The Lions

(Updated: 13/10/2012)
In late August, Anthony came for a visit from Montreal. Prior to his arrival, we made a bunch of plans for outdoor adventures in different directions around Pangnirtung. Agenda consisted of killing fish, boating, hiking, and climbing some semi-technical peak close to the community.

As our peak objective we chose what we like to call the Lions. The Lions are a ridge line overlooking the first glacier towards the national park from Pang (Business Time Glacier). We call it the Lions because it resembles the Lions in Vancouver. But quite illogically, we call the two peaks of the Lions the left and right ear of the lion, as if there was only a single feline available.

For your conveniences, the Lions on Sunshine Coast close to Vancouver:

The plan for the ascent: truck to the end of the road, hike up 1100 vertical meters, traverse the ridge and come down the glacier, then back to the truck. All in a single day. Estimated duration: 13-15 hours. Quite an exciting prospect.

The morning started with a sizeable breakfast of bacon and eggs which Anthony presented to us. Coffee. Off-load bowels. Heading up from the truck to the mountain, we were proceeding at a rate of about 300 meters an hour, and we were at the ridge in about 4 hours without exhausting ourselves. Not too shabby. The bad news were that clouds were enshrouding the whole ridge line and it was impossible to see it in its entirety. We had never really inspected it before.

We had packed a small lunch and some granola bars, plus some liquids. Anthony insisted that just a few bars would be sufficient (fast'n'light). Delia and I took more.

The ridge definitely seemed more technical than we had assumed, but it wasn't possible to say how far the technical challenges would last due to visibility. The terrain could ease off or it could get worse. We started to anticipate that the commitment to complete the ridge might be too big because of the unknown factors, and it also started to look like entering the glacier might be a problem after the traverse.

We agreed to embark on the traverse to assess how it feels. After scrambling on steep side slopes for a while we hit thick fog and what seemed like a dead end. Too steep. Or maybe not; without being able to see further, it was hard to say how bad it would be. At that point we decided to let go of the original objective of completing the ridge traverse.

Plan B was to climb the left ear of the Lion from the east side. We climbed the left ear mostly by scrambling, but the last and steepest section we ascended by setting up a belay station and belaying each climber to the pinnacle. The visibility was nil. Zero. Nothing. All you could see was a few meters. Needless to say, all this was super fun.

We were back at the car perhaps eight hours after starting. By this time Anthony had eaten all his granola bars and a few from both myself and Delia.

Lessons learned: 1) maybe bivy next time before the ridge and reserve more time for the hardest part 2) and Anthony should pack more granola bars.


Bouldering time

I showed Anthony and Delia around on my boulders in Pangnirtung, a little intro tour on some easier climbs. A lot of fun! They were doing some strong moves. Usually I climb alone.

The Huber brothers had set a line on my project rock in early July. It's a pretty powerful little route, with a "bit of a dyno", as Alex described it. I got my ass off the ground on it, which was great improvement from the first time trying it a few weeks back.


Korouoma Ice Festival 2011

Every December I go to Finland for Christmas. And while there, for probably six years in a row now (except for one year), I've been participating in what we call the "Korouoma Ice Festival" in Korouoma canyon, Posio, Finland. Korouoma has the best ice climbing in Finland and is located only about 100 km from Rovaniemi. It's a brilliant place to be in the middle of the winter.

It is not a real climbing festival. There is no organization or agenda. It's just a bunch of friends getting together for a few nights to climb ice and catch up. At some point we started calling it a festival just as a joke. Our group stays for up to five days in the canyon in a cabin that has a wood stove. It is the perfect time to catch up with old (and smelly unless girlfriends are present) friends. Unfortunately, once we have caught up, verbal energy is mostly used to propel bad jokes.

Our climbing is usually nervous, sketchy and sometimes somebody breaks an ankle. We have had a few emergency evacuations (always with the same guy) by skidoo. One of the most tricky things for success during the climbing days is to to find the balance between being gutsy enough to climb within your actual capacity but not to overdo it. It's not fun to climb only the easiest lines but it's not productive to scare yourself shitless on something too hard. We have to remember that December is usually the beginning of the season for most. Being humble usually works better in the long run. Build it up, work on technique.

This year I had only a few days for climbing. It wasn't enough. Next year I'll make sure I'll have more time.

I put up some photos of the festival from last December, 2011. View the photo gallery for the 2011 Korouoma Ice Festival. Below are a few sample shots.

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