Mount Willingdon, Crown, and Tower – July 28th 2018

Life was feeling like it was coming together and falling apart at the same time. My family back in Alberta was preparing for my grandmother’s funeral. When the elderly in your family is on their deathbed, it seems inevitable that a funeral will come. You can never be as prepared for the future as you want to be, and that is the whole point of following the path you see. You don’t follow it blindly, it cannot be denied.

I had just returned to British Columbia after my trip up Mount Denny, and it was already time to depart again. I was still attempting to volunteer with my time, and caught up in making my life better. I had rolled into Williams Lake, showered, re-packed, and hit the road for Vancouver Island. I was so scattered across Alberta and BC that I forgot to cancel the first aid course that I was in with TRU. I had been asked to go to a wedding on the island, and an opportunity like this to share smiles with a family that means so much to me was a narrow focus. Lessons… slowing down and being prepared is not about looking ahead. This balance is one I am still striving to achieve.

The island was a great reminder of the reasons why we need to return from our trips. No different than the trip of this life, and our time-locked reality, we also go through cycles and return to a similar place that we once visited on our path. The trip passed by without me saving any memories from it. The photos I took ring a bell, but I have nothing of importance that was worth learning from.

This to me is perfection. These moments where there was no failure, there was no tragic event that caused me to hold onto a fear, there was no cycle of inition where I needed to let go of some wrong I felt. Sure, this does mean that I did not grow from the experience. Albeit, I would have done better for myself ditching the wedding and taking the course that was paid for by a 3rd party. Yet I suppose that lesson was what I took from leaving my puddle in the Fraser Plateau.

As soon as I returned from Vancouver Island, it was time to ready myself to go to my grandmother’s celebration of life in Alberta. Living with zero incoming money, and no work, is a struggle to say the least. Climbing mountains, and affording the travel for trips, is a whole different issue. So naturally, my girlfriend, my family, and my friends, knew that there would be a major trip on my way back to my hometown. I had a traverse of Mount Willingdon in my sights, and Ian Curran – the rad dude from Yamnuska Mountain Adventures whom I did AST1 with, had just ran the summit and provided the community with enough beta to know she was a go. I immediately contacted Catlin.

Catlin had invited me to lead him through the notches on the SW ridge on Cline earlier in the year. We had bonded over the experience. Yet, it had now become so much more than a bond. Over the last 6 months, Catlin had been a huge influence on my life. He had become a positive individual who lived with action, not talk, and it was always positive. After Cline, and the learning that went on there, Willingdon was in the books with him. I do not plan ahead too much with our mountains, it is about picking summits that are in good condition and have solid weather windows. Plan A through Z need to be considered in the Canadian Rockies. You do not get your first pick often.

After trying to plan trip after trip with my partner, I was ready to give the smiling man with the big heart my confidence that we would get Willingdon. The universe provides if you have zero doubt, and Catlin happened to have the week off, but needed to spend the day with his son before his next rotation. Catlin worked in a high risk environment, and had moved up enough to sit at a station during his worktime. His strech of days off were of a focus, his son. If he had any chance of spending time with his son, of which we talked of taking our kids out together in the years to come, that was priority. If he had any free time, it was in the mountains. And after sharing more than just summits together, I knew he was the man I wanted to spend such an important trip with.

It was not the objective that was important to me. Traversing Willingdon, Crown, and Tower, there and back, was easier than my solo trip to do the Fryatt Traverse with no summit. The time spent in the backcountry, in the alpine, and in my head, was the trip. I would have two days maximum to squeeze in the trip, and it just so happened that Catlin has the same two days. The universe speaks to us beyond comprehension. I knew that this trip, to move fast and light, to be safe and watch each other’s backs, and to spend a night on the shores of a huge tairn, would almost be a NAM.TAR moment. Yet, in this case, there was zero choice in the matter. A destiny moment, that felt like it was fate. And the trip provided to be just that.

The trip was intense to say the least. I left Williams Lake in the middle of the night, no sleep, and drove through the night. I met up with the dude whom I owe so much to, and we packed. We set off on our approach, and we shared smiles down the trail. The feelings between us were pure, lighthearted, and held zero worry or doubt. I do not know how well Catlin could see NAM, yet we both saw the true outcome of this trip. We would both return with an understanding of life beyond anything a typical experience could possibly provide.

