Monday, August 25, 2014

The Boulderfields

We had been biding our time in the mountains waiting for the heat wave to ease, but it seemed to be a lost cause.  It was with some reservation that we finally decided to suck it up and head to our next planned destination - the Okanagan Valley.  With forecast temperatures in the upper 30's we didn't think we'd be staying very long.

We were pleasantly surprised to find that bouldering in The Boulderfields was quite manageable in the heat and, despite planning several times to move on, we ended up spending almost two weeks in the area.  With free camping right around the main parking area we also got to see a lot of the enthusiastic, and seemingly ever present, local climbers.  A big thanks to Andy, Jason and Ryan for showing us around and pointing us to amazing new problems and areas.  The hospitality of the local boulderers was one of the big reasons we stayed so long.

Other big reasons we stayed so long include:

1 - Awesome problems.

We didn't really take many pictures, because there were too many other things to do, but here are a couple.

Kristal on the Peanut boulder.


Me trying out beta on Dangleberries.


2. Establishing new problems.

The Boulderfields are now in the middle of a golden age of new development. Thanks to the awesome locals, stashed cleaning supplies and a tonne of rock we were able to put up some of our own problems. During our stay we established 8 new problems.  Here is Kristal cleaning the top of the awesome Cave Dweller slab we named Sriracha Slab.


3. Raspberries.

There were raspberry bushes everywhere, and they were delicious.  Here I am taking a break from bouldering for an awesome snack.


Kristal even collected some to put in the chocolate cake she backed back at camp.



4. Making new friends.

Both human and animal.  Here are Sasha and Kristal taking a break from cleaning yet another new 3 star problem with local hardman Jason.


By the end of our stay some of the locals were joking about finding property for us in Kelowna, but with the end of the summer fast approaching we had to start thinking about making our way back east.

The Boulderfields is an awesome destination, in no small part due to the amount of work the handful of dedicated locals have and continue to put into developing the area. Hopefully we can make it back there again next year!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Yoho National Park

After hiding out from the heat on the Icefields Parkway for as long as we could, we decided it was time to head west. Our first stop was the Cathedral Forest boulders, in Yoho National Park. There are actually a lot of documented problems there, on really solid quartzite, but as they're jammed between the number 1 highway and a major rail line, they're not exactly a relaxing, wilderness destination. (If, however, you're travelling between Alberta and B.C., they're a great place to stretch your legs. Park at the spiral tunnels turnout and cross the highway. (The first boulder is about a twenty second walk in.) Here I am on Seams Improbable, a cool, sequency V4.


Yoho National Park is also home to the Burgess Shale Formation, famous for its fossil beds. The fossils are guarded like the crown jewels and, while we were curious, we weren't really keen on going on a guided tour. However, some research showed that if we got a permit to climb Mt. Stephen, we'd actually get to hike around them. So after facing the Parks Canada grand inquisition we were granted our permit and headed out early in the morning. We found the fossil beds after about an hour of steep hiking. The ground was seriously littered with triolbite fossils.


After passing the fossil beds, our nice hiking trail turned into a long slog up scree slopes before hitting a chossy limestone headwall, and a seriously exposed traverse. Five hours and 2000 m of elevation gain later (that's 6600 ft!) we finally made it to the top. The views were well worth it.

Endless Scree...


A beautiful clear blue sky in the morning.


Stunning views from the summit...


A conveniently located helicopter pad and weather station.  Too bad we couldn't call the chopper to take us down.  Descending 2 vertical kilometers is not our idea of fun.


Filling out the log book in the summit hut.


The most entertaining part of the weather station was that it was stock full of emergency gear, including these sealed tool boxes of rations, best used on or before March 26, 1988.  Awesome.


Going back across the (very) exposed ridge during the descent.






Monday, August 11, 2014

The Icefields Parkway

With a lot of hot weather in the forecast for the Banff area it was clear we needed to gain some elevation to beat the heat.  We decided to spend a few days along the Icefields Parkway, to do some things we had scoped out last year during our short drive up to Jasper.

First up was this impressive slabs right beside the highway, just south of the Parker Ridge trailhead.  Last year we hiked up to the base of it and were surprised to discover several bolted lines.  We still didn't have any information about the routes, but decided to give them a go.


We were stoked to discover that one of the lines was bolted all the way to the top.  Below you can barely see Kristal at the end of the last full-length pitch, almost 200 feet above.  The climbing was super fun, with many fun water runnels to climb through.


For those looking for beta, the route is mostly easy 5th class, with maybe a 5.8ish move or two on the first pitch.  It's 4 pitches, about 600 feet long, with an easy walk off down the gully to climber's right.  The anchors are equipped with rap rings, but you would need double ropes to rap the route.

Next up we decided to attempt the South East Ridge of Mount Edith Cavell, an impressive Conrad Cain route with a little bit of everything on it.


The morning views down the parkway were quite impressive.


Here I am channeling Conrad Cain while crossing the snow slope onto the main shoulder of the mountain.


Kristal striking a pose with the glacier in the background.


Sadly, we didn't start out early enough in the morning.  With the upper ridge still ahead of us we decided to turn around.  Neither of us wanted to walk out in the dark.


