My first podcast, and maybe my last?

Clearly this website is “under construction” and clearly I have been neglecting my blog. I’m still figuring this whole Square Space thing out so I thought, “why not try out linking to an audio URL” as a little test run. Below is a link to an interview I recently did with Melsays Podcast host, Mel Offner. It was actually pretty fun, even though Mel isn’t a climber, she clearly did her research and asked some really thought provoking questions, some of which are quite controversial topics in our little community right now. It was cool to be given the chance to share my personal opinions on such topics, as I typically refrain from too many opinions in the public sphere. I save my opinionated rants for my friends, who kindly oblige.

Regardless, give a listen. I can say that, at least my mom was proud.

What I learn in school...

Below is the final paper I submitted for my most recent course, as I continue to work through my Bachelor of Social Work. The course was titled, Understanding Oppression, and it effectively blew the doors wide open on what I thought I knew about oppression and marginalization in many of it's almost invisible forms. I share because, it's not all rock climbs, and powder turns for me. Sometimes, I spend hours a week working through coursework at the end of my regular work day. And though it takes me away from time in the mountains, my studies are bringing me closer to something I'd thought I'd always cared about, but never really understood, Feminism and gendered marginalization. 

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Introduction. Oppression is no longer defined simply as the overt tyranny of one exerting power over another, but rather the everyday oppressive actions of well-intentioned people. Oppression is embedded in the unquestioned habits we follow everyday that unknowingly reflect the social order we have created by our institutions. Oppression is the consequence of following that unquestioned social order (Young, 1990, p. 41). In 2015 I experienced a significant “critical incident” (Harro, 2000, p. 464). It shook me deeply and spurred a change in what I believed about myself at the very core (Harro, 2000, p. 464). This individual experience awoke an understanding of gendered marginalization that I had not known before. It wasn’t overt, and as Young (1990) indicates, the marginalization I experienced was felt through a series of unquestioned norms and symbols that left me feeling isolated and silenced through the experience. This awakening connected me to Feminism, which ultimately led me down the path of social work practice. Harro’s article, “The Cycle of Liberation” (2000) helped me to understand the personal journey I’d taken in my experience of gendered marginalization and my resulting transformation to social advocate.

I began my journey through the cycle of liberation (Harro, 2000) with a rudimentary understanding of Feminism that was informed by my privilege and social position as a white-middle-class-educated woman. Fortunately, along my liberation journey and via this coursework I was introduced to Feminist scholar, bell hooks. Through her article, “Talking Back” (1989) I finally grasped my privileged use of Feminism and came to understand that, “Feminism, as a liberation struggle, must exist apart from and as part of the larger struggle to eradicate domination in all its forms. We must understand that patriarchal domination shares an ideological foundation with racism and other forms of group oppression, that there is no hope that it can be eradicated while these systems remain intact” (hooks, 1989, p. 22). It is this more nuanced understanding of Feminism that I have arrived at near the end of my own liberation journey.

The critical liberation process begins at the individual level, but the result does not stop at individual change, but rather moves to, “’name the problem’ in terms of system assumptions, structures, rules, or roles that are flawed” (Harro, p. 88). The cycle of liberation is a process whereby an individual undergoes a critical transformation. I will use my own critical liberation process to investigate the transformation of my personal understanding of Feminism and gendered oppression from a rudimentary concept informed by my privilege to a nuanced grasp of the intersection of race, class, and sex on a woman’s experience of oppression. I will begin by dissecting my personal experience of gendered marginalization, then expand upon my growing understanding of the intersection of race, class, and sex on gendered oppression and finally what this nuanced understanding means for my social work practice and my role as a social justice advocate.

My Critical Transformation. As my creative poster indicates, I experienced a critical incident in my life where, “something that used to make sense…cease[d] to make sense” (Harro, 2000, p. 465). My partner of four years was very publicly unfaithful to me and as a result I felt a level of marginalization, I had not experienced before. At 36, I was alone, embarrassed, and alienated from my community, while my unfaithful partner, a white-middle-class-educated man, continued to thrive and be lauded for his successes. The international community of climbers we belonged to nary even acknowledged the damage he’d done to the person who’d sacrificed many of her dreams and goals to help further his own. This experience exposed me to gender marginalization, something I had never considered before. I felt a change come over me and the experience marked an interpersonal shift at my very core about what I believed about myself and the world around me (Harro, 2000, p. 465). I could never go back.

My eyes were now opened to what I previously did not know, and in the getting ready phase of Harro’s cycle of liberation (2000) I enrolled in the Bachelor of Social Work program at the University of Victoria. I needed to know more, to understand what was really going on, not only in myself, in society at large. An exploration of Feminism became the focal point of my educational efforts and I sought to, “develop a consistency among what [I] believe, how [I] want to live [my] life, and the way [I] actually do it” (Harro, 2000, p. 465). I moved through each of Harro’s phases and as I expanded my knowledge about gendered marginalization I started to speak out more boldly (Harro, 2000, p. 466). What I had personally experienced, and what I now knew about gendered marginalization meant I could not stand idle. I established strong connections to a variety of organizations that supported me in my continued exploration of Feminism and provided an opportunity for me to share my own experience as a way of allying with other women. As I moved through the creating change phase of the cycle (Harro, 2000), I increasingly sought connection with women outside of my circle of oft-privileged climbers. At the same time, while navigating the coursework for Understanding Oppression I finally synthesized that, “sexism, racism, and class exploitation constitute interlocking systems of domination” (hooks, 1989, p. 22). Feminism was not simply a war between angry white women and thoughtless white men. I’d arrived at a place where my expanded community and the partnerships I’d formed assisted me in identifying new assumptions, new structures, and new roles of Feminism. In the maintaining phase of the cycle (Harro, 2000) I fostered mentorship relationships with women who could help to challenge, strengthen and integrate this nuanced Feminism in to my life and social work practice.

Implications for my Social Work Practice. Several concepts explored in this paper hold significance for my social work practice including the cycle of liberation (Harro, 2000) and my expanded understanding of Feminism to include the intersection of sex, race, and class (hooks, 1989). As a practice tool, the cycle of liberation offers a way for me to ally with my clients through their own critical transformation. Many social work clients engage with services as a result of a critical incident and having an understanding of the process of liberation will allow me to ally with my clients through the cycle, and help demystify for them what they are experiencing. From my own experience of liberation, the transformation can in some ways feel foreign and unexplainable and being able to name what is happening can provide power and a commitment to the process.

As discussed above, the result of my own personal liberation process was an arrival at a more nuanced understanding of Feminism to include the intersection of sex, class, and race. I’d entered social work studies with an expectation that my practice would focus on working with women through a Feminist-based practice approach. Though my desire to work with women has not changed, my practice focus has shifted to include theoretical and practical applications that acknowledge and address the intersection of class, race, and sex on a woman’s lived experience. My advocacy efforts should not simply focus on that of white-middle-class Feminism, but rather advocate for systemic change on a race, sex, and class level.

Finally, throughout the course readings I have paid attention to the academic battle being waged between social work scholars. It is clear to me that there are two camps of social work practitioners, those who value and acknowledge that, “perceptions are never theory-free because they are based on certain fundamental assumptions about the nature of people, society, and the relationship between the two” (Mullaly, 2007, p. 205). And those who feel theory has no place in social work practice where, “structural thinking supports a relative devaluing of social work practice experience as against radical and sociological theory” (Fook, 2016, p. 8). Through my own journey of critical transformation I have gained an appreciation for the theories that help describe my experience, and also the practical tools to take action in my journey. I hope to apply the same approach in my social work practice. I want to educate my clients on the “why” of what they are feeling and experiencing, and also to arm them with the “how” of taking action in their own critical liberation process.

Conclusion. The cycle of liberation is a process whereby an individual undergoes a critical transformation. Using my own critical liberation process I investigated the transformation of my personal understanding of Feminism and gendered oppression from a rudimentary concept informed by my privilege to a nuanced grasp of the intersection of race, class, and sex on a woman’s experience of oppression. I also explored the application of both the cycle of liberation and my expanded understanding of Feminism to my social work practice. At the heart of the critical liberation process is, critical reflexivity, and as hooks states,

I think thinking critically is at the heart of anybody transforming their life, and I really believe that a person who thinks critically who may be extraordinarily disadvantaged materially can find ways to transform their lives that can be deeply and profoundly meaningful. In the same way that someone who may be incredibly privileged materially and in crisis in their life may remain perpetually unable to resolve their life in any meaningful way if they don’t think critically (hooks, 2006)

References

Challenging Media, (2006, October 3). bell hooks: Part One, Cultural criticism and

Transformation [Video File]. Retrieved from : www.youtube.com

Fook, J. (2016). The Critical Tradition of Social Work (Chapter 1). Social Work: A critical

 approach to practice.(pp. 3-24) London: Sage Publishing

Harro, B. (2000). Cycle of liberation. In M. Adams, W. Blumenfeld, R. Castaneda, H. Hackman,

M. Peters, X. Zuniga, (Eds). Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (pp. 463-469) New

York: Routledge

hooks, b. (1989): Feminism: a transformational politic. In Talking back: Thinking feminist,

thinking black. Toronto: Between the Lines

Mullaly, B. (2007). A Reconstructed Theory of Structural Social Work. In The New Structural

Social Work. 3rd edition. (pp 204-226). Don Mills: Oxford University Press

Young, I. (1990). Five Faces of Oppression. In M. Adams, W. Blumenfeld, R. Castaneda, H.

Hackman, M. Peters, X. Zuniga, (Eds). Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (pp. 35-

49) New York

 

 

You're More Powerful Than You Think

Halfway up the 1500m South Ridge of Serra Two in BC’s Waddington Range, I discovered I’m powerful. And I don’t mean physically powerful; I knew that a long time ago. What I mean is, I finally realized the internal strength and resilience I possess. 

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It was the summer of 2012 and two girlfriends and I had been dropped off at the head of the 22km-long Tiedemann Glacier by our pilot, Mike King. I’d never felt so small. From our perch rose Mount Combatant (3762m), Mount Tiedemann (3848m), Mount Asperity (3716m), and Serra’s One through Five. Each ridge-line from glacier to summit represented 1600m or more of technical rocky relief. As Mike navigated his Bell 204 helicopter away from us, we stood alone among giants.

A few days in, while on Serra Two’s South Ridge, our climb wasn’t quite going according to plan. We began to notice low-hanging clouds around the summits, indicating a breakdown in the high-pressure system we’d been riding. As we curled in to our bivy, we quietly discussed the deteriorating weather. With 800m of complex low fifth-class terrain below us, retreating would be slower and more complicated than continuing upward. Darkness fell and we lay silently cocooned, ears straining for the sounds of worsening weather.

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When we woke the next morning, we had to shake off a fresh layer of snow on our sleeping bags. The ridge we intended to climb was now encased in snow and ice and we were engulfed in a winter storm. With few words between the team, we knew that we were going to “fail to the top.” Over 14 hours, we navigated the ridge with gloved hands and aluminum crampons strapped to our approach shoes, each taking our block of leads to push the rope higher up the ridge. We made it to the top and back down safely, but what should have been an easy alpine rock adventure turned in to a tough three-day ascent. 

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As we made our way back home to Squamish, it became apparent to me that on Serra Two I’d tapped into an inner strength I didn’t know I possessed to get through that storm. It took several more mountain adventures before I finally drew the connection between the internal strength and resilience I’d identified in myself through climbing, and how to translate that power to my life outside the mountains. 

Several years after the Waddington Range climb, a challenging life experience forced my hand, so to speak, and I dug deep to tap into my personal strength – not to climb a mountain this time, but to navigate the valley of my present life circumstance. Despite the theoretical storm engulfing me – I watched helplessly as the life I’d built for myself crumbled at my feet – I had never believed in myself so firmly. 

Climbing is often referred to as a selfish sport, and I agree with that sentiment to a degree, but without climbing I don’t know if I would have arrived at the place where I believe so whole-heartedly in my ability to endure, thrive and put my head down to push through difficult times. For this reason, I have purposefully sought out ways to share with other women what climbing has taught me. 

Over the last two years I’ve been afforded incredible opportunities to participate in the lives of women both inside and outside the climbing community. During the 2016 Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival,  MEC-coordinated the “Send with Sarah” event that brought together 16 women to participate with yours truly in a climbing clinic, enjoy Sunday brunch together at the festival venue, and attend a panel discussion featuring notable female adventurers. The purpose of the day couldn’t have been solidified any better when one of the most accomplished female rock climbers of the 21st century, Lynn Hill, made a surprise appearance during our clinic. Lynn imparted meaningful advice about surrounding ourselves with other women who can share in our passion for outdoor adventure.

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More recently, I was asked to co-facilitate the Minerva Foundation for BC Women’s Learning to Lead program . Now in it’s seventh year, the program brings together fifty 16-year-old girls from across the province to develop and enhance their leadership skills both personally and within their respective communities. That weekend, I left exhausted from trying to keep up with 16 year olds, but also revitalized as I’d witnessed the transformation in these young women while they discovered their own internal power and resilience. 

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Finally, and a major aha moment for me, was volunteering with and then working for The Howe Sound Women’s Centre in my hometown of Squamish, BC. After living in Squamish for almost eight years, I’d never taken the time to connect with the community of women beyond my insulated circle of climbers. Squamish is full of women who’ve lived through their own personal challenges and demonstrated a resilience far beyond my own. And in some small ways, I’ve been given the chance to share with women in my home community the power I discovered in myself through climbing, but that I believe resides deep inside all of us.

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As women and climbers, we have the unique ability to challenge ourselves mentally all the time and hone the skills of internal fortitude to achieve our climbing goals. But what do we do with these skills beyond just ticking off another project? I encourage you to explore ways to lift up other women and help them uncover just how powerful they are too. The principles of feminism teach us that women expand, learn and challenge themselves best in the company of other women. Take what climbing has taught you, and spread it to the community of women just outside your door.

