Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bishop pics

These are a wee bit outdated now, but good climbs, great friends and fun in the sun never grow old, eh? Awww shucks....

Evan celebrating life on the road... or showing off his huge ape index

Evan shadow dancing on a chilly day at Little Egypt

Craig 'Captain Fantastic' McGee onsighting Espresso in some finger-numbing conditions

Me flailing around on the steep and fun 'Enterprise' in the Owen's River Gorge

Evan warming up in the Crab Cooker while Benny looks on

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Yosemite Yoyo

One amazing thing about the fall road trip is that you can visit the same locations many times over, and each time have a new experience. Lately I have really been digging checking out brand new climbing zones like Greenland, France and Greece. Unfortunately, it's really inconvenient to travel on airplanes with an extremely loving and outrageously cute but rather disobedient 80 lb dog. It is for this reason that Evan and I spend our fall off-season vacation in climbing areas that we can drive to in our truck, tiny camper and big black fur ball Benny.

How could I possibly expect to leave this guy at home?

This year we decided to start in Yosemite. I have had so many memorable experiences in Yosemite, things that stand out clearly as milestones in my life as a climber. We counted it up and Evan has been to Yosemite on 10 separate trips and I have been there 8 times. My first time to Yosemite in May of 2001 I drove all night from Smith Rocks with my buddy Hatha in my '89 Chevy Corsica. We had climbed Monkey Face that day, then got in the car and drove non-stop through the night snacking on chips and milkshakes. We rolled into the Valley in the early morning, and I still remember the awe I felt as El Cap popped into view. We went to climb Nutcracker but parked in the wrong spot. Our attempt to bushwhack over to Manure Pile Buttress was abruptly aborted when I very very very nearly stepped on a huge rattlesnake in some boulders, scaring me to tears. When we finally found the trail and found the climb, there were four parties waiting so we moved on. The Kor-Beck on Middle Cathedral looked like a decent option so we began up it, but I got off route and took a 15 foot whipper on the smallest size of Rock Empire cam (I didn't have much cash and could get a good deal on these through the climbing gym I worked at in Vancouver). Luckily the piece held, but my psych to continue up the route did not so we rapped off a single nut.... another first for 20 year old Jasmin! Later on in the same trip I climbed Snake Dike on Half Dome with a different partner, but had caught a stomach bug in Camp 4 (hard to believe, I know) and had to run to the bushes to shit 7 times on the hike to the base.

I'd like to say that my subsequent 7 visits to the Valley were less dramatic in nature, but they were anything but. When I climbed the Nose, I not only had fresh human shit fall on me and splatter all over my helmet, the next day I also mis-aligned my Freshette/shenis and peed down my leg and had to spend the next 48 hours as Pissy-Pants-Caton. When I climbed the Regular North-West Face of Half Dome, my partner Larry and I foolishly decided to leave our regular shoes at the base of the route, meaning we had to hike down 2000' of slabs, steep gravel and snow in our rock shoes, then it got dark and we couldn't find the direct route to the valley bottom, so we hiked over 13 kms on the hiker's descent. When I climbed Zodiac with my friend Amelia we caught up to a female soloist on our second day who had contracted a bad flu and needed to descend from super-overhanging terrain two-thirds of the way up. We spent an entire day helping her, her haul bag and our haul bag to the ground, with YOSAR employees shouting helpful hints on the bullhorn from the meadow. When I attempted the Salathe with Amelia, I took off my helmet for a few minutes while hauling in the blistering sun on Heart Ledge. A 0.75 Camalot dropped from the top of El Cap and hit me right in the middle of the forehead. I will never forget the sickening THWACK sound the cam made when it struck me. Blood poured into my eyes and I thought for sure I was really messed up. Two minutes later, I realized I was OK and only had a tiny cut on my hairline, but the realization that it had been the difference of a cm kept me awake all night and combined with other factors had us bailing off the route the next day.

Don't get me wrong, some of my favorite road trip memories were made in Yosemite: Evan and I climbed Serenity-Sons of Yesterday on our first date, climbing the Rostrum for the first time with Amelia and taking repeated whippers on the offwidth pitch, climbing Astroman with Scott and the elation of wriggling my way to the top of the Harding Slot, climbing amazing finger cracks at the Cookie Cliff, napping in El Cap meadow, drinking beer and socializing in Camp 4, washing up in the Mountain Room bathrooms, cruising around on a bike someone gave me in the Camp 4 line up and eating Its-its after scarfing pizza with a rowdy table full of dirtbags on the pizza deck.

