What is your approach for rock climbing in the age of Covid, or is it still a bad idea? In my area the public lands are open again. I think prudent and low-risk sport climbing is—cautiously--OK based on talks with medical and SAR friends. I list my plan below, but I’d love to hear about other people’s best practices for returning to rock climbing, or if they even are. This an @tedhesser wicked spring pic from Lake Louise last year, great memory! -Many towns don’t want visitors. Wherever I go needs to be “zero local impact,” no going to places where I’d need to buy gas, use washrooms, get coffee, etc. No “road trips." -Maintain social distance. If the crag is busy when I arrive or gets busy I’ll leave. -Hand sanitizing before and after every route, and not touching my face en route. Until we know for sure hold transmission isn’t possible let’s just assume it is. -Not biting my rope. Yesterday a fellow climber taught me how to grab the rope with my chin and shoulder. I’ll be doing this in the gym too. -I’m lucky enough to climb and live with my partner, but what if I didn’t? Hand sanitizing, social distancing even while climbing, and maybe masking up are all feasible. Very frequent hand sanitizing, and being doubly careful with hand sanitizing and touching shared gear. Gloves while belaying, and hand-sanitize the gloves too… -Maybe two ropes if climbing with someone outside my house. Each person climbs on “his/her rope” end each climb, no sharing of rope ends. -Climb like there is no rescue. Unless it’s a mortal injury I will be crawling out, and climbing with that attitude. -Single pitch, well-travelled bolted sport climbing only. I’ve very rarely seen EMS-worthy accidents sport climbing. It’s impossible to social distance on multi-pitch routes, and rescue would be technical and expose SAR teams. -Not climbing if I’m feeling sick, or have possibly been in contact with anyone who is sick. Run the contact tracing App. -Not driving with anyone I don’t live with. -Sport climbing is great outdoor exercise and fun, both needed in these times, but we’re still in a pandemic and need to act with care not to make it worse. Your ideas here thx!
A few rando fun video clips from the Irish Sea Stacks video, link in Bio. I just laughed looking at these clips today, such good memories of a great place with great people. And flying! I’ve flown @gingliders for more than 20 years, so many awesome adventures! On this trip I got to fly the sea breeze for hours over the beautiful Irish coast after a first ascent with @uniqueascent and @johnpricephotography , that’s a perfect day to me, yeah!! May we all get the freedom to fly in our own way again soon!
Really fun video edit, link in bio, from the trip @johnpricephotography and @unique ascent and I did in Ireland last summer. Just makes me smile to look at the video and John’s photo of Iain and me descending from a new route. We had to swim across the channel to get off this one, wild times! Ireland has a tremendous amount of great rock, beer, and a wild, relatively unexplored landscape with endless new routing potential. May we all get the freedom to explore together again soon. On this trip we weren’t really trying to do a video project, but John hammered hard on both stills and video plus the same on a drone, and Iain and I got some really funny GoPro footie so it turned out really well. A huge thanks to @arcteryx and @redbullcanada as well as @tourismireland for all the help in getting us sorted out! We also climbed a few harder routes that John just shot stills of, and there are endless more new routes to do. I want to go back!!
Overdue product review 1 of 3!These are cool, definitely the easiest setup and most compact pull-up/fingerboard system I’ve used. Takes up about the same amount of space in your carry on as a pair of running shoes. With everybody looking for ways to train at home I thought I’d finally get a review done. The door clamps are really cunning, and unless your finish carpenter totally forgot any the nails any door casing is strong enough. Way less force than a door pull-up bar. Made by Duonamics, the clamps with basic tubes for pull-ups are called the “Elevila” system and cost US$ 99. The “train any finger hold you need” mini hang board units aren’t on the site yet, but are called “Powerholds” and are about $99. Duonamics.com. This is a really good damage-free system that does what it promises. Five out of five fingers, which is a scale I just made up. Really smart design on the “Powerholds,” internal magnets to vary hold depth and cunning slots on the sides for adjusting the hang angle. My doors are pretty low so have to hold my feet up a bit when hanging as the clamps and strings put the holds a tad low, but no big thing. Texture is a tad aggressive at first, but either give it some sandpaper or harden the f @ack up. Get pumped! These reviews are NOT paid, just stuff I think is cool or that people sent me and I said I’d look at. Is this interesting to you or annoying or you didn’t make this far and don’t care : )?
