Friendship and Climbing
It is easy to say that my most memorable days up high have been with close friends. Having climbed for 20 years, nearly all of my friends are climbers. During my f irst ice season, I would ral ly with my new-to-Canada friend Steve Gale from Australia. We had met in the fa l l and he would tel l me stor ies while sitting at the top of the crag, as I hand-dr il led bolts on future spor t climbs. In winter, we would borrow his roommate’s car to go climb ice. Each way would take t wo hours. My student loans paid for the gas. The temperature would sometimes dip to - 40 C and the ice would shatter with ever y swing. I’ve spent hundreds of days on ice since, but my most memorable are those early ones with Steve as we forged a lasting friendship in arctic conditions. Our f irst ice screws were ice pitons and on my f irst-ever ice lead, I hammered an ice piton until my ar m was so pumped I let go of my tool and fell less than two metres into soft snow. I let out a high-pitch squeal. Ever y weekend, we would dr ive through blizzards on lonely roads dr inking cof fee and passing the time with conversations I wish I could remember. We don’t climb much together anymore, but I’l l never forget the great times we had.
A few years later, I was climbing Mount Robson, the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies. There was a dr y spell and forest f ires burned in B.C. On the top of Robson, Darren and I celebrated our summit under the blazing sun. We had sur vived col lapsing seracs and falls into crevasses and we had to do it al l over on the way down. Back at the hut, we agreed to push it to the car because we were out of water and desperately thirst y. At my van, 27 hours after leaving, I slept in my bed and Darren slept outside. Ever ything went to plan, but we forgot to wear sunscreen. In the morning, I awoke to a blistered-face Darren star ing through the van window. Oozing liquid seeped from severe burns. My face was burned, but not bubbly. He mumbled the word, “Ow.” I couldn’t help but laugh and he couldn’t help but join in. That was our f irst climb together and we’ve been friends ever since.
A decade into my friendship with Will Meinen, we joined forces for an easy climb up Mount Aberdeen. We hadn’t roped up together for nearly t wo years. The old guidebook said it was an easy glacier, but years of heat had melted the once-walkable ice tongue into a steep ice climb. With only one straight tool each, t wo screws and no helmets. We careful ly pitched-out an other wise easy ice climb to gain the upper glacier. We must have looked like a couple of rookies. Despite climbing steep, hard and r un-out new routes together, Aberdeen was my favour ite climb with Will. I know when he thinks about that day, he has a good laugh. Just l ike I do.