Nostalgia aside, Yosemite definitely always has something intense to offer. This trip to Yosemite was a bit different in that we avoided Camp 4 altogether in favour of a campground in El Portal where we could sleep in our camper and avoid the ranger, campsite, national park hassles. We did some amazing climbs and had no shortage of adventures, elation and intense effort. Rather than give the whole run down, I will let a few photos share the stories.

Following one of the burly 5.10 pitches on The Crucifix IV 5.12a, Higher Cathedral Rock

Following Evan up the 12b Alien finish on The Rostrum

The first of the free-variation pitches on Half Dome's Regular NW Face

"Chim-chimeny, chim-chimeny, chim chim cheroo, I don't like chimneys 'cause they make my knees blue"

Evan on the glory pitch in the glory light before our bivy on Big Sandy Ledge, Half Dome. It is a good thing that we are married, because I am not even kidding, the only good sleep I got during that bivy was when he let me lay on top of him. The rest of the night I was shivering.

A video Evan made of the last light as seen from Big Sandy Ledge, Half Dome

Leading the first zig-zag in frigid morning conditions, Half Dome

Following the final crux pitch on Half Dome, a 11+/12- slab

Evan and I on the summit of Half Dome Not a bad adventure for a boring old married couple!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fall splendour

Fall is by far my favorite season. I love the crisp breezes, the shortening days, the incredible clarity of the air when it is not hazed by humidity and smog. Fall makes me feel like cooking amazing food - colourful salads full of local harvest bounty, hearty soups chock full of root vegetables and seasoned with fresh herbs. There is nowhere better to indulge my fall cravings than at my childhood home in Hills, so when guiding work wrapped up in Squamish, Hills was the first stop on my fall road trip which will eventually take me to Yosemite, Bishop, Red Rocks, Zion and likely some other stops too.

I spent some quality time catching up with my Mum, sis and Dad and some necessary work time getting Valhalla Mountain Touring all ready for the winter ski season.

The unveiling of the new (heavy!) Wolf stove for the lodge

Fall colours over Fish Lake, near Retallack

Spectacular weather for a hike up Mt. Brennan with my Mum and our pack of hounds

Pretty views from the summit of Mt. Brennan towards Whitewater Peak

Big smiles, bright jackets and white sunglasses is the dress code for the day on Mt. Brennan

Bootskiing on the descent

Monday, September 6, 2010

BC Staycation

One of the great things about going away on a trip to Greenland was that I came home with renewed psyche and admiration for my life of work and play in Squamish. I have had so many local mini-adventures since I arrived home: trips to the farmers market, swims in the river, amazing mountain bike rides, many climbs up the Chief, a dance party 'till dawn and a mini climbing road trip with my best bud Mandoline. I can hardly believe I have been home less than a month!

I guided my friend Dave on his first climb to the top of the Chief via Rock On and the Squamish Butt-Face. He liked the experience so much we did The Ultimate Everything two days later!

Dave enjoying his first time up the Chief

Dave getting into this gem of a handcrack on The Ultimate Everything

Although Mandoline and I can't make our schedules match up as much as we would like, we make up for it by having a lot of fun when we manage to get out climbing together. We ventured out on a two-day mini road trip to the limestone adventure-chossaneering mecca of Marble Canyon and the soaring granite slab-dome of Yak Peak.

Me weaving through the choss on Yellow Brick Road, Marble Canyon, BC

If only the rock could be as good as the scenery

At least our ropes got stuck on the rappel and I got to tune up my prussiking skills

Yak Peak - slabby from top to bottom

Mandoline on Yak Check, happy to be back on the granite

Yup, pretty slabby

Mandoline channeling the lightness of a butterfly, landing on the death flake for but a mere second

If only our yoga could be as coordinated as our outfits

Yesterday I was guiding the Squamish Buttress and was able to spectate Evan Stevens and Jeremy Blumel on Colin Moorhead, Tony Richardson and Jason Kruk's new route on the Prow Wall - Gravity Bong IV 5.12d. Looks like an amazing and high quality line, I can't wait to try it!

