have some fun messing around with that. Should make for a fun weekend in the mountains!
Keep posted for the trip report.
It’s the first day back to school for many. The first day back to work for my wife and all the other teachers. All the impromptu summer camping trips have come to an end. All the parks and trails become a little more quiet as most peoples mindsets get “back to reality”. But this is not the case for everyone.
I have a truly unique opportunity in front of me. Four months away from work. Four months to explore the world around me. Hiking trails. Cycling day trips. And all this with my youngster Asher. I am on Parental Leave. Dadternity. I have often thought every September as though a new chapter of my life has started. This has likely come from the ingrained “back to school” days from when I was young, paired with marrying a teacher.
September for my wife and I, means a shift from our leisurely summer activities, to a busier time as Fall rolls in. She gets busy organising her new class for the year, and for many previous years, it was when I started up working on my second job again. Landscaping. (Seasonal.)
This Fall, things are a little different. I had given up my second job last Christmas, as a new position opened up at the company I mainly work for, and then we had our son. This Fall we chose for my wife to go back to work at the beginning of the school year, and split the time off with our child between us.
So here I am. Day 1. Excited? Yes. Time to get Asher started outdoor training camp!
Me and a couple friends tackled Rugged Maniac Vancouver this year. Check out my write up for Explore magazine…
You know when you have one of those big projects staring you in the face, waiting for you to make your move? I do. Mine was Mount Baker. Very prominent in the skyline from Vancouver. I have seen it there my whole life, sitting just far enough away that I couldn’t make out all its details. Just kind of hazy. Dream like. In fact, I see it every day on my way to work. It’s as though it has been waiting for me to even suggest climbing it. Well that day finally came.
Many months ago some friends and I started hatching the idea and put things in motion that brought us up to this summer. Our plan of attack was the Coleman Deming route, and this past July long weekend we made our move…
Friday morning our bags were packed and ready to go. Only I still had to get through a full work day first. Grrr. Fast forward 8 hours later. I picked up one of my climbing partners, Jason, and we hit the road. We would meet the rest of the group over the border in Washington.
Border line up. Zero. Thanks America. A short drive and we were at my sister in laws’ family trailer in Maple falls. We met up with the rest of our climbing group, my cousin Ryan, his wife Julia, and his brother in law Andre. The objective for the evening was a quick dinner, review of the game plan for the weekend, check out the latest weather conditions anticipated for the weekend, and see what gear could be 86’d from our packs to lighten the load. We called it a night pretty early as the next 48 hours were going to take a lot out of us.
Saturday morning we were up early. The weather was goo and we headed out. We stopped in at the Wake and Bakery for breakfast. Epic breakfast burritos! A staple really for anyone hiking or climbing in the Mt Baker Hwy corridor.
We continued on down the highway a short distance and pulled in at the Ranger station to drop off our volunteer check in form and find out if there was any new developments on the mountain since the last update Ryan had printed off before we left. No changes. Blue sky weather for the weekend. We left the Ranger station and a short distance later we turned on Glacier creek road and up to the trail head.
It was a short hike through the canopy and my pack was surprisingly not as heavy as I expected or as heavy as previous trips. We were now leaving the comfort of the shade and emerging up to Heliotrope Ridge. The views opened up immediately and we were now getting a good vantage of what laid ahead.
We finally hit the snow line and the makings of Lower camp. There were tents everywhere tucked down along the creekside. Folks were busily separating their camp gear from their climbing gear and getting themselves organized for the next days push. It was getting hot. We filled our water bottles in the creek and continued to high camp. About half way up from low camp to high camp we made the decision to rope up as we were now seeing signs of crevasses.
We finally arrived at high camp mid afternoon and found a few open spots that were semi flat. We got busy leveling out room for our tents and melting snow for water and dinner. The plan was to have an early meal and an early bed. We won’t be in the tents for long. Dinner done, we relaxed a little while and settled in to our tents for “rest”. I say this because there was no real way to get much of anything that resembled sleep as it was way to bright and hot. So we rested.