Goodnight from Canmore! I normally do this hike in the morning, but glad to see the mountains in their evening wear tonight. Can’t wait to go back to them, It’s been a month without climbing, flying, or paddling, and I miss it all tremendously. But it’ll be there! Time to hike down, have a good night.
One of my primary principles in life is to adapt to what’s going on as quickly as I can. In Laurence Gonzales’ excellent, “Deep Survival,” he notes that those who survive disasters often aren’t the strongest or most knowledgable or who have the most resources on hand, but those who most quickly adapt to the weird new world they find themselves in after an unplanned event of some kind. Those who expect a quick return to what their expectations told them was going to happen have worse outcomes. I am incredibly lucky to still be able to hike in the mountains when many can’t and face really tough times, but my past adventure and travel based world is at best off the table for a few months and more likely going to be totally different for years. What will replace it is unknown. But I have seen a few small hints at what the future might look like, and I share them as they are adaptations that I personally find interesting and reflect a, “How do we make this new world work?” attitude: -A smart guy I know ( @carlodenali ) who owns a climbing gym is planning how to reopen his gym with masks for the climbers and innovative sanitization systems. I assumed gyms were gone for the foreseeable future, but I never considered climbing in a mask. Why not? Adapt. -Arc’teryx is making gowns for medical workers out of the same materials we use in the mountains, and other manufacturers are jumping in too. Cool. Evolution in action is not just a slogan. -I’ve done two professional presentations over the web in the last week, and am doing a commencement speech for a University next week using another platform. I thought these would well, suck, but there are actually some huge pluses, and I’m really inspired by the experience. Adapt. -My family and I are building a 12x12 climbing wall/treehouse/plicel in the back yard. The gyms are closed and I’m off the rocks, but soon we can climb together in the yard. -People are giving each other space on the trails, for real, and saying hello again. It’s working! @_greghill_ is the master adapter, and he’s growing food. What are the ways you’re adapting to the new normal? @christianpondella photo of course!
Good morning from Canmore! First time I’ve been above tree line for a while, and it was gorgeous up there. Not many people on the trail, and moving off it to let others pass has become “normal.” People are smiling again, and saying hello. There’s TP in the stores again! One of the key things in tough situations is to find the small improvements, the places where you can maybe put a little notch in the “better” column. My hikes help me see the better that’s there. As one of my favourite punks, Henry Rollins, once roughly said, “I don’t go to the gym to get stronger, I go to sort my brain out. Getting stronger is a byproduct.” Yes. Here’s to wherever and however we can find peace and a little “better.” #hikingadventures #move
Now. This “Good morning!” goes out to all the people who come into play when the unexpected happens and we need help. Police, military, doctors, nurses, lab techs, hospital cleaning staff, dispatch, public safety, fire, paramedics, pilots, friends, family, neighbours, you. I’m not doing my normal sports because I want these people to be focusing on bigger issues. As I walked up the hill this morning I realized how much I depend on this giant web that we normally don’t see except when we really really need them. They have all the same fears we do, but they’re going to work. Thanks doesn’t cover it, but thanks. I’ll try not to hurt myself walking down. I do think it’s important to keep moving and stay mentally healthy during these times, however we can.
New and 7 and 8 cams : ).
It’s true: I’m quitting ice climbing. There’s only one sport that involves more pointless blood, pain, bruising, downgrading, whining and weirdness, and more gear while climbing on it less, and from this day forward I’m going to devote my body, knickers and TP to it: offwidth climbing! I’ve ordered 12 #21 cams from @blackdiamond as well as 10 of every cam size between so I can follow Alex’s lead. Or lead it myself, although I hear I have to do 100 laps of 5.12 hand snacks or stacks or whatever they’re called first. Photos of the new gear and training equipment to come. Climbing is an evolution, and although I’ve been climbing cracks for going on 40 years I’ve always, like Alex, let fear stop me from the ones wider than my Trump hands. No more. Instead of just focusing on how small of a crack I can climb I’m going to conquer my fear, evolve, and see how wide I can go! Perhaps one day I won’t even need a defined crack at all, but will simply be able to levitate upward using nothing but the hot air escaping the furnace of of my ambition to redefine human potential. Damn but the coffee is good this morning, see you in the climbs when we can! : ) And head over to @blackdiamond if you want to support @accessfund , BD is selling limited #tamethemonster shirts all April with net proceeds going to the Access Fund.
