First Day of Summer: Skiing on June 21

CHAPTER 1: Packing Up 

I’ve been spending a lot of time at my desk over the past months working on my coffee-table book. It’s enjoyable work, albeit exhausting. So as June was quickly coming to a close and I hadn’t gone skiing yet this month, I knew I had better get out and head up the mountain while I had a modicum of energy. 

When I got to the parking lot where I would begin my adventure for the day, hail was falling heavily from the sky. A few minutes later though it cleared up and I was able to finish packing up my gear in much nicer weather. 

The last time I had a-framed my skis on my backpack was in September of 2016 when I hiked up to the glacier about Twin Falls, here in Smithers, BC. So while I wasn’t afraid of the additional weight on my back, I was a little unsure how my knees would feel by the end of the day. But I had tensor bandages wrapped on both of them and so all I could do was start hiking and see what happened.

CHAPTER 2: Through the Treeline

As I began my hike up, the trails were bare as I had expected. However as I got closer to the alpine, some unexpected patches of snow blocked my route. Thankfully other hikers had gone before me and I didn’t have to posthole my way through. I had the thought as I was knee-deep in snow at times that I should have brought extra socks along.

CHAPTER 3: Into the Alpine 

Once I cleared the treeline, it was a long hike across the prairie to the lake. The melting snow created all manner of waterways to navigate over and around as I slowly made my way up. 

With the cloud ceiling being as low as it was, I wasn’t sure if there’d be visibility once I reached my goal. But as is often the case, the weather seemed to change every few minutes, and so there was nothing that really prevented me from continuing my journey. I decided to keep going and take my chances with the visibility. 

CHAPTER 4: At The Lake 

Arriving at the edge of the slope that leads one down to the surface of the lake, I wanted to take a moment to rest and reflect. A friend had lent me his skis for the day (as the bindings on mine are getting repaired), and I wanted to make a portrait that showed him the raw beauty and wonder of where I was hiking.
Photos like this are also good for my own encouragement as I need little reminders like this every once and a while of the places I go to have my adventures. As infrequently as 

CHAPTER 5: Edge of the Lake 

After I made my way down to the surface of lake, I looked directly across the water to the vertically contiguous line of snow that remained on the back of the crater. I remembered a day from early November 2016. I was up on the (looker’s) right edge of the crater looking back into the crater when I watched a couple skiers drop down the back and make their way down a line to the surface of the lake. 

Standing there now, 6 1/2 months later, I enjoyed the moment of reflection and to be able to witness how weather shapes and changes the landscape over time. The cycle of snow melting, then falling and accumulating, then melting and so on, is a fascinating thing to experience and photograph. 

CHAPTER 6: The Hike Up 

After the few moments of reflection at the edge of the lake, I started my climb up the left edge of the crater. The route up was mostly rock punctuated every so often by a sliver of snow. 

There was only one time on my way to the top where I felt a little fear. I had misjudged the amount of good foot- and hand-holds and was temporarily in a bit of a bind. I wasn’t really afraid for my own safety (although the thought did cross my mind), but rather I was concerned that if I fell I’d damage the skis on my backpack that I borrowed from a friend, and my camera that was attached to my backpack. Thankfully I was able to detach my camera from its attachment clip on the shoulder strap and place it in a safe spot on the rocks above. Once that was done, I was able to maneuver more freely and get a better grip with my hands and feet. A few seconds later I was standing on two feet again, ready to continue my ascent. 

CHAPTER 7: The Changeover 

Once I was done scrambling up the edge of the crater, I finally reached the field of snow I wanted to ski on. I took my pack off and unstrapped my boots and skis. I took a few moments to rest my aching knees and enjoy the surroundings. 

These moments of reflection are always special as I consider the world before me and how grateful I am to live here in Smithers. The abundant natural beauty is so vital to my way of life. 

The moment of reverie passed and I turned and looked uphill and anticipated a few fun moments of sliding uphill on my skis. But first I needed to change my boots from hiking to ski, get the skins out of my pack and get them on my skis.

