A winter reflection in photos
6th May 2014Posted in: Blog 0

It’s snowing out.  It’s May.  I want to be rock climbing, but instead am inside, cleaning out closets, catching up on emails and reflecting on winter.  Thanks to some amazing photographers that sent me some of their images, I thought I would celebrate our never ending winter with a little winter review in photos! Thanks to Forest Woodward Photography, Christian Pondella and Rafal Andronowski.

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Stephanie Maureau sending Inglorious Bastards M12 Bozemane1a2632 500x205 A winter reflection in photos

Hiking in to Haffner Cave- Forest Woodward- love the dead tree and fresh snow contraste1a3098 500x333 A winter reflection in photos

Fun climbing in Haffner

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Graham Zimmerman on Caveman- Forest Woodwarde1a3693 500x333 A winter reflection in photos

Caveman.  Psyched to send Piltdown Man M12 here this year.  no pics though:( e1a4128 333x500 A winter reflection in photos

A face EVERYONE loves.  Melan…the best coach around- Forest Woodward Phtography

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Fun times with Graham Zimmerman and Outdoor Research- Forest Woodward Photographye1a4456 500x286 A winter reflection in photos

Countless days in the Cave.  Best training place around. Forest Woodward Photographye1a6098 500x333 A winter reflection in photos

Hiking in to Whitemans- Forest Woodward Photographye1a6861 500x333 A winter reflection in photos

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Hike out of Whitemans…short winter days- Forest Woodward Photography

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Christian Pondella shot- myself on 2nd pitch M12+ on Overhead Hazard- psyched to send it!20140208 pondella helmcken 4450 333x500 A winter reflection in photos

we had some very cold days….Katie keeping the psyche even when belaying! Christian Pondella20140208 pondella helmcken 4547 333x500 A winter reflection in photos

Pretending to be Will Gadd.  Myself on 3rd pitch of Overhead Hazard- 5 layers on legs alone!  20140210 pondella helmcken 4907 500x333 A winter reflection in photos

Christian Pondella phtot- 2nd Pitch Helmcken- the OR Havoc vest- wore it everyday!!

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Katie and John enjoying all that Helmcken has to offer!

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Always started our day off with a smile at the Lodge

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John after a long day of boltingimg 26692 373x500 A winter reflection in photos

The route!img 2705 A winter reflection in photos

Lots of cold days this winter.  Count the layers!img 2716 A winter reflection in photos

Smiling faces from the Women’s campimg 2744 A winter reflection in photos

More Smiling faces despite frigid temps!inglorious bastards m12 hyalite 500x375 A winter reflection in photos

Myself on Inglorious Bastards M12 Hyalite Canyon- Bozeman fun days with Stephanie p1040140 500x375 A winter reflection in photos

Bolting up at the Temple of Silence.  new crag that was a great training ground.  p1040151 375x500 A winter reflection in photos

Early season attempt on the the beautiful Howse Peak.  Too warm unfortunately:(p1040163 500x375 A winter reflection in photos

Great fall days in the sun at the Templep1040251 500x375 A winter reflection in photos

Its gonna be a great crag when we are done!

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Guiding Dave Jones!!  How cool is that??

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The worlds snowiest ascent of Moonlight with Tadd Perkinsp1040503 500x375 A winter reflection in photos

Great day with the Perkins family.  Can’t wait to see them again this summer!p1040507 500x375 A winter reflection in photos

Cold days at Haffner with the hearty Women’s camp crewp1040575 500x375 A winter reflection in photos

Janine on Whitemansp1040648 500x375 A winter reflection in photos

Jen Ormsbee climbing with Merrie-Beth Board on My Daddy’s a Psychop1040705 500x375 A winter reflection in photos

Maria on Lessons of Okap1040779 375x500 A winter reflection in photos

My Dad lookin ready for his first day on ice!p1040783 375x500 A winter reflection in photos

Ok, enough talking…let me climb…and climb he did!!p1040833 500x375 A winter reflection in photos

Will high up on 2nd pitch at Helmckenp1040849 500x375 A winter reflection in photos

Takin it to the ice!p1040873 500x375 A winter reflection in photos

Will at the top of Helmcken falls ready to drop in…All this snow is created from the spray!p10408922 500x375 A winter reflection in photos

Me playing on the Spray ice the last dayp1050001 500x375 A winter reflection in photos

Lots of smiles with Michael, Matthew and Daniel- Matthew led all of Louise Falls!p1050023 500x375 A winter reflection in photos

Sonja stretching it out at Haffnerp1050033 500x375 A winter reflection in photos

Gabby testing her leading strength in steep ice in Haffnerp1050044 500x375 A winter reflection in photos

Tough girls in -30 temps on Pretty nuts.  Are they smiling or are their mouths frozen in that position?p1050057 500x375 A winter reflection in photos

Nope, those are smiles!  Ahhhh, the sun!p1050065 500x375 A winter reflection in photos

Amazing crew in Field with Kris keeping us on our toes!  Outdoor Research goods!!p1050066 500x375 A winter reflection in photos

Jen Ormsbee on her bday on Essondale right.  VERY cold!!p1050136 500x375 A winter reflection in photos

Dream On- Ken enjoying the sunp1050173 375x500 A winter reflection in photos

Ken and Tim psyched after crushing Rainbow Serpent

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Graham Zimmerman on Fearful Symmetry- Forest Woodward p1050194 500x375 A winter reflection in photos

Tim on the final stretch of Candelstick Maker

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Lots of smiles with the Red Deer crew! securedownload A winter reflection in photos

Cool shot from Rafal A of Ken, Tim and I on My Daddy’s a Psychosteel koan m13  cineplex icefields parkway 500x333 A winter reflection in photos

Cineplex, Steel Koan M13+.  Nice way to end the winter. Rafal Andronowski.

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And had to add this one in from Spain.  Zoe’s little Mika…a smile that is contagious!

Thanks for a great winter everyone!  Ok…now let the summer begin!