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The Gear I Love (2016 edition)

Who doesn’t love gear? But maybe more appropriately, to my female readers, who doesn’t love gear and clothes? I LOVE clothes! As a climber and skier my obsession with clothing is two-fold; I love clothes because of they way they look and how they make me feel when I wear them, but I also love how they function and help me perform at my best. This will be my third “The Gear I Love” blog post and for those of you who have read my previous posts here, and here you’ll know that I’m unabashedly feminine in my approach to mountain clothing. It’s got to look good, or I won’t wear it. I spend more time in smelly mountain clothes than anything else and if it makes me feel fat, or my butt look saggy then I’m having none of it.

My previous posts have been directed towards my female audience, and this post is no different. So anyone who gets squirmy at the thought of talking about how a pair of skinny pants makes your butt look good, then please scroll on through to the next blog post. As with my previous posts I like to focus on clothing and gear “systems” rather than simply listing off a bunch of random pieces that I like. As summer is approaching, I’ve decided to present three of my favourite clothing systems for the activities that occupied most of my time last summer, alpine running, alpine rock climbing, and rock climbing.

As a slight upgrade from my last gear post, MEC’s photo team offered to take some artsy images of my clothing systems, as opposed to the images I’ve previously taken on my kitchen floor. Though the kitchen floor idea helps to keep things authentic, it really does a disservice to the clothing when it’s displayed next to my dirty stove.

Full disclosure here, MEC is my clothing sponsor, and has been for five years now. I feel incredibly lucky to have the support of my beloved Co-op. My roots with MEC run deep. Prior to becoming MEC’s first Athlete Ambassador I worked in the Head Office as an Assistant to MEC’s then, Chief Information Officer, Georgette Parsons. Coincidentally, Georgette was a role model in my working life, but also a style role model. She always wore the perfect blend of business classic and outdoor casual. The MEC team feels more family than business partner, and for that I am very grateful. So much has changed for the Co-op since I began as Ambassador. MEC apparel has always been well made and tough, but now, it’s also has some serious street appeal.

Continuing with full-disclosure, I’ve included some key pieces of gear from some of my other awesome sponsors, Petzl, Scarpa Footwear, and Julbo Eyewear as well. I worked hard to establish a relationship with each of these sponsors, and chose to pursue their support because I love the gear they make. I feel fortunate to partner with them because I’d be buying their gear regardless.

Alpine Running System


Let’s dig into it. First up, check out this most adorable image of my alpine running clothing and gear system. I’m a big fan of in-a-day backcountry scrambling missions that might otherwise take two or even three days. For these missions when speed is paramount I don’t want to carry around any extraneous weight. I’ve narrowed the ideal system down to the very basics, the Agility Tight, Y Not Bra, Sparrowgrass Short-Sleeved Top, Farpoint Jacket, Spicy Jacket, and Waterproof Enough Glove.

When attempting to run for much of the day, but also scrambling around on course rock I prefer tights. It allows for moisture wicking while I sweat and unrestricted movement while I scramble fast. The best feature of the Agility Tight might just be the waistband. It’s wide, with a little extra detailing that is just so flattering on us girls. I’m also partial to the fabric gathering around the ankle, which makes the tights pretty cute when you’re wearing them to Pure Bread after your big day.


On top, I pair the Y Not Bra under the loose fitting Sparrowgrass Short-Sleeved top. The Sparrowgrass is probably my all-time favorite MEC active t-shirt. I have, get ready for it, 5 of them in 5 different colors! It’s fabricated from a combination of polyester, wool, and spandex so it’s kind of the best of all worlds. The Sparrowgrass never has “memory stink” (for those of you who are unfamiliar with memory stink, it’s a shirt that you take into the mountains one too many times and it doesn’t matter how many times you wash it, it always remembers that stink). The loose fitting silhouette is always flattering no matter how many Pure Bread Lemon Basil scones I’ve downed before starting my mission and it stays well ventilated while I sweat. I should add I also like how you can see the spaghetti straps of the Y Not Bra under the loose scalloped neck of the Sparrowgrass. It’s all in the details ladies!


I am generally a very warm person, so I only need a simple wind layer to help keep me warm as I sprint through the mountains. I throw on the Farpoint Jacket (it packs into a tiny little pocket so you barely even notice it when you’ve got it stowed in your equally tiny day pack for this mission) to help block the wind and usually that’s all I need to stay happy. In my experience, during summing alpine missions the coldest element is always the wind. If you can put a barrier between your skin and the wind, you’ll stay reasonably warm while you move. When I stop for a quick bite, or a summit photo I throw on the Spicy Jacket. This jacket might be the single most important piece of gear in my whole kit. I think the Spicy is one of the most cutting edge pieces that MEC has made. Why? Because it weighs 210 grams and is made of 850 fill down. It’s ridiculously light, and ridiculously warm for it’s weight based on the high quality down that it’s filled with. For some perspective, Patagonia’s Ultralight Down Hoody weighs 269 grams and is made of 800 fill down. The Spicy Jacket is one of the lightest down jackets on the market right now. No joke!

Like I said, I’m generally a very warm person except for my extremities. I struggle to keep my hands and nose warm so I always travel in the mountains with a lightweight pair of gloves and headband. The Waterproof-Enough gloves are simple and “waterproof enough” that I can scramble around on a glacier without turning my hands into wet, cold prunes. I’m also a big fan of headbands, which double as a sweatband when I’m burning calories and a nose warmer when my nose is frosty early in the morning.

This is probably old news to most of you out there now, but the MEC Travel Light Pack series is incredible. I use these packs for alpine running, alpine climbing, and everything in between. They’re light, and simple. The pack displayed in the image here is the newer version of the Travel Light Daypack. It’s made of a lightweight 40-denier nylon which means it’s not super durable, but for the price and weight savings you can afford to have a couple waiting in the wings for when you tear through one. Buy these things in bulk people.

For alpine running missions I never really carry much water at one time. Why carry two litres of water when you will be jumping across pristine mountain creeks all day. I recommend traveling with a 750 ml HyraPak Stash, or maybe even less volume than that. Depends how long you can comfortably go between rehydrating. The HydraPak bottles are all designed to compress and a 750 ml Stash weighs less than a 1L Nalgene. Even if you decide to forego a backpack altogether during your mission, you can easily compress the HydraPak bottles to either carry in your hand while you run, or stuff into your pants or bra while you scramble.

I am a huge fan of Julbo glasses. I feel like a superstar wearing them, maybe it’s because they’re all designed in France and have that certain “je ne sais quoi”. The Julbo Breeze are my glasses of choice for mountain activities as they have a small frame for small heads but wide lenses to ensure maximum coverage of your sensitive eyes. They’re also made with photo chromatic lenses, which I am not going to try and explain here, but if you follow this link the fine folks at Julbo do a much better job of explaining the technology. Simply put, the lenses change from dark to light depending on the environment your in. So, if you’re in the trees, the lenses are light for better visibility in low light conditions. If you’re on a glacier the lenses are darker for better protection from the strong reflection.

I do most mountain running missions wearing my Scarpa Rapid LT’s. They’re a hybrid running shoe and approach shoe that incorporates the elements of approach shoes we love, sticky rubber, high traction treads, and durable composition, but also are made to be worn all day with a running shoe last. I wore my current pair for the whole season of mountain missions last year, and have still not worn them out.

No mountain running “system” would be complete without my most cherished and necessary piece of equipment, my iPod Shuffle. I don’t go on any adventure where a little suffering is anticipated without my Shuffle and the ability to blast Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber to help get me through the pain.

Alpine Rock Climbing System


My alpine rock climbing system incorporates many of the same elements of my alpine running system but adds a few more pieces. The commitment factor increases when you’re 10 pitches up an alpine route with 10 more to go and having the ability to hunker down, should weather come in or you find yourself getting benighted, is paramount.
The Constantia Pant is about as light as I’d go for alpine rock climbing, I can’t layer a long john under these, so I’d want to be sure of a warm forecast. The Constantia is another cutting edge, no-one-else-is-doing-it, kind of pieces from MEC. It’s a technical softshell pant, but made in a skinny silhouette. They are fabricated from Schoeller, one of the most widely recognized and respected soft-shell textiles available. The fabrication makes them extra bombproof, with incredible 4-way stretch. Wearing these pants is kind of like wearing tear resistant tights into the mountains. All these features make them quite versatile for alpine rock climbing, cragging, or even bouldering.

The Constantia Pant goes to Skaha. Photo, Robb Thompson.
I pair the Intensity Bra with the T1 Long Sleeved Shirt. The MEC T1 series is my perennial go-to for colder weather high-output activities like alpine climbing and skiing because no matter how much I sweat, once I stop moving the fabrication dries out super fast meaning I stay warmer. And, I should add, the adorable floral print really gets me. I always wear the simple long-sleeved crew because I hate having too much “stuff” around my neck when I add additional layers. So, if I wear the long-sleeved crew, I can easily pair it with a mid-layer without choking myself from too much bulk around my neck.


My mid-layer actually does double duty as a mid and outer layer. As an outer-layer, the Obsession Hoodie is lightly insulated and made of stretchy weather-protecting Schoeller. It has mapped insulation along the upper arms and chest to help keep warmth in while sitting at belays, and unlined stretch Schoeller around the forearms and shoulders where your jacket generally makes direct contact with the rock while climbing. As a mid-layer, the breathability of Schoeller makes the Obsession Hoodie effective during cold pre-dawn starts when I wear my down layer on top. As extra safety I carry the Spicy Jacket, because it weighs next to nothing, and can easily be added on top of everything should I get cold at belays or heaven forbid we get benighted. A small side note, I recommend having a Spicy Jacket in both a body hugging and lose fitting size. The body hugging size will be great for adventures wear you’ll be throwing it on over a t-shirt and the lose fitting size will be great for wearing over a base and mid-layer at belays.

I’ve also included in here a pair of Atlas 370 Nitrile Gloves. My good buddy Dan, who’s kind of like the mad scientist of alpine gear, discovered these gloves that were originally made for fisherman types. They have an extra grippy coating on the palm of the hand making them great for climbing easy rock pitches if you’re hands are super cold at the beginning of the day. They also weigh next to nothing, and are cheap enough that you can trash a pair in one trip and not feel guilty about it.

Even though it looks funny, and let’s be honest, it does look funny, the Petzl Sirocco Helmet is the best climbing helmet I’ve ever owned. It’s incredibly light, 165 grams as opposed to 300 grams of the Petzl Elios helmet. I’ve even seen the Petzl rep step directly on the top of this helmet and watch it bounce back up. For fast and light climbing, there is no helmet better and more durable than this one. So, just get over the fact that it looks funny, and wear it.

I have been a huge fan of the Petzl Hirundos harness and use it for all applications of climbing, sport, trad, and alpine. It’s the perfect combination of comfort, weight and functionality as it’s light but still maintains two gear loops on each side.

For alpine rock climbing I typically wear the Scarpa Reflex Velcro shoe. It’s flat last makes it super comfortable for wearing all day. When buying shoes for the mountains always keep top of mind that you’ll be wearing them all day, stuffing your feet in all kind of cracks, and by the time you’re halfway through the day your feet will have swollen to twice their size from all the beating up. The Reflex is also a super light and simple shoe, weighing 216 grams as opposed to the TC Pro at 494 grams. Weight matters people, especially for us girls, so pare it down where you can!

Rock Climbing System 
(though not really a system, so much as just a cool looking outfit) 


What I wear when I go rock climbing around my home here in Squamish really comes down to pure aesthetics, but if I really think about it, there are some important elements of function in there as well. My absolutely favorite climbing pant right now is the Sanchalia Pant. When I was in Chamonix several years ago I fell in love with the Alps, but I also fell in love with the French climbing jeans made by Simond. These jeans were articulated for climbing, had 4-way stretch, and an elasticized cuff. All the important elements of a climbing pant, and they were totally flattering too. At the time, I just couldn’t convince myself to buy a pair, probably because I’d already blown my budget on pastries. When I caught wind that the MEC team was briefing a similar idea, I was stoked. Behold Ladies, a pair of jeans that look great on, but also perform well on the rock. This is the epitome of peak to street fashion. I should add, an important component of any rock climbing or bouldering pant for me is an elasticized cuff. There is nothing more annoying than trying to heel hock, or find a small foothold while you’re pumped but being unable to do so because the cuffs of your pants keep getting in the way.


I keep repeating myself but, I sweat a lot so I almost always climb around in a tank top. This season I discovered the Sequence collection, which is made of performance polyester but includes a spandex jersey fabrication making the tank feel soft like cotton. The Atlantis color that I have displayed here is my favorite because the material is slightly perforated giving it some texture.


For belaying in the trees, or warming up I wear my Campfire Hoodie which my friend Sheri calls a “snuggie” and she’s kind of right, it’s like being swaddled in a million puppies. This hoodie is so pretty, look at the colors. They’re incredible! I like this outfit a lot, not only because it includes all the important elements of stretch, technical fabrication, and versatility, but it’s also something I’d wear around town. And that’s important to me.

Thanks to MEC for the swanky gear "systems" images. And naturally, thanks for my buddies, climbing partners, and incredible photographers Robb Thompson, Jamie Finlayson, and Rich So for all the other pretty images. MEC posted a condensed version of this blog post on their own blog, here. That was fun, let's do it again next year!

East of the Sun and West of the Moon.

An image by Kay Nielsen from the Norwegian children's fairytale, East of the Sun and West of the Moon.
I've brought you along, dear reader, on a journey these last four years. It's never been my thing to pretend, I don't like leading you astray as you follow me through life. Sometimes it's been super awesome, and sometimes it's mostly just sucked. My life isn't perfect, nor is anyone's despite what we might think sometimes.

So with this in mind I guess I'll just share this with you; I said good-bye to my best friend, someone I loved more than anyone, a while ago now. Closing this last chapter of life has been the most difficult period of my 35 years. I've done my best to travel this road with as much grace and dignity as possible, but I know that I've made mistakes. I wish there was a template, a series of steps one could simply follow to boldly move forward into the new paradigm, but I just don't think there is. 