Sunday. 12:30am. You could start to hear people getting themselves together to get ready for summit day. The dull roar of camp stoves. Headlamps whipping past the roof of our tent like distant rescue parties in search of a lost mate. We tried to wait a little longer, maybe eek out a few extra minutes of sleep, but the inevitability was that it was time to get moving. It was now 230am and we had to leave our tents for the darkness. An Alpine Start.
By a little after 4am it was starting to get light out. We made our way along the main trail up and joined the rest of the caterpillar of people that were slowly making their way up the mountain side. Now sitting somewhere around 8500- 9000 ft we took a break. It was amazing. The distance that you could see was unbelievable.
We had one final push…
We made it! At about 7:15am, we reached the summit of Mt Baker. A truly amazing weekend we had. A new personal goal reached. My first ever 10000+ ft climb. We were rewarded with one of the best views I have ever had the pleasure to see. One more mountain checked off my list!
Here is a short video I put together of our trip:
So over the past year, a few friends and I have been “uping” our hiking game from basic hiking trails to more and more technical approaches. Our eyes are set on tackling Mt Baker in about a month, so we felt it was time to get schooled on some of the fundamentals of Mountaineering.
We connected with the folks at Altus Mountain Guides for a weekend of safety skills and adventure.
We met our guides for the “Intro Mountaineering” at the Squamish Adventure Center, signed our waivers, and joined the rest of the group to get briefed on what the next 72 hours would entail. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what we were getting ourselves into, nor did I know how we would stack up against the rest of the group, but we would soon find out.
The group consisted of 7 of us and 2 guides. We were split into 2 smaller groups with a guide each. This was perfect for us as it ended up allowing myself, my brother and my cousin (a couple of my regular hiking partners) to be in a group of 3.
We split off and headed for a small bluff just off of the overflow parking area adjacent to the Adventure Center. Here we spent a number of hours in “Rope/Rock School” learning and practicing all the necessary knots and hitches required for both climbing and crevasse crossing/rescue. Afterwards, we connected with the other group and got in a bit of climbing. It was a very full day. At the end we had a quick chat with the guides to make sure everyone had the gear they needed for the next 2 days on the mountain. We picked up a couple of new articles of gear for our harnesses and made our way to the campground at the foot of “The Chief” and our home for the night.
We dropped our gear at our site, grabbed a seat on the ground and cracked a cold beer. We had made it through day 1. Now the campground itself is an interesting enough place. Filled with climbers, dirt bags, nomads, and others looking to stay somewhere on the cheap. We finished our evening cooking out of the back of my truck as the sun went down. In the distance, slack liners were practicing their craft, cars continued to roll in and out with their modified shelters on wheels, while others seemed to just flat out sleep on their drivers seats in a sleeping bag. A culture all to its own that I was slowly morphing towards myself. Through the night there was a constant flow of headlights whipping about as folks were getting back from climbs, heading out for some night bouldering, or even setting off on their own climbs before the next day’s sun fried them against the granite of “The Chief”.
We woke early(ish). We didn’t have to meet the group until 9:30am at the Sea to Sky Gondola, where we would be departing from. We packed up camp and made our way to the truck for some breakfast. The parking lot was in full tilt evacuation mode. People leaving, people coming, and with the unprecedented good weather about 5 million folks were making their way into the day use area to hike or climb for the day.
We finished up and jumped in the truck and made our way down the road to find a spot to ditch it and double back to the Gondola parking lot. We made good time.
The group had taken over the patio section and was busily packing and repacking gear for the trip ahead.
