Columbia Ice Field

The Team

Darren Pezzack

David Wachmann

Nick Trutiak

"Hey Darren (Pezz), when do you leave for Med School?"

"Beginning of January. Wanna climb something really dumb before I go?"

"YUUUUUUP!"

Most people would caution against climbing in North America during the middle of winter, let alone planning to drive across the country to do so (I mean no one wants to waste money on things like a comfortable and quick flight right?). Pezz and I have never really been known to think like normal people, so we worked with the limited resources we had and pulled together what seemed like a perfectly good idea for an expedition.

In order to at least maintain a fractional margin of safety (and to make the news easier on our families), we needed a third member for the rope team. Enter Nick! Another climber we knew that was eager to make his way up his first mountain, and held no hesitations about a Canadian winter. So after unwrapping all the new Christmas gear gifted from family that wanted to help, stuffing our faces with as much turkey as possible, and hosting a proper "Holiday/Bye for Mountains" party with our friends, we crammed into our vehicle and were off! Sweet, sweet freedom.

Freedom was spending over 40 hours locked in a car together, each doing our part driving in 3 hour shifts. That alone became a memorable experience.

We went out looking for a fight with no real tangible idea what a winter alpine climb would be like, so with -40 °C temperatures and hourly white out conditions we definitely got a good taste. It wasn't so much the weather that was our concern though, Pezz and I had some real concerns with a particular section of the route we needed to move through. We were being forced directly beside an edge that had a massive serac or ridge of ice hanging high above. This was the same serac that would produce thunderous booms day and night when large pieces of it would break off and plummet onto the glacier floor. With the amount of gear we were carrying seriously limiting our speed, combined with obvious signs of this icefall over a large region, we made the call that the route was beyond our acceptable levels of risk and turned back.

That was a very, very good call.

We were maybe 15 minutes into our retreat when a large piece broke off and blanketed the section we would have been stuck in had we preceded. Emotionally now we were pretty messed up, and needed a new plan.

Back to Jasper, back to pizza, and back to beer. Lots of beer.

The good news was we weren't quite dead yet. Even better was we still had another week and a half before we had to get Pezz home for his flight, minus the 40 hours straight it was going to take getting back there again. That meant we had time for more climbing, and being right next to the Canadian Rockies anything we decided on would be amazing.

Having settled on getting our nerves back slowly by going to a local icefall to do some nice relaxed ice climbing first, the most wonderful thing happened during our drive there. We couldn't help but gawk at the mountains around us, during which time Pezz spotted a route up on Mt. Who-even-knows-what that looked glorious. So when we were relatively close enough, we pulled the car into an off the road parking lot, geared up, and started hiking

It took us a couple days to make our way up the thing, but it was easily some of the best climbing I've ever done. The team clicked, the route was unknown, and our load was now "disaster style" light after learning from our time in the ice field. We even made it back down in one piece! My new definition of a good time.

Trying hard is hard. That hasn't really changed. But what did change then was my best friend left for Australia to start his new adventure in med school. My favourite part of this trip was having a chance to send him off in full blown Canadian alpine climber style. He's been a doctor for over a year now, and the first one to admit he's lost his cold tolerance as a road biker and occassional surfer. But nothings changed that would stop us from dreaming up the next big climb.
We even still have a trailer we made up on Youtube!

Mt. San Jacinto

California 2015