We had no issues with the trail. The path forward was clear, even if the trail was faint. The ascent to Quartzite Col was full of Talus. Steven Song’s report showed that they were heavily off trail and ascended a pile of rocks that looked tiresome and lengthy. We cruised up the col by sticking to the right, and soaked in the sunny afternoon.

Our descent into the alpine valley below was a moment of awe. The smoke from the fires back home, and the view of Willingdon, stopped us in our tracks. The moment was here. We had arrived to the point of pure meditation, and we both shared this unspoken agreement. There was no more talk except the neccessary until we reached our camp and the sun was setting. Our skills were clearly different, and we saw our strengths and weaknesses reflected in each other. We would move forward as one.

The night beside Upland Lake, which is really just a tairn or giant puddle, next to the Devon Lakes was intense. There was no conversation but just an understanding until the moon began a traverse between a gap, only to be cut off when it disappeared behind Devon Mountain.

I knew at that point that this was Catlin’s last trip with me. Due to our subconscious all being of one energy, he knew as well. We talked about the energy that surrounds us, that is us, and how we need to follow the path not blindly, but embrace that which we see coming for ourselves with zero fear. The time that the moon was visable was too short. We talked about Mount Smuts again, and how I was not going to be able to make it. And how it would be his last trip. Past, present, and future became one for the two of us. The understanding that he gave off was unreal. A truly humbling moment.

I did not sleep, but meditated the 3 hours we had alloted for ourselves to rest our bodies. We arose to a beautiful and clear night. We ascended the mountain. We gained the ridge North of the col. And we were both humbled by the sight of the summit. The sun had risen, and we were into the terrain that we were after. Racing the sun and crossing the alpine ice and snow was serious, and we had dropped the jokes. Yet, the positive vibe was still there. We moved with zero doubt in our actions. It was not about blind faith, but diligence and clear observations.

A summit was gained, and Catlin allowed me to be the first to gain it. Not only that, but he had straight up waited and told me to pass him on the final steps. Catlin was content. He always was. He was willing to go home, Willingdon in the bag. There was no way I would allow that to happen. We were standing on the same block that housed another 11000er and I knew that this was time together that we needed to relish. We could make it home in the dark, and the later we waited to ascend the icy col hidden in shawdow on our way back to our vehicles, the colder it would be, and that would be all the better. The day was warm and we were both glad to be off the snow, and back on a dry rock ascent of another two peaks.

Crown and Tower were bagged with ease and we were back to the col too fast. The walk and climb over Quartzite Col was ahead of us, and there was no more talk. The understanding between us was positive, clear, and unlike anything I have experienced. We walked out on a well maintained trail in Banff National Park in pitch black, and we were both in our cars driving towards Red Deer before I knew it. The trip was done, I made a short post in the 11000ers facebook group to help others get up her, and Mark Klassen made a comment that hurt.

The gist was that we did not take our time. A 34hr push, including a 3hr nap, was not the way to enjoy the area. That was all the time we had, and the time was some of the best I have spent. Other things happened. I went for other objectives. When Catlin told me he was leaving for Mount Smuts the night before his fall, I sat down and wrote a 3600 word obituary about why we do what we do. I used it a few days later when his family asked me to make a post to the community about his passing. The hardest part was knowing. Knowing that he knew. And knowing that we both needed to let it happen, and follow the path. The unspoken view of the reality around us is the source of all anxiety, and there was none. I am still coming to terms with living my life with such a clear path ahead, and not having anxiety knowing that the harder I try to avoid it, the harder my life will be. Embracing that is which to come, living in the zone, and loving every moment of the present is what Catlin and this trip meant to me. I am ever thankful for the 34 hours I spent with him then. They will sit with me forever.

The podcast…

Watch for a new podcast, found on all your favorite platforms, apps, and even here – featuring special guests.

It has been a long time putting this together and we are stoked to have worked out all the details to ensure a successful bid.

Thanks to everyone who has helped get this off the ground – and those like David at Canadian Alpine Tools who will be featured in the first series set.

Happy Autumn everyone, and we will hear from you soon.

A response to TheDihedral.com’s ‘Why #LeaveNoTrace is pointless – Prove me wrong’.

I read TheDihedral.com’s post on #LeaveNoTrace a while ago and shared it with a partner, but it has been sitting on my mind. I grew up, out of town, in the woods, and was big into trekking over the past few years. The principles I grew up with, and the experiences I have had random camping in Canada, have lead me to take LNT to heart.