As I look back on the last half a year I can see themes building, and though it's painful to analyse, I think it's an important part of the process.

Probably what shines through the strongest is how integral the mountains have been during this change. I've felt an almost constant nagging to be in motion since we parted way, and the mountains have been my one source of joy during these last months. Surrounded by my friends, running against the wind in an alpine meadow, feeling the cold snow on my face, hearing the sound of a glacial stream, powder turns, sweat running down my face, being run out, all of these things bring me one step closer to peace, and I need this right now. In the mountains I feel a connection to the past, but can live for the future. 

Strangely, social media feels as though it has a place in this analysis. Ah social media, that giant black hole of validation and affirmation. I've inundated you with images and stories of adventure, which on the surface is so fun and light-hearted, but at its root is my own subversive attempt to find solace and validation in my achievements as I've struggled to come to terms with who I am now. I don't want you to think my life is one blissful adventure to the next. I don't want to coerce you into thinking I'm anything more than a girl who really likes to climb. Sure, I'm driven and I get out a lot, but I'm not Lynn Hill, Ingrid Backstromm, or Ines Papert. Glossy images of beautiful places can be misleading, and I'm no hero. I just happen to have friends that take pretty pictures, and maybe a slight inclination towards photography myself.

It's easy to confuse social media with a news source. Let me assure you, my social media channels are not a news source, I do not do anything news worthy. I do however have a strong desire to share stories and images of my journey. And it's been a journey! I don't know why, but maybe in part, it helps me process everything that's transpired. I also hope that through my own story, you too can find comfort in difficult times. So, if you feel I've lead you astray, please accept my apology and know that I'm here for no other reason than to say, "I've done it, and so can you!" I won't be offended if you don't feel like following my social media posts, but if you want to join me on my journey of life, then saddle up dear reader cuz it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

I guess I'll just close by acknowledging that the life that I had forged for myself in the company of my best friend was beautiful. We experienced success, failure, happiness, and sadness together, as I'm certain you've experienced with those you choose to love as well. I know my 35-year-old-self well enough, to know that I become easily overwhelmed with difficult times. For me, these periods seem to have no end, and the pain seems permanent. But for goodness sake if 35 years has taught me anything, it should be that pain never lasts. The goodness of my past is part of me now, it will always be there, but the goodness of my future is just around the corner.

Kay Neilsen
I don't want to wait anymore I'm tired of looking for answers
Take me some place where there's music and there's laughter
I don't know if I'm scared of dying but I'm scared of living too fast, too slow
Regret, remorse, hold on, oh no I've got to go
There’s no starting over, no new beginnings, time races on

And you've just gotta keep on keeping on
Gotta keep on going, looking straight out on the road
Can't worry 'bout what's behind you or what's coming for you further up the road
I try not to hold on to what is gone, I try to do right what is wrong

I try to keep on keeping on
Yeah I just keep on keeping on

I hear a voice calling
Calling out for me
These shackles I've made in an attempt to be free
Be it for reason, be it for love
I won't take the easy road

I've woken up in a hotel room, my worries as big as the moon
Having no idea who or what or where I am

Something good comes with the bad
A song's never just sad
There's hope, there's a silver lining
Show me my silver lining
Show me my silver lining

I hear a voice calling
Calling out for me
These shackles I've made in an attempt to be free
Be it for reason, be it for love
I won't take the easy road
~ First Aid Kit

I have a lot of catching up to do on my blog, because let's face it, I have been busy! To begin, let me share some photos and short stories from the people and places that have helped me find my way.

This past summer, I sort of became a runner. Running might just be the most emotionally stabilising sport out there. In fact, this quote kind of makes me chuckle, “I love running. I’m not into marathons, but I am into avoiding problems at an accelerated rate.” ~ Jarod Kintz. As you'll see, most of my alpine missions became more of an alpine "running" mission than a climbing trip. I hate heavy packs, and nothing gets me more psyched than racing up a mountain in a day, on a trip that would otherwise take 2 days. Maybe I also just really like wearing my alpine short shorts and a tank top while scampering around the mountains.

Rich and I decided to day trip Castle Tower (2675 m) in a remote corner of Garibaldi Provincial Park in late July. Living in Squamish, Garibaldi Park is my "backyard" so it only seemed natural to sleep comfortably in my own bed, wake early, race up the mountain, and return home in time for Pure Breads. I always leave the calculations to Rich, and he says we travelled about 40 km, gained 3000 m of elevation, and managed 10.5 hrs car-to-car. Castle Towers is generally completed as a two or three day adventure.

OK, maybe this picture was posed. Photo, Rich So.

Morning mist, and alpine short shorts. Photo, Rich So.

Running on to the Helm Glacier, which should be noted, is almost entirely gone. Eek! Photo, Rich So.

Rich scrambling with Garibaldi Lake below. Fun fact about Garibaldi Lake; At it's far northwestern end lava flow from nearby volcanoes formed a natural dam creating the lake. One day, when we have the earth's-biggest-earthquake this natural barrier will most likely be broken, releasing the lake and taking out my dear town of Squamish. Crazy! Photo, Sarah Hart.

Me, making a couple of technical moves as we near the summit. Photo, Rich So.

Yup, that's all she wrote for this mountain adventure, alpine short shorts, my beloved Spicy Jacket and my pink Travel Pack. So light, and so nice. Photo, Rich So.

Rich about to tag the summit. Photo, Sarah Hart.

That's me. Photo, Rich So.
The following weekend was another alpine running mission. This time, with my good friends Kelly and Julie. There's a cool new hiking trail around Rainbow Mountain, across the valley from Whistler. The trail, I believe it's called the Skywalk Trail, is great for running and pops you out at Iceberg Lake below Rainbow's East Glacier. The ridge scrambling from there is super duper fun.

Kelly scrambling along Rainbow's long East Ridge. Photo, Sarah Hart.

My buddies. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Kelly looks out across the Whistler valley. Photo, Sarah Hart.
Elise is my soul sister, and spending time with her always brings me peace. In September we ran/scrambled Mt. Tszil (2377 m) in the Joffre Lake area. This is an awesome mountain running adventure, I'd recommend it to anyone. With the recent trail work on the Joffre Lakes trail system, running to the third Joffre Lake takes no time at all, and then you're in the alpine!

Elise on the summit of Mt. Tszil, overlooking the Pemberton valley. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Yes, this shot is about as cliche as it gets, and also kind of ironic. Photo, Sarah Hart.
After all that running around, I was apparently, at least according to Rich, ready for something a little slower. So I joined Rich and Nick on a two day "fast packing" trip around the Pinecone-Burke divide, in Pinecone-Burke Provincial Park. It should be noted, the park incorporates some of the traditional territory of the Katzie First Nation. It's an incredibly fun high alpine ridge scramble that circumnavigates Pinecone Lake. We were above treeline almost the whole time, but for all the nerdy specs of the trip, we'll have to wait for Rich to finish his trip report. I should add, with these boys, nudity is pretty much guaranteed as you'll see below.

Rich's naked butt, and a beautiful alpine tarn. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Naked again. Rich and Nick jump into Pinecone Lake after dinner. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Our bivy! Photo, Sarah Hart.

Nick's naked butt, and some mountains. Atwell Peak and Garibladi are visible in the distance. Photo, Sarah Hart.
One last mountain running adventure to wrap up the season. I'd just raced the Rubble Creek Classic, one of the oldest organised trail races in British Columbia, dating back to 1985. The course travels 25 km from Chekamus Lake, through the high alpine of Helm Creek Meadows and then down through Rubble Creek. It's an institution and only a small number of racers are permitted each year. I felt lucky to make the roster and even luckier to experience my first runners high during the race. I was on top of the world. Though, it's hard to know if it was the chemicals coursing through my body, or just the Taylor Swift pumping through my speakers. I will run this race every year now! Following the race, Rich, Kate and I ran/climbed Blackcomb Buttress, on Blackcomb Peak. 

Not the best weather for a scramble up Blackcomb Buttress. But, whatever. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Kate traversing onto the buttress proper. Photo, Sarah Hart.
No report would be complete without a few stories and images of my first love, bouldering. I spent countless hours in the forest around my home picking away at my projects. I love climbing. One of my favourite climbing partners, Jamie Finlayson, always comes prepared with his camera. So, below are a few of his images, along with one from my friend Andrew Querner

The Weasel. This wiley weasel had evaded me for years, and years. Some problems just really get under your skin. This past summer I finally sent the thing. I love to hate this one. Photo, Jamie Finlayson.

The Method, a test in technical skill, and falling. This problem is awesome, but will require some serious focus, which is not my strong point. Photo, Jamie Finalyson.

The apple of my eye right now, Permanent Waves. This route was established by my hero Jim Sandford way back in 1993. It's one of the most stunning routes I've ever seen, and I am totally infatuated with it. Naturally, it plays to my strengths with a gentle 5.12 warm-up to a V9 boulder problem. Photo, Andrew Querner.
And here's my other obsession, The Black Hole. I came painfully close to sending this problem last fall. I'll be back for it this spring for sure. Photo, Jamie Finlayson.

The Black Hole up close. Photo, Jamie Finlayson.

The Weasel up close. Photo, Jamie Finlayson.



Under the Cover of Darkness

There is a burgeoning sub-culture in our Squamish climbing community. It’s not the obvious; Boulderers are not taking to ropes, and roped climbers are not giving up their bolts. It has to do with darkness, something that those of us living north of the 49th parallel learn to live with a lot of. Each Fall, when we *sigh* turn our clocks back, darkness is really all we know as card-carrying 9-5 commuters. There’s simply no way to get home in time to catch the last rays of sun on still-warm rock. And so a sub-culture has emerged. Under the cover of darkness boulderers have begun sleuthing about the forest with crash pads and lanterns in tow, vibrating with unbridled motivation. Because let’s face it, you need a lot of motivation to pack-up and leave your warm house at 7:30 pm in the pitch black.


I emerge from the "Black Hole" as darkness falls and our session is just getting underway. Photo, Jamie Finlayson.



I find myself totally smitten with the groups of boulderers quietly gathered around a lantern-lit boulder, discussing beta, listening to Odesza (because, when bouldering under the cover of darkness you must remain in a chill state of mind. No loud metal music here -- save that for the daylight). On any given cold and crisp night, there are three or four different groups of boulderers each huddled around their chosen nights objective.


Yes, I am emerging from a "Black Hole" which also happens to be the name of this problem and also perhaps, aptly describes my current state of mind. Photo, Jamie Finlayson.
These night warriors are not faint of heart; They are driven, they are motivated, and they are sending. I find this small, but perhaps growing sub-culture to be particularly inspiring. Many of these people have day jobs, have families, have children. They wear many hats and yet maintain a stubborn dedication to hard climbing. So much so that they/we have turned the dark, cold forest into our own personal bouldering gym. There is a lot of camaraderie among this ragtag group of bouldering outcasts. We hold a particular respect for one another knowing that sheer grit and determination is what’s bringing us together each night.


Yours truly on her project yet again. Photo, Kerim Ntumba Tshimanga.
As I type this post, there’s a shipment of eight rechargeable LED floodlights in the mail for myself and my crew of night boulderers. We will push the season to the bitter end, and almost certainly all under the protective cover of darkness. Allow me to insert a small public service announcement here. Don’t limit yourself to the literal or metaphorical daylight dear reader. Think outside of the box to achieve your goals. There is the tinniest segment of our community with the privilege of pursuing their goals in the daylight hours. If you are not one of these people, don’t let it distract you from achieving what you want. I have the highest respect for those who cannot make climbing their sole focus, and yet, achieve a standard matching that of the full-time climber. The mental fortitude required to compete on a similar platform as those who can climb all day, any day, is underrated and not applauded enough.

For inspiration, we need not look very far. Squamish local, Luke Zimmerman, has a full-time career, is a husband, and father to twin boys. Luke has quietly been ticking off every hard boulder problem in Squamish. Or take one of my favorite climbing partners, Jamie Finlayson, who is the founding partner of a custom construction company, a husband, and this-just-in…a father! Jamie might just be the strongest climber in Squamish. It’s people like this, who lead ordinary lives in a very extraordinary way that I find most inspiring.

I think, the first step to surpassing the perceived limitations of an ordinary life, is to think extraordinarily.  I enourage you all to give it a try and perhaps...get comfortable under the cover of darkness.

The Weasel, as darkness falls. Photo, Jamie Finlayson.

Darkness cometh. Photo, Jamie Finlayson.

Kelly and I have recently taken to working The Egg by lantern. Photo, Kelly Franz.

Like a night vision, Kelly emerges from the darkeness to...get shut down on The Egg, as has been our luck so far. Photo, Sarah Hart.
The Egg, and a dark, dark hole. Photo, Kelly Franz.




There's nothing like French sunglasses...

A while ago now, I got a message from a friend asking if he could send my contact info. to the distributor for Julbo Eyewear here in Canada, "what?! Um, yes...of course! Holy crap!" For all the time I spend in the mountains; skiing, alpine climbing, running, sunbathing (OK, not really sunbathing) but you get the idea, having a slick pair of sunglasses is kind of key. I spend a lot of money on good sunglasses. I also lose a lot of good sunglasses, or sit on them, or drop them into holes. You know how it is. So, to be connected with Julbo, and learn that they were actually interested in giving me their sunglasses to wear, I was like, "whoa!" 






I figured I should share the good news with all of you out there, my fair reader, since it's momentous for me, and my Mom will really like to read this. Julbo glasses aren't just any sunglasses, they're French sunglasses. And if the French can make delicious pan o' chocolate, they definitely can make good sunglasses. OK, but in all honesty, they make fantastic sunglasses, that I have already been using for quite some time. I'm really honoured to have been given the chance to join the Canadian team and I will proudly wear my bright pink Megève or slick black Whoops at any opportunity. Et voilà!






"For what it's worth: it's never too late...to be whoever you want to be."

"For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again." ~ Unknown

I've been a lot of things in my 35 years; a morning person, a night owl, a dirtbag, a professional, a friend, a foe, a horse rider, a rock climber, a coffee slinger, a project manager, a traveller, an alpinist, a family member, an individual, a girlfriend, a wife. 

