Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Canadian Rockies Ice & Snow February/March 2021

Canadian Rockies Ice Climbing & Mountaineering Trip 

 The climbing, mountains, people and spirit of the Canadian Rockies are fantastic! This part of the world is renowned for it’s ice and alpine climbs and has become one of the foremost destinations for alpine ice climbing, backcountry skiing and mountaineering. In mid-February of 2020, I explored the Canadian Rockies while taking part in an American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Ice Instructor Course and do some of my own climbing. The course was based out of the village of Canmore Alberta, about 20km southeast of the town of Banff and maybe 30km from Lake Louise. The town of Canmore was a hip and vibrant mountain community and perfectly situated for ice climbers: affordable, a great infrastructure to support ice climbing and other winter sports activities and a friendly, accommodating population of locals and transplants all stoked on the magic of the mountains.  In my mind, I was already planning my next trip in while I was in Canmore. In late February/early March 2021, I will be offering a trip to Canadian Rockies  to do ice & mixed climbing and ski mountaineering with a small group of enthusiastic alpine climbers.

To focus directly on the ice and mixed climbing, my experience was one of cold winter conditions, thick well-formed ice, and an unbelievable assortment of climbs to suit all skill levels. Most fortunately, while I was there the avalanche danger was moderate to low. Temperatures, which can be extremely cold, were ideal. There was occasional snow fall with accumulations of up to 15cm or so. From the huge choice of ice routes available, there was always the possibility of finding the appropriate climb in regards to difficulty and location as to fit with the weather conditions and avalanche danger. 

Logistically, I flew from Salzburg through Frankfurt and then directly to Calgary. At the Calgary airport, I rented a car and drove for about one hour to Canmore. I stayed at an affordable hotel (with a small kitchen) in Canmore from which I could walk to all the shops, grocery, indoor climbing & fitness gym, and restaurants. The flight cost around €850,—, car rental €330,—, and the hotel was about €40,— a night. I mostly made my own meals at the hotel room. There were a number of coffee shops, inexpensive local restaurants, bars, bakeries, etc. Additionally, two climbing shops in Canmore and others in Banff. My total stay was for 16 days.

Perhaps, the only drawback to climbing in the Canadian Rockies is the driving. For most climbs you have to drive out of Canmore and into the national park. This usually involved around a 45 minute to one hour drive. The longest drive for me was one hour and 45 minutes. This meant getting up rather early to start the day at 05:00 or 06:00. You could mitigate this somewhat by staying in Banff or Lake Louise, but there would be other negative factors: Banff is more expensive and tourist oriented than Canmore, while Lake Louise is pretty isolated.

Because of the exceptional experience I had, I will be going back to the Canadian Rockies in 2021 and hopefully regularly in the future. This is one of the places that I have found that has that magical combination of mountain spirit, climbing, people and infrastructure that make it a unique destination. I just felt great being there — similar to my feelings for Cogne in Aosta valley Italy, Kalymnos in Greece, and the Chamonix/Mont Blanc region.

For 2021, I want to return to the Canadian Rockies and share the experience with a small group of enthusiastic alpine climbers. I will bring my ski-touring equipment along with my ice gear to Canada. I plan on setting aside the second half of February into the first half of March for a trip that combines ice and mixed climbing with some back country skiing and ski mountaineering. My concept is to set aside a two week or so time period in which I will be available to guide ice climbs and ski mountaineering objectives for individuals and small groups.

My service would include pre-trip information and advice in either personal meetings or video calls. I envision coordinating travel, rental car(s), accommodations and other logistical assistance. Of course, once in the Canadian Rockies, daily activities would depend on individual and group bookings, interest and skill levels, conditions, etc. Further, I could organise a colleague from the Canadian Mountain Guides Association or AMGA to assist me. Guiding ration would be 1:1 or 1:2 for multi-pitch ice climbs and then a maximum of 1:4 for single pitch ice climbing and technique coaching as well as with all ski-related activities.

Of course now with the current COVID-19 restrictions and upheavals, this sounds pretty far off and perhaps even unrealistic. I believe, however, that we all need something motivating, inspiring and exciting to focus on as a meaningful goal. Sometimes, just even allowing a thought or possibility to materialise is the most important hurdle in beginning an adventure.  

