Thursday, December 9, 2010

Winter has Arrived!

The last few weeks since we made our way home from the Caribbean have been great. We have been getting out playing in the snow and fully embracing winter. We've lucked out with an early snow year this year and all the ski hills open in November; it's been fabulous. We got out for our first day of skiing on November 20, so early in the season. For our first day we headed into the back country and skinned up to Paul's ridge in Garibaldi Park with the Alpine Club. It was an excellent first day out with light, fluffy, fresh powder and clear skies. Click Here for Some Pics. Click here for some more.

Since then we've headed up to Mt Seymour to do a few laps of the Brockton Point Trail. It's been a great way to get some exercise and play in the so close to home. This coming weekend we're heading up to Whistler to go for a ski tour to Cowboy Ridge in the backcountry. We're also getting back into climbing at the Edge after Mike's finger injury and have been keeping up with running on a fairly regular basis. Having the opportunity to play outside and enjoy all the things we love to do has been amazing. This is why I moved to North Van and love living here! Check out Ski Pics here.

On another note, we've been enjoying some Christmas outings with family and friends like my work Christmas party and the Brights Lights Train at Stanley Park. It's getting to be that season; let the overabundance of food and drinks begin!

My Christmas Photo Album (Click Here)

Friday, November 19, 2010

St Maarten and Steidl-Kortmann Wedding

Last week Mike and I jetted down to St. Maarten/Martin in the Caribbean for a week to attend the wedding of our good friends Christian and Ursula. We stayed in a villa with our friends Steve and Bobbi-Jo just minutes from one of St. Maartens 30+ beaches, Orient Bay and just as close to Lara and Barry’s beach side condo. All-in-all, a fabulous trip.

The flight to get to and from the Caribbean is a bit of a gong show. We flew out of Seattle, so we had to drive to Seattle, fly to LA (where we almost missed our connection due to having to leave the secured area and change terminals all within less than an hour), then fly overnight to Puerto Rico where we had a 4 hour lay over before finally making our way to St Maarten.

The rest of our arrival was seamless, we got picked up from the airport and dropped off at our villa where we got settled in and went for a swim before doing some grocery shopping and enjoying a nice French dinner in Friar’s Bay.

The next few days we spent relaxing and enjoying the island. We went to the beach, had dinner with locals at a Lolo (Caribbean Beach BBQ), had drinks on the beach, wandered around the towns, checkout out the casinos, chilled by our pool, sampled the local cuisine, drove around the island on a self-directed tour and just enjoyed the company of good friends and exploring new places. One of our most memorable days had to be the accidental trip to the Brothel; talk about uncomfortable ….but that a whole other story……

We had some good tropical storms while were there, but luckily they were mostly at night so we still got a tan. The Storms were crazy and actually kind of fun to watch and it was always warm, even in the rain, so it was all good! The Fire flys at our villa at night were pretty cool to see too.

On the last few days of our trip we attended a “Get to know you” pirate ship boat cruise to meet all the friends and family of the Bride and Groom. It was a great idea and beautiful night for a boat ride. Unfortunately a few of us didn’t a great job of mingling since it was a bit choppy out and sea sickness overtook the fun. Luckily the upset stomachs went away promptly when we reached the shore and we all got to hang out an mingle at the bar afterwards.

On our second to last day we went to Christian and Ursula’s Wedding. The location was amazing, a beautiful, secluded white sand beach and they managed to luck out with a gorgeous sunny day; the best weather of the week. The ceremony went off perfectly followed by a super yummy dinner at their villa and a great night of dancing. We all had a fabulous time at the wedding and reception and wish them all the best!

Sadly, we had to head home the day after the wedding. One week is never long enough for a vacation, I should know that by now. We spent our last day enjoying lunch overlooking the ocean and watching the planes land at eh airport beach bar before our journey home.

The trip home was almost as exciting as the one there. We flew from St. Maarten to Philidelphia. In Philly we enjoyed a dinner of Philly Cheese Steaks and then spent the night sleeping on an aiport bench. In the morning we boarded a plane to Seattle and drove back to Vancouver, officially ending our newest adventure.