23rd Apr 2014Posted in: Blog 3

Life is full of bumps in the road.  Mine, recently though came in the form of a bump in my eye.  What started as the irritating feeling of a speck of dust, soon became the constant annoyance of what felt like a blackfly stuck in my eye.  I noticed it years ago and watched as it continued to dine on the sunshine and wind that us guides tend to find ourselves immersed in daily.  I affectionately started to call it Fred.  In the beginning, Fred came and went without much consistency. One day red and irritated, giving me the, “rough night before” sort of look, and the next day unnoticeable.  As time went on though, Fred started to grow and become highly irritable.  He required more attention.  Daily doses of eye drops and eventually not just any eye drops but only the one shot, sterile, non preservative, expensive kind.  He hated driving in the dark or long drives, computer time, getting up early and staying awake for long periods of time.  Sometimes the only way to quiet him down was just to keep my eye shut, which was less then convenient most of the time!  

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I noticed Fred had a lot of cousins in the eyes of many of my guide friends.  Most of us walk around with blood shot eyes from dealing with the elements all day, and as the white in our eyes (scelera) continually get hammered, they eventually build up extra tissue.  Pinguecula. Its only when this build up of tissue starts to invade the cornea, that you have invited Fred in for good.  Once Fred is there, he won’t leave.  No matter what woo woo foods you eat, or spirits you pray to. 

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weary guiding eyes after another -30 day

Here is a little guide to my experience with Pterygium surgery, and the outcome.  I would have liked to have known some of this in making my decisions so I write it in hopes that it helps some of you out there, or at the least, reinforces putting sunglasses on your kids and yourselves!

I visited a bunch of Optometrists.  At first they all said it is normal, and would be cosmetic to remove.  This would mean that health care wouldn’t cover it and it would cost 5 grand. I was given steroid prescription drops.  They helped, but in the long run are not good for your eye to use too often.  I was also told that surgery wasn’t recommended as it could come back and as guides being in the elements all the time, the chances of reoccurrence was great.

Finally, it was bugging me too much.  I asked my family doctor to advise me to an eye specialist for another opinion.  Eventually I saw him, and he agreed that the size and height of Fred was enough to see another specialist.  I then saw a surgeon in Calgary.  After a 2 hour wait in what felt like a Stevie Wonder convention in a city in India.  I had some tests done and was deemed a suitable candidate for surgery.  Woohoo!  I scheduled it for early spring when work would be over and I would have time to feel sorry for myself.

Lesson 1) DO NOT google Pterygium eye surgerys.  You tube is an evil place to learn about this and most people only write about their bad experiences!  It almost had me bailing minutes before the surgery

Lesson 2) Expect to be the youngest in the surgery room.  Cataract surgery is like getting your toenails clipped these days and that is the majority of the patients. 

Lesson 3) You will be awake for the surgery with only anesthetic for the eyeball.  I accepted the Atavan with reaching hands as I was terrified I would have a seizure when I saw the scalpel inter my eye.  This proved useful, as you DO see the tools coming towards your eye, feel them slightly and smell the burning.

Surgery only takes about 15 minutes.  They cut out Fred, and then cut out a similar sized graft from the back of your eye that normally is covered by your eyelid. This graft then gets glued to the area that Fred existed in. 

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I was fortunate and didn’t feel much pain afterward and slept like a baby until the next day when the patch was removed and my eye could be exposed again.

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About a week and a half after surgery


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The eye went through a few stages of recovery.  Obviously red and nasty looking, which increased in its red and nastiness for about two weeks before it started to look better.  Vision in that eye was still blurry after 2 weeks, and gave me a bit of a vertigo feeling. 

At one point I was worried that the graft had moved towards my inner eye, but the surgeon reassured me that it was only the overlap of where the graft gets “tucked in” to the existing eye skin. 

I also notice my eyelid was quite swollen and was told that the prescription drops to prevent infection can give you a “droopy” eye.  All good things to know as I inspected and analyzed my decision daily!

Today it has been 5 weeks since the surgery, and my eye is looking much much better.  It still has a bump where the graft was tucked in, and there is still some redness but overall, it is feeling leaps and bounds from where it was.

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A Happier eyeball

So for those of you that spend a great deal of time outside exposed to the elements of the wind and sun…I strongly encourage you to wear sunglasses all the time.  Make sure they are good ones, and with lots of coverage.  I am very pleased so far with the outcome of my surgery.  My eye is so much less irritated then it was with the Pterygium.  It wasn’t a fun process but personally I feel I made the right choice.  One blinks a lot in a day, and everytime I do, I’m reminded that the blackfly feeling is gone.  Thanks to Dr Bhamra in Calgary for his professional work!

5th Mar 2014Posted in: Blog 0

Helmcken is a magical place.  It is magical in the summer, in a lush BC forest sort of way, and it is magical in the winter, in a crazy glacier/cone/ice creating sort of way.  If you have never been, it is truly worth the drive just to look at.

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p10400971 500x375 HelmckenOf course, for me, half the lure in going to Helmcken Falls is to stay at the Helmcken Lodge.  Not only will it be the quietest sleep you will ever have (unless the roof starts calving off huge snow chunks), but you will be fed and treated like kings and Queens by the worlds most kind, generous and giving hosts around.  Expect to eat well, and plenty!

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This year the focus for Helmcken was around a dream Will had since his first time there.  The steepest line out of the cave with the most drytooling and icicle dangling potential.  Him and John had already made a brief visit to the falls a couple weeks before I got there and had established the first three pitches of the new route.  Reel Water Films and RedBull Media had learned about the project a while ago and were keen to tell the story.

I have been climbing a bunch this winter with Katie, John and Will, so to be part of the team of route builders, staying at the Lodge, I was pretty psyched!  Originally I had hoped to return to Helmcken to climb Spray Ice, but this was not going to be the trip.  Another time!

