Category Archives: Climbing

Sad News in the Bow Valley (38/365)

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Yesterday while Fabio and Joe were climbing Tonka (a multi-pitch route on Tunnel Mountain), I was in Banff working on a couple of articles and putting together material for Ghost Walks. At one point as I was at the car dropping off a costume I’d procured from the Thrift Shop, an ambulance tore up the road with lights and sirens going. Not long after, a Parks Canada vehicle also raced up the road. Both vehicles turned up Tunnel Mountain Road. I’d driven down that road a bit earlier after having dropped off Fabio and Joe.

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Of course, my mind jumped to the worst case scenario. Rock fall? A miscommunication? Had something gone wrong? Were they ok? I texted to see how they were doing and … no response. That was a long 15 minutes before I finally had a reply saying they were fine and had just reached the top of a pitch where they could do things like answer texts. But, from their perch high above the Bow Valley, they were watching a helicopter and emergency vehicles in action. Something was going on but they weren’t close enough to know exactly what.

We heard today that another climber a little farther along on Tunnel Mountain had been in an accident. Sadly, the climber didn’t survive.

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Sadness (Two in boat), by Nicholas Roerich, 1939

My heart goes out to the family and friends of the accident victim. It’s always a sickening shock to the system when one hears of someone being badly hurt or killed in a climbing accident.

This evening as I turn in for the night I see the stark black silhouette of the mountain peaks outside my window. They are beautiful, to be sure, but unforgiving. Stay safe out there, my friends.

 

 

 

 

Quick Climb on Tunnel Mountain (37/365)

Another super busy day today, so I just have time for a quickie post…

 

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After another stint of Ghost Walk research and planning in Banff, caught up with Fabio and Joe and had time for a couple of quick climbs on bolted sport routes on the back side of Tunnel Mountain before rushing back to Canmore in time for a lovely evening of pizza and conversation with friends. 

 

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The view from up there? Pretty amazing… (we were climbing at The Scoop)

I took some more reference photos for my vertigo art project…

 

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The belay glove hanging off the back of my harness obviously needs to go in the final piece… 

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The perspective is a bit weird in this one. And the anatomy is odd… it looks like my knee is bending backwards… But, you do get a good idea of the scale – the belayer’s head far below and the trees from above… 

It will be good to have some time to play with this some more… I also took a whole lot of not very good shots of Joe climbing and will practice doing some little drawings of climbers in odd positions… not that Joe was doing anything strange, it’s just climbers do manage to contort themselves in strange ways to get where they are going.

 

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Lots of great clouds today – excellent for dramatic skies in photographs but, sadly, bringers of bad news as the weather is deteriorating over the next few days… There’s snow in the forecast overnight on Sunday!!

 

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A different take on contortions… this is Salvador Dali’s “Topological Contortion of a Female Figure becoming a Violoncello.”

 

The next few days don’t bode well for long posts either – lots of work (editing the Medically Assisted Dying manuscript, learning, lines, rehearsing, perhaps a climb between rain showers…) but at the very least I’ll try to get a photo or two up…

 

Ciao!

 

 

 

Ghosts! (35/365)

 

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Helpful tour guides will lead Ghost Walks in both Canmore and Banff this summer. I’m going to be one of them… For more information, visit the Theatre Canmore website

Whether you are a skeptic or a believer, you have to admit ghost stories are a lot of fun (and, just a wee bit scary!) This evening I learned things about the sleepy town of Canmore that I never knew before… and was reminded of other stories I had vaguely heard of but didn’t know a lot about.

 

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The Banff Springs Hotel (in the background) is said to be one of Canada’s most haunted places… That’s me climbing on the other side of the valley on Tunnel Mountain. 

 

Spending part of my childhood in Banff, I had heard some of the stories relating to the iconic Banff Springs Hotel. The one about the bride who fell down the stairs (possibly after setting her dress on fire by getting too close to some candles) is one that stuck with me.  But during this evening’s training session, I heard about a whole lot of other mysterious happenings in the Bow Valley.

 

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The Ghost in the Lantern, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Some are said to be benevolent, some spiteful, while others are tricksters through and through. Whatever their flavour, ghosts have intrigued writers and artists since we first began to tell stories and I’m quite looking forward to sharing some ghostly tales over the summer.