Click Here for Photo Album

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fall Getaway

Only a few more days and Mike and I are jetting off to St Martin for a vacation and, more importantly, to see our good friends Christian and Ursula get Married. We are super excited for the trip and super happy and excited for Christian and Ursula too! We've never been to the Caribbean and are looking forward to exploring a new area. St. Martin is a tiny island, only 36 square miles, which is half dutch and half french. It should be exciting to explore the different areas from the fancy french restaurants to the parties and casinos on the Dutch side. We've rented a villa on the French side of the island with our friends Steve and Bobbi-Jo and are looking forward to our private pool and BBQ lunches on the deck. We're also located only a few minutes walk away from the beach and restaurants and only a block away from the Condo where our friends Barry and Lara are staying. It should be an awesome week of hanging out in the sun and exploring new places with good friends.

(Apparently Plane watching is a popular activity on one of the St. Martin Beaches)

Keep your eyes open for pics next week.

PS. I'll be looking forward to snowy mountains and ski touring when I get home!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fun in the Fall

The last few weeks have brought about some cooler weather and with it, some fun outings with friends. Over the Thanksgiving long weekend Mike and I drove out to Vernon to visit our friends Steve and Bobbi-Jo. We were originally going for a wine and climbing trip, but with mediocre weather and Mike's injured finger we decided to skip the climbing part of the trip. We filled our Saturday with a day of wine and cheese tasting where Mike and I restocked our wine rack. On Sunday Bobbi-Jo made us an excellent turkey dinner to celebrate thanksgiving and while we were waiting on dinner we headed out to the Shuswap River in Enderby to see the spawning salmon. It was something else seeing the thousands of red fish swimming up the river. We also spent a great deal of time trying Steve and BJ's new game, Rock band! It was great fun, so much fun in fact that we stayed up way too late every night playing it and managed to finish the game over the 3 days we were there. All in all it was an great weekend of hanging out and visiting with good friends. Click Here for some pics.

Just this last weekend we threw a stag and staggette for Christian and Ursula who's wedding is coming up in just over 3 weeks (In St. Martin; Yay to destination weddings!). The boys did the usual boy stuff - Rock climbing, Strippers, dinner, gambling - but us girls decided to keep it classy. We all got together for cocktails and Thomas Haas chocolates in the late afternoon and then we had a limo pick us up and take us to Frederico's Supper Club on Commercial Drive. It was an excellent choice for a night out and I recommend it to anyone, groups of friends and couples, to check it out. The evening started out with a 3-course Italian dinner, which was fabulous. During dinner a solo classic guitar player provided music for dinner entertainment. After dinner, Frederico and his band took the stage and did a 2-hour set of dancing music, everything from classic Italian tunes, to 60's music to top-40 hits from today. The crowd had great energy and everyone was dancing and having a good time throughout the night. Overall, a successful staggette to send Ursula off to a new stage in her life. Click Here for some pics.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Back to Reality

The last few weeks have brought us into the midst of fall and back into reality and routine. It's been a nice change from the constant craziness of Summer. We're back to climbing and running regularly and it feels excellent to be getting noticeably stronger with every run and climb. We recently bought passes for the Edge Climbing gym and are pleasantly surprised with the atmosphere; a lot more laid back and less pretentious than gyms we have previously frequented. I'm quite enjoying indoor climbing for a change; it's been a while since I've actually enjoyed it instead of feeling it was just a chore to stay in shape for the outdoor season. The Fall running clinic is also now into full swing. I always love the fall clinic after taking a few months off of running; it always feels new and exciting to be back on the trails. The weather and temperatures this fall have been perfect for morning runs so far too. We're up to 1 hr 45 min now in our training schedule and slowly building to the 3 hour mark. It feels good to be ramping up the distance again and playing in the forest with a great group of people every week.