For a solid two weeks the team worked on creating the route.  Some had more gear/talent/and experience building routes then others (aka John and Will…those guys have some serious skills!!)…but Katie and I definitely pulled our weight by spending time at hanging belays belaying, schlepping, encouraging and moving things around.  I attempted to put my time in bolting but a nagging shoulder injury spoke louder then my intent ( I later learned that it was a rib injury from vomitting during the flu!).  It was a bummer, but something about the motion of pulling in versus pulling up was really painful.  A solid week of -20 temps did not make the process any easier.  We all suffered some frostnip hanging out near the pounding water fall while getting sprayed during the route building days.  Some scary highlights of these days was John taking a whipper on a quarter inch bolt on pitch 5 while bolting on lead, and Katie catching him as she got dragged through the portaledge!  Another scary moment was while Will was rap bolting the 6th pitch his grigri biner opened up and at one point he was fully relying on a gri gri that was only caught by the nose of an open carabiner.  Talk about a close call.

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Coming in from the top!

Of course, the usual hazards of spontaneous icefall, a nauseating constant drone of a huge waterfall, daily frozen fixed ropes that required several methods of banging to be able to ascend,  and a daily commute down an ice climb and a large glacier like spray cone, all existed as well!

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you can see two people on the route and one below

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Top of second pitch

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Top pf pitch two!

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Coming down at the end of a day of bolting


Lucky for us we were a team of 4, so generally in a 3 day work stint, atleast one of the days we could play on the existing pitches.  They were super fun and required a change in head set for me.  The first pitch is M10..and climbs cool spray ice blobs and overhanging mixed moves, but you are always still on your feet. It is cool because it ends in an actual ice dagger!  Here you traverse left and get to the start of the 2nd pitch, or you could ascend a fixed line to just work the second pitch.  This pitch was the crux and likely agreed upon as M12.  It is pretty long and lots of steep climbing.  I was close a couple times and managed to send it on my 4th try.  Very psyched! It also ends by getting on ice, so it feels very much like a pure mixed route.  What feels strange, is being so far off the deck and hearing the roar of a waterfall!  The third pitch is also steep and the way we were climbing it, the belayer was still on the ground, so it meant a LOT of rope to pull up to make the clips.  This definitely added some excitement, as not only were you so high and far from your belayer that you really needed a radio to communicate, but you had already used up 40 meters of your rope and clipping draws in figure 4’s took more time then your grip wanted it to!  I was happy to send this pitch as well.

These were the only pitches I tried…but I would very much like to go back and do the rest.  Time was ticking after so many freezing cold days, and luckily the window was long enough for Will to send the entire route on lead from bottom to top in a day.  It was an amazing effort.  He climbed the first pitch, then climbed the second and third in one…which definitely makes it harder!  From there I belayed him on the 4th pitch where, his first go he fell near the end.  He came back down and regrouped and managed to send it next go.  From there pitches 5- 7 went smoothly and just as dark was setting in, I ascended the rope to the top to celebrate! (Ok, ascending an 80 meter 9.2 on overhanging traversing terrain in the near dark was not such an easy task…but eventually, with some help, I did end up at the top where nearly the whole team was there to high five Will for the send.)!!

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The route!

Sadly by the time things had wrapped up, Tim and Klems draws had already been cleaned from their new spray ice route.  It was the final day, and I had an hour to play around on it with some of the draws we still had at the base.  Despite the warm temps that day, most of the ice still forgave me long enough to have a fun time!!  Nice work to those guys for creating that cool pitch and for Angelika for also climbing it.  It looked really fun and it was, the bit that I was able to do.

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Playing on Tim and Klems route the last day

What I take away from this experience, is alot of respect for this place.  Even though we saddled up nearly daily to head down into the “hole” as we affectionately called it, it was and is a very tiring place to be.  The hazards for sure, the physical exertion as well of getting out of said “hole”, but mostly the noise.  The constant roar of a huge waterfall is exhausting and a constant reminder of the forces that we didn’t control.

I also met some amazing people (all the film crew…Brian, Dave, Pablo, Fred, and the Italians, Marcus, Angelika and Klaus) and got to share a cool experience with some people I already knew were amazing (Will, John, Katie, Andrew, Lynn, Carly, Tim, Klem and Christian)!  Everyone worked so hard, and everyone stayed safe and made it happen.

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It has taught me that if you are going to dream big…you better be willing to work hard for it.

Time to keep dreaming.

Winter so far, or since Bozeman
19th Feb 2014Posted in: Blog 0

Where does time go?  I remember my Mom telling me when I was a kid that time flies faster the older you get.  Of course that was impossible as an 8 year old…Christmas, birthdays, all the good things took FOREVER to finally arrive.  Now, as I approach that age my mother was when I was 8, I realize the truth in her statement.  Life does speed up with the more of it you put under your belt.  That is just the nature of life.

I used to really not love winters.  Then I learned to ice climb.  Winters had new meaning.  Last year I really discovered a love for mixed climbing and now winters are really no longer dreaded, but have become another one of those things that fly by too quickly.  Here is a little back track of winter so far since my Bozeman blog.

In December I had the opportunity to get out with some new and return guests on some fun ice days.  Stephen and I met up for a day in Evan Thomas…a very very very cold day!  It was the weekend and despite the amount of people that came in to Snowline and Moonlight, just as many left without climbing more then a pitch IF that.  It was cold.  Stephen however was intrepid and so we braved Snowline first and then had Moonlight free to also climb!  A fun day.

I also had the pleasure of getting out with Burke and his son again for a reunion on boxing day at the Junkyards.  Pretty cool thing to get to do with your Dad and/or your son.  Psyched to be a part of that and looking forward to getting out with Burke again this winter.

Also had a blast with the ACC Red Deer crew.  Such a strong group of climbers…felt like I was just out playing with a group of friends for two days!  Thanks guys!!

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Tadd returned with his amazing family this year, and we spent the first day in Grotto working on skills on both the ice and mixed.  What an amazing family road trip including ice climbing, heli skiing, resort skiing and I’m sure some serious family bonding with 4 adults and one dog in a Subaru wagon.  Reminded me of the good old days of family road trips in a VW bug and rabbit with 5 of us and our fox terrier:)  The second day out, Will Gadd joined the crew,  and we all climbed in Evan Thomas as well.  I don’t think I have ever climbed in such a snow storm…it really was puking out.  But the team persevered and by the end of the day, it was blue skies and all smiles.  A fun day out with a really inspiring family.

