Friday, July 29, 2011

A Date With Pulpit Rock

Pulpit Rock is an incredibly popular hike on the north side of the West Arm of Kootenay Lake.  It is a 330 metre hike on a well maintained trail to the lookout spot - called Pulpit Rock (where most people stop) - and a further 800 metres of gain to the top of Mount Nelson (locally known as Elephant Mountain).  

In 2008, local ACMG mountain guide, David Lussier and Myranda Terlingen established a three pitch sport climb on the south facing cliffs that make up Pulpit Rock, and called their new climb, The Date.  

Doug and I climb The Date every year and every year it is as much fun as the year before.  The rock is well cleaned and solid, the belays are comfy, the bolts are well spaced and the climbing is fun.  Add to that the excellent access trail, the pleasant view from Pulpit Rock itself, and the easy walk off, and making a date with The Date on Pulpit Rock is just a no brainer. 

Looking down on Nelson from the top of The Date on Pulpit Rock

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Spring Mountain Spanking

Doug and I spent four days at Spring Mountain in northeastern Oregon. This is a little climbing area with lots of character. The climbing is on a 0.75 km long 30 metre high andesite cliff. The western end tends to be a bit mossy and scruffy, but the climbs clean up as you move east and there are some real gems to be found.

Camping is free along the Whitman Overlook Road, and we had a lovely campsite in a meadow with a couple of pools (not drinking water) nearby. Sunsets were spectacular. Each day we walked to the crag and climbed until my ankle swelled up (yep, those torn ligaments sure take time to heal) and became too sore to climb on.

If you go, take bug dope, a full rack for the trad routes - although there are plenty of sport routes - and be prepared for some variation in grades. Our favorite routes were Rally Race, Pod of God, Oot and Aboot, Deep Impact, Spring Fever and Etched in Stone. Sandbag award is tied between Chunky Mother and Fab Slab. 

An online guide is available here.

Just another Spring Mountain sunset

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Playing Tourist in the Slocan Valley

Options for getting out in the West Kootenays are usually limitless, but with my bungled ankle, and Doug's bungled wrist, our choices are somewhat limited. I can only climb about 6 pitches before my foot swells way up and begins throbbing, and I can't do any mountain climbing at all. While Doug can climb mountains and routes that don't require too much pulling with his left hand.

On Tuesday, we decided to play tourist in the Slocan Valley. We stuffed our mountain bikes (a term used only loosely especially for my bike) into the back of the truck and drove down to Playmore Junction. There we took the Slocan Valley bus ($3 each) up to Slocan City after first installing our bikes onto the bike rack on the front of the bus. At Slocan City - which, despite what the name may suggest is a very small village - we rode over to Slocan Bluffs and climbed a few routes. There are a bunch of 30 metre sport routes on the main wall, you need only a 60 metre rope and a dozen quickdraws.

Climbing done, we cycled over to the beach and the start (or end depending on how you look at it) of the Slocan Valley Rail Trail. After having lunch in a spacious pagoda, we cycled the rail-grade back to Playmore Junction. An excellent trip well within the limits of a couple of cripples. 

 The well groomed Slocan Valley Rail Trail

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Targeted Training

Now that I'm on the wrong side of 40, I find it even more important to train hard and smart, not just hard. Hard means doing compound exercises until you feel like you just can't pump out one more rep - but you do. There are lots of hard work-out sites on the net, two of my favorites are Mountain Athlete and Crossfit. Smart means training your weaknesses. In the summer, I spend most of my time climbing so that means working front levers, ankles to bar, and pull-ups.

Targeted training is tough, 'cos you get tired, you get sore, and you are always working something you are not that strong in. But, when I compare the people I know who train smart and hard, to the people who train half-assed, there is a huge difference in performance. And it ain't the dumb trainers who are kicking arse.

Today, I wasn't kicking any arse, but I was happy to get back out climbing 10 days after my ankle injury. We climbed easy routes and I gotta admit, weighting that one foot was tough, but, just being outside and moving over rock was awesome.

 On a 5.7 at the 'line

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Early Morning Ymir Bowl

I went out early this morning to test my ankle out on some mountain terrain - I chose a line up Ymir Bowl that was almost all snow and had hopes of reaching the notch/col on the north ridge between the summit of Ymir and the bump locally known as Half Dome.  The sun was already peaking out up there and I knew it would be great to get up to 2300 metres and enjoy the sun and views of the surrounding mountains. 

But, I was slow, and, after 800 feet  my foot began to ache.  With some reluctance, I turned around and carefully kicked steps down.  The snow was actually in awesome condition for glissading, but that seemed kinda dumb, even to me.

Early morning in Ymir Bowl

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Out and About

One day (yesterday, in fact), the swelling in my ankle just went down.  I got up in the morning and it was way less swollen.  I could get my shoe on, I threw away (returned actually) the crutches and went upstairs and started doing a WOD.  

Today, I went out for a walk on the BNR rail-trail through Nelson.  Well, sort of.  Turns out, once I started walking toward Salmo from the CIC parking area, I found a logging road going uphill and walked up that instead - the idea of getting even a little cardio work-out on an uphill road instantly became more appealing than strolling along the flat rail-trail.  

Once I got home, no great damage done, I tried climbing on the indoor wall in our house.  Less painful than walking on a logging road. 

Tomorrow I'll try an early morning snow climb up at Ymir Mountain.  The next day, all being well, I'll be back slapping the stone. 

Old Trestle Bridge on the BNR Rail Trail

Monday, July 4, 2011


The Summer Mountain Leadership Course I was organizing ran this past July long weekend and, after all the effort, was a terrific success. Our instructor for the course was Shaun King, ACMG/UIAGM Mountain Guide. Trite but true, I can't say enough good things about Shaun. He is an incredible instructor, both in the classroom and in the field. Of course, he knows just about everything there is to know about mountain travel and is also able to communicate all that knowledge in a entertaining and inspiring way.

The only thing I regret about the course is that owing to my buggered ankle, I could not attend the field day. 

 Club trip up Mount Freya

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Importance of Debriefing

I'm organizing a Summer Mountain Leadership Course for our local outdoor club that will be instructed by an ACMG guide. Last night, we were discussing the course and what key topics to cover and Shaun asked me if our club ever had "debriefs" after trips. Unfortunately, I had to answer no to that question.

Debriefs have been defined in various ways by various organizations, but the core essence of a debrief is questioning what went on during a certain activity with the aim of improving safety, efficiency or some other goal. Obviously, for a debrief to be effective, you must identify either something that went wrong and/or something you could improve upon. A debrief where everything comes out looking good is no debrief at all.

The difficulty of debriefing is that our memories and our egos do not necessarily report accurately on how events transpired. Humans are notorious for rewriting events so that they come out with an error free performance. Or, if not totally error free, at a minimum not guilty of actually contributing to the error.

My take on debriefs is that they can be powerful tools for improving our performance, efficiency and safety but only to the extent that we honestly apprise what really happened.

I have a formal debrief coming up this Sunday night as our Search and Rescue team was recently in the unenviable position of experiencing a fatality of one of our team members during a recent rescue. This will be an extremely difficult debrief for all involved. 

Relaxing after a long call-out with my local SAR team