Thursday, February 12, 2009

More Pics from Battle Abbey

These were taken by photographer, web designer and custodian extraordinaire Jeff Glynn. Check him out at And by the way, if you are interested in checking out these slopes for yourself, go to

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The 7 week itch

I am in the middle of my 7th straight week of ski touring. It’s been an eventful stint… crazy new years eve costume parties, record breaking avalanches, several mega-classic ski tours ticked at Roger’s Pass, the successful completion of the final ACMG ski guide training before the exam in the spring and the best kitchen dance party ever at Battle Abbey, a spectacular ski touring lodge in the eastern Selkirks. This week I am back at Valhalla Mountain Touring, hoping my quads will see me through and that the 7 week itch won’t affect my relationship to ski touring the way the 7 year itch spoils marriages.

To prepare for my ski guide training, I met with fellow guide candidates Erika and James, as well as Erika’s husband Scott at Roger’s Pass. Great visibility and growing confidence in the snow stability meant that in four days we managed to do several really beautiful and classic ski tours including the Young’s Traverse, the Tupper Traverse and a trip from the Asulkan Valley into Loop Brook via Dome Notch. Here are a few photos from our adventures:

Heading up onto the toe of the Illecillewaet Glacier

James on the Summit of Young's Peak

Erika heads up the Dome Ridge

Next came my ACMG ski guide training. Didn't get the camera out much during that week, was too busy digging out corners with my ski poles to attain the perfect flowing uptrack, wandering out onto great, wide, white glaciers during dizzying whiteouts with only a compass bearing to guide me (GPS's are apparently to add weight and bulk to your pack), and trying to perfect my guide's downhill skiing technique (you must be technically superior, yet never let yourself have too much fun lest your focus stray from the safety of your guests). Mostly managed to have a good time; the bottle of wine my gal pal Erika and I consumed during the evening guide's meetings helped matters greatly. 45 minute long debates over whether stability below treeline should be rated as good with areas of fair or fair with areas of good are far more entertaining when you've got a good buzz on. The good news is they are letting me take the exam in the spring, which means the only thing between me and being a certified ski guide is passing an exam that roughly 50% of candidates fail. Sweet.

Soft slabs on surface hoar in the Loop Brook Valley

ACMG examiner Marc Piche gives Erika some feedback

The morning after the guide training ended, I beetled down the hill into Golden to hop on a helicopter to Battle Abbey for a practicum (basically I tag along with the two guides Felix and Robson... they show me their finely honed guide craft and maybe let me hack in an uptrack or two). After waiting a day to fly in due to bad weather I finally arrived at the Abbey, a lodge steeped in the history of ski touring. Surrounded by granite spires, steep valley walls and tumbling glaciers, Battle Abbey is nothing short of spectacular. After two short days of reveling in the easy routine of a practicum student, a family emergency meant that the cook had to fly out and I had to take her place. Luckily for me, I have done a fair bit of lodge cooking in the past, otherwise it might have been a pretty stressful week. However, the great help I received from the guides and the custodian (they basically made sure I had enough scotch so that I didn't care whether the meal was great or merely edible) made the week go smoothly. I even managed to ski a fair bit, and checked out some of the really amazing terrain Battle Abbey has to offer. The guests were great sports, they didn't seem to mind too much that their cook was suddenly trying to ski as much as them, rather than stay home and make fondue and ganache and such things. We closed the week with a bang; big dance party in the kitchen lit by strobing headlamps strategically placed behind full juice jugs for that in dah club vibe. It was the best party I've been to in awhile; I wasn't in bed until 3AM! I guess that shows how mellow my life is most of the time, I have to go way out in the mountains to find a party worth staying up late for.

Robson climbing through burnt forest

Battle Abbey

Jeff cleans the green room underneath Mt. Butters

Standing on King's Landing with Mt. Moby Dick behind my head

Ashley leads the troups up through the burnt forest

Now I am back at home at Valhalla Mountain Touring. My liver has stopped aching and a few solid nights of sleep followed by some dreamy powder skiing has set me right. Next week I am off to the rockies for some kicking and scratching... that should be good for a laugh.