CHAPTER 8: Surprisingly Slippery 

With my skins now on, I turned my attention to the task of turning my backpack into a tripod. It’s always a fun challenge when I don’t bring my actual tripod along to figure out a way to stabilize my camera for self-portraits. Rocks and backpacks are the typical methods, although if a snowdrift is high enough, I’ve been known to use them too. 

It took a few attempts to get the shot I was after as the snowpack was pretty tricky to navigate (at least for the first few strides). The pitch was steep enough that I had a little difficulty getting the edge of my skis to bite and give me the stability I was after. But once I figured things out, I was pretty happy with this result. 

CHAPTER 9: What A View 

The goal I set for myself at the beginning of the day was to recreate the scene from a year ago when I was up on the same (melting) cornice. Thankfully the weather cooperated and I was able to get the shot I was after. I didn’t make it quite as far up the snow on the crater’s edge as I did last year, but it was far enough to show the leopard-like spots of snow on the ground below. There was significantly more snow than there was a year ago. Maybe enough to allow me to hike up in July to make some turns. We’ll see.

CHAPTER 10: A Few Glorious Turns 

There you go, some of the turns I made on what’s left of the snow on the edge of the ridge above Crater Lake. They were eerily similar to the ones I made last year.

CHAPTER 11: Whiteout in June 

After finishing my turns, I stopped at the edge of the snow to take off my ski boots and prepare for the hike down. As I laced up my boots, the weather changed again (I lost track on the way up how often it did so) and it started snowing. It got so bad I could not see beyond the edge of the crater below me. 

However I knew if I just waited a few minutes things would get better. And they did. I slowly made my way down the rocks and by the time I cleared the crater the sun came out again and I had a blue skies (still with a strong wind though) for the rest of my hike down to my car.

CHAPTER 12: Hiking Down 

I was grateful to be able to walk down the mountain mostly on soft, grass-covered ground. It made it easier on my knees that’s for sure. The pain caused by the tightness in my iliotibial band (ITB) makes hiking down painful at the best of times. Wrapping my knees helps a little bit, but still, it sure takes a lot longer to make the return trip when every step is a painful one.

CHAPTER 13: Selfie for Wifey

Mostly because my wife likes to see me smile, but also to help prove I was actually out doing something, I try to do a self portrait when I go skiing. So just before I got into the treeline, I paused for a moment, smiled for the camera and looked forward to later in the day when my wife would look at it and say, “nice.”


CHAPTER 14: Alpine Marmot

I had seen a couple of these mountain denizens a couple other times on my hike down, but this one must have been more used to humans. As is usually the case in these situations, I started photographed the marmot the whole time I walked toward it. I wanted to make sure to get at least one good image, as I know they typically don’t stay in one place very long. 

Right after this image, down the hole it went and the moment was gone. Afterwards when I looked at the image on my computer, I realized how big the marmot was. I can’t recall ever seeing one quite so large.

CHAPTER 15: One Last Look Back

The adventure was almost over as I left the alpine and entered the treeline. I made one last look back at the landscape behind me and was once again filled with an unquenchable sense of satisfaction. I had a goal in mind at the beginning of the day, and now, several hours later I had achieved that goal and was glad that even though each step back to my car was painful, I knew I was better off for making the effort.

CHAPTER 16: The End

Never were my knees more happy than when I finally reached the car and took off the load I’d been carrying for the past several hours. Now all that remained was to stay awake as I drove down the mountain. I was looking forward to getting home, sitting at my computer and begin work on the photographs from my annual hike-up-the-mountain-in-June-to-ski trip.


Recent Media Coverage

Three weeks ago the local paper ran a story on my book project. I met with the sports reporter in a coffee shop and spent about an hour giving him some background information on the project and answering his questions. The next week when the paper came out, it was a surprise to see my photo on the front cover. I wasn’t expecting that kind of coverage, but it was nice to see nonetheless.


Open House

Come learn more about how you can get involved in my ongoing coffee-table book project that features photos and stories from my ski touring adventures. A working copy of the book will be available for preview.

Friday, June 23 at 6 PM - 9 PM / 3463 Alfred Ave, Smithers, BC V0J 2N0, Canada


Wonderful World of White Newsletter #2

The past couple of weeks have been full of surprises and challenges. The biggest lesson I have been learning is that it is important to be patient and not expect too much too soon. I’m starting from scratch as I seek to make others aware of my project and how they can become involved. 