The Gondola opened and we made our way on. We set out on the trails up behind the Gondola and soon had a pretty sweet view of our upcoming playground. Up and up and finally on a saddle and a little rocky outcropping we set up base camp.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon practicing roping up as a team, self arresting, and making snow anchors. A hot day on the mountain, but everyone was in such high spirits. I don’t know if was the good weather or just simply the opportunity to spend the weekend on the mountain, but the group was pretty much ear to ear grinning the entire time. That evening we ate dinner back at base camp and went to bed just after the sun tucked in behind the mountains, this would be a short sleep as the alarm was set for 3am for the summit attempt.
Sunday Morning (Real mutha F Early!)
3:00am. The alarm goes off, the headlamps go on. We slowly but efficiently get ourselves together for a quick bite to eat and get prepared to head out for the summit push. The light from the sun was slowly illuminating the world around us, and before long the headlamps could be shut off.
We departed base camp at 4:00am, and slowly made our way up the mountainside toward the summit. It was cool out but nowhere near cold. We hit a few steep sections and the guides quickly set the ropes up. We continued onward. Then one final chimney section and the last push up to the summit. We made it! 730am and we were standing on top of Sky Pilot.
We spent about 15 minutes up there taking it all in. Then we made our way back down to one of the lower cliffs for some crevasse rescue practice. The temperature had rocketed up again and before long everyone was feeling the heat. We finished up and made our way back to break camp and make our way back down the mountain. All in all an amazing weekend out. It was a super fun and informative time. Big thanks to Klemen and Alex from Altus Mountain Guides!
As for us, we are in full on training mode for Mt Baker and are feeling much more prepared to tackle it.
Well. I must confess. Between having a newborn and starting a new job, some parts of my life have taken a hit. It has been a learning curve that has come fast and hard, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Though I have had to slow down my frequency of trips and activities, it is probably the first time in years that I have brought myself to a pace of reflection and the headspace to look forward beyond the next race or adventure.
I suppose timing couldn’t be better as I am resting an injury in my foot.
Through all this, plans are still moving forward. I am excited to be tackling a mountaineering course at the end of the month through Altus Mountain Guides in Squamish and am slowly collecting all the necessary gear for our Mount Baker trip this summer. Mentally and physically, I am getting myself in training mode. Between hiking and cycling (both of which are affecting my injury) I am feeling better than I was about a month ago, and maybe a bit more reflective.
Unrelated, There are a few things that have come to mind recently that i felt needed posting:
- Major props to all the Outdoor Adventure Enthusiasts out there, both professional and amateur that are trying to juggle their love for outdoor adventure and a home life. It is no easy task, and at the best of times there are huge sacrifices that need to be made by all family members involved. This is maybe something that i had not opened my eyes to a few years (or even months) ago.
- RIP Ueli Steck and Mike Hall. I have never met either of these folks, but they were both, in some small way, a connection of inspiration to me. I have been going to Vancouver’s international mountain film festival for years now, and Ueli Steck has come up time and time again, in documentaries. He was always pushing the limit, finding new endeavours of self realization. And Mike Hall, my only exposure to him was through a documentary I saw on Netflix called “Inspired to Ride”. I was so impressed by his drive and determination to push himself, well beyond anything I could even dream of. Both of these amazing athletes have passed in recent weeks, and I felt it was necessary to acknowledge both of them as I feel a connection to their dedication to their prospective crafts.
So for now I will maintain in training mode and juggle the world of Adventure & Home life. Keep posted for updates from my Mountaineering weekend in Squamish!
Feeling freshly re-inspired to get back outside again from both the Vancouver Outdoor Show and the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival I have attended over the last two months I decided to sit down with my hiking group to have a discussion. The topic: Our upcoming summer trip…
Months ago we had originally looked at taking on Mount Rainier, but between trying to align all our vacation schedules, juggling a family life, and a few key conversations with some veterans in the mountaineering community we shifted our sights to Mount Baker. A closer destination to us in terms of travel time, and with a lesser elevation it would be a perfect stepping stone for us before attempting Rainier in the future.
