Tag Archives: ski touring

A little bit of everything (April in review)

I’m really enjoying writing these monthly recaps.  They’re good reminders that I am putting in the work, as it’s easy to feel like I should/could be doing more. They also are a fun walk down memory lane, reliving all my adventures from the past few weeks.

April weather was a little mix of everything and I found myself doing all the mountain sports: running, scrambling, and skiing. My monthly vertical is getting closer to where it needs to be, but I’m still about 60,000ft behind schedule if I want to make my goal of 1 million feet this year. I take comfort in knowing that January-April are usually the most awkward, snowbound months for climbing mountains.  It should all be uphill from here!


April highlights:

  1. Minotaur Thursdays have started! Every Thursday Patrick and I lead a group of adventurous runners up a front range peak.  We try to keep the runs (more like power hikes), to around 2hrs and I find it super enjoyable showing local runners obscure routes in their own backyard.  In April we went up Baldy, Wasootch Ridge, Doorjam/Loder and Iyarhe Ipan.
  2. Pincher Ridge to Victoria Ridge to Drywood Mountain. This was my first big scrambling day of the year and it was perfect. Phil came up with the route idea, and Philippe and I came along for the ride. 29km, 2400m of gain and nearly 9hrs of pure mountain exhaustion.
  3.  Almost White Pyramid. This was another long ski day and a good introduction to spring skiing in the Canadian Rockies.  Snow quality in the valley was terrible (crust on facets in the morning, ice or isothermic snow in the afternoon), but the skiing up high was really nice.  Our route took us beneath towering glaciers and we were able to catch a glimpse of the stunning valley beyond before we were engulfed in a whiteout.  The whiteout conditions were not conducive to a summit bid and we turned back only 100 vertical metres from the top.  I had never attempted to ski in conditions like that and I was extremely cautious on the way down the steep slope from the col. Memories of Delirium Dive were still fresh in my mind.  Once we hit the more moderate slopes the skiing became super fun as I learned how to react to the terrain changes in low visibility.  I’m looking forward to working on these skills next season.
  4. 9x Prairie Mountain. This was supposed to be 24hrs of Prairie Mountain, however a significant snow storm blew in after about 13hrs and footing was getting bad. The sun was about to set and I did not want to slip slide my way through the night.  Leo and I were hiking together at this point and we decided to call it a day.  9 is my record number of Prairie repeats, and 6300m of climbing is my new single day record.  My legs felt quite reasonable, my stomach was good and my breathing was okay.  Overall, the day was a success. After 3 attempts at this project, I am totally at ease with putting this particular dream to rest.
  5.  Grizzly Peak the fun way. This wasn’t a big day, but it was such a nice trip that it deserves to be in my highlight reel. Two days after my Prairie repeats I was itching for a shakeout, so Patrick and I went out to Grizzly Peak.  In a spur of the moment decision we decided to take the scrambler’s route up instead of the usual hiking trail. We didn’t have much beta other than a line on maps.me, but I think that’s part of what made this trip so fun. Every time we thought we might hit an impassable line through the cliff bands, another weakness in the rock would appear and we would be able to make our way up.  It felt so good to be scrambling again and we finished the trip with huge smiles.

With another month passed, I’m feeling eager and excited to get out running on the trails.  The snow is melting and I can feel the dirt underneath my feet, even if I can’t see it yet.  This is shaping up to be the best May yet!

Happy Trails!

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Hello Spring! March in Review

March has felt like a rebirth of sorts.  The polar vortex slowly relinquished its grip on Alberta, and I’ve found myself filled with a sense of hope and optimism. Not that I was feeling particularly morose earlier in the year, it just feels like the happiness factor has ticked up a notch 🙂  As a bonus, I am pleased to say that I managed to make it through the entire month without spraining an ankle or falling down a mountain.  Winning!

There are few things I love more in life than putting on a pair of shorts and jogging down a single-track trail.  I spent most of February wearing two pairs of pants and I found them frustratingly restrictive.  Shorts are analogous to freedom and I’ve been loving the ability to take a full stride without resistance.