Apart from our revived exercise routine we've been out having some fun with friends too. We went to a BC Lions game last weekend where the Lions made a spectacular come-back in the second half of the game. There's something to be said for the outdoor stadium too; It's an awesome place to spend a warm fall evening. We also saw the movie "Social Network" this week which was surprisingly good. It was quite entertaining and a good choice for a night out at the movies.

Two weekends ago Mike and I went down to the annual Snow Show at the Vancouver convention center. for the past few years I've been using my backcountry ski gear to ski in the resorts. I decided that I should get another, stiffer and more responsive setup strictly for in-bounds skiing and thought the Snow Show would be the place to get it. I managed to score a brand new set of top of the line atomic skis and bindings, still in the plastic, for $300. The only catch, they were last seasons model. Oh no! ;P I'm pretty stoked to get a sweet set-up for so cheap. Now i just need the snow to start flying so I can get out and try them. Lets go winter!!!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fall has Arrived

Just a quick note on what we've been up to lately.

Last weekend Mike and I flew up to Prince George to visit Mike's Family. It was Dave's Birthday, so we had a yummy Prime rib dinner finished off with cheesecake to celebrate as well as our favorite pies to munch on all weekend. Thanks for the great food all weekend Debbie! We had a great time visiting with friends and family and enjoying the outdoors around PG. We saw all kinds of animals in PG this time too which was pretty cool. We saw several deer and a Moose right at Dave and Debbie's house and we saw a couple of black bears while we were out and about.

We spent Friday fishing at Nulki Lake which is out by Vanderhoof. It was a beautiful, sunny warm fall day and we spent all afternoon rowing the fishing boat (after the motor died) around the calm, quiet lake while we fished for trout. Actually, Mike and Dave rowed the boat while I fished. :) The trees were all turning colours and the lake was pretty much deserted and completely flat and calm, so it made for a nice, relaxing day out in the sun. We ended up catching 6 trout to put in the smoker.

On Saturday we met up with some of Dave and
Debbie's Friends and went for a hike up to Raven Lake, which is located in Grizzly Den Provincial Park. The hike if 4.7 km one-way with about 1500 ft of elevation gain. It starts out by climbing fairly steeply through the forest and tehn breaks out into sub-alpine meadows with great views of the McGregor Mountain Range. After this point you basically contour and hike over some rolling hills for about an hour or so before reaching the lake.

The lake is surrounded by towering ridges and has a stunning but peacful setting. There is also a backcounty hut and several tent pads and an outhouse at the lake if you choose to spend the night. We spent about an hour at the laek enjoying the scenery and havign some lunch. The entire trip took us about 5 hours return, including lunch and snack breaks along the way.

After coming home from PG We decided that this was the week to get back into some sort of routine with the arrival of fall. Time to kick the lazy summer days to the curb. Mike and I bought an annual pass for the Edge Climbing Gym and are excited to get back into climbing regulary and to get into shape over the winter. Lara and I also revived our running schedule and are back to running 2-3 days a week. This week we ran up mosquito creek, hiked the BCMC trail by head lamp and are starting the fall trail clinic for the "Phantom Trail Race" with Heather thru Mountain Madness tomorrow. It feels good to be regularly active again!

Click here for a Full Photo Album from PG

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Frosty Mountain Fun

Frosty Mountain is a 2408m high peak in Manning Park, BC. It is the highest peak in the park. For the past few years I've been volunteering at the Frosty Mountain Trail Race where one year we hiked 7km up the Frosty Mountain Trail to set up an aid station. I've always heard great stories about the terrain and views and have wanted to see it for myself for the past couple years.

Last weekend Mike and I met our friends Steve and Bobbi-Jo Oliver at the Lightning Lake campground in Manning Park with the intentions of tackling the Frosty Mountain Hike. The weather was kind of touch and go; We lucked out on Friday night with nice enough weather to allow us to cook dinner and enjoy a camp fire but when we woke up on Saturday morning it was raining. We got up anyways and started to get ready for our hike and lucky for us, by the time we were ready to go the rain had stopped! It was still pretty cloudy out but at least it was dry. we ended up having great luck with the weather all day.

