A blog about the great outdoors, photography, and not taking yourself too seriously.

Getting sun burnt on the side of a big rock

I like diminutive titles. Something too grand, too pompous, and I don't even feel like reading myself. Mountains are large rocks with ice cubes on them. Sometimes, a bunch of smaller sharp rocks are piled on them (we call that scree, from the internal screems that it causes when you realize you have to climb it).

Sounds inoffensive enough. But I sure got pretty destroyed by this latest attempt on Shuksan.

The worst thing about exhaustion and sickness is that your camera becomes too heavy to use, and you end up with a collection of photographs inversely proportional to the length of the adventure. The following photo essay, I hope, still captures what it's like to go toe-to-toe with a glaciated giant (remember clicking on a photo will enlarge it, should you want a better look at it).

The huge traverse between the start of the Fischer Chimneys and Lake Ann. It takes a fast mover about 20 minutes to traverse this steep snow field, which explains why the next big party decided to simply camp before it. Can you see their tents?

The strato-volcano in the background in mount Baker, another icy giant that I had tried to climb previously. 

Joe heading out to the nice little stream by our camp. Having running water is a nice luxury, especially with that much sun!

Let's play a game of spot the alpinists. Bala and David finding their way under Hell's Highway, at sunset. We got back to the cars well after midnight.

The classic "videogame item seller look". One of the advantages of carrying all your sharp tools and screws ON your pack, as opposed to IN it, is that the clinking will alert all bears of your presence; no need for a bear bell.

It also won't tear your pricey pack to shreds, which is nice.

Bala topping out Winnie's Slide. The grueling 40 meters high slope is the perfect topper for a long day of climbing up chimneys in the scorching sun. Did you know it's called Winnie's Slide  because a woman named Winnie once slid down it, but then managed to stop herself before falling off the mountain? I know, that bit of folklore is a little disappointing.

Home sweet home. Those rocks may look a little jagged, but they actually are very comfy!

Hitting the (litterally) dusty trail

Self assigning is fun. I recently decided to go out and follow some trad climbers for an evening in Squamish (photos below). It went well! So I then self-assigned myself a photoshoot in Whistler Blackcomb's bike park. I'll tell you all about it after I finish my newest self-assigned project; eat this entire cheesecake by myself.

Why do I talk about self-assigning so much? It's because outdoor photography (and actual paid work in the field) requires you to have a good portfolio, filled with great images companies might want. Makes sense. Problem is, competition is a thing. Established photographers get a huge advantage when applying for shoots because they already have a huge amount a material; they've been at it a lot longer (And are therefore a lot better at it).

This means you somehow have to reach a high level of skill and build a huge collection of images showcasing your talents, without profiting from all that work. It's a huge gamble. You have to really like shooting photos and be very motivated for all of this to even make sense. 

Or you have to be dumb.

I'm definitely one of the above, so I went out to Whistler and shot all day, got stalked by a bear and managed to escape with only 4 of my limbs. Many thanks to the guest relations department of Whistler Blackcomb for hooking me up with lift tickets. The images showcased below would not have been taken if they hadn't been so nice.

Stormy skies and foggy air; I was hoping for that weather to hold, but sadly, the sun came out. Dumb ball of fire, ruining all the fun.

The 11-24mm shines when it comes to showing the scale of a place. It emphasizes the curves and open air of the park nicely, while remaining one of the sharpest wide-angle lenses I ever used.

Another perk of an ultra-wide lens: you can get real close to the action. A little too close sometimes.

You pick up the lingo real fast when shooting in a bike park. For example, this jump is gnarly sicknasty rad.

You pick up the lingo real fast when shooting in a bike park. For example, this jump is gnarly sicknasty rad.

I wanted the riders to be a small part of my photos. Putting the emphasis on the mountain and the loaded skies was more important to me than showing someone riding a bicycle.

I wanted the riders to be a small part of my photos. Putting the emphasis on the mountain and the loaded skies was more important to me than showing someone riding a bicycle.

A nice, steep technical section. The photos don't show the speed at which riders navigate the terrain; it's insane.

Warm sunny day are not for everyone...

... and specially not for me. I melt in sunny days. My poor canuck scalp burns like an unattended pancake, and I sweat horribly. It's very dramatic.

Contrary to what this opening paragraph says, this article is not about my fair and perfect complexion

Sun's also not great for mountaineering (or mountain photography, as Angela Percival would tell you). Under warm conditions, snow becomes soft and the postholing is real. Postholing, of course, is the least of your concerns when collapsing snow bridges and slides are an option. Unfortunately, I was part of a BCMC group that had the ambition of climbing Mount Baker, so the sunny forecast was mildly depressing (It's Always Sunny in the PNW apparently). We decided to be bold and give it a shot anyway. 

Loaded packs and creek crossings are a recipe for twisted ankles. Luckily we had mad skillz. Note the professional coil job on Lea's rope.

The approach through thick brush and rushing melt water was figuratively a breeze. It was warm, sweaty, wet and confusing; as we learned on the way, a massive slide had wiped out most of the creek crossings, and we had to improvise new ones. Snow, ironically, only provides short relief. In my case, it only cooled off my ankles while reflecting sunlight, giving me a rare case of the sunburn-under-the-bridge-of-my-nose.

Practicing my hand at  alpine portraits. In here, Jill looks at nothing in particular while I admire the curve of my lens in her glasses. She also is rocking a coil job worth admiring.

The perks of this kind of weather? This is the comfiest camp I have slept at in a very long time. Dry ground, nice exposed trees for the hammock (orange chrysalis at the far right) and a warmth that makes you angry you trekked your sleeping back up to 5000 feet.

An extra early alpine start was complemented by nice views of Hera's mess. I requisitioned a handy tree trunk as a makeshift tripod and shot away. The resulting shots may not be as sharp as the ones taken using a sturdy tripod, but there's no way I'm hauling 10 extra pounds of gear.

I'm used to catabatic winds that freeze you, winds that you have to shield against using a strong Arc'Teryx Alpha SV 100D Denier includng new zipper design (I don't have a sponsorship from them, but I'm practicing. See how I casually slid that placement in the article? Soon I'll either be rolling in it, or I'll be editing the post at the request of their PR team).  Not that time. We woke up to a warm, weird wind coming from the col. Ever stuck your face in a hands drier? I haven't. But I imagine that's how it feels.

Climbing up the Easton Glacier by headlamp. Note the slushy snow and deep prints; alpine starts are meant to avoid those issues. Encountering them this early is a bad sign.

The weather proved way too warm for any serious attempt at the summit; we had to settle for a gorgeous sunrise instead. What a bummer.

Noping out of the glacier. Making your way down after a failed summit attempt is always a little depressing, but with temperatures like these, better be safe than sorry.

Settling in for a beautiful sunset. Not as fun as a summit but at least no one died. Which is fine.

Failed summit attempts are usually accompanied with a morale, about how failure doesn't define you and how adversity is the biggest ally you can have in your quest for personal growth.

Screw that. We're all adults here. 

The one thing I would like you to take away from this trip report is this: when you go back through Sedro-Woolley, stop at that little nameless diner on your right. Portions are huge and pancakes are cheap. 

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