Next up we decided to check out an obscure bouldering area called the Kingston Slide, consisting of limestone blocks left over from a landslide on Mount Kingston.  One of the few reasons it doesn't see much traffic is that you have to cross the freezing waters of the Sunwapta river only a few kilometers from where it begins at the base of the glacier.


Despite the committing approach, the bouldering area is top notch, and we found many problems that would easily be 3 star problems in any bouldering destination we've been to.


And you just can't beat the setting, with Mount Athabasca and it's glacier looming in the distance.


We found plenty to keep us busy, from burly campus problems...


... to some awesome slabs, and everything in between.


Definitely worth checking out for any boulderers looking for adventure!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Promised Land

Last week we decided to put the climbing gear away for a few days and head on a little backpacking adventure. We happened to be camping near the Alberta visitor center in Crowsnest Pass, and stopped in most days to enjoy their running water and free wifi. While flipping through some of the brochures we came across some information for these epic cave systems high in the mountains, and after further investigation decided they were worth checking out.

On day 1 we hiked in about 11 km to where we set up camp.  If you happen to own and ATV you can actually cut that down to only 2 km of steep hiking.  Sadly we don't own and ATV, so yeah, we got an extra 9 km of hiking.


It's was a bit demoralizing when we were passed by multiple groups of people on ATVs.  It was also pretty slow going, as the trail crossed Ptolemy creek 7 times.  In good weather all of the crossing can be pretty easily done on logs, but due to a steady drizzle some of these crossings were too slick to be safely done. On several occasions we had to de-shoe, wade through the chilly waters, and re-shoe on the other side.


We set up camp on the cool alpine terrain of the Ptolemy plateau.


On Day 2 we made our day trip to the caves.  Here is Kristal high on the scree on the way to the Cleft cave. The previous day's hike started all the way past the mouth of the valley in the distance.


Here is the view looking back out the entrance of Cleft cave, with Kristal silhouetted at the bottom.


It was a really cool cave, quite literally, with a lot of frost clinging to the walls.  Also a lot of interesting cave features.  Being relatively novice cavers we spent a lot of time exploring many of the nooks and crannies.


After a couple of hundred meters of weaving our way through the mountain, with a short committing squeeze section, the cave abruptly opened up high on the other side of the mountain.


Next up was a short hike over the col to the Andy Good plateau, where we were treated to this crazy landscape of limestone and snow.


We then went to check out Gargantua cave, which boasts 6 km of passages and the largest natural cavern in Canada (290 m long, 30 m wide and 25 m high).  The thing is absolutely huge.  But for all its size, we actually didn't find it as interesting as the Cleft cave.  Of course we only explored the large upper section, unwilling to commit to the long trek through the entire cave system.


Here is Kristal on the phone. She managed to get some reception within a few meters of this one spot.


On the way back to camp we discovered our new favourite method of descent - the glissade!  Basically skiing down a snow slope on your feet. Sadly it only works when there are snow slopes around.


That night we got to experience perhaps one of the of the scariest events of our lives.  Let's just say it is not very comfortable being stuck in the middle of an exposed alpine meadow in a crappy little backpacking tent while a storm of epic proportions rages around you.

On the hike out the next day we encountered more than one tree like this lying across the approach trail that was not present on the hike in.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Frank Sliding

We've spent a lot of time in the last few weeks bouldering at Frank Slide. I was starting to think we had begun to get the lay of the land until last weekend when we met up with locals Trent, Kyle and Morgan who gave us the inside tour. It was pretty baffling to see how many new problems they've established, how well they manage the questionable landings and just how much potential Frank Slide has.

We kinna sucked at taking photos but here's a few shots.







Saturday, July 19, 2014

Waterton Lakes

So the most exciting thing that's happened in the last week has definitely been the arrival of my new nephew. Congratulations to Mark and Beth!

In between some fantastic baby snuggling we made it down to Waterton Lakes National Park. We arrived late in the evening without much of a plan. When we crawled out of the tent the next morning, Jason pointed at a random mountain and suggested we climb it.


I was a bit skeptical, but it turned out to be a pretty easy scramble with awesome views, a cool window to the prairies, and a lovely seat for two on the top.



After flipping through a tourist info guide, we decided Red Rock Canyon was also a must see. It was well worth the visit with some cool hiking, natural waterslides that almost worked, and one pretty sweet bouldering problem.






Due to the abundance of chossy rock, the Waterton Area doesn't have a lot of established long rock climbs, but I did manage to find some info on a six pitch route up the southeast ridge of something called Yarrow peak. It sounded interesting, so we followed the vague directions and set out. After nearly three hours of epic hiking we finally found possibly the most horrendous rock on the planet. Our six pitch ridge climb, while only 5.6 (if that) was absolutely terrifying. It was steep, exposed, and about eighty percent of the holds would shatter into a million pieces if you breathed on them the wrong way. After several anxious hours we hit the top of the ridgeline and managed to breath a sigh of relief before having to navigate the scree filled descent.


The six pitch climb ended up being a 9 hour, 12.5 km, 3000ft round trip. (And my route selection privileges have been revoked for the rest of the summer).