Osprey Packs Athlete Joe Stock is an internationally certified IFMGA mountain guide based in Anchorage, Alaska. He has been climbing and skiing around the world for 25 years with extensive time in the mountains of Alaska, the Southern Alps of New Zealand, the North Cascades of Washington and Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. Since 1995, Joe has been freelance writing for magazines starting with a feature article in Rock & Ice on climbing the Balfour Face on Mount Tasman in New Zealand. Since then, he’s published numerous articles on adventures and mountain technique in rags such as Climbing, Backcountry, Alaska, Climbing, Trail Runner, Men’s Health and Off Piste.
Half of the reason for coming to Chamonix is to climb with other guides. I’ve spent the last two weeks climbing with Andrew Wexler, an IFMGA guide from Canmore, Alberta. We’ve been buddies for 15 years and been on our greatest adventures together: the Ptarmigan Traverse in a day, the Eklutna Traverse in a day, full-length ski traverses of the Neacola and Tordrillo Mountains and a ski traverse from Anchorage to Valdez. These will probably remain the apex of our athletic careers. Since then we’ve become more work-focused, but that feels right.
Now Andrew and I get to guide and play together in Chamonix. This is one of our free days. We chose the Aiguille du Peigne in the Aiguilles du Chamonix. This is a moderate alpine rock route that starts with the classic Papillion Arete.
The lower altitude of Aiguille du Peigne seemed right for a forecast calling for afternoon thunder showers. Most of the route is easy fifth class like this.
Some places the rock kicked up to 5.8, with lots of exposure.
This is the crux pitch, a delicate traverse to a chimney with perfect finger and hand cracks in the back. The pitch was streaming with water, but the finger locks and hand jams were so solid it didn’t matter. Behind is the north face of the Aiguille du Midi.
Andrew’s beautiful photo of me leading moderate rock on the summit ridge. The new Osprey Mutant 38 worked perfect. Thanks Osprey! Chubby bolts made for four easy rappels, then we lost the rap route in the fog. We ended up slinging horns for rap anchors to get back to the normal descent route. Thanks for a great day Andrew! See more of Andrew’s photos on his site globalalpine.com.
The Black Lake Chute took me ten years to ski. All that time it teased me from Anchorage. Above my home it looked like a thin white thread tied to the summit of O’Malley Peak. It hung down the north face and draped off of the lower wall. It became my White Whale. Sometimes, between attempts, I’d try to talk myself out of it. It’s too dangerous. There’s plenty of other stuff to ski. But I wanted it so bad….
The ‘average’ winter continues here in British Columbia. The snowpack is about 2.5 meters deep at the lodge at Valhalla Mountain Touring, and upwards of 4 meters deep in the alpine. And storm after storm keeps dropping ridiculously deep Kootenay cold smoke. The snowpack is a bit touchy these days, with the persistent weak layers of surface hoar, sun crusts and facets now down about a meter deep and keeping us from hitting the big open scary slopes, but a ton of fun is being had in our endless safe ski terrain. Safe doesn’t mean boring when you find new runs that weave their way through 100-year-old trees and pillows!
ARVE Error: no id set
When I broke my ankle on May 1st last spring, I was at 17,600’ on 23,390 Baruntse, also known as my own personal Moby Dick for reasons you can research at www.skithehimalayas.com. Unlike Ahab, I was rescued by a vessel rather than doomed to one. Lifted into the skies, wrapped in bandages, worked over through weeks of PT and now here I am again today, returning to wrestle with ambition and not the ankle. Hopefully stronger, admittedly risk averse and yet still with an appetite for the unknown. The whale is gone though, off my range for a spell.
After failing to reach the mountain earlier this year, Osprey athlete Matt Helliker, Nick Bullock and Pete Benson are at it again. They took off from the UK on October 2 and have arrived at base camp.
After a wild helicopter flight somewhat reminiscent of a Vietnam war film, flitting and twisting in the deep walls of the Seti Khola gorge, the team including Ed Douglas and David the cameraman have arrived at their chosen BC without any mishap. The Base Camp, in the end was the higher of the two possible choices at a height of 4600m situated at a large gassy flattening with stunning views of Annapurna 3, 4 and the sacred peak of Machhapuchher.
Follow along live on the British Annapurna III Expedition blog.