Monthly Archives: May 2017

The Timing is Never Perfect

We did our first ever vlog, and it’s on a mountain top!  Watch it on YouTube to find out what we are up to this weekend, or read the story below.

This Saturday, Arielle and I will be attempting to set a new FKT for the Glasgow to Banded Peak Traverse, aka the Elbow Four.  The fastest time we could find for this trip was about 8hrs.  We hope to complete the loop in 7hrs.  This FKT attempt will be a good way for us to test out some of the gear we will be using for the Spray Valley 10, and enable us to see how we work as a team when we are under time pressure. 

The Route: 

We will be taking an unconventional route.  Instead of the normal route up the drainage, we will be scrambling along the entire length of Glasgow Ridge.  This route cuts off a few kilometres from the standard route, and it is far more interesting.  Arielle and I scouted out this alternate ascent in the fall and we loved it!  I really don’t understand why anyone trudges up that drainage. 


A look inside Arielle’s head:

How do I feel about this? My mind feels great, but my body…well it is still recovering. Shifting gears from racing 50K nationals last weekend, to now trying to regain my mountain legs isn’t going to be easy.  But it is no excuse. Both Joanna and I are not feeling 100%. My legs may be fast on flats but are no where near mountain ready. Joanna on the other hand has been dealing with a sprained ankle, leaving her sideline for the last few weeks. This makes running flats very difficult for her.

So what is our plan ?  Well there is no plan B, which means it comes down to  trusting the process. Joanna and I are going to continue along our plan of kicking of our spray 10 with this FKT attempt. Knowing that our biggest barrier will be physical, but will use our mental strength to get it done! I will use her strength to pull me up the mountains, and she will use my speed to carry her through the long flats.

~Never give yourself permission to have a plan B ~


A look inside Joanna’s head:

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t second guessing the timing of this trip.  Arielle and I are not at our best, and there is still enough snow on the route that we may have troubles with the descent off Banded.  But … I LOVE adventures.  I have grown to enjoy uncertainty, and I relish the chance to solve problems when things don’t go as expected.  When everything goes according to plan it makes for very boring stories.

I am excited to go out there and see how fast we can move.  I’m pumped up to inspire other people to get out there, push themselves, smash our time, or to set their own personal best.  Whether we succeed or fail, we can use this attempt as a learning experience and a stepping stone to bigger goals.

Search #sv10 on Instagram and Facebook to follow our story.  Here are a few photos from yesterday’s mountain adventure on Opal Ridge.


Peak #2 – The Orphan


Summit views from the Orphan, looking down on Wind Ridge.

  • Round trip distance 8.6km, 860m ascent

The Orphan is arguably the most obscure peak in the Spray Valley 10.  I explored the route on a solo trip last fall (Strava route), and other than a few cairns there is little evidence that anyone had ever been there before.

The peak is tucked in behind Big Sister, and the ascent route follows a drainage which was heavily impacted by the 2013 flood – all evidence of a trail has been washed away.  As a result, it feels a little more remote than the other peaks on our route.  The Orphan is a fitting name.

After hiking up through the drainage, the route turns left and climbs steeply up 500 vertical metres of slab.  I thought this would be a fun place to take a crazy carpet.



The summit views on the Orphan are dominated by the Three Sisters to the north, and Rimwall to the South.  Behind you, are glimpses of the Spray Lakes gleaming in the sun, and to the front is the Bow Valley with Wind Ridge and Grotto Mountain.


Next up – Rimwall!

Introducing the Peaks – Big Sister


Looking over at the 3 Sisters and planning the SV10 route

Our first featured peak is Big Sister, the finish line on our 10 peak trek.  Big Sister is the tallest of the 3 sisters and one of the most photographed peaks in the Canadian Rockies.  Even if you’ve never climbed a mountain in your life, if you’ve driven past Canmore you will recognize Big Sister.

I first climbed this peak back in September of 2015 (Strava route here). Jamie lead the way and Philippe came along for the ride. This was Philippe’s first ever scramble!  You can check out his Go Pro video of the summit and descent here.  We spent a lot of time emptying rocks out of our shoes.  Next time we will be wearing gaiters 🙂

The ascent route climbs roughly 1300m in 3.3km.  It is very steep!  To put that in perspective for some of the local trail runners, it is nearly twice as steep Prairie Mountain.


Very, very steep.

The Big Sister Trail is fairly well defined, with cairns marking important junctions.  You gain height quickly and views of the Spray Valley open up right away.  The crux of the route is a small downclimb just before the final push to the summit.  The downclimb is not as scary as it looks, and you just have to slow down and take your time. (In Philippe’s video you see us climbing up the downclimb).


Climbing back up the crux of the route

Immediately after the crux there is a shaded area next to a cliff which holds onto snow almost year round.  Last year, during a June ascent, I was forced to turn around at this point since the snow was frozen hard as ice and I had not brought any traction aids with me.  A fall on this section would be deadly.  During our SV10 attempt we will be carrying Veriga crampons so that we won’t get caught off guard by any icy sections.


That snow may not look like much, but it can be tricky!

Coming up next week, The Orphan!

The Spray Valley 10


I’ve got a problem.  I love moving quickly through the mountains.  The more time I spend in the mountains, the more I want to explore, the more I want to see what my body is capable of, the more I want to test my limits.  The more I test my limits, the crazier the adventures get.

I’ve got a friend named Arielle.  She is crazy.  She is an enabler of the best kind.  She pushes me to take my thoughts and dreams, and put them into action.  We do a lot of mountain adventuring together and last summer she mentioned that we should do some FKTs (Fastest Known Times)  on some of the local routes.  Arielle is a fast runner, whereas I am a fast scrambler, so we tried to think of some routes which would highlight both of our strengths.   Both of us know how to suffer, and both of us seem to excel at longer endurance events (as compared to short sprints).

We came up with some ideas for routes:

  • The Glasgow to Banded Peak Traverse
    • 35km, 2200m of climb
  • Cinderella’s Bitchslap (Midnight Peak to Porcupine Ridge via Tiara Peak)
    • 25km, 2300m of climb
  • The Canmore Quad
    • 53km, 4900m of climb
  • And my own invention, the Spray Valley 10 (SV10)
    • 95km, 10 000m of climb, 10 peaks in the Spray Valley.
    • Engadine, Buller, Red Ridge, Bogart, Sparrowhawk, Lougheed, Windtower, Rimwall, The Orphan and Big Sister
    • The goal is to complete the route as quickly (and safely) as possible.  Hopefully in 36hrs or less.

We plan to use the shorter FKTs as training for the penultimate event, the SV10.  The ridiculously high spring snow pack has delayed our training a bit, but with a couple more weeks of nice weather we should be free to run our legs off on all of the front range peaks.  Arielle and I will be posting on my blog and on Instagram (#sv10) throughout our training and FKT attempts.  We have also had some generous sponsors step up to help us out with gear:

Lastly, we would like to make this adventure about something that is bigger than ourselves.  For myself, this is partially a selfish motivation because it will help keep me going when I’m tired and I want to quit.  But also, we want to do this because we have been blessed with the incredible good fortune to have fit, healthy bodies and an amazing mountain playground in our backyard.  We are grateful to have this opportunity to explore our limits and would like to use this opportunity to give back to those who are not so lucky.  Please show your support by donating to MitoCanada, running for those who can’t.

Learn more about MitoCanada by watching this heart-warming video.  You can learn more about MitoCanada by visiting their website here.