So, I would like to plant this little thought meme out there with all of you. As we go through the next difficult weeks and months, I want to keep some of my attention focused on what I love doing in the mountains with the people I loving doing it with. I would love to hear from you. I am already looking forward to our next trip in the mountains together. Just drop me a quick message or email and I will put together a program that meets your aspirations and budget.

Joe (Facebook & Instagram)

+43 660 633 2076 (WhatsApp)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Warrior Way for Young & Old

I have been a dedicated lister to the "Jocko Podcast" since the first episode. I heard about Jocko Willink through the podcasts of Sam HarrisTim Ferriss and Joe Rogan. I read the book Jocko wrote in partnership with Leif Babin, Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win. The words both spoken and written coming from Jocko seem to have hit a certain core need in people who are craving direct, clear, no feel-good crap to confront and overcome challenges and problems in their lives.

His most recent book, Way of the Warrior Kid; From Wimpy to Warrior the Navy SEAL Way came out today, 02. May 2017. The Ebook magically appeared in the middle of the night on my iPad after I had pre-orderd it a few weeks ago. The book is a young adult book, but as Jocko has pointed out, there is a lot in its pages for adults.

I was strangely apprehensive about starting in on the book. I did not know why, but I found out as I read through it in about an hour this morning. Why am I reading a kids book? Why, without having any children, did I even buy it? Superficially, I justified the purchase because I do have a long-standing climbing group of young teens and I work on a regular basis with kids. I also thought that perhaps as a teacher, my wife could make use of the book personally and as material for her ESL courses at the international school where she teaches.

The book brought up some childhood emotions. There are a lot of young people who need a character like Jocko's "Uncle Jake" in their life. The young boy in the book, Marc, at the story's end is full of gratitude for the help his Uncle Jake gives him over their summer together. Jake responds by telling Marc that he did all the work to enable his transformation and begin his warrior path -- and what is a most interesting message for us adults -- Jake explains to Marc that in reality Marc did not need his Uncle, he just needed to do something about what was causing his deficiencies in fitness, nutrition, learning, etc.

This is the message to take home as an adult: If you wanted an "Uncle Jake" figure in your life that never materialised in your childhood, as an adult it does not matter, it really does not matter now! You can be your own Uncle Jake to your childhood self and take care of these lagging issues such as your nutrition, fitness, health, mental outlook, etc., by taking action and doing something now.

Another subtlety in the book is that the path Marc takes to being a warrior does not involve acquiring anything that is outside of himself. He doesn't need new running shoes, a set of weights, some weapon, intruding parents -- what he needs he already has in its raw, untapped form. What he needs to do is to do!

Further, there is no examination for the reasons why Marc is in the situation he is in. We don't have someone commiserating with Marc about his predicament. Why? Because it is a waste of time and energy that can be better put to use by taking action! Taking action now to combat your inadequacies and shortcomings that every single one of us has.

So as an adult, do the people you choose to surround yourself with challenge you to do something about your predicaments, encourage you to take action and believe that through your own work that you will overcome? Or are you in the middle of a circle of people that are giving you "emotional support" that involves commiserating, complaining, blaming outside factors and telling you in so many words to learn to accept your fate? Worse are those who disguise their negative influence that pulls you down as "good, rational advice" or "friendship".

Though I am not a parent, I follow the principles in Way of the Warrior Kid in my relationships to the young people I work with in climbing courses. I treat young people with respect, I value their emotions and feelings, but I do not allow them to escape from confronting obstacles, responsibility and fear. There is a mastery and balance in the application of this that is different for every young person and in every situation -- which the reader sees in effect with Uncle Jake's interactions with Marc. I always try and find ways to challenge young climbers, whether with body weight strength training, warming up, coordination, fear of falling, 100% ownership of the safety of their partner, and many other climbing-specific situations.

In the international alpine community, we are all tremendously saddened by the death of Ueli Steck. It is easy to think of all the great accomplishments of such a god-like alpine phenom as being due to natural-born gifts, an extraordinary upbringing or environment, or other "special" things that make him different from you or me. That thought dismisses the role of hard work, the smart application of logical problem solving for oneself and the willingness to suffer through short-term failures and re-adjust time and time again. It dismisses the strength and stubbornness of character built up over years of experience to get to a level of mastery in physical and mental performance. This fixed-mindset thought and belief lets the believer of such off the the hook -- it is not your fault that you are not like Ueli Steck. 