There are so many highlights from the past month, but here are a few of the standouts:

  1. Helena Ridge ski tour followed by a run up Sulphur Mountain (Sanson’s Peak). The start of the tour up Helena Ridge was actually our coldest tour to date.  The temp during the drive out dipped down to -33C, and as we bundled to head up the trail we were questioning our sanity.  Thankfully, the temperature warmed throughout the day and by the time we started running up Sulphur mountain it was a balmy -11C!  Almost shorts weather 🙂  I did not feel particularly strong during the tour on Helena Ridge; my confidence was shot from my fall on Delirium Dive the week before.  In addition, the snow was inconsistent and full of facets, and the tree skiing was a bit dense for my liking.  Still, it was a gorgeous day and the perfect way to build my confidence back up.  The run afterwards was icing on the cake as it felt so good to just let my legs run free on the perfectly packed trail.
  2. Mount Hector. I almost didn’t go on this trip.  My skiing felt so tentative on Helena Ridge that I thought I may have to spend a few days at the resort relearning how to ski before touring again.  I decided to head out to the Skimo night at Norquay on Friday for some practice laps, and discovered that part of the problem was that my boot was broken.  We were able to repair it at the rental shop, and then I did a few very shakey laps down the giant moguls.  By the 3rd and 4th lap I felt a little bit better about myself .  I could at least survival ski down the mountain.  On Saturday Vlad and Arielle gave me a crash course on crevasse rescue, and on Sunday morning I found myself touring up Mt Hector.  The mountain was very busy with a few other groups taking advantage of the perfect weather, as well as a guided group of about 15.  I didn’t care about the relative busy-ness, because the scenery was absolutely incredible!  This tour is in my top 3 mountain days of all time.  If  you have the opportunity, I highly recommend you check it out.

    3. Willoughby Ridge. On St Patrick’s day I drove down to Crowsnest Pass to tour with Ian, the owner of Spry.  Spry has been very generous to me over the last few years, helping me out with this “simple and inexpensive” sport. Ian is a genuine mountain man and we have a lot of fun whenever we are able to get out for an adventure together.  The weather was quite warm, and the snow turned to slush and stuck to our skins.  But the pain was worth it, as we were able to find some good snow with smooth turns on north facing aspects.

    4. Weekend in Revelstoke. My elevation gains and quest for a million feet took a bit of a hit with a weekend trip to Revelstoke.  The training sacrifice was worth it as it was so nice for Matt and I to chill out and visit with my brother and his wife. We went to the local hockey game, skied at the resort (slushy conditions) and went touring in Roger’s Pass.  This was Matt’s first ever tour, so he used my brother’s spare splitboard.  The spring conditions were far from optimal but it still was a blast.

    5. Moose Mountain, the fun way. Moose Mountain via Ing’s mine is becoming an annual tradition. It’s a fantastic spring scramble and a great way to kick of the peak-bagging season.  This year there were 5 of us out playing in the snow; Patrick, myself, Svenja, Adrien and Justin.

     

Once again I am finishing the month behind on my elevation gains, but I can feel my fitness building. I’m excited for the snow-free mountain adventures that I’m sure are just around the corner!

Getting Back to My Roots – January Recap

After a frustrating year of not feeling like myself, I have decided that 2019 will be dedicated to doing what I love most – mountain adventures.  So far it is going well with mild temperatures enabling lots of scrambling and trail running, while still continuing to explore more and more on my touring skis.  My only complaint is that the front range xc ski trails have not been very good, but you can’t have it all 🙂


The month of January was dedicated to getting as much vert as possible, and my friend Philippe set up his annual vert challenge for a little extra motivation.  I kicked off the month with a 5-peat on Prairie Mountain.  This was an intimidating run as I hadn’t done that much vert (3500m) in a single push in many months.

I had the not-so-bright idea of trying to fuel with beer, one beer for every summit.  This was my thought process:

  • I planned to do 90 minute laps so I shouldn’t get drunk.
  • Alcohol contains 7 cal/g, as compared to carbs which only have 4 cal/g, so it seemed like an efficient way to fuel.
  • Historically, pedestrians used beer during multi-day races.
  • I like beer.

Unfortunately I quickly learned that beer is not a good fuel for ultras, as alcohol blocks normal carbohydrate uptake. By my 4th repeat (about 5hrs in) I had a massive bonk.  It felt like I was drunk, but looking back on it I think I was just extremely low in blood sugar.  After stumbling down the mountain I had a Mars bar and about 10 Oreos (no exaggeration); instantly I felt much better.  The 5th repeat felt a lot stronger than the 4th and I finished the day feeling successful.


I had another big day on my feet with the French-Haig-Robertson Traverse.  This traverse is a classic ski tour that I’ve been thinking about since I got my touring skis.  The route has also been nicknamed the Majo traverse since he’s done it so many times,so when I heard he was planning a trip out I asked to come along.

