I look happy - but this beard is killing me. © courtesy of Devon Kershaw
September 13, 2012 (New Zealand) – Here’s what you need to know about beards. A) They can be pretty nasty (especially when partaking in winter endurance activities – goobers tend to get lodged in there). B) They are itchy – even past the itchy stage. C) They are ideal habitat for stray food and well, in my case – D) They look both ridiculous and just straight up bad (although I look straight up bad a vast majority of the time, so let’s just say “they don’t help me look better.”).
A few days ago, I recently returned from our yearly pilgrimage to New Zealand. If you feel like you’ve read those words in my blog before – you probably have. Every summer we trek down there to enjoy the Southern Alps winter, hanging out at the premier southern hemisphere cross country center – the Snow Farm - and bust our asses for roughly three weeks of specific ski training.
Babs and Harv getting after it Southern Hemisphere style. © courtesy of Devon Kershaw
The views are "notta-too-baaaaad". © courtesy of Devon Kershaw
New Zealand is a camp I always seem to look forward to and as a lover of skiing, to be able to ski every summer is just so amazing. The change in environment always blows me away: one day you’re swimming in the Bow river, training without a shirt on (sorry for those of you that had to witness that on the roads/trails around town – my excuse – it was such a nice hot/summer!) and next thing you know in only 32 hours of sitting squished like a 1930s contortionist attempting to weasel their way out of a 50cmX50cm box – you’re there. Hopefully you made it there with all your bags, only a slight headache, a hefty dash of jet lag, a pinch of constipation and only minor back problems. The thing is – and jokes aside – it’s worth it. I can’t really explain it. I know it’s a long way to travel, I know I left behind one of the best summer’s Canmore’s ever had – but that feeling I get when I strap on those skis for the first time up there in the Pisa Range, look to Harvey, Lenny and Babs – tell another offside joke, blink multiple times in hopes that’s all it’ll take to erase the epic travel fatigue out of my eyes and start to skiing together under some gorgeous Alpenglow bathing the Southern Alps all while yelling and whooping in celebration of total psychedness – I mean, it’s pretty sweet. Ok, it’s bananas.
Alex Harvey getting after it. © courtesy of Devon Kershaw
Aside from the above mentioned itchy/dirty face (the result of a “beard-off” I had going with one of our strength trainers – Jeff. I outlasted him. Booya. But who actually wins? I guess that’s philosophical…) this year’s edition down South was a winner. While the snow cover was a bit thin by Southern Alp standards – I found it to be ideal training conditions for what we actually race in – mainly klister/rub ski classic skiing and softer skate conditions. Yep – like every training camp – we trained hard – most days around 4 hours. We enjoyed great skiing, tough interval sessions, great running down in Wanaka (love that town!) and banged out some solid strength sessions as well.
Lenny enjoying an amazing crust skiing day that we had with Joel and Wads'. © courtesy of Devon Kershaw
It was strange that we were just 4 of us – but after Maui when we did our first “man-camp” I guess it was a little less weird. I can say that it didn’t take us long this go around to descend quickly into “interesting” meal-time conversations, topics, vocab, and scenarios and you wouldn’t want your grandmother hanging around us that’s for sure. Yet through all the hard training, tired legs, Settlers of Catan games played (our “2012 Monopoly” board game of choice) and days on the road – I feel so grateful and enjoy being on the road with great friends as we all strive to do the best job we can and working well together. That’s what I call “winning (Sheen may have a different definition…).”
It's hard not to be inspired on days like this one. New Zealand is a fantastic place to train on snow - no question it's worth it!! © courtesy of Devon Kershaw
Now – I’m back in Canmore and will be home for just two weeks. Training is back to standard stuff – a couple strengths, a couple intensity sessions and about 20hrs a week until it’s back on the road – to Park City, UT for our autumn altitude camp.
One day in Queenstown we finally found a backpack that's big enough for Lenny. © courtesy of Devon Kershaw
It’s a rough travel home again (read: long) and the jetlag coming East is vicious (going West to New Zealand actually is no big deal), so I’ve enjoyed some hours in the middle of the night wide awake reading, playing (don’t worry – still very poorly) guitar, and just lying there thinking. For sure that’s the one draw back – the distance you travel for winter. It’s especially hard coming home when you’re tired from the camp and jetlagged to boot – yet through all that, I still think it’s the best place on Earth to ski in the summer. With over 30km of perfectly groomed trails everyday at an elevation of 1550m? Sure, 7.5hrs into your flight smelling the stench of that large man “sitting/flowing into your seat” beside you while you try to meditate away the fact there are 7 crying babies surrounding you while you try and sleep in the middle of the middle during that short 15hr flight from Sydney – Vancouver – you may question it but I’m telling you: It’s worth the jet lag, it’s worth everything. New Zealand’s winter is beautiful. Watching that sun go down over the mountains, so far from home – wow, I’m so grateful that I found such a beautiful sport – I mean the simplicity and single focusedness (I know that’s not a real word) – it’s both peaceful and beautiful. Unlike my hairy/disgusting face, weird shaped/short legged body and long “hippie” hair.