While in Patagonia this last season, I knew that I'd be reinventing myself yet again when I returned home. As much as I desperately wished I could just be a rock climber, I needed to be a money maker too. Knowing that I'd be soon be going back to full-time work, it was time for me to squeeze out every last opportunity to climb in cool places, and with cool people. 

Well, if this was my last opportunity I needed to learn how to be an ice climber. What better way to reinvent myself as an ice climber than to commit to a mountain climbing trip to the Central Alaska Range, where ice replaces rock 99-1. Never in my wildest dreams...or nightmares, would I have envisioned myself climbing big snowy mountains in Alaska. It is about as far from my skill set as a climber that one can get. But, when else in my life am I going to find the time to learn how to be an Alaskan alpinist.

Naturally, I wasn't just going to go to Alaska with anyone. I was going to go with a real Alaskan, my shit-talking old friend, Seth. Seth was born in Fairbanks, and lives there today, in a cabin without plumbing he built with his own hands. He likes to go on 100 miles nordic ski tours, and hang out in saunas. I mean, he's a real Alaskan. 

But, before we could go climb all the gnarliest (*read* easiest) mountains in Alaska, I needed to learn how to place an ice screw. Seth agreed to meet me in Canmore, Alberta. 

Motivation was high during our "Fat Camp 2015" and we climbed as many days as we were able to lift our hands above our heads in the morning. I learned how to place ice screws and lead ice in a variety of conditions. This is a little late, but I wanted to share some photos from Fat Camp 2015 because Seth took some really pretty ones.


My first real ice climb! Seth approaches the aptly named, Professor Falls. What a scholarly place to learn to ice climb.
Seth leading the first or second pitch of Professor Falls.
My very first ice lead! How cool! Look at that sport-bolted ice screw line.
Seth on the crux pitch of Professor Falls.
Needless to say, we were feeling mega-gnarl at the top. I should add, this was definitely NOT Seth's first ice climb, but he indulged me in my need to puff my chest up a little.
It was called Fat Camp because Seth needed to lose weight. Ha, he's going to kill me.
Next up, we headed to another uber classic. Louise Falls sits above the most photographed lake in the world, Lake Louise.
Our friend Julie joined us for this one. She works in Jasper as an Avalanche Technician every winter, and lives in Squamish during the summers. Unlike me, she actually is an ice climber.
Looking down from the top of the secon pitch. I'm looking down checking out our tourist audience far below.
Yes, another psyched-at-the-tippy-top shot.
In keeping with the Fat Camp theme our rest days comprised of racing up mountains. Here I am following Seth up high on Mt. Lady MacDonald, with Canmore far below.
Layering up at the base of Guinness Gully.
This would be my first WI4 lead. Was I ready?!
And there you have it. Apparently it was in really easy condition. I mean, there were giant holes all over the thing!
Seth on the next pitch, which was long and awesome.
Again, stoke was high during Fat Camp.
We made friends with a soloist halfway up Guinness Gully, and decided to team up. He graciously offered to lead us up the hardest pitch. How fortuitous.
Oh Sethie, looking so happy on the top.
Then we headed to the Stanley Headwall, where the big kids play. And where we intended to climb the easiest, measliest route on the wall, Sinus Gully.
I don't care if all we managed to do was climb the route with a snot reference. It was an amazing place to be, and I felt honoured to be climbing beside all these famous ice and mixed lines I'd only ever read about. 
Seth at the base of a classic WI 5 route, which I cannot remember the name of right now. Funny that, because at the time, I swore I was going to get good enough to climb it one day. I still will, I'll just hopefully figure out the name before I do it.
Then things got ugly. I'd always heard about how bad the snow was in the Rockies. Seth and I had to crawl on our hands and knees about 150 metres to the base of our route. It was that bad!
More of Seth's "lifestyle" handywork.
For a route named after snot, it's really beautiful. And was super fun! Seth on the first ice pitch.
Me climbing the second mixed pitch.
That was kind of it for the route. It was a long walk, and an even longer crawl to climb 2 pitches, but whatever.
The culmination of Fat Camp was to be Murchison Falls. Here's Seth approaching the route.
The weather kind of deteriorated as the day went on, which made it feel considerably more "mountain" than it otherwise would have. Which was good practise for Alaskan Alpinism!
Seth at our first belay as the wind and snow really start to roar.
Me leading off on the second pitch.
Above me is the third pitch, which I lead, in full-on spin drift. It felt heroic, if I do say so myself.
Me leading off on the third pitch. 
Seth following me.
My version of a hardcore alpinist selfie. Unfortunately, it didn't quite come off as hardcore as I had hoped. Typical.
Me following the final pitch. I really like this photo.
And that was it. A successful Fat Camp. I managed to progress through the grades a little, which was nice. And, like I said, I've now got my sights on a WI5, of which I have no idea the name. Ha!























Being safe is hard work.

I've had to spend some time sitting on this one. Well...actually, I've not really wanted to think about it at all. It's really just in the last week I've started to digest the accident Seth and I had in Alaska this past April.

I haven't given it a second thought since flying home from Alaska on April 25 with my tail between my legs, and my head full of fear for my boyfriend. The day after Seth's accident on the Hayes Glacier, I received a call that there had been an earthquake in Nepal. Colin was trapped in Kyanjin Gompa in the Langtang Valley. After working for a week to help bring Colin safely home from Nepal, I just simply didn't feel like thinking about scary and bad things for a while.

I could recount the whole event play-by-play of what happened to Seth and I in the Eastern Alaska Range; But Seth did a pretty good job of explaining the experience from his perspective here. I just want to share with you the highlights from my perspective. I feel compelled to share because I want to use my experience as a tool to help all of you, my readers, be safe out there. Glacier travel and crevasse rescue is something we all learn, or should learn, but going from book knowledge to actually pulling your friend out of a crevasse is a big transition, and one that should not be taken lightly.

Colin recounted several of the accidents that occurred in the Chalten Massif this past season, including an accident similar to Seth and I; An unroped crevasse fall. However, the accident had a slightly different outcome and I think it's worth exploring why.

After one member of a two person team took an unroped crevasse fall on the Fitz Roy Norte Glacier, the safe partner simply didn't know what to do. He panicked and ended up leaving the injured partner in the crevasse while he left to find help. I'm drawing some subjective conclusions here, but I'd like to think that if the safe climber had dedicated time to understanding and practising rescue techniques this accident would have had a different outcome.

Now more than ever I am convinced that self-rescue techniques need to be practised again, and again, and again. Just as we practise our skills as technical climbers weekend after weekend, we need to dedicate some serious hours to practising the skills that keep us safe in the mountains.

Allow me to explain further the events that took place immediately following Seth's crevasse fall. To give you some background, before departing our camp on the Trident Glacier we deliberated on whether we should rope up or use skis to approach the base of our objective. Ultimately, we let our laziness get the better of us and we made what would turn out to be a very stupid decision. We chose to travel unroped and without skis. We did however, have enough forethought to wear our harnesses and have Seth break trail while I followed a few metres behind with the rope, just in case anything were to happen.

At roughly 11:30 am Seth and I walked away from our basecamp on the Trident Glacier and towards our objective. About 400 m from our tent we briefly stopped to assess our route and then continued. Several minutes later I recall looking down at my feet, then looking up again to see Seth gone. He was just simply not there anymore. The bridge that he broke through left a hole barely larger than Seth himself. I recall a feeling of absolute disbelief, and that it was terribly silent. I had heard nothing. It all happened so quickly that Seth didn't even get the chance to utter a sound.

After that, my mind clicked in to gear and I knew I was now in a rescue scenario. I yelled to Seth again and again, but heard no response. At the same time I examined the area in which I was standing, just to be certain I was not standing on a weak snow bridge myself. Following that I sat myself down, put on my helmet, pulled out all my gear, and had a sip of water. I moved quickly, but I also acted with purpose.

Once I had prepared myself I immediately started to build a solid anchor. I hammered in a picket as deep as I could. Thankfully, it hit firm snow and was VERY solid. Then I hammered in the ends of both my trekking poles with the baskets removed and finally I very firmly placed both my ice tools. I equalised the picket with both ice tools, and then separately equalised both my trekking poles and attached them to the primary anchor as a backup. Seth is a big guy, he weights 200 lbs. I wanted to leave nothing to chance, and have total confidence in my anchor before lowering myself to the lip of the crevasse.

Once I was satisfied with my anchor I fixed one end of the rope to it and began lowering the free end into the crevasse. Here's where I wish I had done something differently. When I fixed one end of the rope to the anchor, I left a tail of maybe 15 metres. In hindsight, I should have fixed the rope at 30 m, giving me 30 m to lower to Seth and another 30 m to use in a pulley scenario.

Next, I attached myself to the 15 m tail on a prussik and crawled to the lip of the crevasse being very careful not to break the lip. It should be noted that I continued to yell to Seth the whole time I was preparing an anchor, but did not receive any response. Finally, I reached the lip of the crevasse and gave a few more loud yells and heard a response from Seth. He was alive. Thank god! I estimate that it was about 10 minutes between the time he fell into the crevasse and when I first heard a response from him. We believe he fell about 15-20 m before coming to a stop on a small ice ledge, and that he was unconscious for about 10 min.

He spoke very slowly and quietly at first. It was apparent he'd suffered head trauma, but after some back and forth he was able to confirm that he could set up his prussiks and would begin to ascend the rope. I then walked back to the anchor, grabbed a yellow evazote foam pad and left it near the lip of the crevasse under the rope that Seth would ascend. This prevented the rope from digging deeper into the lip of the crevasse and making it more difficult for Seth to ascend.

While Seth was ascending the rope (very slowly) I rigged my Petzl Micro Traxion on the 15 m tail of rope I'd fixed. I lowered this 15 m end to Seth and had him tie into it once he reached it. Then I attached my prussik to the "pull" end of the rope fed through the Micro Traxion and clipped a prussik to the belay loop of my harness. From there I was able to provide some body-weight assistance to Seth as he ascended. That night after we were safely home in Fairbanks, while I was taking a shower I noticed that my back, where the harness sits, was black and blue. I realised that I had bruised myself from pulling with my body weight against the Micro-Traxion to assist Seth. I was trying really hard I guess!

After about an hour to an hour and a half (it was hard to be sure) Seth was safely above ground. I remained attached to the equalised anchor that I had built, and I cloved Seth off to it as well. From there we did a quick assessment of Seth's injuries. He was able to walk, and the bleeding had mostly stopped. So, I removed all the gear from his harness etc., and put some warm clothing on him from his pack. Then I began to package everything up as best I could and set us up for Seth to belay me out. I was concerned that there may have been more weakened bridges in our area so I wanted to be extra safe and be belayed out to the "safe" zone of the glacier. I had to talk Seth through the belay process, he was still a little foggy. Once at 60 m, Seth took me off belay, took down the anchor, and we began walking in tandem away from the crevasses and towards our camp.

We arrived back to our camp without incident and I immediately set out some sleeping bags in the tent for Seth to crawl into. He laid down while I called Rob Wing, our Super-Cub pilot, to come pick us up. Rob was awesome, and said he'd be there in two hours. It's a long flight from Fairbanks and Rob still had to get himself to the hanger and prepare the plane. Once Rob was on his way, I got to work preparing warm liquids and some food for Seth. He was a good patient and just relaxed in the tent while I prepared food, and started to take down our camp.

I had just enough time to package everything up before I heard the sweet sound of Rob's Super-Cub. And just like that, as quickly as we'd arrived on the glacier, we were gone. What a crazy 24 hours.

I don't know why I'm sharing this. It's totally ridiculous. I can't draw worth a crap. But, here's the rough layout of my rescue system. Maybe this will help bring some sense to what I've explained above.
So, what's the moral of the story? Like I said earlier, I think it's practise, and it's alot of practise by yourself. This past season in Argentina I decided that I'd start to pass bad weather days in town by practising self-rescue techniques on the stairs of our apartment. I bought a booked called, Climbing Self-Rescue by Andy Tyson and Molly Loomis. Every time I was bored in town, which there is a lot of that kind of time, I would pull out the ropes and beg Colin to pretend to be my injured partner. Sometimes I wouldn't be able to bribe Colin into playing this role, so I'd just fill up water bottles and hang them from my systems.


For me, the exercise of understanding and then practising various self-rescue techniques by myself really solidified the skill. When Seth fell into a crevasse in Alaska, there was no hesitation. I knew what needed to be done, and I did it confidently. 

I want to encourage you to learn all you can from various sources; Practise with your friends, take a course, read a book, but most importantly I think you should spend some time running through scenarios on your own. When accidents happen in the mountains you are often alone. You can't rely on the fact that you'll have another body there the assist, or help with decision making. It is important that you are confident in formulating and executing a plan completely independently. 

So with all this in mind, I wanted to share some helpful self-rescue beta. First off, see if you can find yourself a copy of the book mentioned above. I found it useful because systems described build themselves from simplest skill to the most complex incorporating skills previously learned in the book. I also want to direct you to Petzl's website, www.petzl.com. This website is chock-full (no pun intended) of technical information and rescue techniques using many of their products. For example, the Micro Traxion, of which I am now a huge fan and will probably never walk on a glacier again without, has a technical information page where detailed explanations are provided on using the Micro Traxion in a variety of rescue scenarios. 

This brings me to a very important piece of beta. Buy yourself a Micro Traxion! Strong words I know, but after my experience in Alaska, it became apparent to me that the Micro Tracxion is well worth its 85 gram weight. Incorporate the Micro Traxion into your practised rescue scenarios, learn about it, become familiar with what it can do for you in a difficult situation. 

Just like climbing 5.14 doesn't just happen to you, successfully executing a rescue doesn't just happen to you either. It requires education and practise. So, go forth and learn, and stay safe out there!

For reasons I cannot explain....

HI!