Canadian ice climber and friend of Steck, Will Gadd wrote this insightful tribute to Steck on his Facebook page. It explains that Ueli worked hard and made himself into what he was. Do not mis-read, "it is not your fault that you are not like Ueli Steck", to mean "it is not your fault that you are not Ueli Steck". Ueli showed us all what we as unique individuals can aspire to and, like him, make our lives in to something that is more than what we believe possible.

So, I am saying that it is your fault if you are not like Ueli Steck. It is also my fault when I'm not like Ueli Stick, or anytime I retreat in to a shell of protective self-pity and choose to shirk away from directly confronting issues within myself. In this New York Times option piece about Steck's death, the Jonathan Griffith (Griffith's tribute) photo of Ueli climbing the north face of the Col du Plan held a special meaning for me. I soloed that route three years ago. Looking at the exposure in that photo of Steck, I thought, "did I really do that?" and that the clear consequences of a mistake are blatantly obvious.

The point here is not that I'm some hardcore alpinist, it is that ten years ago I never would have considered that I could solo climb a route such as the north face of the Col du Plan. In my twenties, such a thought would have never entered my mind. I am clearly not of the alpine caliber that was Ueli Stick, but I aspire to be of the highest caliber that I can be. The only way to do this is to do this. Simple. Plain. Unexciting.

That message needs to be transmitted to kids and adults alike. Without the sugar-coated niceties. We need this because it is what works and it is what is best for us as individuals. Way of the Warrior Kid does this. It does this without violence, aggression or diminishing other people. It does it without criticism, belittling or shaming.

Something else that has inspired me after reading Jocko's book is that I know I want to be the "Uncle Jake" to kids. Whether I am climbing with them, swinging the kettle bell in the playground, skiing with them, whatever. I want to especially serve young people in my interactions with them that reflects the attitude, spirit and wisdom of the Uncle Jake character because, even though we all must take action for ourselves, a bit of encouragement never hurts and this is what the world needs.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Fat Adapted

Fuelled from fat
There are always two things that people who are with me in the mountains climbing, ski touring, ice climbing, etc., and even while sport climbing at crags or on multi-pitch routes comment on. First is how small my backpack is and second, that I do not eat or drink much.

I do long days out often with just a litre bottle or thermos. I train a lot in a fasted state and many times with nothing to eat or drink - these can be four, six or even more hour-long endeavours  If I am doing a course or guiding a tour, I am generally too busy to eat anyways. However, I will on colder days have some nuts or high-quality dried sausage with me. In summer, nuts and raw vegetables.

The concept of being "fat adapted" is something that is making the rounds in a lot of sports endurance circles now. The idea is to get your body to utilise its fat stores at a greater and greater amount for work at an aerobic level. You are already carrying the potential energy with you on your body, so why not use it? In the alpine disciples there is great stuff on Steve House and Scott Johnston's website that supplements the information in House and Johnston's book, Training for the New Alpinism.

Perhaps one of the first to bring the ideas of training and eating for metabolic fat addaption was Dr. Phil Maffetone who coached a number of legendary Ironman athletes and ultra-distance runners. The more recent appearance of the idea of fat adaption has been the term "fat burning" seen in the diet books of those advocating 'paleo', 'primal' or 'ancestral' ways of eating as well as those who recommend ketogenic diets to readjust faulty metabolisms and cause body fat reduction.

Training the chicken for fat adaptation, everyone wants it now!
There is a ton of material on the webs, social media and in bookstores about this. It takes a bunch of patience and experimentation to see what works for you as an individual alpine athlete. The biggest hurdle for most however is to have an open mind about eating and training that often is very radically different from what you believe.

I have slowly figured things out for myself and now know what works for me to keep me able to train injury free across multi-alpine disciples and perform well. Unfortunately, most do not have the patience, discipline and determination to take this responsibility on themselves.

There was a time when I bought into the hype of the hawkers of sports nutrition products, energy bars and gels, re-fuelling, pre-fuelling, carb loading, protein-to-carb ratios, on and on. It wasn't until I just got fed up with it all - it wasnt't working, my body composition was not optimal, I wasn't recovering or sleeping well - and took the steps to figure it all out on my own, for myself, and only using my own experience as a yardstick for what worked and what did not. I also had to open my mind to completely new and enlightened ways of thinking about eating and training.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Are You a Bodybuilder?