The route we chose was to start at the Frosty Mountain Trail Head at Lightning Lakes, hike to the summit and then hike back out via the Windy Joe/Pacific Crest Trail. We dropped one car at the Windy Joe trail head so we didn't have to hike the 4km along the road at the end of the day to get back to Lightning Lakes. This turned out to be an excellent decision and I will never do that hike with that additional 4km. The route we hiked turned out to be about 25km long with 4000 ft of elevation gain. It took us about 8.5 hours car to car, including a 20 min break at Frosty Camp and a 45min break at the summit. If you ever attempt this hike with one vehicle I'd recommend hiking it as an out and back on the Frosty Mountain Trail from Lightning Lakes instead of doing the loop that we did.

We started our hike at 9:30 am at lightning lakes after dropping off a car down the road at the Windy Joe trail head. The hike starts at the back side of Lightning Lake and immediately begins to climb for the first 4 or 5 km. At about 2 km into the hike you get your first glimpse of the mountains in the background and the lakes below when you reach a view point. At km 3 there are distance markers in the trees that continue for the rest of the hike to allow you to track your progress.

After about 5 km you reach a plateau and your first of many meadows along the hike. From here the trail remains fairly flat with a few small climbs until reaching Frosty Mountain Wilderness camp (7km). This is a nice spot for a rest on some of the make shift benches. There is also a shelter here if it is raining and a stream where water bottles can be refilled.

After the camp the climbing begins again for a couple of kilometers. at about 9km you reach some more sub-alpine meadows and an old larch forest that is quite pleasent to hike through. The grade also lessons in this area and the trees thin out giving you a great view of the mountains ahead and the lakes and valleys below.

When we reached the sub-alpine the peaks were all in the clouds and we were a bit disappointed that we had hiked all that way to potentially not get any view from the summit once we got there. But lucky for us as we continued to hike the clouds quickly lifted and disappeared all together giving us blue-bird skies and amazing views!

At 1o km you are in the alpine and hiking up the scree that covers the flanks of Frosty Mountain. There are however great trails laid out thru the scree making progress quite simple and enjoyable. The hike gets fairly steep at this point as you are gaining the ridge of the mountain. At 11km you reach a sign marking the intersection of the Windy Joe trail and the Frosty Mountain Trail.

We turned right at this point and followed the ridge all the way to the summit of Frosty Mountain. The ridge looks intimidating from the sign but in reality it has minimal exposure and is an easy 20 - 30 min walk to the summit on a well-used trail.

The Summit of Frosty Mountain is amazing! If you do the hike be sure to have time in your day to relax at the top. The views of the mountains surrounding you and the lakes and valleys way below are stunning. There is also an area surrounded by rock walls that makes a nice little spot to have lunch protected from any wind. We spent about 45 min at the top having a snack, taking photos and enjoying the scenery. It took us 4 hours to reach the summit (including our break at the Frosty Camp and a few photo stops)

After our break at the top we made a b-line for the car with no further breaks. We hiked back along the ridge to the trail sign/junction and headed down the Windy Joe Trail to complete a full loop hike. The second half of the hike back to car is approximately 13 km from this sign.
The first 3km of the Windy Joe trail switch back thru the alpine along the flanks of Frosty Mountain and meander through some sub-alpine meadows; always heading steadily downhill.

After that the forest starts to thicken and you are back into the trees. At the around 9km (?) marker (measure from the trail head at the bottom) you reach an area where a forest fire has killed all the trees; it is quite a site as you hike through all the stark white snags surrounding you.

