Osprey Athlete Evan Stevens is a fully certified IFMGA Mountain Guide, examiner and instructor for the AMGA, a member of the AMGA Board of Directors, and owner and lead guide of Valhalla Mountain Touring, a backcountry ski lodge in the Selkirks of British Columbia. Somehow he managed to do all of this whilst only escaping from the suburbs of New York City just over 10 years ago. When not on his skis, he can be found climbing hard rock in his summer home of Squamish, BC, or trying to fire off alpine rock free ascents through out the world. Highlights include numerous first descents in the Valhalla Range of BC, traditional rock ascents of up to 5.13, first free ascents in BC such as IV 5.12 Man of Steel in the Adamants, IV 5.12 R Lost in Space on Mt. Gimli, and speed ascents of big walls in Greenland. Besides that he is usually being humbled by his super human wife Jasmin, and trying to keep up to his dog Benny on the skin track.
I know it’s no longer winter, and the ski boots have officially been traded in for rock and bike shoes. In the spirit of not always looking ahead and living for the next moment, the rainy spring weather on the coast of British Columbia has given me a few days of wetness to reflect on an awesome winter.
Rather than wax on semi-poetically about the ski season and how great it was, I want to just try a different format, and go for a ‘best of’ if you will. So, no fluff, just straight to business, small blurbs and some pics and clips. Enjoy, and I hope your winter was as great as mine!
January 10, 2014, Grizzly Shoulder Tree skiing at Valhalla Mountain Touring. This day was everything I was missing last year on the couch with a blown up ACL. It had been snowing tons, the temps were cold, and after a month on the boards I was finally getting enough confidence in the knee rebuild to start really having some fun and opening it up. There is nothing like the pure joy of flying through the cold smoke with your favorite people in the word!
AMGA, Begbie Shoulder, British Columbia, Chamonix, Couloir, evan stevens, Grizzly Shoulder, guides, Jasmin Caton, Mt. Blanc, Osprey athlete, Revelstoke, Ruby Peak, ski tour, ski touring, Snow, Valhalla Mountain Touring, Western Europe, winter, Wragge Lake
I struggled to keep up as my “client” raced down the icy arete. Falling to our left would have sent us careening down thousands of meters of icy granite, falling right would have deposited us into a bus-sized crevasse. We continued sprinting across the glacier to the base of the 9-pitch Rebuffat route on the still snow and ice chocked, south face of the Aiguille du Midi in Chamonix, France. I frantically racked up as my “client” calmly removed a yellow notebook from his coat pocket and began to write.
This was day one of the American Mountain Guides Association’s Advanced Alpine Guide Course/Aspirant Exam and my “client” (complete with yellow exam notebook) was an experienced and uber-fit IFMGA mountain guide and examiner. At this point I had seriously begun to question whether traveling this far from home in Crested Butte, CO to spend the summer guiding season in the French Alps, was really the right decision. As the route unfolded with pitch after pitch of golden granite I soon found my groove and all my apprehension melted away.
Chamonix needs little introduction with regards to it’s terrain and ease of access. What you may not know is that Cham is really the birthplace of mountain guiding and is host to the largest number of active mountain guides worldwide. With several courses and exams still left in my progression before becoming a fully certified AMGA/IFMGA mountain guide, Chamonix was the natural choice to help me develop my high alpine guiding skills. After countless hours of emailing and phone conversations, I had somehow convinced two of my American peers to make the pilgrimage with me to the Alps and take our course and exam in this intimidating venue.
Throughout the twelve day course we were thoroughly challenged by the varied terrain, complex glaciers and spectacular routes, all the while musing about how much more approaching we would have had to endure, had the course been held in the states.
Regardless of the intimidation factor and the intricacies of Euro-style guiding, I completed the course and passed the thorough examination. Upon completion, I was granted IFMGA Aspirant status and was therefore able to continue my learning through summer work under the supervision of a full IFMGA mountain guide.
The process of becoming a fully certified mountain guide through the American Mountain Guides Association is a rewarding though sometimes stressful process, and requires substantial financial investment.
I was able to participate in this program through the 2009 full tuition scholarship from Osprey. I am proud to have had the support of Osprey and want to sincerely express my appreciation for this scholarship. Osprey’s support of the guiding profession in the United States and most specifically their help in assisting aspiring guides achieve their goals, is what sets them apart from other manufacturers. This opportunity certainly improved my guiding skills in Alpine terrain and as I look forward to future exams, I am endlessly grateful for having been granted this opportunity.
AMGA Certified Ski Mountaineering Guide/ IFMGA Aspirant Guide
South Las Vegas. One house. Fourteen guides. Heaps of cams and packs in the garage. Stacks of guidebooks on the kitchen table. The air is thick with beta. “Don’t do anything on the Black Velvet wall. Too straightforward. Too many bolts to be on the exam.”
“How’d you avoid that jammed block rap on the Frigid Air?”
We’ve been training for two weeks and have another week before the exam starts. Each day we venture out to climb exam routes—those with complicated guiding problems—where safely protecting two clients involves an extra four steps compared to climbing with your buddies. Take the notorious Community Pillar descent, where just getting to the main raps involves short roping, short-pitching, intermediate anchors, a pre-rig rappel and avoiding a tempting anchor known as No Pass Tree. No Pass Tree is a big tree, wrapped with trucker slings, but surrounded by loose blocks. If you rap off No Pass Tree then you No Pass Exam.
The focus of our training for the American Mountain Guide Association exam–and guiding in general–is safety. Climbing the 5.10+ standard while wearing a pack and pulling two ropes seems insignificant compared to learning hundreds of safety tricks. For example, yesterday we realized that if you clove-off your client to the master point between the autolocker and their knot, then they are basically off belay for a split second—the autolocker won’t catch as you are tying the client’s clove-hitch. Instead, tie-off the brake strand before clove-hitching the client into the anchor master point. Anal, but if guiding is your career, then you’ll learn to stack the odds in your favor, or you’ll get weeded out.
Osprey has been training with me the whole time. I haul the rack and ropes into the routes with my beloved Mutant 38. Then I climb with a Solo, the ultimate summer climbing pack. The hard plastic ribs on the outside of the Solo take the abuse while grinding up chimneys and the sleek, low volume make the pack almost imperceptible when climbing.
Mark Allen belaying Mike Bromberg on pitch 5 of 12 on Initiwantan (IV 5.10c), Mount Wilson, Red Rocks, Nevada.
Mark Smiley leading the old-school 5.9 chimneys on pitch 5 of 18. Epinephrine, Black Velvet Canyon, Red Rocks, Nevada.
Another member of the all-new Osprey Brand Team is Erie, Colorado resident Joe Thompson. Besides being ski patrol at Boulder’s local hill Eldora and an AMGA Certified Rock Guide, Joe is currently enrolled (and on site) in an instructor’s course with AIARE in Valdez, Alaska where we armed him with an orange, Variant 37 pack to assist with his training.
Joe has been checking in with us via Blackberry texts and he was able to send us a nice photo of an iced-over ‘Bridal Veil’ near his group’s base camp. Stay tuned for more from Joe as we get information about how he has put his Variant to the test… So far we know Joe was stoked that despite the Variant’s large carrying capacity and size (the Medium Variant’s specs: 2250 cu. in., 37 liters, and 3 lbs 8 oz.) he was able to successfully stow the pack under his seat on the puddle jumper to Valdez. If that ain’t success for a guy carrying oodles of gear to Alaska, I don’t know what is. Check back soon for a full update from Joey T!