Situated in Washington State, just over the border from us, Mount Baker is an iconic image in the pacific northwest and can been seen throughout the lower mainland. As a kid I remember looking at Mount Baker as some far off place. So big and so foreign. It seems fitting that all these years later I plan to actually climb it.
In preparation for the trip, my cousin and I (and possibly my brother) are taking a mountaineering course Altus Mountain Guides in Squamish BC. I am super stoked for this 3 day course, skills training and mountain summit. We are booked for the end of May and it already feels like it is just around the corner.
So the stage is set, our plan is to summit Mount Baker on the Canada Day long weekend! Time to dust off the gear and get mountain ready.
Well folks, it happened! My wife gave birth to our first child. I am so excited to start the next chapter of my life..and parenthood.
Not too many weeks ago I was researching which crampons to buy and what mountaineering boots would work best, now we are going to “Baby Days” classes. Haha how quickly your priorities shift. When Worlds Collide.
This is a new and interesting perspective for me. I am intrigued to see how I will respond to the dual worlds of outdoor adventure and family life (though the two can blend very well together).
I have heard a mix of responses from people on the successes of being able to do both. Some have said, “your likely to stop going on the kind of trips that you do” and others more of a “you can still do everything you want” attitude. I assume my future lies somewhere in between. Is there compromise. Absolutely. Is a compromise something your happy to make. Not a doubt in my mind. My family will always take front seat over adventure opportunities. But that is what they are.. Opportunities. Perhaps skipping one, leads to another. Perhaps not. That’s life. I also have the support of a wife who knows that getting out in the world and pushing myself is very much a part of me. That is what gives me confidence that I can blend these two worlds together. From baby bottles to endless trails, my path is laid.
On a side note the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival is rolling through town in a few weeks. I am very much looking forward to getting out to it and finding some new inspirations!
Its 1130am on the last day of the year. I have spent much of the last month grinding it out at work and fighting off a bit of a cold. Classic way to end the year. As it is for most folks, I too, find myself in reflection of the last 12 months. It has been a fairly busy year. Full of some fantastic highlights. Tackling a finish line medal from MOMAR, getting a few more half marathons under my belt, and completing my first solo 1000 kilometre cycling trip.
I have been blogging for a little over a year now and have had the opportunity to share my stories and challenges with over 1600 different people from around the world. One of the things that has intrigued me the most through this sharing platform, is the people that I have come across through the comments left or folks following my blog. The likeness between so many people, driven to not only pursue the things they love, but to have the courage and want, to share their stories and experiences with everyone else.
This has been the founding reason behind what started this blog in the first place. My hope has been that the stories I share help to inspire people to get out and try something that they maybe thought was out of there reach. Or that we don’t all have to be either a professional athlete, or nothing, that there is a whole world of adventure out there for us all, regardless of sponsorship. If you can dream it, you can achieve it.
Looking ahead to 2017. First and foremost, I am on the verge of parenthood. My wife and I are expecting our first child at the end of January. Excited? Yes. Super. This opens up a whole new world to me and I am looking forward to all the new experiences.
Also I have lined myself up already for a few races in the spring, and have set the table for my next big challenge. Summit Mount Rainier. Hopefully, if all goes well, this will be in July or August. Until then its diaper changes and crevasse safety training for me! (and what ever else I get my self into).
So thanks to everyone that has taken the time to check out and share my blog, and keep posted in the New Year!
Have you ever had to turn back from a trip? After going through all the route planning, logistics, packing, heading out the door and… something goes wrong. Someone in the group gets injured or sick. Or weather turns on you so fast that your forced back. It’s hard. Hard to walk away from all that effort you put in, the expectations of what you hoped to get out of the experience. Or is that the experience you were supposed to get.
If any of you read my previous post “Countdown” a small group of us were intending on bagging a peak out in the Squamish Valley last weekend on what would likely be our last trip of 2016. The trip was already being squeezed into a quick one day and one night trip, down from our usual multi day adventures which left next to no margin for error in terms of set backs (limited daylight so no late starts, changes to our route/plan for bad weather etc.)