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I had the cool opportunity to climb and shoot with Graham Zimmerman (another athlete with Outdoor Research) and his friend Forest Woodward. Forest is a really talented photographer and we did a couple days of shooting in the Haffner cave, the climbing gym and surrounding Canmore area, and one day at Whitemans.  Unfortunately I still was feeling pretty wiped from the flu I had over the holidays, but they were good sports about it and humored my bad mood:)  The main premise of their shoot was to capture the relationship of photographer and climber as friends.  So not only was Forest shooting from above, but Jon Walsh was also above him, shooting him shooting us!  Confused yet??  Ha!  It was a funny scene for sure.

 Winter so far, or since Bozeman

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 Winter so far, or since Bozeman

In January I ran the first of two womens ice camps.  This year it was held in Canmore out of the Pat Boswell cabin with SOnja as camp manager extraordinaire, and Kris Irwin and MB as my other bad ass guides!  6 motivated gals attended and as a group despite the high avi conditions and tricky ghost driving, accumulated a pretty gnarly tick list of climbs.  In the 3 days of multipitching, the team climbed Whitemans, Redmans Soars, Chantilly, Dream On, Essondale right, Louise falls, Rainbow Serpent, My Daddy’s a Psycho and Lessons of Oka.  Whew!  I have to admit…I was VERY tired after this!!  Thanks again to OR for supporting these camps with some great centrifuge jackets!

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After this course my parents came up for a visit…which was really nice.  I half heartedly offered my Dad the idea of trying ice climbing and he went for it!  He picked it up super quickly and ran to the top of both climbs that I set up without any hesitation or hanging in the rope.  Super proud of him and honored to share that with my Dad.

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This year, I have decided to take a few weeks off right in the meat of winter, when work is super busy, to climb for myself.  At first the reason was because Outdoor Research had heard that ice climbing was going to be a part of the Olympics and was psyched for me to be a part of it.  So was I, but then this dissipated as I learned the realities of it, that it will lack a competition.  In some ways this was a relief to me, as I was torn between this opportunity and wanting to go back to climb at Helmcken and return to the scene there.  In the end, it felt good to be honest with my own motives and realize that I was more psyched on climbing outdoors on the rock and ice and working on projects that motivated me.  So far I’ve been able to climb Piltdown Man in the Haffner Cave (M12) and got on Steel Koan which I feel pretty good about working.  Presently I am here back at Helmcken where the desire to learn how to climb harder mixed routes originated.  Its cool to be back, feel less intimidated and be able to try!  Fighting some rotator cuff injuries, but hoping I can keep it at bay for atleast another week:)  This route is amazing, and I am learning so much in the process of building it and trying to climb it.  Amazing crew here as well, both film and on the building and climbing side. Its cold though, and that is becoming an added challenge!

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More to come on this project soon!!!


25th Dec 2013Posted in: Blog 0

Just wanted to give a big shout out to all the work, effort, passion and energy that went into the super successful Bozeman Icefest this year.  A huge showing of people came from all around the world to celebrate Hyalite Canyon and the sport and play of ice and mixed climbing.  This was my 7th year attending the festival.  Wow…hard to believe how fast time goes by.  This year I had far less commitments then in years past and so was able to climb a couple days in the canyon prior to and after the comp.


The first day I headed out to Bingo Cave with a bunch of other psyched cave dwellers.  It always takes a few goes to adjust to a new area and different rock.  My first few goes I truly sucked, but eventually I started to rebuild my confidence and start trying again.  Like I wrote in a previous blog, I don’t mind sucking, but I do care if I am not trying.  A couple days prior I was training in the bouldering Cave and was “trying” a bit too much and as my foot blew I felt a good tug on my rotator cuff.  I was happy to even be in the Bingo cave giving it a go, and every try gave me more confidence that I would still be able to compete later in the week.

Fun to watch Justin and Andres go for it on Neolithic, Will send both Inglorious and Daggers, and Steph close to onsighting Inglorious!  The next day Steph and I went back to the cave and both sent Inglorious.  She sent it first go of the day and gave the mixed clinic that was hanging out at the base, a solid show on how its done! 

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That night Ines did a great slideshow on a variety of climbing projects she has been doing lately.  She sure gets things done, both on the rock and the ice and mixed!


 On Saturday the much-awaited comp hit the stage.  Competitors from several countries came to give their best to the crowds and the plywood of the cool structure Bozeman put together.  Last year was my first time kicking into plywood, and competing in something this big, and I knew I wanted to return this year and try my luck again.  I have been training a bunch and felt stronger this year then I did last year, so I was hopeful.  The line up that showed up for the comp was strong this year, and I was intimidated for sure. 

In the end, I made it into the finals and then squeaked out a 3rd, only a hold higher then Jen who got fourth. Ines popped off a hold midway and Katie (a new Canmore bud that I have been climbing with this winter) took a good whipper going for a clip! It was a close comp between the 3rd and 6th and as excited as I was to get 3rd, my personal unspoken goal was to climb on the boom.  I REALLY wanted to try those steeper moves, but flash pump won on both the second qualifying route and the final.  Maybe next year! Angelika showed us how it is done, by taking it to the top and Steph (gecko sister) got super far before running out of time.  Impressive performances.


 The mens comp was super exciting as well.  Great to see my friend’s hard work paying off in their finals performances.  Gord was one hold from the end, Will Mayo and Will Gadd both showed their experience and talent by tagging the final hold.  It was motivating to watch.  In the end, a young, new talented climber, Janez from Slovenia flew up the route tapping out with minutes to spare. It was interesting to watch the different styles and the crowd loved every moment of it.