Jeremy belays Evan on the 12a third pitch of Gravity Bong

Evan climbing the 12a fifth pitch of Gravity Bong

Evan shaking out on the 12a fifth pitch of Gravity Bong

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Foraging 101: What not to eat in the Tasermiut Fjord, Greenland

If I could pass on the most important thing I learned from my climbing trip to the Tasermiut Fjord in Greenland, it would be this: don't eat foraged foods unless you are absolutely sure they won't make you barf. I thought I knew this already, but I guess when you turn 30 you have to re-learn lessons you learned in previous decades of your life. It's like the lessons have an expiry date, kind of like when you forget how bad a hangover feels so you have a few cocktails too many only to swear off drinking for the rest of your life when you spend the next day feeling like crusty Squamish slug scum.

It was all the weather's fault. My climbing partner Kate Rutherford and I hadn't climbed anything in over 10 days because of drizzly and unsettled conditions that had kept the huge, steep granite faces of the Tasermiut Fjord seeping and damp. Two days prior, conditions improved and we got all ready to head up the British Route (VI 5.12+ 600m/19 pitches) on Nalumasortoq for a second time, with hopes of redpointing the two 5.12 pitches we were unable to onsight on our first go up the route. We hiked to the base and bivied, waking the next morning to find the face still soaking wet with a thick fog preventing further drying and some pretty regular and large rockfall occurring near the base of the route. We completed the 2 hour hike back down to basecamp and shifted our objective to the quicker-drying but longer War and Poetry (VI 5.12c 1000m/31 pitches) on Ulamatorsuaq. On the same day, we repacked and hiked 2 hours up to the base of this route, hoping to begin climbing the following day, but by the time we arrived at the bivi boulder the drizzle had begun yet again. We had no choice but to stash our climbing gear and head back down to basecamp for more reading and chilling in the Megamid until conditions were right to go climbing.

I was going a little batty. I am a high energy person who generally needs a good amount of physical and mental challenge to feel satisfied. I had opted to go "coffee free" on this trip, which certainly helped to me to manage my impatience with the poor weather, but after almost two weeks of waiting I was beginning to lose the plot. The worst part was, the weather was actually not that bad for doing anything but climbing. Hiking - fine. Fishing - fine. Bouldering - fine. But the long-seeping nature of most of the climbs, combined with daily doses of drizzle and thick fog meant that full day to multi-day free climbs were not an option.

Not a bad place to spend your summer

Basecamp on the Tasermiut Fjord

Mussels for our muscles - gourmet eats in the Megamid at basecamp

It might be raining at our high camp at the base of Ulamatorsuaq, but at least we have brie

This little guy kept me company on one of my foggy hikes

So I went hiking. I hiked for a few hours up a hill behind basecamp, snapping photos of the vegetation and enjoying views of the spectacular scenery. On my way back to camp I noticed some large, brown mushrooms of the same variety that a team of Czech climbers at the same camp as us had been collecting and eating daily. A pair of Danish Peregrine Falcon researchers I got to know at a youth hostel in one of the Greenlandic villages we stopped off at on our way to the Tasermiut Fjord had also been collecting and eating the same mushrooms. Well, I am sure you can see where this is going... I picked one of the mushrooms and carried it back down to camp. Conveniently, the Czech guys were around when I got back, so I could double "Czech" that this was, indeed, the correct variety of mushroom. They confirmed that it was, and went so far as to trade a larger mushroom of the same variety for our smaller one so that we would have more for our dinner. Kate and I cooked up a pasta sauce which we thought was quite gourmet with the sauteed mushrooms, some tomato sauce, a bit of sundried tomato pesto, onions, garlic, oregano and some red wine. Bellisimo! Or not. Several hours later we were both barfing to beat the band. It was a rugged night. Really rugged. I managed to get down some breakfast and water, but after going on a short hike down the fjord puked it all up and realized that hiking solo away from basecamp in the middle of nowhere Greenland while suffering from some kind of mushroom poisoning wasn't the brightest thing I have ever done. I dragged myself back to camp where Kate and I spent the rest of the day being really pathetic and weak.

It doesn't look like this friendly Czech climber is trying to kill us, but don't be fooled

The irony is that the other two climbing teams in the area both ate the same mushrooms that night, including the one that I had picked and none of them got sick at all. Moral of the story, don't forage unless you are trying to send your steep single-pitch project and need to shave off that last few kilos.

Basically I am trying to scare you all away so that you won't find out how rad the Tasermiut Fjord is and I can have it as my own, private summer retreat with amazing granite big wall climbing, crystal clear blue ocean water, lush and flower covered meadows, super fun bouldering, wild blueberries, mussels and arctic char, oh and mushrooms. I am going back for sure.