Are you a bodybuilder? Then why are you training like one? This is my thought when I see climbers and other alpine athletes stuck in the fitness industry ideal of resistance training, cross-training, supplemental training, etc. 
Way too many people think that somehow doing bodybuilder movements will then translate into better climbing. Many have adapted the concept of training body parts from large commercial gyms and the fitness business media. So that their non-climbing training is based on doing some form of resistance exercise for a specific body part. 

I have nothing against bodybuilders per se, however, bodybuilding and fitness model training protocols will not be the best methods to improve your performance on the rock or in the mountains.

Athletes need to train their bodys as one holistic integrated part. Athletic qualities are universal and involve accurate movement, patterning the movement, increasing the movements range of motion, increasing the strength at the ends of the range of motion, then focusing on developing speed, power and quickness.

This is so obvious when you say or write it, however every time I am in the climbing gym I see someone doing bicep curls.

Bodybuilding is not a performance sport. The point is the aesthetic development of your physic, not whether or not your physic performs well. Looking good naked does not mean you will climb 5.12a/7a+ or not.

When you train climbing, you are either improving your skills or you are improving your climbing specific fitness. The aspects of fitness that apply to climbing are predominantly, 1) finger strength and, 2) body composition.

Yes, you can use climbing to improve your body composition. However, body composition is without a doubt, first and foremost an issue of nutrition. Additionally, it makes no difference if excess muscle or excess fat limits a climbers strength-to-weight ratio. It is both excess.

All climbers are concerned with increasing their strength-to-weight ratio. You can 1) keep your strength and lose weight, 2) increase your strength and stay at the same weight, 3) combine weight loss with strength gains. So the optimal situation is to lose excess body fat and make your muscles stronger but not not bigger. Then, when you get to the right level, start slowly, painstakingly and with a long-term view incorporating climbing specific finger strength work.

I believe that until you are climbing at around the 7b / 5.12b you do not need to do any supplemental training for your finger strength. Why? because you will progress much faster by simply climbing with as much variety as possible. All the necessary finger strength will develop as your climbing skills improve. More importantly, you are allowing the critical adaptations to take place in your tendons, ligaments, joints and bones - which progress much, much slower than muscle gains. All other muscle adaptation will nicely proceed as your climbing skill moves up to the level of 7b / 5.12b or so.

Thursday, March 30, 2017 Multi-Pitch Courses in May

Kalymnos multi-pitch climbing,
Last rope length of "Wild Country", Kalymnos (Tolendos island)

Get an early start on the European multi-pitch sport climbing season. Learn and practice rope technique, efficient team movement, safety, self-rescue, etc. has spaces available In May for all types of multi-pitch climbing activities.

Kalymnos offers exceptional sunny, dry, all-day climbing weather from May in to the first week of June. Courses are guaranteed. The long multi-pitches on Kalymnos' neighbouring island Tolendos are an all-day pleasure, from approach, climb and descent.

All my courses and programs can be found on Kalymnos Multi-Pitch offerings.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Kalymnos Klettern 2017, "Kalymnos Primal Climb"

Kalymnos Kletterkurse
Partnercheck nicht vergessen!
Meine neue Website über alle meine Sport-Klettern Aktivitäten auf Kalymnos ist da! "Kalymnos Primal Climb" hat Informationen über Kletterkurse, Privatunterricht, Personal Training, Multi-Pitch Sportklettern und zwei weitere innovative Programme, die ich von Mai bis Oktober 2017 anbieten werde. Klicken Sie hier, um zur "Kalymnos Primal Climb" zu gelangen.

Lass mich wissen was Sie denken! Bitte, kontaktieren Sie mich wenn ich Ihnen in irgendeiner Weise helfen kann.

Kalymnos Climbing Courses 2017, Kalymnos Primal Climb

Kalymnos climbing courses
Another day in a climbing paradise!
My new website for all my activities on Kalymnos is up! Kalymnos Primal Climb has information on sport climbing courses, private lessons, personal training, multi-pitch climbing and two other innovative programs that I will be offering from May through October 2017. Click here to go to the website.

Let me know what you think! Contact me if I can help you in any way.