Good morning from Canmore! I woke up below the clouds this morning in all ways. Cold, grey, world is collapsing, the future is not just uncertain but, realistically, a huge unknown. I pried myself out of bed and started up the hill behind my house. It sucked. Steeper than usual, slippery frozen crust of snow. But I was moving. As I walked I realized there were a lot of people having way way worse days. Breathe. Move. More realizations: my career currently doesn’t exist, but I have food, water, a place to live, health, family, community. Breathe more. Up. The clouds slowly lightened, the temperature dropped, and 1500 feet above the valley I got to look out at these beautiful mountains rising above the white sea . The world was there and beautiful, I just had to get above the clouds to see it. As I get ready to slide down I feel supremely lucky, and powerfully reminded that it’s all perspective. Peace to those who are battling, I hope we all get to climb above these clouds soon!
Maybe don’t do this (the anchor, the climb is a must-do! ). I found this anchor on the mega-classic Pomme d’Or this winter. I know more than a few parties had used it, but it has some serious drawbacks. Mainly that if one piton on the green rope pulls out all the weight is going to go onto the blue cord and one piton. That will probably be exciting; if the piton on the blue cord holds the sudden load all is good, but far from ideal as that piton wasn’t what I would call awesome enough to hang my life on by itself. So if the piton on the blue cord blows after either pin on the green rope pops then the best-case scenario the knot on the end of the green rope and the flapping piton catch somehow on the locking carabiner as it whips down the green rope… Not really what I’d be psyched to have happen a few hundred meters off the ground. Not amount of snow is gonna help. The two pitons on the green rope are really good, so I’ll bet the climber was thinking, “I’ll just equalize these really well and all good.” There’s also a triple-action biner on the anchor, which is an odd place to add safety margin given that the real problem is the extension and non-redundancy of the anchor. The fact that it’s the end of a rope tying it all together kinda suggests that either there was a full-blown epic in process, or that they brought up a chunk of rope to build anchors with. I’d go with an “epic in progress.” What do you think? I find really weird rappel and anchor stations at least once or twice a season. I rebuilt this one with a longer piece of 7mm cord and a masterpoint, which was nice as we used it a couple of days later on a shooting lap. The anchor was in a great place: protected from falling ice, out of way of hanging daggers for the descent, nice flat spot to belay from, but just really poorly built. If you find these in the wild please at least replace the cord with something solid, and remember that pitons are a lot less solid generally in bolts. They tend to rust faster, freeze and thaw more, are harder to predict strength-wise when placing, and just generally not real reliable over time.
Freedom. It’s a big word, but it describes what I love about being in the mountains. Breathing life in, sucking down huge lung fulls filled with the joy of moving with confidence and competence. Right now I would love the freedom to be climbing again, but the freedom of the hills is less important than the ability of others to also breathe freely. Many of my friends are front-line dealing with with this pandemic, and I don’t want them to have to deal with me if I were to have even a small accident or misstep. I’ll still walk in my local valleys with my family (keeping real social distancing ) as long as I’m allowed, but right now my higher risk sports are far less important than slowing this epidemic down, especially for those are not choosing their risks. We will find freedom in the mountains again, but we’re in the “Unknown unknown” stage of this pandemic; until it becomes clear what the outcomes are, for me, it’s time to pull in, slow down, think and wait. Dream. Help others as best I can, even if that just means staying out of the way of those who need our shared resources the most. I look forward to cranking on ice tools, hearing my glider strain, laughing in the sun with a big group of stoked people. The storm always stops, the winds always die, and the sun always rises. We just have to wait for it. Helmcken Falls, 2011, @christianpondella photo of course. @timemmett ,looking forward to getting back there with you again, yeah!