Read the full newsletter here.

Please share if you find value in what you’ve read. Thanks.


New Greeting Cards

I’ve been working on a new book project over the past couple of months. I’ve looked at hundreds of images, all from my ski touring adventures. So with all that snow and beauty on my mind, I created a series of 5x7 greeting cards highlighting some of my favourite photographs.

So if you’re interested in seeing the natural beauty of the places I enjoy skiing, I invite you to let your eyes wander through the selection of cards I have currently available (which you can purchase here).




Book Research

Preparing for this book continues to prove that without those who have gone before me and done what I’m doing, I’d be lost. The amount of research and practical work has been staggering in it’s volume and complexity.

  • How do I self-publish?
  • Do I crowdfund the book?
  • Where do I print the book?
  • What is a content calendar?
  • Which service do I use to schedule my social media posts?
  • How many photos do I include in the book? 
  • What is my criteria for choosing said images?
  • How do I promote the book?
  • How do I build an audience?

These are a few things on my ever-growing to-do list. Will you join me on my journey of discovery? If this sounds like fun, you can sign up for my newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/cCC665

Thanks.





Elemental

One enjoyable aspect of ski touring in the same area over and over again is that I get to witness the same landscape sculpted by the ever-changing weather. On this particular day it was a challenge to stand upright as the wind was whipping from behind me over towards Miller Creek (that runs out from below Crater Lake). I was transfixed as I watched the wind-borne snow dance across the hill in front of me.



Tiny and Alone

Being alone in the wild isn’t scary. I’m familiar with my surroundings and I’ve taken all the safety precautions necessary. It is where I am most at peace with myself and my life. The solitude provides a respite from the self-inflicted stress I allow in my life.

I love the feeling of being a tiny speck on the vast landscape of a mountain. The scale reminds me of how vast and wonderful this world is and how grateful I am to explore it.



UPTRACK/DOWN

Different kinds of tracks mean different kinds of adventure. The joy of the up is a slope that provides great cardio, and a slow pace, allowing one to notice details. The joy of the down is experiencing the sweet transport of gravity, sliding along on top of soft snow.


Pointing Up

Two of the things I tend to look for when I’m considering what to photograph, are unique shapes and repetition. The snow-covered trees pointing to the sky in this scene were what caught my eye as I toured behind the warming hut on Hudson Bay Mountain. Nature was telling me to look up.


Scale

As much as I enjoy finding the beauty in the littlest of things on the slopes I ski on, sometimes the view across the Bulkley Valley absolutely stops me in my tracks. 

On this particular day early in December it was 2:30 in the afternoon and the sun was about an an hour and a half away from setting. The low angle of the sun provided a nice backlight to the ridge of mountains where the wind was blowing the clouds off its peaks. The shade of the mountains provided a nice contrast to the tiny sliver of light that snaked its way along the ridgeline.

Views like this, the grandest of vistas, make me feel so tiny. The sense of scale is immense and makes me appreciate every moment that I get to spend in nature. The sweet transport of skis on snow takes me to places not everyone has the opportunity to get to. For that I am eternally grateful.


INVERSION

It’s such a cool feeling to be above the clouds. 

Quite often in the Bulkley Valley we have inversions where I’ll leave town under the grey cover of cloud, only to break through into blue sky as I get closer to the ski hill. This image typifies some of the beauty that I am fortunate witness each time I go touring towards Hudson Bay Mountain.


The Littlest of Things

Of the many things I love about getting up on the mountain early in the morning, two of my favourite are the glow of the sun on the snow, and the details in the snow.

I stare in amazement as the rising sun changes the colour of the snow, highlighting different details over time. There seems to be a bit of magic in the transition from the warmth of the orange/pink to the coolness of the blue/white. i also love the shapes that the snow takes when it’s really cold and clear. The hoar frost is especially pretty for it’s fragility. 

