FirstAscent » My Journey in Alaska

Snowboarding in Whistler

ready to ride on the Horstman Glacier, Whistler, BC

Whistler, it’s one of those places most everybody knows for one reason or another. I know it for it’s world class options for outdoor activities, mainly snowboarding. I have always wanted to ride Whistler and I finally had the chance to. Although it was summer and the snow was typical summer snow you can find anywhere and not the dry endless deep pow that we all know Whistler can be in the Winter, it was still a lot of fun. The Horstman Glacier is open during the summer and is basically a big park (jumps, tabletops, rails, boxes, etc) and given that it IS summer I already knew what the snow would be like. So I purchased a ticket and went and got my gear from the truck.

I still had a little bit of time before I could actually ride though since they don’t let you start until noon. My splitboard is made by a company called Prior Snowboards and they make/design all of their boards right here in Whistler so I had to check out their shop. Bunch of great guys and talked with them for awhile. They offered me 3 free demo boards to play with but unfortunately I had to turn it down since I was only riding this one day. Could have been a fun week if I was staying in Whistler a few more days! Oh well, back to getting ready to ride now that I’ve passed a little time.

It was ridiculously hot (for snowboarding), about 90°F. So I just put on my snowboard pants and a regular t-shirt and was ready to go. 2 lifts (I did quickly see a bear on the 2nd lift), a bus ride, another lift, and I’m finally at the top with wide open clear blue sky mountainous views everywhere I look, not to mention the snow filled park Glacier I am now standing on!

The sun was beating down hard and I had forgotten sunscreen (of course) but luckily borrowed some from somebody on the bus portion but knew it wouldn’t last too long in this weather, oh well. Ready to ride!

The park (and riders) were incredible. I felt like novice around everyone here though. I’m fairly new to park riding and back in Oregon you have a good mix of all skill levels in the park areas. Nope, not here. Guys, girls, kids…everyone was tearing up the park like it was nothing. It was really cool to watch. But, I’m here to ride and try not to get distracted watching everyone else launch off all the jumps. I haven’t ridden in a few months so the first run was just a quick, straight down, run to get the feel for things again. Afterwards I hit the small/medium jumps. At the end of this winter season I was working on getting better at 180’s and started to work on 360’s (nothing to special compared to what is considered “good” in the snowboarding world, but you gotta start somewhere) and since it had been so long it was a little bit of a rough start. I landed a few 180’s and had a pretty good crash trying to do a 360. Well, actually it wasn’t a bad crash per se, but the snow crystals were sharp from the heat and when I slid (only wearing a t-shirt). It’s all part of the game though 🙂 .

3 hours later I was feeling a little dehydrated and I knew the small one layer of sunscreen I had on was long gone at this point so decided to head back down and call it a day since I still had a little over 5 hours of driving I still wanted to do.

Not much more happened from here on out. Got dressed, got in the truck, and started my 5 and 1/2 hour drive to Lac La Hache Provincial Park where I would be camping. Finally arrive around 11:30PM, quickly set up my tent and dozed off quickly.


Prior Snowboard factory

the bear I saw while on the 2nd lift up at Whistler

Rock Climbing at Cheakamus

the top of our warm up route, look at that view!

I woke up today feeling pretty tired from mountain biking all day yesterday but the forecast was 80 degrees and clear blue skies, so obviously I’m not going to say no. There is a really good 2000 ft multi-pitch route we wanted to do on the Chief in Squamish but we didn’t’ really know the area very well and it’s not exactly the kind of climb you want to get off-route on. So, Glen and I decided to play it safe and do some other routes at Cheakamus (near Squamish).

Cheakamus is about an hour from Vancouver BC and the drive there is incredible. You are surrounded by mountains the entire time and driving along side the bays the entire time, and with the sunny clear weather it made it just that much more.

Finally arriving at our climbing spot we decide to warm up on a 2 pitch 5.7 and 5.9. Something fairly easy to get a feel for everything. They were both really fun and amazing routes but after finishing them up we were really starting to feel the heat and exhaustion from the day before. Not a good start to the day. I should also mention that they grade their routes a lot stiffer than back in Oregon, but how much stiffer we would soon find out.

Since we were both pretty tired we took a lunch/water break at this point hoping we’d feel a little better for more climbing. Well, that didn’t work all that well but we couldn’t leave with only climbing our warm-up routes. So we headed over to a wall called the Circus, I think, and looked for more routes there.

I haven’t been climbing much and had just recently recovered from a pulley injury in my right middle finger so I didn’t want to get on anything too hard but wanted a good challenge. Our guidebook had a route listed that they say is a 5 star (max rating) route and in a top 100 climbs for the area list so I couldn’t pass it up. It was called Kigijiushi and was rated 5.10c. I have no idea how to pronounce it.

The climb started off a little weird within the first few moves then is some solid 5.10 climbing until the half way point where the crux is. The crux was Pretty difficult, much more difficult than I was expecting for a 5.10c. As I’m hanging on to small crimps with my feet on shallow features I remind my self they rate their climbers stiffer then back home, which makes sense because I had never climbed a 5.10 back in Oregon with a crux like this. It wasn’t impossible by any means, just much harder then what you would expect for a route with this rating, in my opinion. After searching around for about 5 minutes I realize I have to get through with what is in front of me. Long story short, I finally pull the move and finish up the rest of some excellent 5.10 climbing. I got the onsight (completing a route with no beta and no “hangs” on your first try) and was happy about that, especially from how crappy/tired I was feeling.

