Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Scrambling up the Canadian Rockies

A few weeks ago, on fairly shorthand notice, I decided to leave my home office and the Austin heat for a few days to go and visit my friends in Calgary. Mainly for their proximity to the mountains – drive 2-3 hours west, and you’re in either Banff, Jasper, or Yoho National Parks, at the border between Alberta and British Columbia, which follows the continental divide in that area.

While Taco’s and my original objective, scrambling up Mount Assiniboine, never worked out because of negative weather forecasts, we had a bunch of fun doing other things:

  • Batgirl took me to see the "tourist section" of Rat’s Nest Cave the night I got into Calgary. Quite a fun place! And the first time I have caved in a (borrowed) cotton suit. The next day, Taco and I climbed "Morningside", a fun sport-route next to the highway, 4 pitches, rated 5.7...

"The Grotto" in Rat's Nest Cave. (Photo by Batgirl)
  • Taco and I spent a long day scrambling up Mount Daly, a 28 km round trip with an elevation difference of about 1,500 meters. The views of the surrounding ice fields were incredible.

View from Mount Daly - the clouds have just started to clear out.
  • Batgirl and I hiked into the Little Yoho Valley Friday night in order to explore its surroundings the next day. This was the first time I got to test out my new (to me) bivy sack – and just to make things realistic, it pretty much rained all night. (The bivy held up fine. :-))

We decided to go and check out the snout of this glacier around the corner from Little Yoho Valley.
  • Having been able to get a reservation for the Abbot Pass hut, Taco and I scrambled up to it from Lake O’Hara and got an alpine start the next morning in order to climb up onto Mount Victoria’s Southeast Ridge to the mountain’s south summit. This may have been the most technical ascent I have done so far – nothing serious, but some easy (yet quite exposed) climbing moves, and we decided to rope up and get our crampons and ice axes out on the way back to get up a snow/ice slope on the ridge. 

Southeast Ride of Mount Victoria, with the summit in the clouds.

In between, I got to spend some time in Calgary. Quite an enjoyable town, with good coffee shops and food, and even a place serving a number of German beers on tap. Now I wonder what it looks like in the winter. ;-)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Photo Salon Entry...

Not much news on the outdoor front for me in recent times. So, purely for the purpose of keeping this blog alive... :-)

This photo won a Merit Award at this year's TSA Spring Convention:

Follow the Flowstone!
Taken in April 2014 in O-9 Well Cave by David Ochel,
with assistance from Geoff Hoese and Susan Souby.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Playing in the Snow... A Visit to the Upper Peninsula

Back at the beginning of February, I spent ten days visiting friends in Houghton and Hancock, two towns across the Portage Canal from each other in Michigan's UP. When they moved up to the Keweenaw Peninsula from Austin, Jason had told me about Michigan Tech's winter carnival happening every year, and this being a good time of the year to visit. (Assuming one likes snow.)

Gotta keep the mailboxes accessible. (Copper Harbor, MI)
So I packed some of the mountaineering gear that is pretty useless in Texas and flew into the tiny airport that sees about one (or two?) departures a day. (As opposed to certain other airports, they know how to deal with snow and ice there, though.)

I went cross-country skiing for the first time -- lots of fun! Besides stomping around in the snow a lot and building a snow cave, we also went ice climbing twice, and toured the very tip of the peninsula by car. Conveniently, by the time I got there the lake had frozen over to a large extent, resulting in less cloudy (and snowy) days and a fair amount of sun. (Are you familiar with the phenomenon of lake-effect snow?)

Beginner waterfall, not too vertical. I have a lot to learn. (That might require living somewhere with more frequent access to ice, though.)
There are surprising amounts of awesome micro- (and home-) brewed beer to be had in the UP! The local cuisine has tasty Finnish influences from immigrants that came to work in the copper mines. And it took me a while to figure out how to pronounce pasties properly to indicate I was actually talking about the food item that is popular up there.

I managed to bring enough layers to not freeze on this trip, and had a great time playing in the snow and ice. Nevertheless -- next time I come back, I plan on checking the place out in the summer!

Scene from Beauty and the Beast entered into the Snow Carnival snow sculpting competition.