A Long Overdue Reunion

Life is hectic. Just when I thought I could not get busier I realized there is a whole new level. As a 30 year old, struggling aspirant mountain guide, striving outdoor gear sales rep, aging sponsored athlete, and newbie functional relationshipee….. well, time has it’s way of going by fast. All this while trying to recover from 10 years of hap-hazard financial responsible because I chose climbing as my number one concern. Then of course there’s the fact that I live in a ‘booming’ mountain town where those that are buying homes are usually retired and fresh from spending the last 30 or 40 years of there lives working and now plan on enjoying ‘extreme’ golf in “what has to be the Center of the Universe!”
When I moved to Canmore, 8 years ago, life was so simple. I was 22 years old and content to be very poor as long as I was climbing. I could say I was investing in my future because really I just wanted to be a climbing guide and that takes several years of dirt baggin’ it/climbing full time in order to get the skills necessary. During these early years I developed relationships with a handful of like minded individuals that will last forever and in these now hectic days of life will be nearly impossible to replicate. Of the half dozen or so faces that come to mind when I think of these life long ‘blood, sweat and tears’ brothers, all of them I hardly get a chance to see any more, but all of them are held to the highest level of love and respect. I know I will get out with all of them again; in the mountains or atleast to the local pub; and I really look forward to when these reunions happen.
My most significant climbing partnership of my 10 year career has no doubt been with Eamonn Walsh. The funny or sad thing is that over the past 4 years I have maybe climbed with him as many times. I had my most intense life experience with him on Mt. Foraker in the spring of 2001 and since then we have gone our separate ways, for no particular reason that I put my finger on other than we have both been focused on slightly different paths. Maybe it’s because I became a half cripple in the fall of 2001 when I broke my ankle and have felt sub-standard ever since.
I have always had pleasant intentions of rekindling some of these old climbing partnerships; partnerships from the dirtbag, obsessive compulsive, ‘House of Youth’ days. I must mention ‘getting out’ every time I see one of these guys. As we all know, talk it cheap, but I always know it will eventually happen and when it does it is always sweet.
Finally, finally, finally yesterday I got out with Eamonn again and yes, as predicted it was a special day. We have both been eyeing “The Drip at the Center of the Universe” on Mt. Birdwood since we started climbing together 7 or so years ago. We have both hiked in to it a time or two, or three(in Eamonn’s case). It is a stunning line, especially when viewed from the road. Any dedicated climber will easily pick it out on a photo of the face or while driving by.
The line has had only a few ascents and maybe has thwarted a second true ascent all the way to the ridgeline, 500 meters from the base. Rumors are it had never been climbed all the way to the summit either which would, of course, be a worthy goal.

It has been a hot few days here in the Rockies for the end of November. Ice climbs have been falling down daily. It could be too hot, we thought, but then again the weather man is calling for some clouds and the face has already had several hot days, without new snow, to clean itself off. My biggest concern was simply getting out with my old climbing buddy so I was willing to walk even if it was not, what we considered as, ‘in’.
We had easy walking on a thick wind and sun crust. A very easy two and a half hours and we were at the base of what appeared to be an intact route. We weren’t even sweaty, a near miracle for a couple of M.O.G.’s (men of girth). The clouds were thin but present and we were gung ho. The route went well. By hitting the ridge, after several funky rotten steep ice sections and a bunch of steep snow, we claimed what may be the true second ascent and then reach the summit only minutes later.

Smooth as I always remembered it to be.

Thanks Busta!


The Complex World of Sport M-climbing

Went out 'M-Climbing' last Sunday for the first time of the 05/06 winter climbing season. Hiked to the far end of the Stanley Headwall with a big crew with ideas of getting insanely pumped, as this type of climbing allows, and for all- round 'debauchery' , which is status quo when a bunch of blokes head off into the woods with large quantities of medieval paraphanalia.
Although I am proud to have flashed a fairly difficult route, 'Miller Swiller M10-' (seen here) I can say that I validated certain points in the 'style' issue regarding this type of climbing. See 'spurs are for horses' www.gravsports.com

I started up this 'hard' route fully expecting to get my ass kicked. I had just finished getting seriously pumped on a much easier route called 'Thriller' which I had done easily many times before in previous years. Obviously I was out of practice or shape or some combination of the two.
Several moves into the send of "Miller Swiller" , with quickly failing arm power (due to the horizontal nature of the route) I realized a bright orange dagger sticking out the back of my boot. A quick inversion and I was resting with my head dangling well below the lip of the roof. Now I was fighting a neck pump more than a bicep pump. Feeling proud, as it was the first time doing this type of climbing since the Ouray Ice Fest last January.....I also felt a bit sneaky. It felt kinda easy.. I then proceeded to get my ass kicked on a much lower angled m9-ish route next to the harder one I had just succeeded upon. I couldn't use my spurs on the slightly overhanging wall in comparison to the horizontal roof of the 'harder' climb.

Consensus....Have fun and challenge yourself as you wish but....
Spurs definitely make the big roofs WAY easier and I can see how this would become boring after doing a bunch of it. For me the most interesting climbs will be on the 20-45 degree overhanging routes with big moves....Where spurs are not an asset.

Photo:Geoff Creighton


Welcome to Alpine Artist

Welcome. This is my first foray into this sorta cyber thing so bare with me. I hope for this to work as a medium for me to express my thoughts, release some words and images, and stay in touch with friends (likely you), and family.

Alpine Artist???? Well, I like to consider all aspects in my life as an art, a form of self expression.

When I first moved to the mountains, 8 years ago, I came with an equal passion for climbing mountains and taking photos. I have since lost some love for taking photos, which I find sad, but it has allowed for a freer style of climbing. No camera was light or compact enough to stay outta my way while climbing. If I brought the camera and wanted ‘good’ shots it would take away from the climbing and vise versa. I have been slowly downsizing over the years. I still get out with the camera quite often but now take maybe 10 roles of film a year as opposed to several hundred. It is my love for photography that lead to my realization that climbing mountains should be treated as an art form. I, as all humans do, have a need for creativity. Climbing has become my main medium. All the decisions I make in the mountains are an expression of who I am, what I’ve learned, and where I am at in my quest toward greater understanding.
I have since realized that, anything I have passion toward, can be analyzed and improved upon with the eye of an artist….. a way to understand and develop.

Rob Owens
Nov. 2005