I count myself lucky to have buddies like these dudes that also love to get after it while wearing spandex and skiing on the skinny skis. © courtesy of Devon Kershaw
Ok, while this won’t actually “…bring closure to the work” – if you can call this shoddily written blog post “work” – I am going to share with you a quick story about this past Sunday which was one of the best days in the last 12 months.
It’s been a busy smorgasbord of sleepless jetlag nights and the first weekend of NFL football these last 4 days since I returned from NZ, yet on Sunday I finally got out climbing on Yamnuska. Thanks to our friend/bad ass mountain guide Rob Owens Phil (Widmer) and I headed up a Rockies classic. The original plan was for us to finally climb our favorite mountain in the Canadian Rockies – Mt. Assinaboine – but it’s short summer climbing season ended with an early storm that smacked the mountain only days before I returned from New Zealand (next year boys!) – which was a bit of a bummer. The main thing is we did get out for an adventure – even if it was a scaled back one.
Some background: when Phil and I were roommates (along with “the big guy” Chris Jeffries – we all made 120B Rundle Dr our home for over four years) back in the day there were summers when we’d get out rock climbing a decent amount. There was more than one day (ok, WAY more…) when we’d finish our afternoon training, make a quick/ghetto “to go” dinner (of sorts), grab our climbing gear and crag until it got dark. We didn’t progress much, had very little grace on the rock but just really, really dug it. It’s a passion we both shared and still share – and as we got older we went from 30+ sessions to a dismal 1-2 days climbing a summer over the past couple years. Apparently training twice a day and climbing 3-4 hours in the evenings gets you pretty tired and luckily it took us a few fun-filled years to figure that out – and when I’m climbing with him like I was on Sunday – I wish I didn’t.
It’s about to get hippie. There’s just something soulful about being up there on any wall. And that’s coming from a total hack. I can’t imagine what amazing climbers like Rob feel like when they are working on a gnarly project. This is no secret – it’s been a rough year. I know the results were sweet, but I don’t know – it’s been rough with a lot of change going on – and I think that why Sunday meant so much to me. That feeling you get with all that air under your feet, the peacefulness/quiet and insane beauty surrounding you – it’s pretty spectacular. I love the feeling of total insignificance I get while climbing.
All my “1st world problems” fall away and you get into this mental space – kind of like when you’re having a great race: you focus on nothing – and everything at the same time. It’s just so simple. Your thoughts are on the moves you need to make to solve the wall, watching/belaying your partner or just hanging there/sitting on a ledge looking at just how beautiful our world is – despite what’s going on in your life or the world at large. Like I said, it’s hard to describe – but it’s awesome.
Listen – Phil and I suck at climbing now – and I’m embarrassed to admit I even had some “sewing machine” legs a few moves into pitch #1 – which was rated WAY easier than I used to lead climb – but I soon found that rhythm again and time flew by so quickly. It all ended too fast – but a beauty day was had and sometimes you just need something like that you know? Get out there and do something you absolutely love and lose yourself in the process – it’s almost therapeutic. Like I said, it’s hard to explain. Doesn’t matter what you do – whether you are an athlete, businessman, doctor – whatever. Every once and awhile it’s just so liberating to do something like that – lose yourself in a passion.
Thanks to Rob – he’s an amazingly gifted athlete and ridiculously good mountain guide. Seriously – if you want your own mountain adventure – flip him an email and get out there and challenge yourself! firstname.lastname@example.org
And now see below for way too many climbing shots (I suck at narrowing down shots, haha).
Seriously beautiful up on Yamnuska © courtesy of Devon Kershaw
Phil taking it in while belaying - so peaceful up there. © courtesy of Devon Kershaw
Climbing away and loving it. I didn't want the day to end. © courtesy of Devon Kershaw
Yeah Philly - yeah. © courtesy of Devon Kershaw
Widmer smiling away. © courtesy of Devon Kershaw
Smiles were a plenty up there. © courtesy of Devon Kershaw
A stellar day - I didn't want it to end. © courtesy of Devon Kershaw
Phil and Rob - thanks dudes! © courtesy of Devon Kershaw
A shot of Yamnuska. © courtesy of Devon Kershaw