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The Best of Winter

June 19th, 2014

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!

 

evan stevens video jasmin caton

 

January 25th 2014,  Unguide-a-bowl, Unaccept-a-bowl, Valhalla Mountain Touring.  Once in a while all of your ski terrain goes ‘green light’. No avalanche concerns, minimal sluffing, and good skiing. When this happens during a guiding week you get a chance to put guests into places on skis and boards that they never dreamed of. Letting guests open it up on 45 degree spines is pretty much as good as it gets!

 

Skiing the beautiful spines in Baron Bowl with VMT guests today.

Skiing the beautiful spines in Baron Bowl with VMT guests today. Video: Jasmin Caton

 

January 27th, Wragge Lake, Valhalla Mountain Touring.  With each passing year we get closer and closer to opening up a new lodge in our tenure to hugely expand our ski potential. This year more than any, I put a ton of effort into exploring the terrain, and this day paid off because Jasmin and I got to open up a new couloir I have been staring at for years. A scenic ridge traverse and a short technical down climb got us into the beautiful dog leg couloir. With decent snow, and close to 50 degree rollover, it was game on and 5 star, ripping steep turns through the huge buttress.

 

Jasmin contemplates the blind, steep rollover of the Dog Leg

Jasmin contemplates the blind, steep rollover of the Dog Leg

 

February 20th 2014, Begbie Shoulder, Revelstoke, AMGA Ski Exam.  A big part of my winter every year is training and examining aspiring ski guides for the American Program. The first day of the program saw cold temps, and about 40cms of new snow. I put it out there to the group that we should take advantage of this, and we did with 8,000’ of face shots and pillow drops with massive smiles on our faces. Its great when an ‘exam’ can be a fun and rewarding experience. It was great to be back in this role again and charging hard with motivated and inspired people!

 

photo: Donny Roth

photo: Donny Roth

March 10, 2014, Ruby Bowl, Valhalla Mountain Touring.  This winter saw the longest period of the sketchiest reactive persistent weak layer snow conditions that I have ever seen. After a month of avoiding terrain like the plague, we decided to conservatively climb a ridge to the summit of Ruby Peak. Jasmin dropped in to dig a snowpit on the edge of some terrain we were not going to ski, and when she shifted in the pit triggering an 800m wide, 150cm deep massive avalanche that wrapped around into another basin ripping trees out. There is nothing like a safe, super humbling day in the mountains to keep your ego in check and refresh your respect for the hills!

 

Small skiers, big avalanche

Small skiers, big avalanche

 

April 24, 2014 Capucin Couloir, Chamonix, France.  As a ski mountaineer, I have always dreamed of the classic lines of the alps. This year I finally got to sample a few lines, in what I call the ‘glorious shit show’ that is Chamonix. Unbelievable terrain, unbelievable access, and unbelievably stupid things that people do because of the previous two things. The Capucin Couloir was one of the better more technical lines I got to sample on this trip. Steep cramponing up to a tiny col, a few rappels to 50 degree fall you die ski terrain in firm conditions. A small hop over a bergshrund at the end and then a long creamy ski decent to the valley bottom. It was great to get a taste for the ‘extreme’ lines of the alps, and on a guides exam no less, letting some students push their guiding limits!

 

 

American Mountain Guides Association steep camp on the Capucin Couloir. A few raps, hard snow in 45-50 degree cooler, a small shrund hop and a long creamy glacier decent.

American Mountain Guides Association steep camp on the Capucin Couloir. A few raps, hard snow in 45-50 degree cooler, a small shrund hop and a long creamy glacier decent.

May 4th, 2014 North Face of Mt Blanc, Chamonix France.  A super classic decent from the roof of Europe, in knee deep powder with some of my best friends whom I hardly get to see, on my last ski day of the season. Enough said.

 

Skiing from the top of western Europe with great friends and amazing snow was really the best way to end the ski season. Thanks for the great lap on Mt Blanc

Skiing from the top of western Europe with great friends and amazing snow was really the best way to end the ski season. Thanks for the great lap on Mt Blanc

 

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Chamonix Exploits and the Osprey AMGA Scholarship in Action

October 7th, 2009

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.

The Aiguille du Midi

The Aiguille du Midi

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.

Mike Bromberg climbing Chamonix Granite

Mike Bromberg climbing Chamonix Granite

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.

THE Venue

THE 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.

Classic Alpine Terrain

Classic Alpine Terrain

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.

Thanks Osprey!

Thanks Osprey!

Mike Bromberg

AMGA Certified Ski Mountaineering Guide/ IFMGA Aspirant Guide

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Training for the Rock Guide Exam—Red Rocks, Nevada

September 28th, 2009

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.

RRNV-38

Mark Allen belaying Mike Bromberg on pitch 5 of 12 on Initiwantan (IV 5.10c), Mount Wilson, Red Rocks, Nevada.

 

RRNV-139-2

Mark Smiley leading  the old-school 5.9 chimneys on pitch 5 of 18. Epinephrine, Black Velvet Canyon, Red Rocks, Nevada.

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“Osprey in Alaska” – Brand Team’er Joe checks in…

February 18th, 2009

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.

Bridal Veil in Valdez, Alaska

Bridal Veil in Valdez, Alaska


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!

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