Over the years I have ended up taking out many newcomers to the hiking, and specifically the backcountry camping, world. LNT is something that I pounded into thier minds. This was 90% about safety and 10% trail preservation.

I do fully agree with all the points in your blog, and have had a few hikers with me that needed an explaination like yours. For the most part, the city folk who accompanied me would have no clue about any park etiquette and some would continue thier littering habits right onto the trail. They would need LNT constantly reminded to them, and they still would be dripping food all over there clothes, or the ground, or wherever. For these people, LNT is but an unachievable dream that they NEED to strive for in order to remain alive.

My seriousness here is that hiking or climbing from Kananaskis AB, to the Coastal Ranges in BC, involves a fair bit of dangerous wildlife. We have wolverine, bear, cougar, wolf, moose, and elk as some of the larger animal friends that could potentially cause you harm. The smaller ones can be issues as well, deer can kick your dog, and I have had issues with some larger weasels other than the wolverine.

Throwing your apple into the bushes on a mountain trail may seem like a fine idea, and I love your example, yet smaller food waste discarded from a throw will bring the smaller animals to eat it. Squirrels and rabbits will learn that food is easily found near the hiking trails, and often this food will be human food, high in sugar content (addictive). It may not seem to be a big deal having a load of cute mountain bunnies on a approach trail, but cougars eat the bunnies and you just brought their food to where the humans are.

Once one of our bears in Alberta eats human garbage, it is sentanced to death. Feeding a bear, kills a bear we say. This is because the bear learns of the easy, high carb and high sugar, food that can be found near human activity. Yes LNT helps keep our trails looking nice, and a good bivy site will ensure the alpine meadows that take hundreds of years to grow will not be damaged, but not letting your beer spill at camp will save the beer, and possibly your life.

#Leavenotrace is what the people who live the backcountry tell the newbies repetitively to break their bad habits. I did not know that there was an actual society, where one could volunteer their time to propagate. That seems ridiculous, but if that is what is needed to educate the new wave of insta-pic chasers, then I am all for it.

For me personally, LNT has just been a way to stay observant on my actions while random camping. If I cut down a dead tree for firewood, I will cut it down as close to the forest floor as possible, and burn all the cut pieces of it, so the area is ‘untouched’ for the next team on the same approach. I will ensure that I spill no food, because food is precious and it attracts unwanted attention. I will also not bring soap for dishes nor myself, as all of the water sheds I venture up lead into water sources for many of the communities here.

As human’s, we destroy and build. I think this is just fine. Trails and backcountry campgrounds are made to house us in the mountains. If I toss my apple an arms throw from a trail, it may not be a big deal, but if every new hiker to Banff National Park does that this summer, we will have serious issues. We are never going to live to the code of #LeaveNoTrace, but it needs to be talked about with anyone new to the backcountry. Sadly in our current day and age, snagging a summit selfie for your Tinder bio is far more important than doing beta, training, and actually dedicating a small portion of your care to the backcountry.

Saturday Worship

How do you know you found what you were looking for?

The start here would be knowing what you are looking for. Often we know what is missing, but only from the absence. How do we know when we found the missing piece? How do we know the piece fits, as all things in life changes.

I found something this weekend and it was not myself nor my purpose. I can’t even tell you what I found, as it is not for you. Sense of our lives can only come from within. Although we are all one, and the same, the individuality of our nature is just as present.

I may know what I know, and know I am missing a lot, but it is not for me to determine the path I choose. We must all follow the path that is set in front of us. Fighting the current only wears one out, yet failure is a large part of the learning process. Life grows back stronger after the burn.

I have found a life. I have found a home. I have found a community. Or was it given to me? I certainly did not take it, nor is it mine to posses. I am a part of it, just as we are all a part of the grid. No longer do I care to rush my life. Time is all we have, but for me it is time to smell the roses. It is time for me to learn. I have a ton to learn, and there is such a short time to get it all in, but the slower you take it, the better the lesson sticks.

Life in the fast lane moves slower than the other, but the journey will take you places, and you won’t get lost.

Community, and extension of self, from within.

Waking up to the new light is hard. Comfort is cherished in this life and nothing can change that fact. Type II fun, is still fun in my book. I know it is the Left side in us that feeds off this. As a Cancer, I get off from being wronged naturally. Shedding that ego layer was more than just a tad bit of work.