In terms of climbing, we did the British Route (VI 5.12+ 600m 19 pitches) on Nalumasortoq over one and a half days with a light and simple semi-sitting bivi on a ledge with down jackets and a sil tarp. It's no wonder we didn't onsight the 5.12 pitches after that night of "sleep". If I could summarize the route in two words they would be HAND JAM. We did about a zillion of them. Not a single pitch was slabby, it was all vertical to slightly overhanging and mostly really good stone. The crux pitches were cool finger crack climbing with slightly licheny, flakey feet but would be very doable if they were pitch 2 and 3, a bit less so because they are pitch 16 and 17.

Nalumasortoq - The British Route

The British Route Topo, photocopied from the route library kept by the Nanortalik Tourism Service

Kate Rutherford in the golden evening light doing the 5679th and 5680th handjams on pitch 12 of The British Route, Nalumasortoq

Does this look like a bed to you? Nope me neither. Our bivi spot on "The Banana" - a sloping ledge on pitch 15 of the British Route

Sunset and moonrise over the Ulamatorsuaq massif as seen from the Banana Ledge, pitch 15 of the British Route, Nalumasortoq

Smiling after a long night on the slopey Banana Ledge on The British Route, Nalumasortoq

On the summit of The British Route, Nalumasortoq

The Greenland Gun Show, Nalumasortoq dwarfed in the background

After patiently and not-so-patiently waiting in the rain for two weeks, we climbed War and Poetry on Ulamatorsuaq (VI 5.12c 1000m 31 pitches) in marginal conditions. We soon realized that freeing a 31 pitch big wall with no haul bags and no portaledge in two days is difficult to begin with and made only more challenging when it becomes freezing cold, rainy and windy for parts of both of the two days. When we hit the half way mark and the weather went south, free climbing switched to a mix of free and french-free and second following went to second jumaring in an effort to just get to the top. It was on pitch 21 or so, as I dragged my meat through a gaping crack, leaving scabs on my shoulders, spine and knees, that I had 'the epiphany' . After poetically dancing and prancing our way up the 5.10 to 5.12 slab pitches on the first half of the route we were now waging war with steeper rough, wide, physical dihedral climbing. Ah ha! War and Poetry! The really proud thing was that the Czech team who did the route before we arrived didn't bring anything bigger than a #4 camalot. For reference: we brought a #5 and a #6 and placed them both on at least 10 of the last 15 pitches. We topped out in a rain and windstorm at around 21:30 on our second day on the route. We rapped all night, doing at least 28 raps to get to the ground in a variety of conditions that ranged from wet and windy to dry and windy to calm and pouring. The only consistent thing was the cold. I pretty much shivered the whole night except when I rapped down the wrong way off a ledge and had to jug back up. It's pretty safe to say that I have never been so trashed. My finger tips were completely raw and I was having some cool sparkly over-tired hallucinations in my peripheral vision, although maybe that was just a residual effect from the mushroom poisoning. We collapsed into our tent at the bivi boulder after feasting on ramen, herbal tea and ibuprofen. Five hours later we were ready, barely, to limp the 700 vertical meters back down base camp for a real feast and some more sleep.

War and Poetry, Ulamatorsuaq

War and Poetry Topo

Camp at the base of Ulamatorsuaq

Enjoying the sun and views down the fjord from pitch 23 of War and Poetry

The oh so splitter Bow String Crack, a 5.11d finger crack on pitch 25 of War and Poetry

Kate racing the storm to the summit on pitch 27 of War and Poetry

Despite the bad weather, it was hard to leave the Tasermiut Fjord at the end of our 20 day expedition. I could have easily spent another 10 days climbing or waiting to climb simply because the place is truly amazing. Beautiful stone, beautiful scenery and a great partner made this trip a success even if I could have done with a bit more time on the rock.

I have to admit, that it was nice to get back to the creature comforts. We stopped in Reykjavik, Iceland on our way home and treated ourselves to a spa day, complete with real beds, a trip to the Blue Lagoon natural hotspring, and cappuccinos and pastries galore.

Kate savouring the comfort of cotton sheets at our cute guesthouse in Reykjavik


The Blue Lagoon, doesn't get much better for muscles tired from climbing and travel. Did I mention you can get wine in the pool? Enough said!


Additional thanks to Patagonia, Black Diamond, Pro Bar, Sterling Rope and Five Ten for providing stuff we needed for the trip