Wow! What a combination for our first summer mountaineering program!
We hosted Vancouver 2010 Olympic Snowboarding Gold Medalist Maelle Ricker for our May 22nd/10 Snow and Ice Long Weekend Program. We paired her up with Yamnuska’s Associate Director and Master Alpinist Barry Blanchard to take on Mt Athabasca and you can guess what happened from there! That’s right, we’d expect nothing else but a summit from these two world class athletes. With Barry as her mentor, we think this outstanding young Canadian is headed for success as an Alpinist. Here is Maelle’s blog about the weekend and we look forward to climbing with her again!
Road tripping across BC fill up some of my favorite memories in the past decade. I love camping and exploring right at my doorstep, especially when I’m finished a crazy year of travel abroad. Sitting still at home is just not in my blood; however, being in the mountains is. When I’m not on my snowboard I try to get out and about in the summer months. I’ve done some backpacking with friends over the years and now I’m yearning to go deeper, higher, whatever… the next step. I also love backcountry free-riding as well when I’m not racing down a snowboardcross track.
Last summer I got my first taste of “mountaineering” when some friends took me up Mt. Rainier. I absolutely loved it and realized it’s something I want to do more of, and wished I had some knowledge to be out there with a clue! So this May long weekend I decided it was time to do something about it, and why not start with an introductory course from the experts. My teammate Rob and I filled up his car with all sorts of fun toys for a good couple of weeks on the road. We left Squamish and drove to the Columbia Icefields campground to meet up with the other participants and guides of the Yamnuska Snow and Ice Long Weekend Course.
Saturday morning was filled with the usual formalities of signing waivers and getting gear together. There were 18 of us taking the course but the three guides, Barry, Andrew, and Matt did a fantastic job “herding the kittens” and teaching us the ropes. We started off with some exercises around the camp area, learning how to get roped in and familiarize ourselves with walking around being linked up to one another. After a quick lunch break, we headed out to a snow slope to learn some self-arrest techniques with the ice axes and got started on crevasse rescue. Day one finished with some chilly snowstorms and good times around the campfire with new friends from the course.
Day two was just as fun and even more informative as the first day. By this point we got to start working on the North Glacier of Mt. Athabasca. I was lucky enough to have been in a team of 6 instructed by Barry Blanchard. I was quite happy to listen to every lesson and story told by Barry, hoping his expertise and experience would somehow seep into me via osmosis or some equivalent.
The last day was the big day of climbing Mt. Athabasca. I love the early morning starts, especially when I wake up in a cozy tent in the mountains. The fresh air is always nice, even at 2am. We got going by about 4am and ascended the mountain by mid morning. The views were incredible and the company was fantastic. I had a great time making my way up the glaciers to the peak. Luck was on our side as we had sunny skies and little wind on the summit… perfect for enjoying the view and lunch before making our way back down. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit disappointed I didn't have my snowboard for the ride out. The conditions were perfect for a nice cruise down to the cars below. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one with this mindset, as I watched Rob and Andrew picking out lines!
I absolutely loved the course and hope to take part in more of Yamnuska's programs in the future!