After I finished Kigijiushi we went to a near by rock formation with an interesting appearance (seen in the photo below) and decided to to get a quick warm-down route in. I don’t recall the name but it was a really fun 5.8 slab climb. Although, again, I would have rated it a 5.9 back in Oregon. There is one move that you are actually on pretty small crimps and are standing up with your feet on 1/4″ size features, not really 5.8 climbing. But it was fun.

At this point we were both definitely wore out, unfortunately. Normally we’d get much more climbing in but we were use too tired. So we headed to Howe Sound brewery for burgers/beer then headed back to get some well needed relaxation.

Glen heads back to Portland tomorrow and I’m off to Whistler around 6am. I’m on my own from here on out all the way to Alaska. I hope I have more energy tomorrow.

rapping down from the 5.8 warm-down route, you climb between the two rock formations

July 22, 2012 - 7:11 PM

Jaime Estuardo Casal Roldán - Be aware of snakes

July 17, 2012 - 4:25 AM

Susan Karamesines Casal - Too bad you were already so tired. Sounds like an amazing day of climbing anyway though. Glad you stayed safe!

Mtn Biking at North Shore BC (w/ vid)

Getting ready to get beat up by the trails here

The first actual day here in Vancouver, BC could not have been better. Got a decent sleep and woke up around 9am (much needed), then started the morning off with some pretty delicious breakfast from a little chinese bakery. I can’t tell you what it was called but it was basically a roll with ham and egg, and another with chicken in it. However, it tasted a lot better than the simplistic way I’m describing it!

Now time for some real fun, Mountain Biking at the North Shore. Loaded the bikes up and off we were. It is only about a 15 minute drive so that was nice. Glen had told me about it so I somewhat knew what to expect…or so I thought. “It’s steeper and more technical than what we are used to back home”, he tells me. Ok, sounds good to me!

We were able to borrow some shin guards from his cousin which were very useful! Especially since we were using flat pedals and when you come off there is a very good chance your shin is going directly into the metal protrusions on the pedal, it can really tear you up! As we got closer I see more and more people with full face ‘motocross’ style helmets and I’m really starting to worry about what I’m getting myself into…let the fun begin!

All geared up and off we go. It was probably less than 50 feet and I already stopped and said “uh, we are going down that?!” Apparently so! I actually ended up walking this first small section (20 feet or so) until I was a little more warmed up. The terrain was completely different than back home. Much steeper, rockier, man-built features, roots everywhere, it was pretty amazing but definitely took some getting used to. But, you warm up to it, then your confidence goes up and you try more and more and surprise yourself on what you can do and how much of a beating you can give your bike.

Then, it happens, your falling down a steep section, falling off a rock or a tree stump, and down goes your confidence again. It’s a vicious cycle, but in a good way, it was incredible.

This was definitely 10x better than any other mtn biking I’ve done and I will for sure be back to get some more in! I had some great falls, got through a lot I didn’t think was possible, and learned a lot just from this one time. It’d be nice to head back to the trails we’ve been doing in Oregon recently and just fly through them after this terrain we were just on.

I’m hoping to get some rock climbing in tomorrow, weather permitting, so finger are crossed. If the rain sticks around there are some good hikes up the Chief in Squamish. So I guess I’ll find out…

p.s. this is a quick edit of the video, just some random segments. it was quickly mounted to my handle bars so it’s a little shaky, sorry. I need to work on the mount so it’s smoother.

July 17, 2012 - 2:27 AM

Jaime Casal - The video doesn’t really do it justice. I need to find a better angle to shoot from, 80% of the areas shown were much steeper. It was a pretty neat place.

July 16, 2012 - 7:54 PM

Connie Marshall - what a fun Video glad that some people aren’t afraid like me and younger!!!

July 16, 2012 - 7:40 PM

Susan Karamesines Casal - What a beautiful setting!
If you were worried about going down this it must have been crazy – Mr. Fearless!
Considering this camera was mounted on the bike this video is really good actually. 🙂


Well, I am finally at my first official stop, Vancouver BC. The drive went well and there are definitely some beautiful views once you get closer to the border. I had never been as far as Bellingham, WA before and that was a really nice area to drive through as well as in Canada. A climbing/biking buddy of mine, Glen, drove up with me to the Vancouver BC area but is heading back to Oregon early Tuesday morning so these first few days will be nice to have someone to get out with. Then from here on out I’m on my own the rest of the way.

Going through the border wasn’t too bad. About a 15 minute wait and a series of random questions: what are you doing, how long, how do you know each other, what do you do for work, where are you from etc… nothing too bad.

From the long night last night (going away party) I’m pretty tired and excited to get a good rest.

Tomorrow is mountain biking at the North Shore. Super technical routes there so stay tuned for pics/vid of a LOT of crashes! Monday will be some rock climbing in Cheakamus and hopefully some snowboarding on Tuesday at Whistler!

July 15, 2012 - 1:30 PM

Susan Karamesines Casal - Glad you made it safely to Canada! Have fun!

Going to the Dark side

Hoya ND x400

A last minute addition to the camera collection for the trip is the Hoya ND x400. See the pic above? Yes, it really is that dark. This thing reduces light values by 9 stops to less than 1/500th of its original intensity!

In most situations, you cannot even auto focus with this filter attached. You have to take the filter off, focus and compose your shot, lock in your settings, put the filter back on, and then do a few quick calculations for your new exposure values using your original (w/o filter) values.

Seems like a lot of work, right?! Yes, but this filter also allows you to get shots that would be virtually impossible without it.

Super long exposures in the daylight is one example. And, if used correctly, you can literally render moving objects invisible! Pretty neat.

Can’t wait get some test shots with this filter.