Once you pass this area the trail is fairly unexciting; basically a 10km slog through the trees to get back to the car. In this section of trail you mostly head steadily down hill with a few small sections of slight uphill and flat meadows. At 19km (8km after the trail intersection) you reach another intersection. DO NOT head right toward the camp, instead head left and this will take you to a logging road which switchbacks down the mountain towards the Windy Joe trail head. After about 4km along the road you reach a trail on your left marked "Pacific Crest Trail"; follow this trail for about 2-3km through a marsh and over some boardwalks where it will spit you out at the trail head and your waiting vehicle down the road to the left. Once we got here we were very happy that we had dropped a car and didn't have to make the 4 km slog up the road back to lightning lakes.

If you only had one car you could potentially hike back to the lightning lakes trail head along the "Little Muddy Trail" that parallels the road if you were so inclined, but like I mentioned before, I would just hike to the summit of Frosty Mountain from the Lightning Lake Trail head and then go back down the same way went up instead of doing the loop. The top half of the Windy Joe trail is nice, but the 10km slog thru the trees at the end leaves something to be desired. You wouldn't miss much by hiking the Frosty Mountain trail both ways.

We ended up getting back to our camp site at about 6:30pm where we had some snacks, dinner and a well deserved beer. Just as we were cleaning up from dinner it started to rain. We fully lucked out with the good weather window for the day! We all spent the rest of the evening hiding from the rain in Steve and BJ's Boler playing an exciting game of "Settlers of Catan". The next morning it was still raining so we quickly packed up camp and enjoyed a warm breakfast at the Manning Park Lodge before parting ways for our journeys home.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Blackcomb Buttress:Take 4; Success at Last!

Route Overview
(Yellow = Approach, Red = Route, Green = Descent)

After being chased off the mountain last weekend by the snow we decided to head back this weekend to give it one last shot for the season. This time our friend Gary 'Alpine Yoda" Shorthouse joined us to offer some guidance and teach some proper short roping techniques.

To make a long story short, we lucked out with the weather and with the help of Gary we moved with a little more speed and confidence on this outing and we made it to the summit! it was a great feeling of accomplishment to finally summit Blackcomb Peak after 2 seasons of trying. The views from the top are spectacular with all the glaciers, lakes and peaks in the backcountry behind the Whistler/Blackcomb resort and the peaks of Garibaldi park such as black tusk to the south.

The descent from the route is quite straightforward, which was a nice change from most routes. We just scree bashed straight down the DOA couloir to Blackcomb Lake and then back to the gondolas along the nice, groomed trails. We even made it back to the gondolas in time to catch a ride down the mountain! All in all, a great alpine climb and great day all around.

Here's a trip report written by Mike:

Blackcomb Peak via Blackcomb Buttress
2436m PD Low-5th

We caught the first chairlift up at 0945. We had found through past experience that taking the Wizard Chair along with the Solar Coaster is about 20 minutes faster than going up the Whistler Gondola and Peak to Peak. This is critical because the last ride down from the Blackcomb side is at 1715 and if you miss this you have to hike down the mountain. From the Rendezvous we made our way up the access road toward 7th Heaven past the snowmaking reservoir. After passing under the 7th Heaven chairlift start contouring toward Blackcomb Peak and make your way onto ledges and continue through these until you reach the base of the route. It took us 2 ¼ hours to arrive at the base of the route. The route follows a series of 4th class steps to generous ledges. The route curves left and then back right to gain the main ridge. There is no sustained difficulties and only a couple possible spots were 5th class moves are encountered. At no point on this route did we place any gear and many a terrain belay were used for bringing up the second. We arrived at the Summit at 1500. For the descent we made our way down DOA couloir, along the trails and were back at the lift by 1630.

Click Here for Complete Photo Album
(All Pics taken by Gary Shorthouse)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Blackcomb Buttress: Our Unicorn!

Last Weekend Mike and I got up bright and early on Sunday morning to head out to Whistler to go for our third attempt to climb the Blackcomb Buttress, a PD, low-5th climbing route to the 8000ft summit of Blackcomb Peak.