That the accumulation of so many of those delicate little flakes is the ultimate foundation for the activity of ski touring l love so much will never cease to amaze me. It’s a testament to the importance of what seems to be insignificant in an of itself. The simple snowflake may be tiny, it may be delicate, but as the old saying goes, “there is strength in numbers”.


Valley Glow

In addition to watching the snow change colour from the setting sun, another activity that always comes with a sense of awe and wonder is watching the sky change colour too. It’s almost magical to witness how the light interacts with the clouds to show off an ever-changing colour palette. It’s a peaceful way to relax. It makes me happy.


Rugged

Each time the weather is clear enough for me to see the peak of Hudson Bay Mountain I am left at a loss. Somehow words don’t seem to adequately describe the varied emotions that I feel. But since these things I’m typing and you’re reading are words, I shall try.

I am continually amazed by things that are always the same and yet always different at the same time. In the winter, the mountains and snow are always mountains and snow. Yet there is never a day when they look exactly the same. Depending on the time of day and the weather, the shape of the mountain, the texture and colour of the snow, they all can change. Even the perspective can change depending on my proximity to Crater Lake. I find this absolutely fascinating.

I enjoyed working with this image after I got home to bring out the details in the wind-hammered snow. It was fairly early in the season so there wasn’t enough snow to cover all the undulations in the ground. It was just after 4 in the afternoon when I made this photograph, so the sun was approaching the horizon across the Bulkley Valley. This served to highlight the shadows above Crater Lake and just below the peak (which is the uppermost reach of Simpson’s Gulch). That the blue/white of the snow was slowing morphing into pink and purple was certainly pretty, however what struck me the most were the shadows and the S-shape that was standing out.

So when an scene like this is more about form than colour, that’s when I know it’s time to process the image in black and white. After I finished processing it, the final image spoke to me of power and grace. It remains to this day, one of my favourite images.


The Decoy

It was the first day of the 2014/15 season and a friend and I drove up to the ski hill and spent the afternoon touring up to Crater Lake. We were glad there was enough snow to tour up, and ski most of the way down. When the snow became impassable for skis we proceeded to walk the rest of the way back to our vehicle.

At a certain point we stopped for a rest and the whiskey jacks that were flying around us were quite glad to make their introductions to us. I couldn’t remember ever having a bird rest on my hand like this before so it was pretty thrilling to be able to offer up a little snack.

Little did I realize that the bird on my hand was just a decoy. For while I was pleasantly watching the granola being pecked at, his buddies were gorging themselves on the bag of granola that lay open on my backpack. 

It’s been over three years since this little encounter and it still makes me laugh. The whole time prior to this was spent doing something I love. Yes, it was the first day of the season, and having only toured a few times before my legs were straining and my lungs were burning. But being out in nature and accomplishing a goal was tremendously satisfying. Then to have this experience with the birds was like the cherry on top of a big bowl of ice cream. A little flourish to end the day. 



Crater Lake

As long as I had been hiking up on the mountain, Crater Lake had been calling my name. So up until this day, all I had done was make my way up to the edge of the lake in summer. For some reason, the call was strong enough on the 18th of April, 2014 to venture up on my skis. 

I don’t remember how long it took for me to get up there, but I’m sure I stopped dozens of times to catch my breath and rest my legs. This particular photo was made as I skinned up the right side of the crater. I was right around the spot where the rim of the crater stops going up and starts going over to the other side of the lake below. It was the first trip of many to this spot in the years to follow.

Being up as high as I was, and being able to look over the far side of the crater to the valley beyond brought a measure of wonder and awe that has only grown to this day. When you’re along in the mountains as I was on this day, it was a good reminder of how vast this world is. 

What I didn’t realize at the time, was how important being in places like this was to me. Over the years it’s become an integral part of my work to be able to share with others both near and far, the beauty that surrounds me. 


Light and Shadow

The afternoon of March 28, 2014 saw me touring up on the prairie on Hudson Bay Mountain. The way that the light fell on the drift in front of me caught my eye. There was something about the form of the snow and how the darkness of the shadow gave definition and shape to it. Looking back now the thing that strikes me is how that fascination has grown over the years. I still find snowdrifts one of the most interesting and ever-changing subjects to photograph.

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