 I always learn something from these events.  I haven’t done very many climbing competitions and they are both fun and stressful all at the same time.  Competing is a skill in and of itself.  Everything from training for the event, the preparation before your turn to climb, the way you warm up,the mind set, the way you look at the route etc…is all so unique to the act of a competition.  I thought at first that it would be akin to doing a redpoint burn on a project, but I don’t see it that way anymore.  Obviously, onsighting is not the same as redpointing, but with plastic holds, it is fairly straight forward to find the “spot”, so it isn’t quite like rock onsighting.  Finding the right head space though and getting your body ready for the climb would be two things I would work on improving if I were to do more of these.  Jumping nerves and an over zealous grip on my tools were those novice errors.


In the end I had a blast.  The crowd cheering is a unique experience and one that for sure is memorable and motivating.  Watching the other competitors was also a highlight.  Nothing like seeing people try their hardest in a sport that you enjoy playing in.  So great to see old friends…and wonderful to meet many new ones.


Thanks Joe Jo and Conrad for hosting this unique festival.  I look forward already to next year!

Changing my Attitude
13th Dec 2013Posted in: Blog 0

Changing my attitude…

Climbing is thought to be this highly personal, altruistic endeavor, where man/woman challenge him/herself by choice.  We push ourselves on something that is either physically, and or mentally demanding.  It is supposed to be about the person and their own challenge.  Of course, as humans, it is hard to isolate ourselves in this bubble.  We watch others, we compare, we emulate, and sometimes we envy.

We all want to be our best, but what we do to get there is not always the right formula. 

I had a pretty crappy day not long ago climbing.  Basically I sucked.  Or at least I told myself I did.  My ego was inflated enough that my expectation of myself was truly not realistic to my abilities.  One M12 does not an M12 climber make!  I felt I “should” be able to perform better, and since I didn’t…I gave up.  It is one thing to have the ability to try hard when you feel like you should be able to do something, achieve something.  It is another, to believe you should be able to do something, but not expect to try as hard as you might have to, to truly do it!  I feel like I have fallen into this trap numerous times lately and every time I fight the same battle with myself, the battle of self-defeat and self-dislike.  I don’t mind failing…but I HATE giving up. 

The same day I watched Will onsight El Matador, a feat that has never been done until now.  No draws were hung, fresh icicles dangled waiting to be cleaned and although there was more ice on it then when originally climbed, it still involved a ton of tenacity, skill and experience to negotiate all the unknown factors on it.  I watched experience.  Definitely years of mixed climbing practice, ice climbing, movement and strategy all came into play.  But the experience level that I took away from this was the mental one.


1)    Never enter a climb, a climbing day or a comp expecting yourself to perform with a certain outcome.  The only expectation should be that of commitment and desire to try your hardest.  Other factors can always come into play, but your attitude is the only one you can control. Climb one move at a time and only focus that far.

2)    Don’t climb to impress those around you.  So many times I have avoided getting back on a climb I have already sent because it feels like I can only digress from a send and there is no way to improve from it.  That outlook sets myself up for failure before I even start and prevents me from using every day and every climb as an opportunity to get stronger, both physically and mentally.

3)    If you suck at something…do more of it!  I know I know, we have all heard it a bunch…work on your weaknesses….but this is So true!  I suck at the unknown when it comes to mixed climbing…instead of projecting an M10 that I might get after a few trys once I know the moves, I would benefit a ton more by onsighting easier routes and forcing myself to work through the mental tenacity required to go into the unknown.

Sometimes it is hard to separate myself from climbing.  My work, my play, my friends all surround climbing.  The problem with this is that a bad day climbing can leak into how I feel about myself and my entire life.  This is a problem.  Just like a fresh send does not make me a better person, a crappy day climbing also does not make me a worse person.  The learnings I take from that crappy day could actually help me in many ways beyond climbing, so perhaps it is a blessing.

Looking forward to going to Bozeman and playing in Hyalite!

29th Aug 2013Posted in: Blog 0

Its been a busy month here in the rockies.  Lots of alpine adventures and great rock climbs.  Hard to believe that summer is at the tail end already..things move so quickly.

Since my last blog post, I spent 3 days rock climbing with Maria in the Bow Valley.  Always a pleasure to get out with her.  Not only have we become good friends, but she has improved so much and so quickly in her climbing that it is super rewarding to see and fun to be a part of.  Day one, we climbed at Tunnel mountain and finished the route Ballista (10c) that she wasn’t able to complete earlier this year.  She cruised it and soon we headed back down and also climbed most of the new route Riel Rebellion.  I was impressed with the climbing on Ballista…really good pitches!

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Maria on A0 pitch of Ballista

Next day we wanted to climb Early Worm on Bourgeau but the road was still closed, so headed for Guides rock and climbed Sea of Dreams, trying the Sea of Smears start and then Sea of Dreams and Turf war starts too.  Gotta say…all of these starts are pretty darn tough!!

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Sea of hateful Smears!

Thankfully we had a rain day after these two days which enabled us to rest a bit and regroup so that the next day we could finally try Sisyphus…a long standing goal for Maria and a route that I had never climbed either.  21 pitches of up to 10d sport climbing up the North face of Ha Ling.  We started early and despite Canmore being in the fog layer, we drove up and hiked above the clouds to enjoy our day!  The first half of this climb is sustained 5.10 climbing, with the second half still being sustained but at a 5.9, to 10a range.  I was impressed with the route and amazed that I hadn’t done it before.  Maria did amazing, and we climbed it in about 8 hours which we were pretty psyched on!

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A couple days later, I put the rock shoes away and pulled out the crampons again.  The Kruis family from Ontario hired Kris and I to take them up Victoria via Abotts Pass.  We met up that morning and took the bus in to O Hara and started the hike up.  Of course it started to rain midway up along with a nice thunderstorm, but this family was hard core!  They had already done a solid week and a half of backpacking so despite the rubble heap hike up to the hut, they kept smiles on their faces!

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We enjoyed a warm hut and fire with a nice newly wed couple from Seattle and woke the next am super early to attempt Victoria.  Sadly, we woke to rain, clouds and cold, but we persevered as long as we could.  At some point it just got too cold and wet and knowing you have to go down the way you go up, the commitment gets more and more the farther you go.  We settled for our high point and I was sooo impressed with these kids.  They were a hearty crew and I have no doubt that they will accomplish anything they put their minds to!

