Less than two weeks ago, Markus found himself in need of a cook with strong backcountry skiing abilities and the ability to cook for a group of 20 day-in and day-out, and who could leave the country and be out of cell and email range for a week on almost no notice. Miraculously, I was able to get out of work and other obligations last-minute and head to Canada. Unfortunately, the late booking meant I had to fly from Denver to Vancouver, spend the night, and fly to Calgary in the morning before shuttling out to Golden, B.C. Even worse, the Vancouver airport seems designed to discourage overnight stays, and this was where I settled in for the evening.
After a very long travel day (including overloaded minivans, rockslide-induced highway delays, and a very slow dinner) we finally got to Golden, I caught a few hours of sleep, then it was time to pack up from the hotel.
Two months ago, today, Hans, Tracy, Markus, Lauren, and myself all gathered in Argentiere, just a short bus ride up the valley from Chamonix near the base of the Grand Montet ski area. Our goal: ski the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt, by way of Verbier. It’s a trip we’ve all been thinking about for a long time, and this April it finally became a reality. All said and done, we spent a week in the alps, covering 42 miles and 20-something thousand feet of elevation gain. We came out with several hundred great photos; fortunately, Google just came out with a slick automatic story creator, which put this together:
April 2015 Haute Route
Two weeks ago at this time, I was in Ogden, UT getting ready for the XTERRA (off-road triathlon) national championship race, an invitation-only affair with standings driven by a point series that I raced in from April through August. Seventh in the region in my age group was enough to get me a spot, so two weeks ago Lauren and I hit the road for Ogden. The wildfires all across the west made for a very orange sunset.
Last season was my first season dabbling in triathlon. I did four races – a full IM, an XTERRA, a half IM, and a sprint. I enjoyed the XTERRA far more than the rest, and did much better in it than the rest to boot – second place in my (less than competitive) age group – and decided that off road tris would be my focus for this season. A few months ago, I learned that the southeast regional championship, held in Pelham, AL each year, would also be an ITU world championship race, and that I’d be racing for Team USA should be accepted. I jumped at the opportunity, and received my acceptance letter a few days after applying. A few months of good training went by, and following a very long drive, Lauren and I found ourselves at Oak Mountain State Park.
A week ago Thursday I got an early start for Idaho. It was a 4:30am wake-up call followed by a quick breakfast, grabbing last minute items, and heading for the door. Scout and I were headed for Coeur d’Alene for a long weekend of car camping and exhaustion.
This trip was a long time coming. Though discussions started last autumn, things were cemented on this fateful night when Hans convinced me to join him (Lauren assisted) on a 12-day mountaineering course with AMS. Six months (and a plane ride, and 6 hours in the Ted Stevens International Airport and a 3-hour shuttle) later, we were dropped off at the Talkeetna Hostel, where we would be spending a night before flying out to the Pika glacier.
After dropping off our stuff, Hans and I struck out to check out the town (he’d been here before, I hadn’t).
…in some ways. When we arrived at Longmire to get our climbing permits, we were handed a hot-off-the-presses avalanche bulletin. The storm that looked like it would be relatively mild came with several feet of snow and 55+mph winds that were loading our routes so badly that it would have been suicide to attempt a climb. Within minutes we knew we were finished, but still tried to figure out a safe ascent route for half an hour before accepting the fact that we had no choice but to turn around and go home after 23 hours of driving and a few more hours sleeping in the truck. The start of the way back was quite a downer, as we drove through torrential rains for hours, but eventually the mood lightened and some great conversation was had. I also got some decent photos that I’m still going through on the long drive.
We’re going to shoot again for July, when the weather should be better. On top of that, we’re planning on Fuhrer Finger, a line I’ve dreamed of doing for a while now. Steve’s friend Darrel was attempting Liberty Ridge, a far more dangerous and committing line than we were. We were concerned for him, but the word came today that he bailed after finding a dangerous lack of bonding, so all is well. Next time…
The final preparations have been made. The car is packed, I said goodbye to Scout for the week, and the weather is getting ready to clear. After years of dreaming and months of planning, it’s finally time to go. A 1,300 mile drive followed by less than 10 miles on foot accompanied by 10,000′ of climbing and we’ll be there. The schedule:
-Tonight, head to Steve’s for dinner, tie a few prussiks, load up the truck, and catch a few hours of sleep.
-About 4am tomorrow, hit the road. This will put us at Longmire a few hours before sunrise so we can rest and get ready to climb on Wednesday.
-We’ll hit Muir on Wednesday.
-Thursday we’ll take it easy, and wait for the weather to clear out.
-If all goes well, Friday is summit day.
I’ll be updating here and twitter from my phone as time, signal, and practicality allow.