I wanted to post here a short video my friend, Jamie Finlayson, made of me climbing a rad little route on the Cacodemon Boulder in Squamish. The route is called Young Blood, 5.13a and I feel particularly stoked to have climbed it because it's a classic Jim Sanford route from way back in 1991. Here's a radical image of Jim's wife, Jola Sanford, climbing it. Jola was the one of the strongest female sport and competition climbers in North America in the early 90's. How cool that they call Squamish home!

Jola Sandford climbing Young Blood, 5.13a. Photo, Rich Wheater.

I also have to share this video. Watch  with an open mind, and then understand the title of this post, "For Reasons I Cannot Explain"...

Happiness.

Sarah



It's that Friday feeling!
Posted by The Freestylers on Friday, December 12, 2014

The gear I love, 2014/15 edition

Hello Dear Reader!

At long last, it's time for another edition of, "The Gear I Love". This blog post was promised to you many moons ago, and I procrastinated for quite some time. The reasons were many, and mostly they were stupid, such as, "I need to make another coffee first". Lame!

Regardless, I have now compiled some information for all of you, namely the ladies, on key pieces of clothing and gear that I find useful for various alpine applications. I guess I'd be lying if I didn't say there will also be an emphasis on the "cuteness factor" of a certain piece of clothing, because let's be honest, making your butt look good is a key element of clothing "functionality," just as water-tight zippers and chest pockets are. This can be taken too far though...





I will try to be as specific as possible about why I like each piece described below, and how they factor in to a specific clothing system. I've also got a few "gear hacks" to share with you: Some cool little tricks I've learned along the way to turn a semi-functional piece of gear, into a high functioning performance machine. As well I've included a "thinking outside the box" chapter where I reveal some creative uses for some MEC gear. 

First off, I want to include a minor caveat. My primary sponsor is Mountain Equipment Co-op, so naturally, the clothing and gear I am going to review here, is MEC product. Before signing off from regular society and becoming a dirtbag, I was employed by MEC for four years, working in their Vancouver corporate office. They were fantastic employers, and to be given the opportunity to represent the Co-op as a full-time sponsored athlete was pretty much the opportunity of a lifetime. Because of my longstanding relationship with MEC, I've had the incredible opportunity to work closely with MEC's design team on new product, and tweeks to old product. I must say I am supremely impressed with the work MEC has done so far. So much has changed for our beloved Co-op over the last six years. MEC works with some of the newest and most effective textiles available. The design team also places special emphasis on making gear that looks awesome, while still being super functional. No more Rad Pants here, people. Below I will share with you some of these pieces that I think really exemplify this change in direction for the Co-op. I'm proud to wear MEC gear, and I feel that a little shout out needs to be given to the incredible work they are doing behind the scenes. I think it's time we all take notice.

Let me introduce some of the design team to you. MEC's marketing team has put together these great product videos. They make me laugh everytime I watch one. First off meet MEC's pack designers James, and Mark. These guys are the masterminds behind the Travel Pack series, and Alpinelite pack series, both of which I'll share more about with you below.


Meet Kerri McKenzie, MEC's Materials Developer, and Spring Harrison, Backcountry Apparel Designer. Kerri and Spring are both some of the best dressers I know, they're also just really nice people and have awesome ideas.



And, last but definitely not least, meet Katy Holm, my climbing mentor, turned friend, turned MEC Women's Alpine Apparel Product Manager. As this video describes, Katy and I first met on a climbing trip to Joshua Tree in 2005! It was love at first sight. For me at least. Hahaha!

After that, Katy kind of took me under her wing. She helped teach me how to traditional climb, and took me out for my first real multi-pitch climb up Freeway on the Chief. It pretty much blew my mind. I can't believe she was willing to take me up that thing! Katy also happens to have an impressive list of accomplishments both on the rock, and in the mountains. I look up to her, but she's also just a really good friend.

A memorable photo for me. Katy takes on the crux pitch of Freeway, 5.11d while I belay from a granite perch 300 m off the deck. I was delirious with fear at this point. Photo, Jeremy Frimer.

And here's the real hero shot. Katy climbs through the crux with nothing but air between her and the ground. I think by this point, if Katy wasn't already my hero, which she was, she was going to be after this pitch! Photo, Jeremy Frimer.

I really just had to include this for a laugh. This is Katy's husband, and my good buddy, Kelly. It kills me to see the look on Katy's face here! Photo, Jeremy Frimer.
Fast forward to today, and Katy's responsible for the whole women's alpine collection at MEC! I couldn't think of a better person for the job. Now, I get to hang with Katy and her family in the boulders around Squamish as I always have, but we can talk gear at the same time too! It's pretty fun!



What I Wear


I originally wanted to share clothing systems specific to my season in Patagonia, but since returning home in February, I've been doing a lot of ice climbing, so might as well share some systems that work for this too. First up we'll focus on some days in the mountains in southern Argentina.

Climbing in the austral summer of Patagonia is not that unlike alpine climbing in the boreal summer of British Columbia so my systems and recommendations are applicable to those of you who don't intend to make the pilgrimage to Patagonia any time soon as well. Let's start with what I wear for long days of alpine rock climbing.

My go-to baselayer for most alpine climbing is the T1 Long Sleeved Zip-T. It's a silk weight layer that I find comfortable next to skin when wet from sweat, and also dries quickly. It's a versatile piece because of it's high spandex content making it extra stretchy, but also prevents it from bagging out. There's nothing I hate more than a piece of clothing that gets sloppy and baggy when I sweat in it. Finally, the fabrication makes it nice and slippery against your skin, and any piece you layer over it. So the T1 won't grab and bunch as you're pulling on your Obsession Jacket over top. OK, I'd be foolish if I didn't mention too that this piece comes in the coolest prints. I mean seriously, ladies, check them out!

This season in Patagonia I pretty much used the new Obsession Hoodie everytime I went into the mountains. Why you might ask? I am the worst kind of person for high output days in the mountains. Once you get me going I sweat like a horse, but everytime I stop I seize up in cold spasms. Seriously, it's annoying. The Obsession seems to be the best of both worlds. It's made of highly breathable lightweight soft-shell, but also lined with Polartec Alpha insulation (apparently an award winning textile) where it matters. Also, I'm always a sucker for generously stretchy fabric that allows unimpeded freedom of motion when I'm climbing, and the Obsession has that.

For big days in the mountains in Patagonia I wore the T1 Long Sleeved Zip-T and the Obsession Hoodie for the duration of the day. The remainder of my layers came on and off as needed.

Next up is the oh-so-awesome Farpoint Jacket. This jacket is the most versatile piece of clothing that MEC makes in my opinion. As you'll recall from my previous "The Gear I Love" blog post I rambled on and on about the importance of a throw on layer that packs neatly into a tiny pouch and can be attached to your harness with a carabiner. Well, the same still stands. The Farpoint packs away into a tiny compartment but offers some serious weather protection against the wind. A biting wind more than a lot of other "elements" can make a climber cold, so having the ability to add degrees of warmth to your body with a tiny 106 g jacket is amazing! I typically layer the Farpoint over the Obsession at belays, or when the wind picks up while climbing. The Farpoint and Obsession jackets do have similar degrees of wind permeability, but I feel that adding one more layer of protection seems to do the trick to really shut down the system to a cold wind.

Finally, I'll bring along the Uplink Vest to throw on for the rappels, or if I am getting really cold sitting at a belay. The Uplink uses lightweight synthetic PrimaLoft Gold fill. It's surprisingly compressible and also packs into a tiny little pocket that can be thrown into your followers pack, or clipped to your harness.

This season in Patagonia for bottoms I pretty much climbed exclusively in the UpTrack Pant. I can't find it on mec.ca these days, which leads me to believe that they've sold out? So, make sure you jump on a pair when they turn up again for fall/winter 2015! Alright, what is so great about these pants? They're a special soft-shell fabrication created by MEC's design team. Instead of just being your typical highly stretchy, unlined soft-shell there is an embedded layer that adds a degree of warmth to the pant. The pants are intended for colder weather ice climbing, and backcountry pursuits, but for me, I found them perfect for alpine climbing in Patagonia.

The textile is supremely durable. My current pair doesn't have a nick or scratch to speak of, and I'm not kind to my pants. They've got a solid amount of stretch and therefore lots of range of motion. Remember, you always want to find a pair of pants for the mountains that allow enough freedom of movement so you can easily highstep. There's nothing worse than sketching out on a pitch and not being able to high step your foot easily because your pants are too tight, or lack stretch.

I'm usually not a fan of cargo pockets on mountain pants, but low and behold, I kind of like it on these pants. I always have a tube of SPF lip balm, some hair elastics, and a gel in my pocket while I'm climbing in the mountains. This cargo pocket seems to be just the right size for all those things. Lastly, and of course, maybe the most important, they look cute on! They're skinny, but not too skinny. There is enough room in the cuff to fit over your mountain boot. One word of advice: MEC recently changed their fit blocks, and where I would normally fit into a size 4 or 6 pant, I'm now wearing a size 8 UpTrack Pant. So, Ladies keep this in mind when you're selecting your size.

Below are some clothing system samples, but there are many ways to wear the pieces described above. That's what makes them so great, they're versatile!

Here's a system I used for a day of alpine rock climbing on Aguja Guillaumet.  My next-to-skin layer was the T1 Long Sleeved Zip-T, followed by the Obsession Hoodie, and finally the Farpoint Jacket. The weather was warm enough that I simply wore the UpTrack pant and no long johns. These pants are warm enough on their own that this is a great option when you think you'll be getting pretty toasty while climbing.
The Farpoint Jacket, and UpTrack Pants in action on Aguja de L'S. Photo, Jenny Abegg.

Here is the clothing system I wore to climb a great 5. 11 rock route on Aguja Medialuna, just below the east face of Cerro Torre. For more versatility, I wore the Sparrow Grass Short Sleeved as my next-to-skin layer. Then the Obsession Hoodie, The Farpoint Jacket, and finally the UpLink vest for rappelling and shady belays. I also paired the UpTrack pant with the T1 Long John because the day was forecasted to be quite cold. The T1 Long John has all the same great features as the T1 Long Sleeved Zip-T described above.  
I've just described clothing systems for purely alpine rock climbing in Patagonia. Now, I want to take a second to share some systems specific to snow and ice climbing in southern Argentina. As a baselayer I use the T2 Zip-T. It's made of Polartec Power Dry, so is a degree warmer than the T1 layer. I pair the T2 Zip-T with my all time favourite MEC piece the, Alpine Refuge Jacket. Recall if you will that when in motion I sweat like a horse. It's embarrassing. So regardless of the temperature for snow and ice climbing, I almost always wear simply a base layer followed by the Alpine Refuge Jacket. Seems crazy, but I start to get slow when I overheat and this system seems to manage my temperature for me. I'll get into what I throw on over these pieces at belays shortly.

The Alpine Refuge Jacket, ah the Refuge Jacket. This might be the single best piece of clothing or gear, outside of the renowned Genie Pack, that MEC has produced. The Refuge is made of a wickedly stretchy nylon and is pared down to the bare essentials; No pit zips only two simple hip pockets, and a fully adjustable hood, that's about it. What really sells this jacket is that it operates as if it were a soft-shell. It's a highly stretchy and smooth fabrication all the while being waterproof. It's soft-shell qualities also make it highly breathable, hence why I like it for high output snow and ice adventures. Unlike standard 3 ply Gore-Tex this jacket has a ton of give when you're moving. In fact, I don't think it offers any restriction in movement at all for me. 

When I start to get cold, either while climbing, or at belays I throw on the ever trusty Uplink Vest. Finally, the down Light Degree Hoodie Jacket goes on over everything. Here's a word of advice when selecting a belay jacket. Always keep in mind that this piece needs to fit over a bunch of layers. Throwing on a jacket that is too tight will only make you colder as it will restrict movement and blood flow. My Light Degree is a size medium and I can wear it comfortably over my Alpine Refuge and/or Uplink Vest. There are some rad changes coming to MEC's insulation line, so the Light Degree is actually about to be revamped. I'll share more about it's replacement below. 

Finally, the good ol' UpTrack Pants on bottom with the T1 Long John work quite nice.   

Here's the system described above, in action. Apologies for the look of pure misery on my face. That story is for another time. Regardless, here we have the Alpine Refuge Jacket, with the Light Degree Jacket thrown over top at a belay on Cerro Piergiorgio in Patagonia. Photo, Colin Haley.

A photo from the same adventure. As you can see, I threw on the UpLink Vest over my whole system for extra warmth while we completed the raps. Note to self, I should probably get a size medium UpLink Vest for future use too. This is a size small, and doesn't quite work to throw over the whole shebang. Photo, Colin Haley.
Like I mentioned above, after coming home from Patagonia I decided it was high time I really learned how to ice climb. My impression of real ice climbing was that it...well...sucked. But, turns out it's kind of fun! I think I've been able to dial into a clothing system that really works for me. So here we go.

The best way for me to manage heat while climbing is to pair the T1 Long Sleeved Zip-T with the Alpine Refuge Jacket. Notice in the photo below this seasons seriously lovely purple Alpine Refuge! As described above, the silk weight baselayer paired with the Alpine Refuge provides the perfect amount of "weather" protection while climbing ice, and also a supreme amount of stretchability and breathability. I discovered that climbing ice without a hood on means you've got cold ice bits dribbling down your back all day. I'm happy to report that the Alpine Refuge hood fits quite nice and again, that stretchy fabrication allows you to turn your head side to side really easily while climbing.

If it's pretty cold out, I'll climb with the Uplink Vest on and tucked under my harness too. And finally, tucked into it's stow pocket and attached to my harness and ready to be pulled out for belays is the brand spanking new Spicy Jacket. This yet-be-released jacket is insulated with 850 fill down. It's light as air and again, in a size medium I can easily pull it on over all my layers. 

I climbed exclusively in the UpTrack Pant again, paired with the T1 Long John. The UpTrack Pant offers a ton of stretch, it's perfect for waterfall ice climbing. I've included the women's Freeride Glove  in the picture below as they were my go-to ice climbing glove this season. I'll explain them in greater detail below.

