Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Learning to Fail

With a snap of the fingers, another ten days has past since I wrote you all. Loving life I am indeed. Tomorrow is my birthday and sitting here in the Canmore coffee shop, I can't help it but reflect on lessons learned and a month in the Canadian Rockies. For myself, numerical age is as insignificant as another number, yet this year brings about a special consideration. Tomorrow, I'll be twenty-five years old, a plain jane number indeed, but it will be the start of a year of life that my cousin was never able to experience. Imagine passing so young, so inexperienced. The worst thing about premature death is that it robs the unfortunate of education that life bestows. In its wake, the living gain understanding, yes, but are also occupied with a void that can never be filled. I can't help thinking about how spectacular my last year of life has been and this past month in Canada. I greatly miss my cousin, my best friend, I often picture him here with me singing and dancing on these frozen vertical rivers. Raise your glass, to Drew, to twenty-five, and to Life! Drink it UP!

"Canmore time," as we've come to call it, definitely parallels hyper-speed and one month here is rapidly coming to an end. The mountain education I've gained this month culminated this past week on my first and second attempts at the alpine route The Andromeda Strain on Mt. Andromeda. (See photo) Supposedly with a bit of reputation here in Canmore, as a difficult climb, the Strain did not disappoint. Skylar and my first attempt had us awake at 1:30 am and making breakfast in the warmth of a nearby hostel. While preparing, the route's first ascensionist and alpine legend, Barry Blanchard walked into the kitchen, sat down with his book and claimed that, "the full moon had him unable to sleep." Classic, and what a good way to cast off. Sunrise (see photo) had us at the top of the easy climbing and debating which way to go, an ugly rotten chimney or 150 meters of traversing that avoided the chimney and arrived at the top of it. We traversed... for five hours. It was some of the scariest, unprotected, and unpredictable climbing either of us had done. Arriving at the top of the chimney, we were bloody, beaten, and frozen. Halfway up the route, battered by spindrift, and with more pitches of hard climbing, we bailed. Repelling down the chimney, it became obvious that we went the wrong way. The chimney had possible gear, security, and was much more direct.

"Another rest day and another cup of coffee," and Skylar was back in the game. This time we camped at the base of the climb. At 3:30 am we both popped a pink Caffeine pill, made tea, and jumped out of the tent. Shit! Zero visibility, six inches of snow over night, and the rumbling of nearby slopes, the decision was easy, we bailed. Lesson learned, don't take caffeine pills until checking the weather.

Alpine climbing is rad. It's like a Dairy Queen blizzard, everything sweet all blended into one, it tastes really good but at the same time it'll give you a nasty brain freeze. It's also frustrating. Of all the types of climbing, it requires the most patience, the most perfect conditions, restrained commitment, and logistical preparation. It's simplicity, is beautifully dangerous. An ascent is natures rarest gift.
This email is getting long. Tomorrow I will be twenty five, I will be in the mountains, and I will be totally infatuated in every moment. Where ever you are, I hope you can share this day with me, breathing amongst nature and celebrating life. I have no desire to leave yet the next adventure is looming. I'm leaving here March 28th and I will be in Salt Lake City until April 10th, I hope I can meet up with you and share in the sweetness!

In the now!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Rockin Ice

Hey folks-

Everything continues to be glorious up in the great white north. Snow is falling outside and my head is aching from the inside. Mostly because of the mind blowing beauty/possibility of the Canadian Rockies, but also from last nights Disposable Hero's show. Yes that's right, the 'Ultimate Metallica cover band' played here in small town Canmore and let me tell you, Canmorians know how to f*#kin ROCK! (See pics)

This last week has been quite productive, Andy (my partner for Alaska) and his friend Jared came into town. The three of us have been enjoying some totally bitchin loooonnnnggggg days in the mountains! We tried a linkup of two of Canada's biggest and most beautiful ice routes The Sorcerer (same route as last week) and Hydrophobia. It involved a long approach into the Sorcerer, topping out and then cross country over some ridge lines and descending into the Waiparous drainage where the second daunting ice climb towers, repelling and climbing Hydrophobia and then retracing back over the ridges and descending the Sorcerer. A BIG DAY. We'll we didn't succeed. At around 2p.m. we were standing at the top the Waiparous drainage looking down at the intimidating Hydrophobia, and decided we didn't want to pull the all night epic. Who knows, the climbs are in great condition and I still have two weeks in this icicle wonderland?