 

 

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Hamlet Sees the Ghost of His Father, by Eugene Delacroix, 1843 – Shakespeare included quite a few apparitions in his work… 

 

The idea that those we love might not really disappear after they die is one that is certainly appealing. And, there’s no question things happen in the world that science can’t quite explain (yet…) Whether or not apparitions are ‘real,’ sharing stories of our past and the people who have lived in this valley before us is a cool a way to connect with our history and to honour the memories of those who have gone before us. Who knows, perhaps some of those ghosts will join us as we wander the streets of our mountain towns…

 

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The Spirit of the Dead Watches, by Paul Gaugin, 1892

Have you ever had a paranormal experience? If you have a great ghost story to share, I’d love to hear it!

 

 

From On High… An Idea (25/365)

So I was pretty high up on a climb on Kid Goat (Blue Bubble) when it occurred to me it’s really hard to capture a real sense of how it feels to be up that high above the valley floor in a photograph.

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A vista like this sort of conveys scale (those are tall trees down there, and they don’t look very big). But what is harder to capture is the sense of vertigo when you are actually directly above stuff, like when you are at a hanging belay on the side of a cliff…

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So, I took a bunch of reference photos and what I think I’ll try to do is a drawing or painting that exaggerates certain elements of the composition to try to better reflect the feeling of being up there…

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Here’s a view of the climb from below, from the approach trail.

Dad has been very helpful, sending me examples of work by people like Sonja Delaunay and Andre Derain, who both used exaggerated colour and perspective to get their point across.

 

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Baker’s Hotel by Andre Derain, 1904

 

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Three Women Dressed Simultaneously by Sonia Delaunay

And then I found this one, also by Sonia…

 

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Color Rhythm by Sonia Delaunay, 1967

Which was a bit odd, because I’d been playing with colour blocks in my notebook just moments before I found her work after following a link sent by Dad…

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My blocks are a lot less solid than hers (pastels on textured paper rather than oil paints in Delaunay’s…). And my palette is totally different, of course… but on that front I was inspired by Josef Albers, about whom you will hear more in the days to come as Dad and I have had several Albers conversations and, weirdly enough, he is also featured in a current issue of an art magazine (which I stumbled across online and have now lost again… I’ll retrace my steps and try to post a link when I get back to Albers properly…)

It has been another busy day and I need to go find some grub, have a shower, and take another look at the scenes we’ll be rehearsing tomorrow for the Canmore Summer Theatre Festival’s production of Romeo and Juliet. My creative cup runneth over!!

 

 

 

 

 

Oooops… Got Very Distracted (24/365)

… so this will be short.

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We headed up Cougar Creek this afternoon for a bit of cragging. 

It was good to get back outside on real rocks again (my quick session on the auto-belays at the climbing gym last night just wasn’t the same!). In the ten days or so since I left for the coast, summer has arrived here in the mountains!

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The view from partway up one of the routes on Cat’s Eye Wall… it never ceases to amaze me how quite large trees manage to grow right out of the rock face.

IMG_4165.JPGI did snap a few reference shots of climbers as well as natural forms (rocks, stumps) for future sketching sessions, but mostly, I just enjoyed being back outside, the low murmur and mumble of Cougar Creek in the background.

Hmmm… not quite sure why my video isn’t looping after I upload it… And, too tired to figure it out right at the moment.

While I was hanging around on the end of a rope, Dad was busy sending me all kinds of interesting art-y reference material. I’ll have to digest that when I have a few minutes and I’m not falling asleep sitting up! I would say tomorrow, but we have plans to climb again, so maybe not…

It’s a good kind of tired, this… after an afternoon of fresh air and sunshine!

 

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Sleeping Woman by Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, 1913

 

 

En Route – Heading Home

Flying back from the BVI via Puerto Rico and Chicago after a week that was equal parts stressful (unfamiliar boat, mechanical problems, electrical issues, under-experienced crew, under-experienced captain, spicy winds, seasickness, sunburn) and wonderful (warm waters, quiet anchorages, beaches to explore, reefs to snorkel, shorelines to paddle along, the Baths for bouldering).

A strange, sometimes uncomfortable bonus was spending most of the week device free, which meant meeting and chatting with people on the dock, chatting with each other, looking at the stars, feeding fish off the back of the boat, watching the sun set over the islands, going to bed early and getting up when we were done sleeping – all without being interrupted by constant beeping and buzzing and vibrating.