Here is my typical system for a day of waterfall climbing on a relatively mild day.  The T1 Long Sleeved T-Zip followed by the Alpine Refuge Jacket and the Uplink Vest for added warmth. Then, I carry the Spicy Jacket on my harness to pull out for belays. On the bottom I wear the T1 Long John, and the UpTrack Pant. I've included the women's Freeride Gloves here, as my go-to waterfall climbing glove.

There were a couple times this season where it was pretty cold during our day of climbing. In these instances I brought out the big guns, the brand new Socked In Jacket. Again, this piece won't be released until fall/winter 2015 but it's going to be well worth the wait. Here's what's so awesome about it. For one, look at the beautiful floral liner on the inside of the jacket. I mean, come on, it's killin' me! The jacket is effectively an Uplink Jacket on the inside, and a proprietary waterproof-breathable on the outside. It's an insulated storm proof jacket. So, on really cold days I'd leave behind either the Uplink Vest, or Spicy Jacket and throw the Socked In Jacket in the followers pack so I could throw it on as a belay parka. Maybe what also sells me on this jacket is the fact that it's so flatteringly cut. It's got the cutest little drop tail on the back, which Ladies, as we all know does wonders for the backside. 

"New, new. Ain't come out yet!" ~ Outkast. Here's the Socked In Jacket to be released for fall/winter 2015. Check out the awesome floral pint on the inside!

The above clothing system in action on Colfax Pk. Photo, Colin Haley.

Here's a photo from one of the belays on Murchison Falls in the Canadian Rockies. I've got the Spicy Jacket on to keep me toasty until I blast upward and put the Spicy back into it's pouch and clip it to my harness. Photo, Seth Adams.

And here's a shot of a colder day climbing on the Stanley Headwall in the Canadian Rockies. As we rack up I've got the Alpine Refuge, Spicy Jacket, and Socked In Jacket all on to keep me toasty before starting up. Once we left the ground though, I left the Socked In Jacket behind. Photo, Seth Adams.

Gear Hacks

I like to think of myself as a creative person, but let me tell you, next to my boyfriend Colin, I look like an old cat lady who likes to drink warm milk every night before going to bed. So I can't take full credit for some of these creative gear hacks. Most of them are derivations of tricks I've learned from Colin. Regardless, this information should be shared!

Alpinelite 50 Backpack

First up, the MEC AlpineLite 50 Backpack. I love this pack. It's my go-to pack for carrying big loads in the mountains. I use it to hike into the various climber bivy's in Patagonia, or to walk a big rack and rope up to the Top Shelf in Squamish -- it's a 45 minute approach straight up hill. The first image is the Alpinelite 50 as it comes straight out of the box. It is hard to tell, but the hipbelt that accompanies it is overkill. It's highly padded and bulky. Amazingly, the MEC pack designers James and Mark were one step ahead of us, and designed the hipbelt from the Alpinelite 50 and Alpinelite 35 to be removable and interchangeable! Perfect!

The bottom two images are my tweeked Alpinelite 50 with the Alpinelite 35 hip belt. The Alpinelite 35 hipbelt is lightly padded and narrower. I've never felt discomfort hauling this pack around full of climbing gear and food rations and it saves a few grams off the weight of the Alpinelite 50. I'd encourage you to consider giving this a try!







In my previous "The Gear I Love" blog post you might recall I waxed on and on about the Travel Light pack series. Originally created as an ultralight pack for international travellers, it just so happens that it works perfectly as a leader or followers pack in the mountains. Below is an image of a Travel Light Top Load pack straight out of the box. The image below that, shows a tweek I made to mine while in Patagonia. In the mountains you often want a mountaineering axe, or technical tools for the approach, descent, or during the climb. I added 4 mm cord to the bottom two webbing loops, and then sewed in some additional cord to the webbing attached at mid-height so I could attach two  Velcro ice tool closure loops. Hard to describe really, but the image below gives a good visual. 





Turns out, I came up with this idea all by myself! On one particular outing to the mountains for some alpine ice climbing I carried my Petzl Quarks with me. They have a full aluminium shaft and on this particularly cold day everytime I grabbed my tools by the shaft, my hands froze right through my gloves. Add to that, the shafts were super slippery. After that trip I decided to seek out some sticky hockey tape. I grew up in a hockey family, so was well familiar with the tricks hockey players use to have better grip on their sticks.

Enter 3M's Hockey Grip Tape. This stuff is amazing. Simply wrap the shafts in the tape and suddenly your tools are stickier when grabbing them by the shaft, and there's a tiny bit of insulation now to keep the biting cold from transferring from the tools to your hands.




The pink Quarks in action! Photo, Colin Haley.

Web Source 1/4" (6.5MM) Shock Cord

This one is simple and most likely you do this already. But, I still wanted to share because it can mean the difference between a bearable walk of shame or an unbearable walk of shame. The UpTrack Pants, and many other MEC alpine bottoms come with small eyelets at the ankle. These eyelet's are for attaching a piece of shock cord and will act as a gaitor when trudging through knee deep isothermic snow. It's a tricky job to get the length of the shock cord just right, but if you have your pants and boots on during the process you'll be able to gauge the optimal length for high step mobility, while holding the pants snug enough around your boots to keep the snow out. 



Thinking Outside the Box

Alright, we're down to the last "chapter" of this overwhelmingly long gear post. I may not be the most "creative" person when it comes to tweeking existing gear, but I am good at thinking outside of the box and finding ways to use gear that others may never consider. Let me share a few of them with you here.

Reactor Explorer 2.5 Pad (Kids)

Yes, this is a kids self-inflating sleeping pad. But, for us Ladies it's also just a perfectly fitted women's ultralight sleeping pad. I used this pad exclusively in Patagonia. It's light, take a look at the stats. It weights 510 g and is 150 cm long. I'm 5'7 and it works perfectly for me if I place a back pack at my feet. The MEC women's specific Reactor pad is 660 g and 171 cm long. Not that much more length, and 150 g heavier. The Thermarest ProLite in size small weights only 335 g, but is a measly 115 cm long. To top it all off, the kid's Reactor pad is $59 compared to roughly $75 for the other two.

Freeride Glove

The women's Freeride Gloves are obviously designed for just that, Freeriding. But, as a waterfall ice climbing glove they work perfectly. Sufficient amount of insulation, and lots of dexterity and are lined with a waterproof-breathable membrane. I've got really stubby fingers, and the size extra small fits great. For waterfall climbing dexterity is kind of key, so finding a glove that fits stubby fingers is a big win.





"When all that's left to do is reflect on what's been done."

"The Dam At Otter Creek" Live

when all that's left to do is
reflect on what's been done
this is where sadness breaths
the sadness of everyone

just like when the guys
built the dam at otter creek
and all the water backed up
deep enough to dive

we took the dead man in sheets to the river
flanked by love
deep enough to dive
deep enough to dive
be here now

we took him there and three
in a stretcher made from trees
that had passed in the storm
leave the hearse behind
to leave the curse be here now


For those of you who have been following my blog for some time now, I guess you'll appreciate that sometimes I get fixated on a certain song. I'm not very good with words, so when I come across a song with lyrics that speak to my current emotional condition, I sort of lean on that song to express myself. If I could have one super hero power, it would be the power of song. But alas, I can't sing, and I mostly can't write. 

I'm kind of mad at life right now, and it seems that, "all that's left to do is reflect on what's been done." And I guess that reflection kind of bums me out more.

To pass the time in perhaps a more productive way, I figured I should share a little bit about the three...yes three trips, Colin and I made to Colfax Pk. in the last month. Colin was preparing for a trip to Nepal, and I for a trip to Alaska, so slogging around on a volcano seemed the perfect training ground.

Just before we left Seattle for our respective international destinations, Colin spoke with Chris Van Leuven at Alpinist about all the activity on Colfax, namely our new route that Colin is calling Kimichi Suicide Volcano. Rather than regurgitate all the information Colin already shared with Chris, I figured I'd just copy and paste the Alpinist report here. I'll add a few additional photos at the bottom too.

Big, Blobby Jugs: Haley and Hart Climb New Route on Colfax Peak 
Posted on: April 16, 2015


Sarah Hart follows Colin Haley's lead on pitch 3 of their new route, Kimchi Suicide Volcano (M5 R AI4+, 1,000'). They climbed the route on April 9 in approximately 6 hours. On March 6, they completed a rare ascent of the neighboring Polish Route (WI6, ca. 1,000'), which contains a rarely formed, delicate hanging dagger. [Photo] Colin Haley

On April 9, Colin Haley and Sarah Hart, taking advantage of an open access road that saved them 10 miles of skinning and 2,500 feet of elevation gain, nabbed a new 1,000-foot route up Colfax Peak (9,440'), a sub-peak of Mt. Baker above Bellingham, Washington.



Haley belays Hart as she follows pitch 2. Their route continues up the ice directly above Haley. [Photo] Sarah Hart

Their route, Kimchi Suicide Volcano (M5 R AI4+), climbs over volcanic rock and up sparse cracks, and follows discontinuous ice into a narrowing chimney followed by a tunnel. The day of the climb, the team left their car at 6:30 a.m., gained 1,000 feet of elevation through the forest, then skinned 4,000 feet up the Coleman Glacier and reached the base around noon. Their route consisted of five roped pitches, protected by cams, nuts, pitons and ice screws. The highlight of the day was finding and then wiggling through the 15-foot tunnel, which they didn't know was there until after Haley climbed through much of the chimney and saw light coming through from the other side. Haley and Hart surmounted this obstacle with their back on one side and legs pressing against the other. From here, the route summited via snow slopes and neve, which the two simulclimbed. They stood on top 6:30 p.m., walked off the back of the peak and returned to their car by 9:30 p.m. 



Haley leading the third pitch on Kimchi Suicide Volcano. "I have three cams and a nut," Haley said with a laugh. "They're all shitty pieces, figuring if I put in enough, one would hold [a fall]." The ice above the mixed terrain took reliable screws. [Photo] Sarah Hart

The mixed climbing was "like Smith Rock but with blobs sticking out," Haley says. "[The blobs] look suspect but are totally solid." Smith Rock, Oregon, made of welded tuff and rhyolite, is riddled with pockets and knobs.

Kimchi marks the third route on the north face of Colfax. The other two are the Polish Route (WI6, 1000', Rogoz-partner, 1990s) and the moderate Cosley-Houston (WI4, ca. 700', Houston-Cosley, 1982). The Polish Route contains a hanging dagger and has been repeated only four times, three of them this winter, Haley believes, beginning with Will Hinckley and Braden Downey in mid January. On March 6 of this year, Roger Strong and Doug Hutchinson made their ascent of the Polish Route; it was Strong's sixth attempt since 1997, as not until now had he found the hanging dagger to be in condition. Haley and Hart also climbed the Polish Route on the same day.



Pitch 4, a mixed chimney with big jugs everywhere that narrows down to a 15-foot long tunnel. [Photo] Colin Haley

Because of the long approach, most teams climb Colfax in the autumn before snow covers the access road, but this year it saw traffic throughout the winter because the road stayed open. 

"These ridges [on Colfax Peak] may possibly be the walls of an extinct crater, whose vast hollow is some two miles in length by about the same in width," states The Alpine Journal, Volume 5. "At the point of intersection of the above-mentioned ridges, but beyond it (a vast field with neve filling the intervening space), rises the great peak, entirely snow covered."

Haley adds, "The special thing about Colfax... is that it's so high quality compared to other winter climbing in the Cascades. Colfax has this high-alpine ambiance to it, but with steep, technical climbing. It has this combination of easy access and reliable ice conditions... tons of real blue ice over. It could be in the Alps or the Canadian Rockies." Because of Colfax's lofty height, and since it faces north and is near the ocean, it receives moisture. Mt. Baker (native name: Kulshan) is a volcano, and Haley believes geothermal heat melts and forms water ice on the face and on the rock. "Nowhere else in the Cascades do you see such reliable waterfalls so high on the mountain," Haley says. 



Colfax Peak (9,440'), showing Kimchi Suicide Volcano (M5 R AI4+, 1,000'), the Polish Route (WI6, ca. 1,000) and the Cosley-Houston (WI4, ca. 700'). [Photo] Colin Haley



Sources: Colin Haley, Roger Strong, The Alpine Journal (Volume 5, 1870-1872), Washington Ice: A Climbing Guide, colinhaley.com 

On trip number one to Colfax, Colin crosses the snow hanging precariously over the bergshrund, that in any normal winter would be barely exist, to the base of the Polish Route.

Colin leads pitch one of the Polish Route with the populated Fraser Valley below.

I really just like how colourful this photo is. 

Here's me coming up to the belay of the first pitch.
  
Colin leads off on the crux WI6 pitch. Apparently, before this pitch, he'd never led a free hanging dagger before. Way to go Captain Safety!

Colin approaching the dagger. This is the rarely formed feature of the Polish Route that perennially turns people back.

On the summit of Colfax after completing the Polish Route. 

Time for round two. Here's me as we approach the base of Colfax's north face.

North faces are cold places.

Colin leads the WI4 crux pitch of the Cosley-Huston with skis. It was kind of amusing to watch him catch his ice tool on his skis each time he swung his tool. Hehehehe...

Looking down halfway up the crux pitch. After my Rockies Fat Camp 2015, I felt like the WI4 pitch, even though not super hacked out, was pretty darn casual. Hooray! Progress! I guess I need to come back and drag someone up the Cosley-Huston now. Who's coming with me?!

On the summit again with my lover. 
  
Colin on the summit of Colfax with the Salish Sea, and the Gulf Islands in the distance.

Colin pauses on the walk back to the Colfax-Baker col.

Me, slogging behind Colin with the summit of Colfax visible in behind.

We attempted to continue on to the summit of Mt. Baker after climbing Colfax, hence why we brought skis with us. Below the Roman Headwall I had a little breakdown though, when I couldn't feel my little toesies anymore. So we turned around.