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Ahhh, the Women’s Advanced Alpine Camp time of year!  Kir and I have ran this camp for 3 years now and always something I look forward to.  Another strong group of women were ready to take on this high technical traverse for 5 days.  This year I was brilliant enough to purchase a NEW megamid, which eliminated alot of my stress as we endured a first night of rain and thunderstorms! We climbed Abbott first day and stayed at our site below Abott and Afton.  The next morning we headed up the snow and climbed Afton, lots of short pitching with heavy packs!  From there we headed down and over to Rampart.  Weather was holding and so we made the ascent of Rampart and stayed at our new favorite site on this traverse.  Views like no other, a good water source, flat spots and a campsite in the sky!

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Hmm…where are we??

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Lots going on on this route!!

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The next morning we found our way off of Rampart and on to the Lilly Glacier and up to Saphire col.  We dumped our bags, and repacked for an ascent of Dome.  Last year we got lighteninged off near the summit…and this year….the exact same thing!  Scary storm had us with tails between our legs, back tracking like mad.  I guess this peak has a thing for storms and seige attacks by a group of women…I don’t know! We spent the rest of the day going over skills and enjoyed a dry night in the hut.

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Early start the next day as the next section of Leda Polux and Castor is high and committing if a storm comes in.  Luckily we had stellar wx most of the way and not till we were on the glacier did we feel chased by the black cloud!  Lucky again for us though, we made it back to the Aulkan Hut dry and very tired and enjoyed having it to ourselves.  Despite an early wake up the next day for Youngs, thunderstorms kept us from even trying.  Instead the crew, other then Michele and I, went back to bed for some more much needed zzz’s.  Michele motivated me into a crazy hut workout…damn that girl is strong!  We finished the trip with rescue skills in the hut, and then hiked out to the cars.  An amazing trip again this year with another great group of strong women!!!

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Portrait time:)

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Ho hum…just another summit…

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BIG thanks to OR again for the great jackets!

Next trip on the docket was with Amy Jurries coming from California.  She needed to test out a Goretex Jacket for Arc Teryx and thought what better way then to tick off one of the 50 classic climbs…the mighty Sir Donald!  Amy and I have only climbed ice together so I was super excited to show her a bit of our backyard in the summertime!  We started at Lake Louise and climbed a bunch of pitches before driving to Rogers Pass to hike in to the Sir Donald bivy.  We hooked up with Dani and Kristen to hike and climb with so that we met the requirements of a team of 4 for the bear restriction.  That night we went to bed with some of the scariest thunderstorms I had heard.  Luckily they didn’t come right through our site but close enough to have us shaking from thunder and wishing someone would turn the lights off!  After that storm I watched the night turn into a sea of stars, amazing, but by 3 am when our alarms were about to go off, a second thunderstorm came through.  We slept, or tried anyway!  Got up at 6 to a wet ground but clearing skies and eventually rallied for Mt Uto.  Such a fun climb, and Amy rocked it.

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The weather still didn’t look super stable so we didn’t linger too long at the summit and headed back to camp.  By the time we were down, the rains came a couple hours later again, and we hunkered in and ate dinner in our tents.  despite the wx we were hopeful that the next day we could climb Sir D and got up at 3:30 with hopes of doing so.  By 5:30 we were starting up the ridge and looming and moving clouds kept Amy and I moving constantly.  it was hard wx to read, but by 10:30 we had summitted and felt fairly confident that we would get off without too much bad weather.  Of course the descent takes as long as the ascent, but Amy kept the fast flow and we were back at camp by 3:45.  I love Sir Donald, such an amazing ridge, but for sure, the hard to read weather kept me stressed for most of the day!  Thanks to Amy for keeping her cool, and just focusing in on the objective and moving quickly.  Wouldn’t have continued up with many other people!!  We packed out tents and bags and hiked out and drove home.  A loooooong day!

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Maria and I had signed up for one more day of rock climbing…in case we needed it for Sisyphus, but since we already ticked that off, I thought, why not up the ante and try Dreambeds on Yam?  Of course Maria was game, and we had a great day on this fabulous 5.11a/b route on Yam.  Maria did super well.  I hadn’t climbed it in probably 5 or so years, and was reminded just how great of a route it is!

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A few years ago, Mary Ann, Janice, Lilla and I attempted to climb Mt Robson, but instead settled for Resplendent due to not having enough time.  This year Mary Ann, and Colleen hired Kris and I to tackle the beast again.  The two of them spent 2 days hiking in to Extinguisher tower, and Kris and I flew in to meet them on day 3 with all the gear.  This was helpful, as our packs felt a little beastly.  Kris and I caught likely the ONLY weather window to get in to the tower and were dropped off just as the rains hit…again.  I guess Mary Ann and Collen hiked for 2 days in the rain and the rains kept coming.  That night it rained continuously and eventually snowline also dropped to our campsite.  We were all aware of what that meant for the mountain up higher, lots of fresh snow, but decided after a late start to try to go to the Dome anyway.  Fresh snow on the glacier made for tricky routefinding, that Kris styled and very slow and hard going on the rock ridge.  Snow, ice, rock, crampons and heavy packs made the chossy rock ridge a bit of an undertaking.  We managed to get off it and up the glacier to the dome just as we lost light.  We dug in and started to make water and dinner.

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High winds made this a challenge, but eventually we ate some dinner and hunkered down.  And hunker down was all we could do.  Despite being very tired from the loong day, we could not sleep a wink. Winds pushed snow on and in the tents and condensation left our stuff drenched, and cold and loud!  By 7am we crawled out and saw sun along with the winds, which was a delight.  Looking at the Kain face was a beautiful thing, but all the new snow and winds, along with zero sleep and wet sleeping bags, made the decision easy.  We packed up slowly, enjoying the views and started the descent down.   A good day back to the Tower where we enjoyed the wine and chips we stashed there and all of us slept like babies that night!  The next day we high fived groups heading up and made the 3o+ km hike back to the car.  Whew, those last couple km’s were a bit painful, and when I got home, I had some nice blisters on the bottom of my feet:(  Mary Ann and Colleen were super troopers on this trip and did amazing through it all.  A new respect for the might Robson from all of us. A truly beautiful and inspiring peak that requires just the right weather and conditions!