The woman in these pictures did something amazing a couple of weeks ago: @huens led every one of the six pitches of Cryophobia, M8+ WI Rad, belayed by @johnpricephotography ,then led all of Nophobias, M10 with @scotty .mckay and @johnpricephotography and five steep pitches with some WI Scary at the top, then led up the mega classic Hydrophobia, WI Classic. Only one pitch below the top one of the ice dams that gave Hydrophobia it’s name released a violent river of water, and she did the smart thing and not the goal-blinded move and retreated rather than subject her and @scotty .mckay to a potentially life threatening situation. This is one of the finest, hardest, most intense climbing days I’ve ever heard of in the Canadian Rockies or anywhere. @huens did the two-hour drive, two hour ski, and climbing battle around 10 times, some in -30 like in the photo of us where I belayed before she went for it. That’s an 8-hour day without even climbing. Well done @huens , it’s been a really tough year for her and many in our mountain and wiser community. Against that I find it fitting that instead of pushing to do one last easy pitch in bad conditions she listened to the mountains as she always does. Our community has been hit hard by loss and needless division, and it was a joy to see the community that rallied to help Sarah and celebrate climbing. Day after day @tiff_jm88 and so many others climbed, froze, destroyed their heels skiing, and built something magic together. Wonderful. I’m also proud to call her my valentine, happy Valentine’s Day to all!
The story of climbing on top of Kilimanjaro with @huens and @christianpondella ’s images just ran in @natgeo ! We went to climb the ice we saw on the maps, but quickly realized the ice didn’t match the maps at all. So many of the glaciers on Kilimanjaro, like glaciers globally, are receding at incredibly fast rates. This trip was one of the first that really hit me between the eyes on how much our glaciers are changing globally. This fin is likely gone, as are the others we climbed. Ice that survived tens of thousands of years of natural fluctuations will be gone in a short human lifetime. This is an issue for an ice climber, but it’s a much bigger issue for the people of east Africa, and globally for all of us. I’m asking questions and learning, but these photos were the beginning of a journey for me and @Huens .
Yesterday and 25 years ago this was is what I lust for in mixed climbing: icicles into the sky. @johnpricephotography pic of a new route @huens and I did in Pont Rouge on the last day of a wild week in Quebec. 20 plus years ago I first climbed in Pont Rouge with legends including Guy Lacelle, @canmoron_sean , JP Villemare and many others. The rock is still horrible, but the stoke and climbing are still just as awesome. To come back and get to do a new route was just a perfect way to get back to my mixed routes. The rest of the trip with @breathelightmedia and @cameraoperator .ca was also super solid. @huens and I got to climb the Mega classic Pomme D’Or twice, first for stoke and second to pose. Both laps were super fun, nice work @johnpricephotography for hustling stills and video all day. Also thanks to @arcteryx for making this mission possible. And a huge thanks to @huens for putting up with me chasing ice like a lab chases a tennis ball, I just can’t stop! More pics and solid video from @breathelightmedia to come. I can’t wait to see them!