Community from within? What do I mean by this statement. If you havr ever had the chance to share a trail with me, you will immediately come to realize that my speach is full of contradictions. This is done intentionally. I am not confused. Opposites are really just extremes of the same thing. Hot and cold are both describing temperature. Up and down are both descriptors of your vertical position. Sometimes to describe a feeling, you need both of these opposites.

The same goes with the solo (or small group) aspect of alpinism. This pretty much sits well with any sort of isolated venture. The more of a isolated venture, the more support is needed. Even the off-grid mountain liver, they rely on the community of non-human life around them. A community of human life with only offer more support for trade of goods and labour.

This may be a round about way of getting to my point here. I want you to think today. I want you to relate. Relate what I just said to your experiences. Your experiences are due to the concious energy withing you, giving you life, that you call your soul. All concious life is connected to the grid. I call this energy N. We are all N. We are all sharing the same concious energy here. All concious life. We are all the same. We are one.

The implications of this is that everyone is experiencing the same thoughts, it may not be the same train of thought as we are all individuals with our own ‘soul’ and set of experiences. The issue with thinking individually is that we are all of one energy. The more we work on ourselves individually, the more we share. Inspiration for the uninspired is not what I am talking about. I am talking about shared experiences.

Alpinism is about finding yourself. Some call it masochism. Some call it dangerous. I will not say it is not. The internal struggle that comes when making choices, life balancing ones, is the same in us all. The more we can be open, and in the ‘zone’, the easier we can flow and make these descisions correctly. The unseen result is the concious energy we all use to animated these bodies of dust gets enlightened, and we all benefit.

Go forth in your training. Community or solo. Go forth in your ventures, more than likely in groups, and know we are all at stages of the same growth. I will be doing the same.

Humble beginings

Step 1 in learning alpinism; The mountains are always going to be bigger than you.

Jokes aside, I have nothing that I can be proud about. I have ran my life into the ground. Literally. I have exhausted every lifeline that I didn’t even know I had. I lost my car, I got layed off, and I had nothing to fall back on. I was thinking too many steps ahead, without any firm ground at my feet. I turned my life into canadian choss.

That being said, I have awoken my mind to the reality that surrounds us all. Starting off fresh is the only choice I left myself with, and I can only go up from here.

My body may be ready for taking the next step in my venture towards the heavens, yet the mountain game is two-fold. I learnt that spending most of my 2017 winter outside, meditating alone in the mountains. The mind has a lot to deal with in those situations, and the consequences are severe if one fails. I have been out enough to see someone crack, and not downplaying ropeless adventures, but I have not been in a situatuon that is pushing the limits to the extent I plan too in the near future.

Humility is not a strong aspect of my previous life. I know it, and if you knew me, you know it. On the plus side, I changed more than I thought possible, on the down side, I am no longer the same person at all. I am happy now, and not just in name. It is time to move forward in this life. I thought I was on a bonus round, I am just at the starting gates.

I ended up meeting a rad dude in William’s Lake. I am currently hired to help an old band put out a new album, and have chosen here to set my roots. There is a crag nearby, tons of trail running, and I am surrounded by the best mix of quiet beauty. The people in this place are awake, smiling, and it is a community.

Volunteering in this community lead me to meet this man named Eric. Eric works at the Salvation Army in William’s Lake. During the fires in BC last year, he was evacuated, and his home burnt to the ground. He has been unable to make it back to his plot until today. His fear that it remained standing was zero. He knew it would more than likely be gone. His hope to rebuild. His hope to move on. And his hope to grow a new community on this land was only strengthened.

The conversation we had as we walked the perimeter of the place he once called home humbled me. I have been trying to learn to be humble, but it is not something to learn. It comes with the awakening of our mind. It comes when you can breath in your own skin.

A few hours out in the woods, with another human, was the best medicine for me as well. Being mostly solo for the longest while had got to me. I enjoyed the trek, the sun, and the memories I created today. I enjoyed the fellowship I have begun in this place I now call my home. As much as alpinism can be a solo game, a community of like-minded support, is what I have been missing.

Trying to fit into any game is not ideal. Trying to be the best out of a lot is silly. I am trying to be the best me. I am training for it daily. I dedicate my life to bettering myself, because the better I am, the better we are. And we are team.