I got to lead us over the bergshrund on the approach to the base of Kimchi Suicide Volcano on trip three to Colfax. Here's Colin following me to the belay below the first pitch.

Colin leading on the first pitch. This is where I fell while following. I took a big swinging pendulum fall and gave out a rather loud scream. I think the skiers on the glacier below heard me, and probably thought I'd done something really bad. Oops!
Colin leading out on the second pitch. Again, I mostly just love all the colour in this photo.

One more from the second pitch. Colin finished up by climbing out the ice above.

Here's me following pitch three. Yes, notice my sweet pink ice tool shafts. I'm pretty stoked about that. It definitely helps make the shafts a little stickier, and warmer.

Looking down on the belay at start of pitch four.


And here it is, the ice chimney that we eventually tunnelled through to the top of pitch four. It was pretty mind expanding for this rock climber to be climbing through an icy tunnel only to pop out on a snowfield above.


Girl Power: The Perfect Slideshow with Sarah Hart

HI!

I'm doing another slideshow. This time...get ready for it...it will be in Fairbanks, Alaska! Wahoo! I'm going to Alaska, people. I ain't never been! I'll be making a brief stop in Fairbanks to pick up a partner and do a slideshow, before heading to Talkeetna and the Ruth Gorge. My Alaska partner, Mr. Seth Adams, is a Fairbanks local and he thought it would be cool to tack on a slideshow to my brief visit to Fairbanks. I like slideshows, so naturally I agreed. 

For those of you who followed the link on the slideshow poster to my blog, I thought it best to provide a little introduction to myself, and my slideshow topic below. I'm sure most of you Fairbanks locals will know Seth well already, but I also wanted to share a link to his blog, Purer and More Essential Than Yours (seriously, that is the title of his blog!), so you can get to know him a little bit better too. 


Sarah comes from the land of smog and eight lane highways: southern Ontario, and is the daughter of a dirt bike-racing father and shopping mall-loving mother. While her upbringing lacked mountain culture, it was packed full of indiscriminate passion and energy – she was raised to approach everything in life with zeal and 100% effort. Today, this is how she approaches her climbing.

Sarah learned to climb on the limestone bluffs of Lions Head, Ontario, but in 2004 realised that while southern Ontario may be the financial centre of the country, it certainly wasn’t the climbing centre. She now calls Squamish, British Columbia home, where world-class granite is a bike ride away, and she can eat sushi almost everyday.

In 2007 she went on her first alpine climbing expedition to Pakistan in the company of two of her best girlfriends. They were young, inexperienced, and barely scraped by without killing themselves. Eight years later, she’s slightly less Kamikaze in the mountains, and has spent countless hours tent bound in the company of both men and women.


The rhetoric of, “men versus women” is old news, but what about, “men versus women in the mountains”? Join Sarah as she answers some of the alpine community’s most baffling male-female questions like, “who takes longer to pack for a big expedition?”, “who makes better tent platforms?”,  “who eats more chocolate?”, and ultimately, “who’s just plain better?” Well, it’s the girls naturally. Join Sarah as she answers these and other thought-provoking questions in, “Girl Power: The Perfect Slideshow”.

A picture is worth a thousand words...

...so I won't bother with a thousand, and just include a few words below. Mostly I'll let the images speak for themselves.

I wanted to dedicate a blog post to some of my photographer friends. I'm ever so slowly developing an eye for photography. Well, I should clarify that. I'm developing a taste for taking copious amounts of photos with my pocket sized point and shoot in an effort to produce at least one image that's worth looking at. Turns out, this strategy has started working for me. What this attention to photography has also given me, is a real appreciation for actually talented photographers. As a professional athlete, I've had the privilege of working with some awesome photographers, and I wanted to share with you a few of my favourite photographers here.

Jamie Finlayson

Jamie is not only a budding photographer, but also our local Squamish crusher. Jamie's climbed pretty much all the hard climbing Squamish has to offer, and now has his sights set on Dreamcatcher, 5.14d. He's getting close. Jamie, his wife Natalie, and their two dogs Furgus and Oscar are also some of our best Squamish buddies. Jamie recently had back surgery, the result of a previous life as a nationally ranked alpine ski racer, and apparently falling off a roof or something like that. Only a few short months later, Jamie just ticked a V12. Wow!




Rich Wheater

Rich is probably the godfather of Squamish climbing photography. He’s been doing it a long time, and is the eyes behind some of the most iconic images of Squamish rock climbing. Rich always seems to do an incredible job of photographing the whole story, not just the climber, but the surrounding landscape too. Because, let’s face it, climbing is about a lot more than just the climbing. Rich, and his partner Senja, are also among the first few people I met when I moved to Vancouver way back in 2004. I've been going on climbing trips with them ever since. 




Chris Christie

I didn't really know Chris until he joined Jasmin Catton, Kinley Aitken, and I on a trip to the Waddington Range as our token male photographer. Chris is awesome, he does everything. He's a bad ass mountain biker, a bad ass big mountain skier, a bad ass cyclocross racer, and not to mention one of my fellow MEC Ambassadors. Chris always makes me chuckle because he'd be the first to tell you that he doesn't necessarily like all the exposure that goes along with climbing photography. Whenever I'm out with him on a photography mission I can hear him muttering to himself from his photographers perch about how much he's freaking out. But, he's always stoked to join in on a mission, and always takes AMAZING photos! I love Chris' work!





Andrew Querner

Andrew is like a 5.14 photographer. I don't mean he only takes pictures of people climbing 5.14's, I just mean he's that good. I get the impression he takes climbing photos to keep himself busy when he's bored. Mainly, he's a sought after documentary photographer, whose work has gained the attention of media outlets like, The National Post. Obviously, his eye for telling a story with his photography is evident in his climbing photography too. Below is an image from a series of his work titled, "Shelter from the Storm". As a climber, it's pretty impressive to me how much tension and emotion I can gather from this image of Sarah climbing an alpine route in the Rockies as a storm rolls in. 





Rich is like my little brother. I’ve watched him grow up in the mountains, and I’ve watched him develop as a photographer. I liken Rich to famed coastal explorers John Clarke, or John Baldwin. He has the incredible ability to suffer. His adventure of choice is long obscure mountain scrambles, all the while with his ridiculously heavy DSLR camera in tow. Despite the enormous amount of suffering he puts himself, and his unsuspecting trip partners through, he always comes away with incredible photos of smiling, happy people. Unlike some of the other photographers included here, Rich has another full-time job so he doesn’t get to updating his blog, or Flikr site very often, but when he does it’s full of not only incredible images, but detailed trip reports too. If you need beta on some mountain your friends have never heard of, then check out Rich’s blog. It’s probably got the detail you need, including where the best pee spots are on the approach.










Patagonia 2014/15 edition II


Since returning from Argentina, I've been getting distracted with fun adventures around home. I can't decide if the very unseasonably small amount of snow we have this year, is a good thing, or a bad thing, because I've sure been having fun climbing...and driving really high (not that kind of high!) on logging roads for ridiculously long ski tours.

Mid-winter bouldering temps, and no rain. Wicked! Photo, Jamie Finlayson

Second day on skis this season, and my first day out after returning from Patagonia was a 35 km ski traverse. My incredibly gifted, and grumpy, friend Rich So took a few silly photos along the way which I thought you might get a laugh out of as well. Photo, Rich So.

I. Look. Like. A. Smartie. Photo, Rich So.

Photo, Rich So.

The "Unlikely Alpinist" himself, Mr. Richard So with the oft-coveted, seldom climbed Vulcan's Thumb, Pyroclastic Pk., and Mt. Cayley in behind. Cool fact, in the language of the aboriginal people that inhabited the Squamish river valley, Mt. Cayley was called, "Landing Place of the Thunderbird". That's pretty cool! This group of mountains holds interest to Geologists too, as they are a part of the Garibaldi Volcanic Belt. Photo, Sarah Hart.



Marius and Adriana halfway through our 35 km grunt, along the extensive Powder Mountain Icefield. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Rich just before we ripped skins and skied our well earned 700 m run to the bottom of the Callaghan Valley. Photo, Sarah Hart.

I got suckered into another Rich So death march a week after the Powdercap Traverse. This time Justin joined us as we made a traverse from the summits of Mt. Tricouni, to Mt. Cypress with a little bit of steep ice shredding along the way. Here, Rich and Justin confirm that we're going to right way, with the sweet looking north face of Mt. Tricouni in the background. Photo, Sarah Hart.

This is out of order but, whatever. Here's JB booting to the summit of Mt. Tricouni. Photo, Sarah Hart.

This is a new thing, it's called the "Alpine Unicorn". You're going to see more of this. Promise. Photo, Rich So.

Next I decided it would be fun to host an adventure right out of our backyard, so I convinced Joel and Paul to join me on a romp up our backyard mountain, Skypilot, for a winter ascent. It was awesome fun, and easy, as evidenced by the jerry-rigged crampon that Paul was able to climb the mountain with after his centre bar broke. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Joel heads towards the final summit tower of Skypilot. We climbed most of the route in near whiteout conditions. It made it a little more exciting. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Paul and Joel follow me up the final snow filled gully to the summit. Photo, Sarah Hart.
Alright, I'm procrastinating here. I should be sharing stories about Patagonia. But, I just can't quite figure out what to say other than the same old climbing trip report jibber jabber. So, in an attempt to break from the norm, I've got a little historical comparison for you. This season, among other routes, I climbed the Argentina, 600 m 6a+, on Aguja Mermoz, and the Austriaca, 350m 6a 50 degrees, on Aguja de L'S. I've got a selection of slides from Colin's first trips to Patagonia, including images of these same routes. Turns out, it's kind of cool to look at his old photos from 2003, and 2005, and then see my photos on the same routes from 2014/15.

Argentina, 600 m 6a+, Aguja Mermoz

Mark Westman following the initial third class ramps in 2005, on the Argentina. Photo, Colin Haley.

Here, Jenny leads off on the same third class ramps in 2014. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Mark following Colin through an iced up chimney just above the third class ramps in 2005. Photo, Colin Haley.

Mark following Colin across a low angle ramp above the icey chimney, to the start of the more technical climbing in 2005. Photo, Colin Haley.

Jenny climbs across the same low angle ramps to the base of the technical climbing in 2014. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Mark following the poor quality 5.8 chimney's in 2005. Photo, Colin Haley.

Me following those same low quality 5.8 chimney's in 2014.  Photo, Doerte Pietron.

Mark leading into the higher quality rock in 2005. Photo, Colin Haley.

Doerte following through that same improving rock in 2014. Photo, Jenny Abegg.

Hey, that rock is looking better now! Mark following higher on the west face. Photo, Colin Haley.

Mark at the base of the crux pitch in 2005. Photo, Colin Haley.

Me, leading that same crux pitch in 2014. It was a fantastic pitch. Photo, Doerte Pietron.

This is looking down that same crux pitch in 2014, to the same ledge in Colin's photo from 2005. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Here I'm leading one more pitch on the west face before joining the lower angle north ridge in 2014. Photo, Doerte Pietron. 

Mark on the lower angle north ridge in 2005, with the west face of Aguja Guillaumet visible behind. Photo, Colin Haley. 

A shot from 2014 of a similar location. Doerte, and Jenny follow the low angle north ridge, with Guillaumet visible behind. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Mark just below the summit of Mermoz in 2005. Photo, Colin Haley.

The girls in 2014, at just about the same spot. Photo, Sarah Hart.

A typical dudes summit shot from 2005. Is Mark giving us "blue steel"? Photo, Colin Haley.

And what's this? Mark Westman, still playing it up for the camera in 2014. Photo, Sarah Hart.

This is more like it. An all girls summit shot in 2014. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Taking in the views from the summit of Mermoz. Photo, Doerte Pietron.

This was kind of exciting. We had to slide down this fin of rock with hundreds of metres of air below us. I wore a hole in the crotch of my pants I was so gripped...literally. Photo, Jenny Abegg.

I had to include this photo. As sketchy as this looks, it wasn't, and it was pretty much the raddest rappel horn ever! Photo, Sarah Hart.

Doerte setting up the first rappel back onto the west face of Mermoz. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Back where we started, and it wasn't even dark yet! Photo, Sarah Hart. 

Austriaca, 350m 6a 50 degrees, Aguja de L'S

Jenny on the approach to the Austriaca in 2015. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Photo, Sarah Hart.

And here is a photo on the same route from Colin's very first trip to Patagonia in 2003. Photo, Colin Haley.

Recognize that ridge? Jenny crosses the same ridge seen above, during our 2015 trip. Photo, Sarah Hart. 

Here's a party of three beginning the final pitches to the summit. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Me following Jenny to the summit in 2015. Photo, Jenny Abegg.

Here, Bart Paul rappels off the summit of Aguja de L'S in 2003. Photo, Colin Haley.

And Jenny rapping off the summit tower in 2015. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Jenny walking back across that beautiful ridge on the descent of de L'S. Aguja St. Exupery towers behind. Photo, Sarah Hart.

And just like that, back at the airport and time to head home. Photo, Sarah Hart.











This is for all those "Moody Bitches"

Sorry dear reader, and especially to my dear mother, that title was perhaps a little harsh. But, I have some additional information I wanted to share with all those women who, like myself, might at times be a, "moody bitch". A friend recently shared a link on Facebook that I found very poignant to my recent post, "The B$tch Abides". The article titled, "Medicating Women’s Feelings", was published in the New York Times on Feb. 28, 2015. Here's a link, I encourage you to take a read. 

The article also links to a book written by the articles author, "Moody Bitches". I've not yet read it, but it's on the list. A related book that I have read titled, "The Female Brain" is also a very informative read, and I encourage you to grab it from the library if you have a chance. 

I don't think the linked article, or either of these books has the answer to all of our struggles as a pre-menstrual woman, but I think sharing information, and educating ourselves on our biology is the best way to help us make the right decisions for ourselves, and our bodies. 