Aw hell Ken, when the rawness settles I’m going to write about your amazing climbing and life old friend, but for now I’m just going to cry every time I drive up to my house and see your meticulous work, and laugh about seeing your furry face through the new skylight. For the week you were missing our hearts broke with knowledge we didn’t want, but I hope you somehow felt the bonfire of warmth from the many friends and family who connected in their shared care for you, and that heat healed the wounds that life and the self-serving left on you. I’m grateful that in the last few months we got to sit around a table again, and Sarah and the kids got to look into your eyes and see a rare sight: A free man. As the leaves fell we shared some laughs, meals and solid time in the mountains. Even with a body beaten by years of hard falls, brutal industrial work and savage punches both physical and mental you still moved through the mountains with a wild animal’s grace, and climbed with a master’s understanding and utility of motion. I really wish we’d found a way to catch your fall as you did mine more than once in the last 40 years, but there’s no way to force a free man to do what he won’t. The darkness at the end of your life might seem like losing, but I know you not only fought and won against that darkness for five decades, you climbed high above it, over and over. May you finally rest in peace you wild grizzly of a human, we’ll see and celebrate you in the mountains, always free and strong. “Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew When I bit off more than I could chew But through it all, when there was doubt I ate it up and spit it out I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way.” -Frank Sinatra
Happy New Year! Walked into my local grocery store today and found this wicked @johnpricephotography shot staring back at me, pretty neat to see! I had an idea of what the wild ice up there might look like through a lens, and John nailed it and then some as usual, thanks John! It’s taken in the ice on Instagrade, one of the best mixed routes I’ve ever done, Temple of Silence, Icefields Parkway. We spent a couple of winters developing new routes up there, so much work, passion, fun! A big thanks to @huens , @mira_la_perra , @gord_mcarthur , @raf_andro , @pd .delaney and so many others for the stoked days. Let’s go back next week for a session! @grippedmagazine has a Canadian focus, but the editor, @brandonpullan , is a true global climbing historian and genuine keeper of the climbing flame. I love that high quality print magazines have survived the Internet, we all need curated celebrations of our shared obsession. This shot is one of those moments where you can see the move in your head, and then just launch it. That’s climbing. The very small red dot is @wgraham1976 , congrats on your first cover, and thanks for the catch! #iceclimbing #fun
For many years I generally didn’t take avalanche rescue gear ice climbing despite the fact that most ice climbs are in avalanche terrain. I had two reasons: Weight/bulk and, "You were gonna die anyhow so no point.” In the last ten years I started carrying at least a beacon more often, and in the last three I never go ice climbing without avalanche gear in terrain where there’s enough snow to slide. Here’s my thinking on my two old arguments: Weight: When you’re leading steep ice a pound on your back is way heavier than when on skis. My ski avi gear weighs 1274g (2.81 pounds ). I’m ok with a beacon harness skiing, but it sucks for climbing. Three years ago I started investigating how light I could make avi gear with reasonable cost and function. I then bought three sets of it, either at retail or pro deal. It weighs 567g (1.25 pounds ). Three sets is how many I need for myself and two guests or partners. The light gear is functional (it’s been used unfortunately, and it worked ). I look at the probe and shovel as more “single or light use” than I do my ski gear. The beacon goes in my chest pocket (close to airway, away from phone ). My argument against weight and bulk is pretty much done at this point, and this gear isn’t crazy expensive. You can spend a few hundred dollars more to get the weight down, but for me this is light enough I really don’t think about it. Yer Gonna Die Anyhow: Maybe, but I can think of at least three avalanche accidents where a shovel, probe and beacon might have saved a life, and one recent accident where the family got to say goodbye in the hospital, and that made me never ever want to move in avalanche terrain without gear again. It was among the most powerful experiences of my life, and I pack my gear with that memory. There are also the rescuers who are coming to dig you out. If you don’t have a beacon you put their lives at risk, and are an ass (edit ). They don’t get a choice. They have to get you. Make it easier. Also make it easier on your family and friends. And maybe you or your friend will live. Recco: Yes. More on this soon. @arcteryx @blackdiamond @recco #iceclimbing #avalanche
Basic steep ice climbing technique in a GIF! There are a lot of ways to climb ice, but this fun GIF from @rjayblake ) shows a lot of in very few words. Most issues in ice climbing come from two basic problems: Not understanding how ice works, and then bad technique leading to insecure and off balance climbing. Done well, ice climbing should feel in-balance (no barn door tension your shoulders or trunk ), secure, and fun. Done poorly it’s none of these things. I spend a lot of each winter coaching at festivals as well as instructing and guiding, this GIF hits a lot of basics, thanks @rjayblake )! A few key points: -Feet level. -Tools staggered. -Hips out and eyes down to place the feet with arms straight, hips in and chest out in to swing. -Move hips back and forth to unweight the foot you want to move. No hopping a loaded foot. There are a million refinements to the above, but it’s a great place to start, and fun! I’d like to see the climber’s feet slightly more to either side of the upper tool before standing up in this GIF (prone to barn dooring off balance moves when feet are to the side of the upper tool ), but pretty cool, thanks Rob!
