Baffin ski trip and post winter ramblings

Tags: Posted on April 07, 2012

It's been a while since I've posted here mainly because life has been crazy busy, with work, family, skiing and climbing, a slideshow for the Calgary Mountain Club, writing an article for Gripped Magazine which just came out, training hard, and organizing an expedition to Baffin Island.  Currently, I'm actually bivouacking in the Ottawa airport, halfway through four flights to Baffin, where a little ski adventure will start in about 24 hours from now(more about that shortly).   So, I thought I'd take a few minutes to quickly recap the last three months.  Living in Calgary this winter has been a little different than what I'm used to after 20 years based in B.C. ski towns.  There's a lot of traffic, concrete, wealth and opulence, and no real mountains anywhere within about 100 kms.  Although I feel distant  from my tribe of mountain freaks, and somewhat ski deprived (I can't blow mornings off work anymore to shred the fresh powder), there still have been lots of quality outings, and many miles on the highway getting to and from the mountains.  I have to admit I've felt a little bit caged to say the least, but this trip should help sooth the soul, as getting back to nature typically does.  That said, the city isn't all that bad and I'm taking advantage of new opportunities to train, heal old injuries, and experience some new opportunities.  It's been a good place to organize a big trip from too...

January and February were particularly good for deep powder skiing around Kicking Horse and Rogers Pass, and I logged a reasonable amount of days where face shots were plentiful on just about every turn.  It's been an exceptional snow year!  As usual, I also gave in to the pull of the Stanley Headwall on several occasions for ice climbing adventures, and also as usual, the headwall remains incredibly inspiring, even after dozens of days there!  March on the other hand has been challenging.  Lots of extreme avalanche danger combined with bad weather on my days off have kept any big plans from getting off the ground.  I've still managed a few good sessions of ice and mixed climbing, and have dedicated a lot of time to rehabbing old injuries, training in the climbing gym, and cross training in the weight gym.  I think all of this is paying off as I'm starting to feel pretty in shape, as the balance is slowly starting to come back, and I'm psyches to continue the program for a good while.  I can hardly wait to test out its effectiveness while testing my limits in the arctic!  

Here's a few pics from the last little while:

Troy Jungen ripping some sweet powder at Rogers pass.  January and early February was a blur of flying snow!



Ian Welstead on the first pitch of Extreme Comfort, at the Stanley Headwall.  A really fun four pitch M7, WI 6!

Simon Parson climbing Exterminator, a new mixed route left of the infamous Terminator

Doing some photo work with Andrew Querner, photo: Rafal Andronowski

Andrew and his gear getting covered in ice!  

JW on Last Call, a mixed route behind Pilsner Pillar  photo: Rafal Andronowski

Another one from Last Call

My daughter Zoe at about 15 months, eating an apple, out for a winter walk in prairies


Chris brazeau near the sumit of Mt. Asgard, Baffin Island on our 2009 trip.  The couloirs, peaks and snow faces seen in the background provided the inspiration for the trip I'm currently on.  Every summit we stood on had revealed incredible ski potential.

More about the Baffin trip:
In 2009 I spent a month climbing in Auyuittuq National Park.  One of the things that really blew my partner Chris Brazeau and I away were the abundance of steep ski lines, and the potential for interesting glacier circuits to connect them all.  Looking back at the photos with topographical maps in hand, it soon became clear that this trip needed to be bumped to the top of the list.  Finally it's actually happening!  

My partners this time are Conor Hurley and Claire Seiber of Revelstoke.  The plan is to have the Inuit outfitters that we've hired, tow us 70 kms by snowmobile to Summit Lake, where we'll commence the journey by skiing a loop around Mt. Asgard, and then back south towards Pangnirtung via a circuitous network of glaciers.  The goals are to ski some of the most inspiring couloirs and peaks that we see (we have quite a few in mind already); explore some rarely seen sections of the park, to document the journey through video and photography; to survive without succumbing to injury, frostbite, or getting eaten by polar bears.    

Some of the challenges we expect to deal with include crevassed glaciers; whiteout navigation; difficult snow conditions which include everything from avalanche prone slopes to potentially icy conditions; intense wind / wind chill; arctic temperatures; melting all of our water / cooking in cold conditions; towing heavy sleds with all of our food and gear; possibilities of encountering a polar bears; preserving and recharging our camera batteries; having enough energy left over to ski tour about 100 km and hopefully have enough energy and drive ski somewhere between 6-8 epic runs!

There are so many variables and unknowns on this one, that there is no doubt, Claire, Conor and I are about to experience one of the adventures of our lifetime!

As we'll be entirely self sufficient and winter camping above the Arctic Circle, it's a very gear intensive trip.  We have lots of warm gear, extra camera batteries, dehydrated food, and hopefully everything we need to survive.  I'll write a much more detailed gear list, food and gear review, a trip report with photos, soon after I'm back, or maybe even on the way back.  

A huge thank you to all of the trips sponsors who have helped make this all possible:  Arcteryx, Scarpa, Vega, G3, MEC, and Stoke Roasted Coffee!