Friday, March 20, 2009

Mama Mia!

Because I celebrated International Woman's Day with a broken down car and mooching off my sister for rides and a place to stay in Calgary while my car was being repaired, it seemed important that I spend some quality time with some quality women in the mountains to set my feminine vibe for 2009 off on a better track. Also, being faced with the fact that my upcoming ACMG ski guide exam would be composed of exactly 11 boys and 2 girls occupying a tent camp in the Selkirks, I was craving a bit of estrogen-therapy.

My mother Lynda is an avid backcountry skier who has been at it since the days of leather ankle boots, ultra-long, ultra skinny skis, gaiters, wool shirts and pants. These days she sports her fat skis, dynafit bindings, AT boots, schoeller pants and makes it all look pretty darn easy. This winter she was working hard as a pastry chef for the heli-skiing company Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH) so she didn't get to ski tour too much, but don't feel too bad for her because she did get to experience what many of us lower-income folks only dream of; heli-skiing. It all sounds pretty glamourous really, making towering and exotic desserts and fragrant fresh breads all week, and being swooped around in a helicopter on the weekends when there aren't quite enough guests to cram the heli full. We met up in Revelstoke at the essential Modern Bakery for some brekkie and java before driving up to Roger's Pass for a weekend of powder skiing. She humoured me and let me guide her around since I was practicing for my ski guide exam. I broke some trail, read the map, and mostly tried to find us some untracked snow, which is getting more and more tricky on a high hazard, clear and sunny weekend day at Roger's Pass. We got to witness some avalanches triggered by explosives across the highway from us, and even saw some folks nearby trigger an avalanche large enough to bury a person. Exciting times in the mountains! We ran into some friends at the Glacier Park Lodge and enjoyed some beers and dinner with them before retiring to our room to do it all over again. Yes, I am really lucky to have such a cool mother!

Mum touring with Macdonald, Avalanche, Eagle, Uto, and Sir Donald keeping her company

Like mother like daughter

The next phase of my women's ski week was spent with my dear friend Kitt Redhead. Kitt is an accomplished skier and mountain woman, and an ACMG assistant ski guide who has worked for a variety of heli, cat and touring operations and has completed all sorts of huge ski adventures in Norway, Alaska, France, and of course, Canada. Kitt and I were roommates in Squamish for a few summers and got along famously, but the last few years while I was living in Salt Lake we lost track of each other a bit. Kitt's most recent HUGE adventure is motherhood, with the birth of her son Thoren four months ago. She makes the transition from guiding to motherhood look graceful and effortless, but even she craves ski touring days. After graciously putting up with me crashing at her place in Revelstoke while I prepared for my ski exam, we agreed we had to do a ski day together, so we left Thoren with his Dad and a stash of breastmilk for the day, and we boogied up to Roger's Pass. The snow was a bit heavy, but the day was fantastic all the same. We hardly even noticed time passing as we ambled up the skin track, chatting away and enjoying each other's company and just being out in the beautiful mountains and fresh air. We were fully on the same page in terms of where we felt safe to ski, and it was great to have some feedback from a woman who I know and respect who has gone through the ski guide's exam that I am about to do.

Kitt enjoying the mountains

Where the f@#% are we?

Kitt shredding the waterfall gnar

Another ski touring party at Roger's Pass (yawn)

Tomorrow the culmination of my winter begins. I am flying in to Moberly Pass, in the Adamants for my ACMG assistant ski guide exam. I am really looking forward to spending a week in what sounds like cool ski terrain with a bunch of motivated, psyched people and some ace ACMG examiners. The nerves haven't got me yet, but there's plenty of time for that, like when I am leading my group up through crevasse-riddled glaciers or down through slopes with numerous persistent weak layers lurking and waiting to avalanche me.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Little sister to the rescue

A respite of work mid-February resulted in a mini-road trip to the Rockies with Evan where we froze our fingies off trying to be ice climbers. Damn, that sport is tough when you are not used to it. I had the biggest fear paralysis while leading the ice equivalent of 5.6. We did do some beautiful routes and by the end of three days I was actually kind of digging it. I definitely have a lot of respect for all the friends I have who are can ignore the cold, the fear and the insanity of it all to become really solid, strong ice climbers.

Next phase of the winter was a week at Sorcerer Lodge where I was cooking for guide Brian Webster and his guests along with the assistant ski guides Josh and Garth as well as the hut custodian Dave. It was a spectacular week, beginning with blue skies and sun but a dearth of the prized Selkirk pow pow. Midweek brought a 60 cm dump and some spicy avalanche conditions, and by Friday we were back to sunny skies, spectacular views, and a fresh sheet of snow to wiggle our way down. The guides and guests were great help in the kitchen, meaning that I was able to ski a lot and learn about guiding by observing Brian, Josh and Garth guide the group through the sometimes complex glaciated terrain surrounding the lodge. We skied on the Nordic Glacier and bagged Escargot, swooped down Lower Wedding Bells, schralped Lee's Trees and schlaedeled the Perfect Glacier.

Heading up the Perfect Glacier

More perfection

Party on the Perfect Ridge

Perfect pow on the Perfect Glacier

Nordic Peak looking gnarly

From Sorcerer I went straight to Battle Abbey for round two of a practicum there. The first few days went as they should; great skiing, beautiful snow and fantastic food prepared by Eileen. A midweek medical emergency meant that one of the guides and the custodian had to be unexpectedly flown out. Luckily for us, there were more than a few accomplished physicians in the group of guests, and the first aid and evacuation went relatively smoothly, and I have to say, I learned a ton. The week proceeded relatively smoothly, with still more snow, some fabulous touring days to Little Ahab and Typee Peak, and great turns down runs like Steepness (AKA Sweetness) and Kitchen Envy.

Omoo Peak

Gobble gobble (Eileen makes great food)

Moby Dick from the summit of Typee Peak

Skinning up to Schooner Pass - John Goodman Photo

On the summit of Little Ahab - John Goodman photo

Luxury lunch break - John Goodman photo

Typee Peak - John Goodman photo

On Typee Peak with the Wrong Glacier in the background

After flying out of Battle Abbey I managed to see Evan for a few hours in Lake Louise before he left to guide the Wapta in ball-freezing-off conditions. This morning I was happily tootling down the Trans-Canada to visit my sister in Calgary when my trusty, dusty, rusty subaru lost power and died. My sister drove to Canmore to pick me up and it reminded me when she rescued me in Moab out of the City Market parking lot with a mountain of gear around me when my relationship with my climbing partner/boyfriend/ride from Yosemite exploded. Where would the world be without our little sisters to look after us?