Seventy plus years of climbing in this photo on the Rockies classic, Amadeus, from today. The guy on the right has likely done more new routes in the Canadian Rockies than anyone else (or is at least in the running! ). Ken Wallator is the real deal. There’s a lot of bullshit on social media, but there’s no bullshitting when the tools start swinging: real experience and skill shows. Ken led me up the classic Polar Circus at least 30 years ago on a blue cold -30 day. an experience that almost caused me to quit ice climbing as I did it wearing Lycra. That was for sure the worst clothing decision I ever made. I’ll never forget watching the conduit rap “anchor” flex under his weight, and unclippjng from it so I wouldn’t go if it blew. I then clipped back in as it was night and I would die a miserable death by hypothermia without ropes to descend. We used to rap ice routes by putting soft electric conduit in ice screw holes, it was as crazy as it sounds! We were in the same grade and lived on the same street in high school, and had some wild adventures on the rock, ice, and bar scene of Jasper. Today we tied back in together for the first time in years, and it was again a pleasure, as it was over three decades ago (my bad clothing choice aside ). Keep on giving it hell Ken, the world needs more people who are what they say they are. And Amadeus is an all-ice route if you take the skinny ice line. Today made me think about the unique role climbing partners play in our lives. Here’s to Ken and all the partners I’ve had over the years, thank you!
Three things I took away from my recent interview with Reinhold Messner at the Banff Mountain Film Festival: 1. “Instinct” is very important to Messner for understanding the mountains and surviving there. “Instinct” is not the paranormal or spirituality or “gut." It’s learned competence developed over a lifetime. He rejects mountain spirituality totally. There are no shortcuts to good instincts. He feels he developed a lot of his instincts while adventuring and climbing in the mountains between the ages of 5 and 15. 2. He climbed Kilimanjaro’s Breach Wall in 12 hours from basecamp. This is phenomenally fast for a couple of thousand of meters of climbing, including some very difficult pitches at altitude. He called the climb, “The most dangerous climb I did.” Messner set standards in so many different venues, but few know how far ahead of his time he was in ice climbing when did the FA of the Breach wall in 1978. Many are still failing to equal the standards he set 40 years ago in high altitude climbing. 3. He really loves climbing, climbing history and climbers. When he talks about climbing his eyes spark up with the same beautiful lightt I saw in Jeff Lowe’s eyes, Guy Lacelle’s, Ueli Steck’s and so many other people I’ve really enjoyed climbing with over the years. That fire and joy for mountain experiences is actually really rare. I was interviewing Mr. Messner for a project I’m working on, and got those questions done in my allotted 15 minutes, then we went on a tour of people, places and routes together that blew my mind. It was a deep pleasure to interview a genuine hero who understands the mountains, life, and death so very very well. His advice to upcoming alpinists? “Don’t do what I did.” He pointed out that half the alpine climbers in. any period die, and called it “undefensible.” His eyes darkened when said that, and then lit up talking about climbing... I can relate. What do you think? Is climbing defensible?
First ice of the season today, and it was good! Full tunnel sports action! I love the wild and unpredictable nature of ice, it’s just cool. I hope the season is good to everyone!
Indian Creek post-send extreme pump pain and psyche from @jessehuey ! I got to hold the rope and watch a great battle yesterday on Supercat of the desert, a route Jesse tried with his good friend gone far too soon, Hayden Kennedy a few years back. It was an hour of on the edge battle that had me alternately feeding rope and sure it was gonna go tight and launch me, wicked! We stole a day to race in and out of the creek, and it was worth it, as it always is. Another @americanalpine club Cragging Classic, where I taught an R-rated clinic on “Sending With Style” for a stoked crew. It was about when to push yourself and when to run away, which falls are reasonable and which aren’t, good times. A big thanks to @blackdiamond for sending me, @moabdesertadventures for the excellent help, and a hungover thanks to the very dangerous Heidi McDowell, who did a great job on running all the Craggin’ Classics. Now it’s back home to Canadian Ice! #pumped #myfeethurt #yeah !