23 February, 2013

TLH Work Shift: Exploring

A few years ago I remember starving, surviving on cans of soup, no money in my pockets, and weeks away from any decent sum of money that would help correct my starving belly.  I skied in white-outs on huge broken glaciers that week, while stressing about the snowpack on the slopes ahead, and training for guiding and avalanche exams in the future.  This week of guiding made me remember back to that week as I've given so much towards guiding, skiing, and especially the mountains; but know how they give back more than you could ever expect.  This week filled my craving for exploring new areas, that feeling of being way out there, the need for feeling small in big places, and the feeling of the ground moving quickly beneath my feet.  
(Photo Above:  Mathieu smashing pillows on Trinity, The Matrix)
Starting out our week we began by taking our guests to ski pillow lines, 1000m tree shots with hundreds of diving boards to launch on the way down, and some big high speed alpine runs.  The snow felt creamy, and had that fantastic feeling of never ending length to each run, even though we skied comfortably as fast as our skis would allow.  
(Photos Above:  Conny shucking Oysters for Lunch, the view out Jervis Inlet from our lunch spot)
Taking a step beyond the norm of eating lunch below or on top of some massive mountain face, we stepped outside of the large glaciers, and flew to Jervis Inlet to land on the beach and pick Oysters.  A completely different landscape than what we were skiing 20 minutes ago, complete with seagulls flying over calm salty waters with steep mountains fencing the inlet on all sides.  It was too hard to believe we had skied a 1200m run on Mazerati Highway moments before, and now were standing with the ocean lapping up against our ski boots, while we picked Oysters straight out of the water at our feet.  After eating our fill, we were out through the Clendenning Range and back through to the Manatee for more enormous runs and pillow lines.
(Photo Above:  Mathieu speeding through the side of Mazerati Highway, in the Manatee Range)
(Photo Above:  Conny Amelunxen cruising through an endless glacier of interesting snow bridges and remarkable features.)
On the morning of our first group of guests last day, we had been skiing big curling glaciers, with beautiful and stable snow.  Conny spotted a line between two regular runs, that had never been skied, but with the conditions at hand looked like it went without too much fuss.  Within 2 minutes we had flown by and dropped off the top.  We threaded our way down between two patches of exposed ice, and to the helicopter, naming the line "Treaty of Ghent".  Another first descent on the list, and weirdly done without punishing ourselves climbing it first, a first for me (so I guess to the true pure FD is still up for grabs!).
(Photo Above:  Alan dropping in through the ice on the First Descent of "Treaty of Ghent")
(Photo Above:  Conny Amelunxen leading the charge down The Fasp)
Skiing with another group of guests, on a bluebird powder day, we lucked out and ended up spending a day in "The Gods".  The Gods are a massive array of broken glaciers, summit to valley ski descents, spines, and everything a real skier could ever ask for.
(Photo Above:  Alex Wigley warming up on Nectar, before heading to the Gods.  Photo Credit:  Randy Lincks)
Spending time in the mountains away from home helps keep my demons away, and keeps others close, as perfect conditions allow us to step into terrain that force us to realize how small we truly are.  I'll always give everything I could ever give to the mountains, because they give back more it so many ways, and sometimes in ways you would never expect.  This past shift made me remember that.
(Photo Above:  Mount Athelstan, The Gods)

02 February, 2013

Work Block At TLH

I just finished up a two week work block at TLH Heli-Skiing.  For our first group, I was surprised when I greeted the guys from Mountain Life whom I know from Squamish, and some people from Europe at the helicopter.  I could tell it was going to be a great week with our crew.  In true Canadian style after doing the beacon training, we played hockey out on the lake with the sun setting in the mountains, and beers in the cold.
(Photo Above:  Mountain Life Magazine Crew and TLH Guides and Staff Hockey Tournament)
We had tricky conditions to find snow, but we made it work, skiing some of our biggest tree lines and some really cool big features.  We managed to find pillow lines, cliff hucks, half pipes, and fall away rollers immediately.  Even more amazing is the area's we made it into that don't get skied on a regular basis such as The Matrix, and some steep runs called African Tribesman.  Check out the great online feature on Mountain Life from their trip here.
(Photo Above:  Your's truly around the White Cross area.  Credit:  Todd Lawson)
(Photo Above:  Heli Landing underneath some of TLH's "smaller" alpine features.  Credit:  Todd Lawson)
Fast forward through the next group cruising big alpine bowls, blasting steep trees and skiing fast open runs to the third group.  With new snow falling and the storm still going we went searching for long tree runs.  Those snow geeks out there will note that the storm came in covering the January 23rd Surface Hoar and Facet layer, and within our tenure we didn't see a large amount of natural activity, although one avalanche failed on the January 04 Surface Hoar layer.
(Photo Above:  Snowboarder shredding 'Puerto Rico' in the Taylor area)
(Photo Above:  GoPro's, mountains, and really big toys  Run:  Tahiti Bite.  Thanks Lorenz Muggli!)
When the sun broke again we were lucky enough to have amazing views, and good stability, which translated into shredding really cool runs!  It's important to know that every week at TLH is steep week, if conditions permit, and we got on stuff that was steep and aesthetic.  Chutes, big faces, massive alpine features and bowls, stoked to be out so far in the coast and have the chance to ski all this amazing terrain.  Especially happy when the conditions lined up to drop into a line that was 45 degrees, full of pillows and great cliff hucks, in perfect thigh deep powder.
(Photo Above:  One of our guys squeezing in the last of our light for the day)
(Photo Above:  Heli-Ski Sightseeing while skiing between Ethelweard and Icemaker Mountains)
Now, I got a week off for some rest and relaxation, along with some Ski Touring!  Stoked on shredding at work and at home!
Vertical Skied on Shift:  62,025m (203,494 ft)