The importance of self-rescue in Patagonia

In my most recent post about Patagonia, I snuck in a couple paragraphs about some unfortunate  climbing accidents that occurred in the Chalten Massif this season. It was brought to my attention that my sneaky couple of paragraphs may have come off a little whinny. You know the old, "I'm a sponsored climber, and poor me that I had to participate in the rescue of an injured climber, and it got in the way of my climbing goals" thing. Upon re-reading said paragraphs, indeed, it did come off in a way that was not my intention. I am supremely lucky to be able to participate in the adventures that I have, and by no means would I turn a blind eye to an injured climber, just so I could complete my own climbing objective. 

But, what I did want to get across was the importance of self-rescue, and self-reliance when climbing in the Chalten Massif. With the availability of a guidebook, and abundant online information, climbing in Patagonia seems like a quick step up from climbing in your home mountain range. I want to warn you that it is not. Patagonia is a big place, with mountains that require significant skill to travel in safely. 

The most important factor here is rescue operations are volunteer, and are not trained to carry out wall rescues. There is an incredible team of local people who volunteer their time to assist injured climbers; however, these people have other jobs, and responsibilities in El Chalten. To complete a rescue in the Chalten Massif is no small task. Minus a tiny handful of helicopter rescues, all rescues are completed by walking from town, and back to town. These approaches can take anywhere from five hours, to eight hours one way. And that's if you're uninjured, or not carrying a rescue litter.

I want to encourage people travelling to Patagonia, to arrive armed with the skills necessary to be self-sufficient and carry out self-rescue. Unlike climbing in North America, you cannot rely on the assistance of a formal search and rescue operation. A helicopter is not a satellite phone call away.

Yes, the weather is bad, and yes you must take advantage of every window of good weather offered up, but without possessing the proper skills, I don't think "going big" at the cost of everything else is a suitable mantra. Just like succeeding on your first 5.14, there is a pyramid of progression that is followed as you build the skills necessary to travel safely in these mountains.

Rolo Garibotti posted a thought provoking article on risk to his website, www.pataclimb.com. Here's a link to the risk management document he is encouraging people to read when planning their objectives in Patagonia.

Below are a series of images from two rescues in the Chalten Massif. The first happened during the 2013/14 season and involved two climbers who'd taken a fall upwards of 300 m roped together while climbing the Supercanaleta. Both climbers survived, but it was a heroic effort on the part of the two injured climbers, and those that participated in the rescue. It took a little more than 24 hours to carryout the rescue, and involved about 50 people.

The second team of rescuers arrive at Piedras Negras to meet up with the first team who'd stabilized the injured climbers, and carried them from the base of the Supercanaleta to Paso Cuadrado.

Using 100 m static rope, the injured climbers were lowered one at a time in litters down the glacier from Paso Cuadrado.




Then, the climbers were again lowered from Piedras Negras down the roughly 1000 m high Polish Hill.



The second incident occurred this 2014/15 season, and involved two climbers who again, took a fall on snow while roped together. The rescue operation was considerably easier than the one recounted above, but still involved numerous people, and a lot of time to carry out the rescue. 

Colin, myself, and two Argentine climbers assisting the injured climbers across the Torre Glacier...

...until we were met with the volunteer rescue team from El Chalten.

The climbers were assessed for injury and stabilized. One was carried out in a litter, while the other was able to walk with assistance. 










Wrong Girl.

You messed with the wrong girl
She's small but she's fierce
She shattered the glass out
With the highs of a heel
You led with the wrong line
When you called her c*** and all
So what make's a guy think
That it hurts a girl?

It don't hurt a girl
She loves her dangerous play
Kicks and screams as she dances
Keeps a pretty face

You messed with the wrong girl
She has her ways and means
Laughs at the traffic
From the easy streets
Enters in cages
With no bites when she leaves
If guys are too rough now
Then that's what you think!

It don't hurt a girl
She loves her dangerous play
Kicks and screams as she dances
Keeps a pretty face

She's like a mother eagle
Come'n down
She's like a mother eagle
Come'n down

Oh now she's cutting every corner
She's tearin' up the grass
'cause cars ain't for parkin' man
A car's what you pass

It don't stop a girl
She loves her dangerous play
Kicks and screams as she dances
Keeps a pretty face
Oh, I love her pretty face!
I love her pretty face!
What a pretty face!

"The East Face, West Face Bullshit" ~ Seba Perroni

The weather is good here in Chalten. All the climbers are in the mountains, including Colin. It’s just me here now, and town is kind of quiet. I might like it.  This is my last day here, everything is packed and now I’m just deciding if I should rally for one last run, or just go buy some more empanadas.

I intended to write a blog post or two throughout the season. I guess I failed miserably on that one. I got too caught up in Instagram, and my clever little hashtag #mysilverlining, to spend time writing down an actual paragraph or two. I’ve now got two full days of travel ahead of me, so surely this post will be done by then.

There’s a lot to tell, a lot has happened. I think I achieved my goals. Not because I climbed the east face of Fitz Roy or something rad like that, because I didn’t. Not because I acquired 700 more Instagram followers due to my clever hashtag, because I didn’t. I achieved my goals because I managed to make good decisions in the mountains, and climb safely and efficiently with my girlfriends. And, because I put myself, and my gear to the test in all kinds of conditions and managed to bring many of you along with me. It was fun, and I feel satisfied.

As promised in my last post, one of the primary goals of my Patagonia blogging, is to share another round of clothing system recommendations for women who climb in the mountains. Remember, I love clothes, and as much as I enjoy talking about east faces and west faces, I like talking about hemlines, and the “hand” of a fabric more.

My wonderful sponsor, MEC, asked me to take a few new clothing samples down to Patagonia to test them out, and document the process for their MEC Instagram site. I was stoked to do so. Everyone knows I love clothes; however, when I attempted to enlist Colin's help in taking a few photos of me in my sweet new kit, he started taking random butt shots...

...and pictures like this. Thanks darling for the "help". Ha!

So, I’m going to break up my blog posts into a couple editions to separate the men from the ladies a little bit. Surely you dudes only care about the east faces and west faces, while all the ladies would love to join me on a photographic journey through clothing choices.

The west face of Aguja Mojon Rojo and our route, El Zorro. Isn't that a pretty west face?

Edition 1, “The East Face, West Face Bullshit” ~ Seba Perroni

The season started out slow, really slow. Colin arrived to southern Patagonia early November to head to a new zone, San Lorenzo, with our friend Rob Smith. They had one good climbing day in about three weeks. I arrived to Chalten on December 1, about the same time as Colin, so we could settle into our apartment, see Rob off, and get climbing. We didn’t do any climbing though. The weather was crap and in total for November and December there were two mediocre climbing windows. We did do a lot of bouldering though...

That's me.

Rolo photo-bombed this one of Doerte bouldering. I think he's pointing at the next hold?

Colin on a slab problem that was apparently V4. It took both of us two days of effort to send it! I hate slab climbing!

Our favourite little smoothie shop, VerdeLimòn. Colin and I hung out there a lot with the shop owners, Mariana and Leaondro, who are also our good buddies.

We rented a new apartment this season. Recall if you will, we've rented the same little apartment in town for the last five years. This year, Lilly, our landlady, offered us a bigger apartment. It had a big picnic table in the kitchen, and two bedrooms! 

And, some more bouldering. Ben is a very attentive spotter.

Meet the Luxury-Mother-Fuckers, Seba and Rob.

Captain Safety, and Major Danger.

Colin and some pretty Patagonian clouds.

Yours truly testing out the aerodynamics of my new MEC samples. 

After two weeks Colin and I were finally able to rally and head into the mountains for our first adventure. Unfortunately, in what is becoming a growing trend, we got caught up in a climber rescue which sucked up two days of our three day weather window. Needless to say, we were a little bummed, and ended up just climbing Rubio y Azul, 350 m 6c, on Aguja Medialuna.  Still totally worth the trip. It was an incredible route, but it was with a touch of bitterness that we settled on it.

Colin, along with two other Argentine climbers, and the volunteer Comisión de Auxilio de El Chaltén carry one of the injured climbers across the Torre Glacier in a litter.

There's Aguja Medialuna above Colin while he fills up water on our approach. 

Me following the first pitch of Rubio y Azul.

Colin scrambles third class terrain to the upper headwall of Rubio y Azul. Cerro Torre, Torre Egger, and Cerro Standhardt are behind him. I really like this picture.

That's me climbing the first pitch on the upper headwall. The final two pitches of the route are somewhere way in the back of that gaping chimney above me.

Colin following on the headwall. The third class terrain that we scrambled to the base of the headwall is visible below Colin.

Here's Colin stemming across the giant gaping chimney that cuts the upper portion of Aguja Medialuna's headwall. This was the crux of the route, an offwidth crack that forced you to eventually stem the width of the whole chimney to surmount the difficulties. Colin managed to climb this pitch clean. I think it was probably 11+ offwidth climbing! Yowzers!

Me following the last technical pitch to the summit which required us to climb out of the giant gaping chimney and onto the final summit block. Super cool!

Looking back at me as I belay from where we popped out of the giant gaping chimney. El Mocho is visible behind.

So, that first window Colin and I got caught up in a rescue. Climbing Medialuna was still a great trip to the mountains, and it’s always special to hangout in Niponino, the climber’s bivy below the Torre’s, with Colin. We always manage to have lots of fun there.


We made a double wall tent out of a single wall tent pitched inside another single wall tent at Niponino. How clever is that? It was Colin's idea.

Rest day in Niponino..."Hi Mom and Dad!"

And I engineered a way to collect melt water off the boulder above our tent. How niffty is that? We got like, four litres out of this little rig up.

Ahoy mate! Our Feathered Friends pirate flag flying proudly at Niponino. 
After that trip to the hills, my buddy Doerte arrived. Doerte is Rolo Garibotti’s girlfriend, and a good friend of mine at this point. Doerte and I planned to climb together for three weeks. We waited out the bad weather along with every other climber in town, and then finally managed to sneak in a day of climbing on Aguja Guillaumet. It was a cold and snowy window and we climbed the Giordani extension to the classic Comesaña-Fonrouge, 6b+ 700 m altogether, mostly with boots on. I climbed one pitch that felt like the hardest “mixed” climbing I’d ever lead. Even though climbing to the top of Guillaumet isn’t anything too rad at all, climbing it in snowy conditions with gloves on felt pretty badass. So, one more tick off my list of skill development here in Patagonia.

Me leading out on the first pitch we belayed on the lower Giordani extension.

Doerte simul-climbing along the lower ridge. The summit of Guillaumet is visible in the upper middle of the picture.

Doerte on the ridge with the west faces of Aguja Guillaumet, and Mermoz to the right.

That's me, starting out the mixed climbing pitch that I think might have been the hardest mixed climbing I'd ever lead. 

Doerte climbs across the 5.8 handcrack traverse on the upper Comesaña-Fonrouge.

Yes, conditions weren't exactly primo for rock climbing. That's me climbing through the snow with my bare hands.

Summit shot.

Re-racking to go down, with El Chalten and Lago Viedma visible behind.

What happened once we got down from climbing that night, was not badass, and didn’t feel very nice at all. Two hours after arriving to our bivy, I started to feel sick. Everyone went to bed, and I lay in my shared double sleeping bag with Doerte wondering if I’d just eaten too much or something? Then, it hit, and I immediately knew I was in trouble. I spent the rest of the night throwing up, and…you know what…all over Piedras Negras, the climber's bivvy. There were climbers curled up in their sleeping bags all over the place and I had to try and make it far enough away so as to not wake anyone. Unfortunately, I was so horrendously ill that I could barely make it two steps out of the tent before...well, you know what. Then I’d slump down on a boulder and lay in the fetal position for a while until I started to shiver so uncontrollably that I had to sneak back into the sleeping bag before the next round of sickness hit.

Amazingly, Doerte didn’t wake up. Which made me feel much better. I didn’t want anyone to live through my disgusting illness. By the time the sun came up, I didn’t have an ounce of anything left in me, and I lay on a rock with a hot water bottle until I was ready to take my first sip of water.

Miraculously, I made it out of the mountains that day. But, I think the bug lingered. As you’re about to find out, it struck a second time…

A week or so later another tiny window of reasonably good weather appeared. Perhaps that’s an overstatement, as Colin and I were the only ones to hike into the mountains for this day of climbing. It had snowed down to the Torre Glacier and walking from town to Niponino took a very, very long time. We arrived exhausted, so decided to rest one day at Niponino, and then begin approaching our climb at 10:00 pm that night. You heard me correctly, we approached our climb from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am. The whole night we walked in the dark.


I've never seen the Torre Glacier covered in snow. It was horrendously slow going, but it sure was beautiful.

Captain Safety sharpens his crampon.

Without providing too much unwanted detail, at approximately 5:45 am, as Colin and I were simul-climbing the last hundred metres of steep snow to the base of our climb the gastrointestinal-bug-from-hell struck again. There was nothing I could do about it. For the second time on this trip the unspeakable happened.

We had to go down. It was a sad, sad day.

Climbing up steep snow to the base of the "actual climbing".  We began our approach at 10:00 pm the night before at Niponino. It was quite the slog.

For some reason, Colin wanted to take a picture of me as I arrived to the belay. This was moments after I told him in tears, that we needed to go down, for reasons I shall not name.


Yes, I was a mess...

On the walk back down the glacier despite being in a less than jovial spirit, I still couldn't resist taking a few photos because the place is just so darn beautiful. Here's Colin with the Fitz Roy skyline behind him.

Some of you might recall that during the same window that Colin and I were participating in the rescue of two Italian climbers from the Torre Glacier, another rescue was simultaneously happening on the other side of the range. An unroped climber had taken a bad crevasse fall. Here's the full report from Chalten's local newspaper. Colin and I surprisingly came upon the helicopter debris right near the top of our descent from El Hombre Sentado. It was quite the juxtaposition seeing the Torre's bathed in glorious light, with a mangled and burned helicopter corpse in the foreground. 

Down climbing from the Bloquete del Piergiorgio. We'd climbed up it the night before.

This seems like a reasonable spot to conclude edition 1 "The East Face, West Face Bullshit". Stay tuned for more, dear reader.