Our adventure became short and sweet (or sour?) and went as follows:
3:00am. The alarm clock rings. Tired. Slow. I only got home from work five hours ago. Shower, toast, last minute items into the backpack. It is dark out. It will be for many more hours, by the time there is daylight we should be unpacking the truck mountainside.
I picked up my cousin Ryan, then my buddy Jason and we head out from Richmond. It is raining pretty good. We had checked the avalanche forecast for the area we were heading to and it didn’t look too good. Tonnes of fresh snow had fallen and there had been a pretty significant wind storm three days ago. Pretty good avalanche conditions. These are the things that we couldn’t control when we set the date for this trip months earlier, but are faced to dealing with now.
We continue driving, and are past the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal. The rain has now increased, and joining it is some wind. We are all quietly thinking about what the game plan is now. In putting together this trip we did have a back up plan to put in play should a situation like this arise, but truth be told it was not at all what we wanted to do. Sigurd Peak (our original destination) had been something my brother and I had planned on tackling for some time now and had never gotten around to putting this trip together, now with the looming bad weather and avy conditions it seemed as though this would not be the time either.
We arrived in Squamish and pulled in to the Golden Arches for a quick breakfast and to make some McDecisions on our next move. It was now beginning to snow. Sigurd Peak at this point we could see was a no go. With the high avalanche rating, and unfamiliar terrain it was a non starter for us and would have to wait for another day. Our back up plan as to head up to Garibaldi Lake, we had all been there multiple time and had done a trip there this past January, but it was close and we knew the area.
We finished up our “breakfast” and made our way towards the Garibaldi Lake turnoff. The driving conditions were crap. It was still dark out and the turnoff was barely visible. We got on to the road leading up to the parking lot. The snow was quite heavy at this point. As we got to the parking lot my truck began sliding all over the place. We elected to double back down to the highway and leave the truck there (not being interested in attempting to dig my truck out of the parking lot Sunday morning).
After strapping on our snowshoes and gear we made our way back up the road to the trailhead. Other snowshoers and skiers were now at the lot getting ready to head out on there own trips and we were soon over taken by many on skis heading out for a day of touring around. It was nice to finally be on the trail. The snow was falling and it was winterland all around us. We were taking our time and enjoying the hike. At about three or four kilometres into our trip a group of skiers came around the corner towards us. Odd we thought that people would be coming down from the lake this early. The stopped and chatted with us about another group that they had encountered who warned them of trees falling on the trail, so they chose to turn back. With that gem of information they left and headed down the trail. Jason, Ryan, and myself were now left in that shitty situation of “should we turn back too?”
We wondered “Had the group they spoke with seen the trees fall or did they see trees laying across the trail and decided that was enough for them?” They had mentioned that it was about another twenty minutes up the trail so we elected to cautiously hike up as far as the trees and see how fresh the tree falls were (how much snow had fallen on them etc.) and make a decision there.
Not ten minutes later the group that had been the ones to see the trees came around the bend. We spoke with them and not only had they seen the trees fall, but one of the skiers had a sizable tree come down not more than a few feet behind him. They had decided at that point to get the hell out of there.
That was it for us. The trip was over. We did not see the trees that had fallen, we didn’t need to. We had seen the face of the guy who almost had a tree land on him. That was enough.
It seemed as though this trip was just simply not meant to happen or maybe it was a lesson on “know when to fold them”. We made our way back down to the truck and drove our way back towards home. Stopping in at Bridge Brewing for a pint on the way back I thought about how being put in a decision like that is necessary from time to time. The choice to turn back rather than put yourself (and others around you) in a situation that could turn out very badly. It is never easy to walk away from all the planning, and prep work that goes into these back country trips but I would say it is better to be able to walk away from a trip than to regret that you didn’t.