The forecast was not looking good and I fully expected the trip to be cancelled, but on Saturday morning Majo and I (and 13 other Slovaks) were in the Burstall Pass parking lot preparing to head up the trail.  The snow was lightly falling, with hardly a breath of wind as we made our way up French Creek.  It was a perfect morning and I wondered if the sky might even clear up. We hit our first obstacle as we reached the basin below French glacier.  The group had split into two pace groups, so we waited for the slower group to catch up before heading toward the glacier.  The wind picked up and temperatures dropped as we approached the glacier.  The snow was windswept and crusty, which made skinning across the angled slopes very tricky.  The slower skiers were struggling to keep up, and the faster skiers were getting cold waiting.  The decision was made to split the group in two, 8 people turned around and 7 of us continued on.

I was familiar with about 80% of the route, and I was fairly certain that following the skin track back would be more difficult than continuing up the glacier to the Robertson col.  Majo assured me I’d be fine on the col so I continued forward on the traverse with the 6 other guys.  This was my first experience in high winds on skis.  The wind would catch my pack, and I got blown over a couple of times as I was slow to react to the sudden gusts.  Every once and awhile I found myself worrying that I wouldn’t be able to ski down in these conditions. This is when the other side of my brain would assert itself and convince me to keep moving; it wouldn’t be windy on the other side of the col and the wind was blowing all the nice soft snow over there so I would be able to ski just fine.  Sometimes when I have these internal debates I feel a bit schizophrenic.  We got over the col, and were completely sheltered from the wind as predicted. The ski down was lots of fun, with soft snow almost the entire way.

The entire traverse took us just under 6.5 hrs. It wasn’t the stunning day with incredible views that I had envisioned, but it was a mountain adventure all about making new friends and learning new skills.  I’m already looking forward to doing it again.


I woke up on January 26th to hail, lightning and driving rain.  It was like an alternate universe had suddenly appeared.  The plan was to scramble up a couple of mountains, but I wondered whether or not I should even leave the house.  Thankfully Leo was driving so I didn’t have to think too hard, and he white-knuckled his way out to the trailhead as Philippe and I enjoyed our role as passengers.

The first objective on our list was Gap Peak.  Philippe and I had been up before, but this was Leo’s first time.  The rain/snow mixture had stopped falling and we enjoyed mild temperatures as we hiked up the steep slope.  In keeping with the crazy weather, a blizzard blew in, and then blew out, treating us to amazing views of the Bow Valley.  We had been a little concerned about traversing the summit ridge with the forecast high winds, but the winds were not bad and the ridge conditions were excellent.  It was the perfect ascent.

The descent was nearly as perfect, but I sprained my ankle a few hundred metres from the parking lot. I felt the pop, and although it wasn’t particularly painful, my stomach felt sick.  I was pretty sure this was going to need some recovery time.

After a few tentative steps I found that I could weight-bear without pain, so we decided that we could still go up a second peak.  I could start my recovery tomorrow.

Another storm blew in, and by the time we made the 10 minute drive over to Mount Yamnuska it was snowing.  Thankfully I could power hike without pain, so I was able to maintain a reasonable pace as we made our way up to the chimney.  The trail had been fairly clear up to this point, but now it was becoming quite slick with snow and ice.  I delayed putting on spikes for as long as possible as I was fairly certain they would aggravate my ankle, but eventually I had to put them on.

Neither Leo or Philippe had been up Yam, so I had the privilege of leading them across the chains and the even trickier section afterwards for their very first time. In a blizzard!  Yamnuska is a much tougher mountain in winter conditions and I was super impressed with their composure as we safely navigated the exposed terrain and made our way up to the summit.

Leo lent me his poles for the downhill, as I was nervous about rolling my ankle again. All was well until the traverse across the scree slope just a few kilometres away from the car.  Snow had balled up underneath my spikes and I rolled my ankle again; the pain dropped me to the ground and brought tears to my eyes.  At this point the path was snowy but not icy so I decided to take the spikes off. Sadly, the damage was done.  I hobbled my way down the path back to the car with Philippe and Leo leading the way.


The ankle is healing well, but I had to take the rest of January off. It was disappointing because I wasn’t able to push to compete for the win in Philippe’s elevation challenge.  Still, I finished the month with over 25,000m of climbing and I’m feeling quite satisfied with my climbing fitness at the moment.  I was already planning to schedule a rest week, so now I just get to start it a few days early. Here’s hoping February ends on a more positive note 🙂