A few days of ice craging and mixed climbing had us ready for another big adventure so we strapped on the skis in very early morning light and headed up to the Stanley headwall for an attempt at Nemesis. The Stanley is by far the most unique treasury of formidable ice routes I've seen so far. Detached free hanging ice daggers separated by steep difficult dry tooling, and often several pitches in length! Ahhhh nature! We settled for the 'easiest' route on the Stanley and skied past Nightmare on Wolf Street, French Reality, the Suffer Machine, and Acid Howl (Holy Mother!). Nemesis was the most amazing ice route I've ever climbed. 70 meters of interesting climbing leads to a cool rocky cave followed by another 70 meters up a really steep headwall with ice mushrooms and a hanging belay, a forearm inflator for sure! (See pics)

Apologies to the non climbers for all the lingo, my hands sweat with excitement when I type these words and my hopes are to reciprocate this passionate enthusiasm for this delicate frozen world. When climbing these suspended blue slivers I can't help it but feel so fortunate to be alive, healthy, and doing. Ascending winter's paralyzed waterfalls seems confusing, 'I can't believe this is possible!,' I often remark. In the mountains and around every corner, natures sweetness perpetually awes, I gain a slight understanding of it's complexity on every Winter Dance. I realize some people's difficulties and lack of understanding with ice climbing, and while I don't fully comprehend it myself, I know that it has captivated me beyond belief. I appreciate your occasionally strained, but always perpetual support for my activities and always your love.

Two more weeks in Canada! Back in SLC for a week and then onto AK! I'll keep them coming.

Totally complete and always loving


More week 2 photo

Saturday, March 8, 2008


Hello all, one week deep in the heart of the Canadian Rockies has come to an end. Passing thoughts have crossed my mind like the partly cloudy skies we’ve had, still the experience has, so far, been crystal clear. Healthy folks living in a secluded town, smiling and exchanging stories of adventure, excitement, and mental and physical growth learned in the mountains. I’m taking my first rest day to share with you the world where I am submersed but more so, to thank you all for helping me get here. So, thanks! Much like your continuing love and support, I will try and continue with the emails, updating you about my perpetual psych and deep passion for all angles of the natural world.

Currently, I’m staying here in Canmore with my friend Skylar and his girlfriend Vanessa, both were captivated by the local beauty and have been here for the last few months. Many languages are spoken here but all speak of the magical frozen waterfalls, icy monoliths that come and go with the seasons which attract climbers just as much as they instill fear. Whatever their sport, occupants of Canmore share the same motivation, a pursuit of healthy living in a beautifully pristine mountain environment.

We climbed several ice falls this past week and all have been amazing. The Ghost Valley is particularly spectacular and Skylar, Vanessa, and myself did an amazing long climb called The Sorcerer (see photos). Anyhow, instead of boring you with what has been done, look at the photos and create stories for yourself. But do know, I am deeply in love with this lifestyle, and while being suspended two hundred meters above terra firma on a frozen river has been slightly fearsome, curiosity for uniqueness captivates my soul and I anticipate the adventure that tomorrow’s sunrise will bring.
Thanks Mom, Dad, Molly, and Brad for your loving nucleus of support. Thanks friends for your motivating lives and continuing curiosity for mine. Special thanks to Nate at LM and Connor for the gear support which helps subdue fear, increase safety, travel further and adventure deeper. I’ll try and keep them coming! Good by for now, and to quote a friend, “The time is now, pursue passion” and dream big!A psyched friend!

Please pass this around to anyone, and I look forward to hearing from you.

More week 1 photo