Saturday, 6 April 2013


'A condition that is not limited to a specific set of values but can vary infinitely within a continuum.' - Wikipedia

Sunrise from Canmore. Photo: Patrick Hogan

The bicycle feels heavy and cantankerous as it labours up the final switchbacks. The front wheel thrashes left and right in a feeble attempt to ease the angle of the incline ahead. It's occupant gasps for oxygen to help feed the fatigued pistons that drive the vessel ever onward. The gradient eventually recedes as i reach the impressive pass to Spray Lakes, it's threshold crowned with the East End of Mt Rundle on the right hand side and the magnificent north face of Ha Ling Peak on the left. The thumping inside my chest ebbs away slowly as the bicycle rolls to a tired stop. The top of the Grassi Lakes crag is conveniently situated directly under this pass so the funnelled winds blasting through the gap at 50kph shouldn't have been surprising, but it was, swiftly making me feel cold again.

Dipping down a few feet into the canyon of Grassi, the wind abates and i stuff the bike into the snow slope. Using it's frame as a seat, i sip some tea from my thermos and look down into the Bow Valley to the east. As usual, it doesn't take long for my gaze to turn again to the soaring wall of Ha Lings north face.

The strong winds heaved clouds of spindrift from their snowy ledges sending them swirling across the dark broken face. It seems to me that this smouldering titan of the ancient world was waking from the long, deep slumber of winter and is calling those that are willing, to enter it's vertical domain. The hypnotic stare lingers, nothing else exists. It only takes a brief moment for your imagination to manifest itself but sometimes that's all you need to be inspired. In this case, to simply wonder what it would feel like to be up on those heights was enough to plant the seed of curiosity. The more you meditate on the arduous task, the further the roots of that seed slide down along your veins and spiral around your bones until it consumes you completely in the depths of your heart and your soul.

The North Face of Ha Ling from the Pass

To those that know the routes up this face, i am aware that the most popular and direct route to the summit is in fact an alpine 'sport route' with 20 or so pitches, all bolts. Does this take away from the grandiose i feel for the mountain? Not at all, it is and will always be about the aesthetic line. For Ha Ling, the best looking line takes the direct route up the steepest part of the face and therefore the most exposed. Two factors alone that result in an exciting day out.I will climb it with a good friend this summer. It was then, pretending no routes existed that i began to understand the allure of climbing first ascents.

Later that day, the sun lit up the canyon and felt warm for March in the Rockies (Only 0C). After hours of bouldering on the steep, dry overhangs i was finally knackered and psyched to have had a first legit day of 2013 on the rock! I thought about the legendary crack climber Steve Hong's quote from some article in Rock & Ice about how important it is to be self motivated. Oh the joy of riding a rusty bicycle from the trailer park for 90 minutes up a savage hill to go bouldering in a snow filled canyon with numb hands! Seriously...  


Packing away my things, i stood in front of the prominent arĂȘte of 'A Bold New Plan', a route that juts out into the skyline. Two years ago i climbed that route for the first time. My first 5.11a on bolts. A cause for celebration at the time but it's funny how you evolve. Since that time, i discovered epic traditional routes, big boulders and now waterfall ice, all of which terrified me upon initiation but are now spectrums of climbing within my comfort zone. (In a general sense of course, it always depends). In the coming days, when i am ready, big wall aid and mixed climbs will be part of it too.

For me, the road to enlightenment lies in the surrender to the timeless wisdom out there in the hills. My personal hero, Walter Bonatti wrote about the mountain being a perfect reflection of your spirit. It's was true then and it always will be. Perhaps the most important thing since that day however, lies in people. Chris McCandless quote "Happiness, only real when shared" rings eternally true when i think of all the genuine beings i have shared exceptional moments with. To the special people within our community, i thank you for all your positive influences, hilarious antics and openness to embrace people for who they are. To me, ones opinion of a place or a journey is purely subjective and based on their experience of that place. Due to this, western Canada is my spiritual home.

The long winters used to be something i somewhat dreaded due to the short hours of day light, cold temps and the beautiful yet deadly environment in the mountains. Yet, the few months of solitude during the winter just spent had me savour the few yet quality friendships encountered in the snowy ranges of the Rockies and appreciate the true rays of light in my life. The energy you create will gravitate those similar to encouraging thought.

Coasting down the switch backs on my return to town, i think about Mark Twight (another legend) and his last chapter of 'Kiss or Kill'. He talks about his unique friendships and his declaration of utter love for those that he knows will walk willingly with him into the gauntlet of the unknown to create an undeniable bond. I am beginning to understand this.

To my true friends and the noble mountains, i love you...i really do.


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