NW Face of Mt. Andromeda

Note: Re: photo of the face- we climbed the face right of the obvious flow.

Climbed a new route on the NW Face of Mt. Andromeda yesterday with Jon Walsh AKA Jonny Red. We went with amibitons of climbing a pround, oft looked at, hard water ice line. The "line" was melting fast and not touching down. The rock to get to it was also very blank.
In order to make a day of it we decided to climb an easier line off to the right side of the face via wandering weaknesses and asthetic features. We ended up roping up for 3 pitches plus a bit of sinuclimbing through easier mixed terrain. The first 2 pitches were water ice. Both were very thin (5 cm's on average) and quite fragile. You could feel the ice shell move at your feet when you swung your tools almost all the time. Jonny had a good lead on a WI4 X pitch that was a good 30m of delicate climbing with no pro. I had a great M4/5 ish pitch with good gear and steep climbing. The whole face is quite low angled. The lower part of the face has cliff bands to work through that make for good climbing and the upper aprt of the face is mostly a ramble. A good face to climb this time of year though. A first day of climbing with Jonny Red and a great warm up for the bigger things to come.


I Passed!

I feel free! No more climbing for the purpose of training. I can become a true climber again. Hell I could become a boulderer and never do an alpine route for myself again...not likely.

With the new time on my hands I think I will go try the route in the photo tomorrow. It is Sept. 23 and the ice is already well on its way. Honestly though, winter here in the Rockies is long enough that putting off cold climbing as long as possible is not a bad idea. An early season alpine route or two and I will seek out the warm rock of Yamnuska, the Ghost, Bataan, an Skaha.

Photo: You wish!


The Canadian Guides Exam

" I'm just so glad I'm done with those things. On the ski exam this spring I woke up in a cold sweat, panicking until I remembered I was an examiner and not a candidate." Larry Dolecki, new ACMG examiner.

The process is dreaded!

Take the typical aspiring candidate. Most (not all) candidates have a history of passion in the mountains. In order to get accepted into the ACMG guide training program one must first, love the mountains and climbing and skiing within them. Then, once the idea of becoming a guide plants itself, they spend several seasons, all their money and time, "training".

Training involves visiting and revisiting terrain that you may someday guide, IE: easier terrain, or worse, terrain that you may have on an exam, which is basically terrain that you will never guide because it is so unpleasant and contrived no one would ever go there otherwise.

The Lore is immense! Stories and rumors of the past horror stories and 'shit shows' from past guides exams haunt even the most solid and prepared candidates. Stories of croggity old examiners with personal vendetta's against wannabe guides ("Had enough yet?"), uber examiners that float over terrain the candidates can barely redpoint ("Do you want a quarter to call your mama"), stories of examiners purposely falling off, unscrewing their locking biners, forgetting their helmets at the car and blaming you....The list goes on! Then their is the nit picking examiner that isn't happy if your carabiner is slightly eschew or your pants have a hole in them and are therefore 'unprofessional'.

So, exam day number one. The talent arrives. Cautiously confident, prepared, and competent. Yesterday every one of them was ready and confident they would perform and pass the exam. Now, just into the first day you have a group of clumsy, second guessing bumbly's that can't seem to do anything quite right or fast enough. The stress can debilitate even the best climber in the group to the point of failure. This same climber is the same one that has been on big mountain faces, amongst steep terrain, in bad weather and has made numerous sound decisions that have kept him alive in the past. Here, on the guides exam, nothing seems to work as well as he wanted.

Throughout the exam it is standard practice to discuss how it is going for each other amongst other candidates. No one knows how they are doing. One day you feel like your a shoe in, the other you may be caught saying, I just had a $2100 day. Everyone is the same in this regard. As history dictates it is often the 'best' climbers that fail the exams and often the 'best' guides out there were the ones that failed one or more exam. Anyone can fail and most do at least once during the 5 exams that one must take to become a Full Mountain Guide.

The interview. At the end of the 7-10 day exam the candidate has an interview. The examiners offer next to no evidence on how you did but basically want you to tell them how you think you did. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are your future plans? If you show too much confidence than you may be considered cocky and not in touch with your true ability; too little confidence and, well, who wants a guide with low confidence.

Then you wait about 2 weeks to find out whether you pass or fail. I am in this process right now. I expect to find the answer in the coming day or two and I honestly have no idea! I'm a climber and have been for 12 years now. It is my life and I have a lot of intuition and experience. Yet, I can't even guess on how I did. I fucked up for sure. I almost think I'd fail me for some of the STUPID little mistakes I made. Mistakes like not being able to find the start of a route in the dark! But then again, as my (experienced) friend Steve Holeczi said to cheer me up "its not like you were throwing babies off the east face".

I will let the results out in my next post. My only advice to those coming in to the ACMG guide training process is that yes, it is just part of the process and you will be better because of it, and go see a shrink before hand to prepare your ego for the mind fuck!

Photo: Rich Marshall perhaps thinking to himself "that makes marking easy..."