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Well, August is almost done.  On to some more rock work, and my first time roll as examiner for the ACMG assistant rock guide.  Hope everyone is enjoying the rest of their summer and making the most of our precious daylight hours:)


Summer so far!
29th Jul 2013Posted in: Blog 2

Well, it has been a looong time since  posted anything.  Winter ended, spring flew by and before you know it,  summer is already half way over.  Not sure where to start, but I wanted to share a bit of what has been going on at Sarahhueniken Guiding!

Winter ended with a few more days of ice guiding, all the way into late April this year!  I finally met my goal of climbing Musashi by the season end as well so that was very exciting for me.

Musashi video

Spring had its ups and downs and I ended up staying locally.  I can’t complain too much about that though, as my favorite places to climb, exist right in my back yard.  I worked a bunch of ACC Calgary courses, which are always highlights for me.  The Calgary section has such a strong membership of keen climbers, its always fun to share skills with them.  I also worked my first ACMG exam!  The Top Rope Instructor course  I never took this course myself in my ACMG schooling, but was seriously impressed with the skills required to pass this newer level of certification.  Congrats to all those newly certified top rope instructors!

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Fun group of gals learning rope rescue in the rain! Hardy bunch!

Spent another fun day in Lake O Hara with the amazing staff there.  A bit of a burly weather day, but we still managed to go up and over the Yukeness/Ringrose pass and down the other side.  I love this day, because all the staff are so appreciative of their surroundings and the day in the mountains, I get to work with other great guides, and I always learn something from the Master…Larry Stanier.  This time we spelunked a bit in these cool ice caves at the toe of the glacier!

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Probably old news…but there was a flood in Alberta..:(  Yeah, Canmore got hit pretty hard.  I was extremely fortunate in my “ark” of a building downtown, but many were not so lucky.  The whole town, really rallied though and cleanup happened with speed and efficiency.

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Most things are back to normal here, other then the businesses and people that lost their homes.  I really feel for these families.  I was fortunate enough to only miss a week or so of work, and also change our “ghost” camp to a local rock camp due to impassable rivers in the Ghost valley.  A strong crew of ladies still rallied for this camp and we had 4 days of great weather to crag and multipitch in!

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Great crew at the Back of the Lake

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Michelle cranking on Meathooks

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Steph on Plutonian Shores

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Laurie all smiles!

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4 people, one climb, alot of ropes! Thanks Sterling Ropes!!!

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Claire on Aftonroe

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Maria at Grassi

Spent a few more days with some great folks multipitching in July as well.  Motivated people, and amazing weather! Spent a day out with Liz and Mark on Aftonroe where they wanted a bit of coaching on leading multiptiches.  Both of them swapped leads the whole way up and ran the whole descent  Looks like they are ready for a great summer!

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Mark leading on Aftonroe

Mary Ann, one of my favorite people…decided to “off the couch” climb Redshirt on Yam…nice work MA!  You rock! Of course I knew she would do great, looking forward to Robson later this summer!

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Mary Ann, 7th pitch

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High exposure on 8th pitch!

Claire came out for 4 days of Bow Valley based rock climbing.  There were times I thought there was no satiating her climbing energy.  Everyday we would either do 2 multipitches or a multipitch and some cragging. Amazing energy and a strong climber.  I hope we have more adventures in the future!

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Day one, after being chased away by thunderstorms, we hit guides rock, and Claire led all of Aftonroe, and then followed Sea of Dreams. A 13 pitch day despite going home and changing out of wet clothes!
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Ah Beautiful Century 5.10a, plus some pitches on More Art Less Pop

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High up on Geriatric, and afterward a Grassi session of leading and harder top roping!

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Tonka 10.d on Tunnel, followed by more leads at the Black Band

I was fortunate enough to get asked by Canadian Rockies Alpine Guides, and head owner and friend Jay Mills to work alongside him in the Bugaboos for a couple days.  We had a gorgeous day on Pigeon followed by a nice romp up the Rundlehorn in Banff.

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Approach to Pigeon

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Yeah! The summit!

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Its been a great summer so far, and lots of fun trips to come.  Mt Victoria, Sisyphus, Sir Donald, Robson, and examining the Assistant Rock guide exam!

Within all the work, I’ve been strangely motivated this spring to tick off some personal goals, and I am most proud of my recent send of Spicy Elephant 13b (8a).  It is a long (45 meter) climb that was a real endurance tester. I learned alot in the process of working this route and wrote an article for Outdoor Research that should be on their Verticulture site soon.  I realize this grade is nothing in terms of  rock climbing, but for me it is a milestone and reaffirms that getting older does not make you weaker!
I hope summer is treating everyone out there well, and behind every rainy day, if we search hard enough, we might get lucky enough to find one of these…

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Ghost Camp!
5th Apr 2013Posted in: Blog 0

The original Ghost camp ran 4 years ago now.  It was a gamble…get a bunch of women to sign up for a winter camping and ice climbing experience in Canada??  But…we had amazing weather for the most part and great climbing conditions.  The following two years, did not respond as well.  Despite the burning interest in the camp, we had to be Canmore based…due to cold temps or lack of ice quality.

This year…I am PROUD to say that it happened again!  We made it into the Ghost…camped, climbed and survived!  Yeah! Of course this sort of experience is not for the light hearted.  It takes a certain “woman”..and “man” (Kris and John) to decide to winter camp while also trying to climb ice every day.  That is just the crew we had…and the Ghost did not disappoint!

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Day one, we did the usual Haffner cragfest.  Ice and mixed climbs were charged upon and few pieces of rock or ice was left untouched.  That night we enjoyed one more night of warm sleeps in the Pat Boswell Cabin with an amazing meal by Sonja.