A little bit of history: As mentioned above this is the third attempt we've made at climbing Blackcomb Buttress. In theory it shouldn't be too difficult of a route to climb, however the weather never seems to co-operate for us. We made our first attempt on the July long weekend last year (2009) and after spending $40 for a chairlift ride up we hiked to the base of the talus fields and discovered that there was still way too much snow on the route to climb it safely. We spent the day practicing anchor building in the talus field and hiking at Whistler. We went back later that year in August when we were sure that the snow would be gone and we thought we were well prepared. This time we brought a tent and overnight gear and camped out beside Blackcomb lake, right below the buttress in hopes of having an early start and a good weather window in the morning. We went to bed under beautifully clear skies and woke up at 5am to a socked in and mega cloudy day making the decision to go back to sleep for a few hours and then have leisurely hike back to the chairlifts to head home an easy, but disappointing choice to make.

A few pics from our attempt/camp in August 2009:

And that brings us to Sunday's attempt (Take 3). After experiencing how quick it was to hike from the chairlifts to the base of the route at Blackcomb Lake the year before (about 45 min on sidewalk-like trails) we decided to try to climb the peak in one day. According to the ascent times listed in the guide book it should be possible to take the first chairlift up in the morning, climb the mountain and be done in time to catch the last chair lift down that same night. This is, however, a tight window. The first chair up isn't until 10am and the last chair down is at 5pm; the climb is estimated to take 6 hours round trip. This doesn't leave a lot of spare time, however, if you do miss the last chair all it means is a looooong hike down Blackcomb mountain, which sucks, but isn't the end of the world. The downside to doing the route in one day using the chairlifts is that you can not get an early start and weather in the moutnains tends to be better (and safer) early in the morning.

We left North Van at 6:30am on Sunday morning and after a quick breakfast at Timmy's we were on our way to Whistler. We had an uneventful drive along the sea to sky and arrived in Whistler shortly after 8am. Along the way we noticed the weather was deteriorating the further North we went but the forecast had promised no rain until that evening so we thought we'd go for it, even with the dark clouds looming in the distance. We bought our lift tickets, harassed the lifties to let us up the mountain early (to no avail) and grabbed a coffee while we waited for the lifts to officially open. The lifties let us board the chairs at 9:45, 15 min earlier than expected. Every minute counts on this climb so we were happy. The last two times we've been up to Blackcomb Buttress we have taken the Whislter Gondola followed by the Peak to Peak over to Blackcomb. This time however we took the Wizard and Solar Coaster chairs to the top, which turned out to be about 20min faster. We were at the top of the lifts by 10:15 and at Blackcomb Lake (the base of the Buttress) by 10:50am.

Marmot beside Blackcomb Lake

We took a minute here to do some route planning and then we were off and heading up the scree slope to the base of the Bu tress. The scree slope was fairly easy hiking that alternated between loose scree, big rocks and grass/dirt trails. It was steep but not too technical so we could make good time on the approach. It took us about an hour to hike/climb up the approach and reach the start of the 3rd/4th class scrambling. At this point the route quickly went from a reasonably easy hike to fairly technical scrambling. Not having much experience with scrambling or unroped climbing I was a bit uncomfortable ascending this bottom portion of the route as it quickly steepened, which slowed us down a bit. We scrambled over the first few steps unroped and then we harnessed up and short roped the next step.

Approach to the Buttress

At the Base of the Buttress

At this point we were traversing to climbers left to gain the easier rib up the Buttress. We came to a step that was quite steep (almost vertical) where we stopped to reassess. We spent a few minutes deciding if we should rope up and simu-climb this step and this is when the snow started. It was only snowing lightly but the dark clouds in the distance made us decide that we should probably cut our losses before we got into anything too technical. So, once again we turned back and retreated off of Blackcomb Buttress (for the Third time!), officially making it seem incredibly elusive to us, i.e. our Unicorn!

Black Tusk and Bad Weather

We took our time and enjoyed the hike back to the chair lifts and the ride down to the village where we took a stroll through the Whistler Farmer's Market followed by a great dinner of beer and Nachos in Squamish.

Bad weather and Blackcomb Lake

Retreating; Blackcomb Lake in distance

Photo Album: