ha ling trip2
Never thought I’d ever actually summit these guys, let alone run all over town to do it, or bag multiple in one day…

In the spring of 2011, while traveling to the Yukon, I stopped and took a picture of Canmore’s mountains with my phone and sent it to my buddy Jay, saying, “Yeah, I think this is where we wanna be.” For months we’d discussed setting up shop in Canmore (because living in Banff seemed like a pipedream) and spending all our free time bagging every summit possible. I pictured myself like some old-school mountaineer with wool alpenstocks and a long ice axe toiling up these snowy mountainsides amid snow squalls and spindrift…

Although the steep rock faces seen in the top picture possess heaps of technical climbing routes, I never suspected the backs of these mountains had routes that could be walked (or run) up in a matter of hours. Three years later, Banff is my home and the Canmore mountains I’d once fantasized about climbing are now routine trips I do in the dead of winter, when my eyelids are freezing shut, or on days when I don’t really feel like hiking or running at all. The thought of actually standing on top of these peaks once seemed incredibly out of reach, let alone doing it in a style that is fast, light and aesthetic or linking together multiple peaks as per the Canmore Triple Crown, which I wish to repeat this season.

I’m grateful every day for this landscape, the passion it inspires and what it has molded me into.

March 12-14: Sulphur x2, Heart Mountain & Lady Mac

tom_sulphur_spring_white
Overlooking Banff’s Massive Range from Sulphur Mountain’s upper gondola terminal

 Last week ushered in springlike temperatures in the Bow Valley, allowing me to strip off the leggings and try my hand at a couple different — variably slushy or icy — front range mountains.

The week began with my first time doing repeat runs up Sulphur Mountain (37km, ~2000m vertical) and my first outing wearing shorts this season! I’ve long seen Sulphur X2 as a fairly gnarly training day but both climbs were super easy and neither was any worse than the other. The stellar weather also let me to test out gear donated by Lululemon Athletica Banff for my go at Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc’s CCC this summer. Loving the superlight fabrics of the Metal Vent Tech and Surge Short, closest thing to running in a loincloth possible. And running in a loincloth is my life goal 😐

Looking over the top of Mount Lady Macdonald at a huge drainage notorious for flooding the town of Canmore last spring.

Thursday and Friday after my Sulphur repeat, I had some spare time to run/scramble — and I really just can’t help myself — so I hit up a couple of dry, windblown front range peaks. Thursday consisted of a 6km/800m jaunt up Heart Mountain bordering the prairies; Friday was a 10km/1250m ascent of Mount Lady Macdonald overlooking Canmore. Although free from deep snow, I found the trails on each incredibly icy due to recent melting during the day and freezing during the night. The clear, slick water-ice emphasized the dullness of my Microspikes and my need to seek out a file and sharpen those bad boys up. Goddamn shoulder seasons, first gnawing apart my YakTrax and now dulling my Microspikes…

All in all, last week I did four mountain runs in three days, back to back to back (to back). I ran about 53 kilometres and ascended over 4000 metres. Like I said, when conditions are prime, I just can’t help myself.

Ridge leading to the true summit of Lady Mac. Might give it a couple weeks before I give this a try…
Witnessed avalanche control on the east end of Mount Rundle while paying for coffee in the drive-through.
March 12-14: Sulphur x2, Heart Mountain & Lady Mac
A snowy day on Tunnel Mountain.
The snow gods have been blessing the Bow Valley lately. Tunnel Mountain, Banff, AB.

A near-PR to the top of Sulphur plus my first “long run” in a while, combining a trip up and down Tunnel also. The second climb kinda sucked but I ran the whole way and felt fairly fresh and pain free. So far, this season I must be doing something right…

3h15m | 26km | 1244m vertical

http://www.movescount.com/moves/move26272724

Racing to the summit. Ha Ling Peak, Canmore, AB

It’s nice to be outside again scrambling and getting some vertical after a week of frozen toes + eyelids sticking shut — not very conducive to long-distance or alpine running. Today was a balmy -15ºC but made a huge difference…

58min to summit, 1h35m round | 6.3km | 882m vertical

Mogwai – The Precipice

2013 Recap (Sorta)

Overlooking Mummy Lake from the top of Pharaoh Peak (2700m), Banff NP
Overlooking Mummy Lake from the top of Pharaoh Peak (2700m), Banff NP

“I thought I knew what running was. I thought running was something you were supposed to do like this (performs something like an all-out sprint). But then I saw you running and I was like, ‘Wait, what the f*** is this s***?'” – My buddy Owen to me

Hello and welcome to what I intend to be a record of my experiences and reflections running mountains in the Canadian Rockies… Blogs always begin so awkwardly. Mountain running is the intersection of one of our most basic, fundamental abilities practiced in the most complex and tedious of environments. In this discipline, we prance over talus, bash our way up scree slopes, come as close as possible to flying on the downhills and scrawl immense lines and patterns across the landscape with our bodies and GPS tracks. I’ve always considered the mountains an arena for challenging oneself physically and mentally, and it’s obvious to me that they uplift and elevate the spirit as much as they batter the body. The art of traveling quickly through such terrain I find as graceful as it is masochistic or gruelling; it is the juxtaposition of all these qualities and diversity of skills required which attracts me to this sport. You might say that on a warm summer day, high on some summit somewhere shirtless, wearing just a pair of shorts and sneakers, that despite the blood, sweat and dust on my lips, all I can taste is the sublime…

To inaugurate this blog I wanted to provide an introduction and recap my first summer running mountains and backcountry trails in the Rockies, however that season is well over and twenty-fourteen is now upon me. Over the next few weeks I instead plan to post a three-part essay which delves into my transition to mountain running, some of the people and ideas I met which inspired me, and some of the projects which possessed my mind throughout that summer — for anyone who cares, of course. Otherwise, my chief aim is to chronicle my training and mountain running exploits, reflections on the sport, and drop a few pics of sexy mountain-porn each week.

Here’s a video which describes a bit about my journey as a mountain runner, produced by Tera Swanson for the Calgary Journal:

And in the meantime, peep these highlights from my 2013 mountain running season and a few sexy pics 😉 Many more to come…

  • Canmore Triple Crown (Ha Ling Pk., Rundle-East & Mt. Lady Macdonald) – 43km, 3000m vertical
  • Loop around Mt. Rundle – 48km, 500m vertical
  • Leg #3, Sinister 7 ultramarathon, Crowsnest Pass, AB – 35km, 1300m vertical
  • Redearth Creek >Shadow Lake > Haiduk Lake > Whistling Pass > Pharaoh Peak + back again – 50km
  • Mt. Temple summit & loop – 30km, 2000m vertical
  • Mt. Temple fastest known time – 2h18m to summit, 3h44m trailhead to trailhead, 1700m vertical
  • Meet Your Maker 50-mile ultramarathon, Whistler, BC – 86km, 3700m vertical
Floe Lake seen from a high col between Numa Peak and Foster Peak, Kootenay NP
Mount Bourgeau on left and Assiniboine in the distance, seen from Bourgeau-West, Banff NP
Overlooking high peaks of the upper Bow Valley from the summit of Cirque Peak in early winter conditions, Banff NP
Deltaform Mountain seen during an early-morning approach to summit and circumambulate Mt. Temple, Banff NP
Kiwetinok Lake seen from the top of Mt. Kerr
Kiwetinok Lake seen from the top of Mt. Kerr, Yoho NP
Alpine scenery on Mt. Cory, Banff NP
Night running along the top of Banff's local Sulphur Mountain, during spring 2013 flood/blackout
Night running along the top of Banff’s local Sulphur Mountain, during spring 2013 flood/blackout
View from the top of Mount Temple (3544m) during summit and circumambulation, Banff NP
View from the top of Mount Temple (3544m) during summit and circumambulation in August 2013, Banff NP
Stickin’ it to winter: a late-season ascent of Mt. Bourgeau, Banff NP
2013 Recap (Sorta)