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The next morning, we packed early, gathered the forces of our 4wd vehicles and caravaned out to the Ghost.  The drive in was fairly straight forward thankfully and we were also fortunate enough to all get to our climbs as the first party!  Wow!  Lilla, Gab and Sonja braved and broke trail into the Candlestick Maker, which sounded quite challenging!  John, Cat and Jessica climbed Wicked Wanda, Maija, Amy and Kris too on Fang and Fist and Annie, LeeAnne and I were blessed with the SCorcerer to ourselves.

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We all reconvened post climbs and set to task of setting up base camp.  HUGE thanks to ACC REd Deer for letting us use the incredible Canvas walltent.  So great to cook and hang out in there, and when we woke up to snow the next morning it was a REAL treat to have!  Quickly enough, we looked like quite the little town of tents.  Thanks to MEC for renting us the 4 season tents that held up wonderfully through the snowy weather.

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The next day, we awoke to snow covered tents and fairly cold and windy weather.  We warmed up to coffee, and a warm egg breakfast from our amazing camp manager Sonja.  Pretty awesome to wake up to coffee and breakfast while camping!  Soon, everyone was off to their climbing objectives.  Valley of the Birds, Beuwolf and Wicked Wanda all were climbed this third day.

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P1000556 375x500 Ghost Camp!That night we didn’t have to build camp, so we could enjoy a more civilized camping evening. Another great meal, some wine, some hard liquor of various types and a warm Melan to take turns on our laps.  Pretty good life!

The final morning we got up and took down our tents.  Had another yummy breakfast and were up and at em getting some more climbing done.  Fang and Fist, Beuwolf, Anorexia Nervosa  and Wicked Wanda all saw ascents the last day.  We met back up and took down the Walltent and Sonjas fabulous carrot cake was quickly consumed by bandits…

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Reflecting on this trip, I really can’t imagine a better outcome. So many things need to go “right” for this camp to run.

1) Need motivated, talented and hearty participants….check

2) Conditions need to permit access to the ghost, not too much new snow, not too much warming, not too much cooling…check

3) Willing guides and camp manager to work hard, set up camp, cook, prepare meals, guide hard routes, and camp with good attitudes…check

4) The climbs need to be in shape….check

5) The weather needs to stay amicable during the time we are in there, so we don’t get hypothermia or have to dig ourselves out of collapsed tents….check

I’m psyched!  Thanks SONJA….first and foremost for being the best camp manager ever…thanks John, Kris, Lilla, and Marco for guiding such cool routes and keeping everyone safe and happy…and Thanks to Annie, LeeAnne, Cat, Jessica, Maija, Amy and Gab for signing up, being open to the experience, and getting so much done in a such a short time!

Special thanks to OR for the cool Whirlwind hoodies!  Thanks to MEC for renting us the tents…and ACC Red Deer for the Waltent!

I hope to have another amazing ghost experience this summer with the Ghost rock camp!

Field in March
4th Apr 2013Posted in: Blog 0

Another great weekend in the gorgeous Fireweed Hostel.  Hard to believe a full month went by between these two camps, and how different conditions were!  A great group of woman arrived at Haffner on day one from all over the US and Canada.  Strong women attacked the ice and mixed climbs and despite the non stop snow that day, all climbed until their arms were tired!

So nice to step into the warm hostel and have a solid place to dry everything, since we got pretty soaked in the wet snow all day!  WE knew it was coming…but we didn’t know just how bad the Pineapple Express was going to be…it was pretty full on!  Just the day before I was climbing in low avi conditions in the sun with Lilla on Pilsner…and now, the world was a full on snow and rain globe.  Roads were getting slick, snow was accumulating and the beautiful town and ice climbs of Field were quickly becoming unattainable due to avi hazard.  Such a bummer!

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The group was super understanding however and we all were psyched to try  what we could.  The following day Kris headed off to Louise Falls with Caroline, Leise and Kate.  They had a pretty great day and good on Leise for her first multipitch climb!  WE all joined them later in the day as we had to bail from our Golden objectives.  Too much rain made rock and ice fall too hazardous, and so we turned our tails and also climbed Louise falls.  A great climb in an amazing setting.  Plus we got to watch some spectacular avalanches off of Fairview across the valley!

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The following day we had ambitions plans to climb Murchison, Tokkumn and 570.  The Murchison cars made it out of Field but we were the only ones to do so.  Semi trucks that hadn’t put on their chains were crisscrossed all along the big hill making it a pinball maze for any cars to try and get through.  We made it through but eventually had to also turn around on the icefields parkway due to major snow and wind.  All good though, as LeeAnne, Andrea and I had Tokkumn pole to ourselves and got massively pumped doing laps on all sorts of fun lines in there.  John, Diana and Sonja hit up Louise Falls and also had few crowds there.  Kris and Eric saved the day with the remaining Field group by tromping up to Waterworks.  An Avi free crag in Field where everyone worked on skills and did a bunch of leading.  Yeah!  Good motivation group and way to save the day Kris and Eric!  That night, John did a great session on sharpening tools and crampons.  No more asking those boyfriends and husbands!

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The final day gave us a small reprieve from the nasty weather, and we had a nice overnight freeze as well!  Kris went with Diana and Jen to Essondale, which sounded like it was in challenging shape!  John coached Andrea and Dara as they led up Riverview.  Marco went with Claire and Caroline as they both crushed the Tokkumn pole, and Kate led Leise up Grotto falls with myself and then cranked out some mixed routes on his and hers.  Sooo nice to get a full day of accomplishing what we set out for!  So proud of all the strong leaders and followers out there as well.

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We all gathered up at the Georgetown for a nice final diner and everyone walked away with some new OR ferrosi jackets for the spring.  Thanks OR!

Thanks again to Sonja, Kris, John, Eric and Marco for making the camp possible, and a HUGE thanks to Andrea, Claire, Jen, Dara, Diana, Caroline, Kate, Leise and LeeAnne for joining us for this fun weekend and being so understanding and flexible with the weather.  So cool to watch everyone improve over the years and take on new challenges every year!  Keep it up everyone!