Whistler is one of the busiest resorts in the World, with millions visiting each year. On the way up from Vancouver, the Garibaldi Massif (aka. Diamondhead) is probably the most iconic mountain people see. There’s lots of skiing to be had on the massif, but all of the lines are hidden from the eyes of these visiting millions.
One of the interesting quirks of steep skiing, is the difficulty of training for the sport. It’s basically the opposite of Olympic sports, where athletes mindlessly train specific movements until they’re burned into the subconscious. Yesterday I inched towards the edge, wondering how my first steep turn would go, while trying to remember the last time I performed the movement (approx. 10 months ago in Georgia). I could go to Whistler and practice on the inbounds steeps, but a little bit of my love for skiing dies when I have to battle with the crowds. I wasn’t scared that I’d screw up, but there were still some thoughts of “how do I do this again?”
All photos were taken with Fuji Provia slide film. Consequently, most photos are unedited. I was using a Nikon FM2 camera and Ptor was using a little Minox. Thanks for the photos Ptor.
This season certainly hasn’t been memorable for the right reasons. But it’s these low years that make you truly appreciate the glory of previous years. This lack of snow reminds me of the 2005 season. I might have skied 5 times that season before fate had me in Golden in early April. Walking into my friend Nevada’s house, I was immediately nervous of her dinner guest who had a certain ‘presence’ (to put it mildly). Introductions were soon underway and my suspicions were correct. The mystery man was none other than Ptor Spricenieks. After some time the conversation settled on Mt. Logan, and Nevada’s bid to solo the East Ridge and place an important Tibetan Peace Vase high on the mountain. With mischief in her eyes she asked, ”Why don’t we all fly in together and the two of you can ski some peaks together.” Neither Ptor nor I had visited the range and were instantly hooked. I’ll always remember Ptor’s next words as his eyes bore through my very soul, “Can you ski?” I had just finished a year of skiing 6000 and 7000m peaks in the Himalaya, often solo, so yes I was pretty sure I could ski. Luckily Nevada saved me from an embarrassing explanation of my skills and assured Ptor that I was capable. I don’t remember much else from that surreal night, but we agreed to meet back in Golden in a month’s time.
Interviews with badasses – an attempt to uncover some reality in the media-hyped world of ski heros. People who have pushed the limits of skiing with little fanfare.
Steep Skiing is totally subjective. Every line is unique. There are great lines, but there is no greatest or best. In this non-competitive atmosphere, we can sit back and admire what others are skiing. We can treat Steep Skiers the same way. Every skier has a unique history and experience. Peter Schon is certainly an outlier among outliers, and his role in the history of ski mountaineering is hard to nail down.
He’s skied in places, off mountains, and down routes that most expert ski mountaineers wouldn’t have the imagination nor the desire to even bother (myself included). Some of his 1st descents are part genius, part madness. He has a willingness to endure the suffering of self-supported missions, and thus ventures FAR off the beaten path. Skiing lines that demand multiple high camps, which lead to incredible exposure to the elements and skiing steeps with a brutally heavy pack.
On an impressive side note, Peter completed his Masters at SFU in Vancouver, is continuing his PHD in snow studies in Vienna, ski guides winters in Norway, wins awards for his black and white photography, engages in various photo projects documenting refugees in Georgia and Armenia, and regularly spends time with his girlfriend in Armenia.
So here’s an interview with one of the unique characters of our sport:
Growing up in the Alpine Meadows area of Whistler, Wedge mountain was the main attraction looking out our living room windows. Its height of 2892m (9488 feet), makes it by far the tallest mountain in the Whistler area, and damn near Everest-like in our Coastal lowlands. Its architecture seems almost perfect from the right vantage point. The South side of the ‘wedge’ is amazingly uniform and consistent, and I can’t think of a more inviting face to ski.
His photos got a great response, so I’ve procured some more from his long history of Caucasus climbing and skiing. Enjoy.
Once again, his website is: www.ps-photo.net
Pictures 1,2,and 3 – Janga-Tau : Taken during the ascent and partial ski descent from the summit of Janga-Tau (5058m, Bezengi Wall, Georgia/Russia), from Georgian side, with Robert Koschitzki.
All taken with the Leica X1.
All the following photos are from our recent trip to Georgia. Whereas my photos represent more of what happened and what was seen on the trip, Peter’s photos represent the emotions that exist behind the scenes. For me, his photos capture the frailty of climbing and skiing in the high mountains. The total darkness of the night, the frustration or helplessness of a storm, and the absurd steps we go through to experience the mountains.
Peter is actually a photographer. Whereas people like me just point and shoot more or less and pray that Lightroom can clean up the mess. He uses two range-finder cameras with fixed lenses mounted on each of the shoulder straps of his backpack. Pretty cool. Cheers to Peter for the photos. For more photos, check out his website: www.ps-photo.net and Flickr page: www.flickr.com/people/ps_photo/
From Peter: “Photos 1,2 and 3 I took with a Contax T3 film camera (fixed Zeiss Sonnar 2.8/35mm lens), with a Heliopan yellow filter and loaded with Ilford FP4+. Negatives are self-developed (parents’ bathroom, in ID-11 stock solution), and were scanned with a Hasselblad X1 virtual drum scanner.”
This is the final Georgia post. Cheers if it’s blazing hot where you are with no thoughts of skiing on your mind, and yet you’ve continued to read my posts! Apologies if you’ve just stumbled upon this blog and you end up reading the whole story backwards. I’d suggest clicking on the Georgia category and then scrolling to the end, so as to start from the beginning.
So we’re headed home! Or are we?
Initially we planned to ski another line the day after, since clear weather was forecast. But after our epic it seems out of the question. Out of habit, Peter starts to take stock of our leftover food. If we share the last remaining bars, we could squeak out another line. But I’m too destroyed to think about it.