The exceptions to that idyllic break came during times of crisis – engine alarms, blinking electrical panels, dead batteries, a dying engine a that triggered flurries of trouble-shooting messages on a cell phone that we kept alive with a solar panel and saved for navigation and disaster interventions.

All that said, I learned a lot this week and challenging though it was at times, can’t wait to go back for more. Not the problems, of course, just the good stuff!

Y is for a Year (or so) of Travels (AtoZChallenge2018)

Yesterday I started my post with a clip from an old song… I’ll do the same today with this old chestnut, I Was Born Under a Wandering Star.

 

My mom was the one who used to sing this to me (in not quite as low a register as Lee Marvin does, mind you) every time I said I was yearning to hit the road and go travelling. I don’t know where that need to roam comes from, but for some of us, itchy feet have nothing to do with athlete’s foot.

 

The past year and a bit have been really good for finding myself in far-flung places. Strangely, though I lived there for many years, Vancouver Island has become a destination. Last year I had the pleasure of taking a couple of sailing trips with my daughter and her husband on their lovely sailboat, Easy Rider. 

 

 

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It was a little chilly lounging around on the foredeck in February… But that didn’t stop me from trying. That’s what those lovely survival suits are for, right? 

 

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Had a great road trip through the mountains in March and stopped (of course) at Grizzly Book and Serendipity Shop in Revelstoke where, it turned out, they were filming a Christmas movie (hence the Christmas decorations in March…)

 

 

After arriving back in Canmore (home, these days) I basically unpacked and re-packed and went off to Paris. But not before a late night ice climbing expedition:

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Our neighbourhood. For most of our stay we hung out in the 15th, a five minute stroll from this bridge. 

 

 

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From Paris, I took a quick trip to Montreal, Toronto and London as one of my books was nominated for a Silver Birch Award in Ontario. 

 

Then, back to Paris. Where, among other things, I ate frog legs.

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Eventually, we returned to the mountains, but only briefly, just long enough to climb a mountain or two.

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The weather was good on the coast and I was longing to get back on the water…

 

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I’m fastening on the ‘don’t lose the dog’ netting on the boat before we set off for a few days of puttering around in the Gulf Islands. I have no more photos of this trip because I dropped my brand new phone overboard as we approached Nanaimo Harbour! Note that the weather had improved dramatically so no survival suits were required. 

 

Once back in the mountains I played about with my replacement phone and enjoyed a bit more climbing

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before heading back to Europe.

There was a day in Paris…

 

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quick visit to the Centre Georges Pompidou…

 

… and then on to Madrid, where I met my daughter and Dad in Madrid…

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From there, a train to Sarria where we began a very slow walk 120 kms or so to Santiago de Compostella as part of our Great Camino Project. (If you haven’t already found it, check out @lastlegbook on Instagram for lots of photos of our journey).

 

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Santiago… that way… 

 

Because we were working on a book about the project, after our time was up in Spain, we jumped on a cruise ship in Barcelona and wrote 65,000 words or so… One of these days we will get the rest of the manuscript done and, with any luck, will eventually see a book. If you’d like to have a look at a few of the posts written along the way, here are a couple of links…

That Way!

The Kindness of Strangers

Once back at home in the mountains, I lost a bet and had to jump down Main Street wearing a pink bunny suit…

(and no… I didn’t… pass wind, that is… I did jump through town while singing the Happy song by William Pharrell… )

When all that was over, it was time to pack our bags again and head back to the coast for Christmas with family.

 

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The gang in Vancouver… 

 

You might think all that was more than enough packing and unpacking, but what did we get for Christmas? Yes!! Allegra and I received tickets to go on a cruise together! So off we went again to explore the Caribbean… but not before a little ice climbing…

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It’s kind of nice you don’t need seventeen layers crampons and ice axes to have fun on the beach… (this one in Jamaica).

 

And then, home again just in time for spring break and (this is getting a bit ridiculous) another trip to Paris!

 

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It was a wet spring in Paris – the Seine is threatening to overflow her banks… 

And finally, back home to the mountains for a bit more ice climbing…

IMG_2126.JPGYeah. It’s been quite the year, or so… I couldn’t have imagined all those many miles being logged had I tried to look ahead at the beginning of 2017. Who knows where this next year will take us?

Yikes!!