Trip Report
Joffre + The Aemmer Couloir: ski descents come unexpected catharsis [part 2]
Wednesday April 25, 2018 12:06am
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during aemmer.
during aemmer.
Credit: nah000
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aight. if you didn't read part one or have forgotten what happened there, it would behoove you, if you've got time, to follow the continuity that might be provided by part 1.

if not... here we go:

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a frame grab from while on the up and up, and from the vid linked just...
a frame grab from while on the up and up, and from the vid linked just below this photo.
Credit: nah000
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[Click to View YouTube Video]

Part 2:
Mt. Temple's Aemmer Couloir: a much needed embrace

0. shell shock.

my experiences on joffre had left a mark.

i had no desire for anything committing over the next few weeks, and so i stuck, as the spirit moved, mostly to traverses.

my relationship with the mountains over the years has been one of "befriending" polar bears. when i was young i had no interest in marrying scrambling and technical climbing... though i enjoyed both immensely. but slowly the desire burned and inch by inch i followed that desire.

i always assumed, based on my understanding of the world at that time, that the mountains were a chaotically crumbling exercise in mass scale entropy decreases.

and so i went “deep” into them, only when i had to. when the desi/rage accumulated to a point where going presented as much/little risk as not going... at least as far as i can/could understood the two.

but over time, my understanding and experience slowly shifted. no, i didn't stop believing or acting as if the mountains were anything more than statistically ruled piles of disintegrating ice and stone marbles...

at the same time, i no longer ruled out the possibility that the relationship wasn't more interconnected than it seemed. too often i was seemingly given exactly what i needed in the moment. too often my intuition had me turning around "just in time". and too often the things i learned were about my deeper self rather than being just about my physical potential.

i'm sure there are some of you who are thinking: "yep another victim to magical thinking..."

and you might be right.

either way i began to have a deep trust in the process at the same time that i try never to forget that i am dancing with, if not stacked marbles...

than at least polar bears.

1. i brought you into this world: if you fail to respect me i will take you out.

the initial days after joffre had been ones of "falling free in all directions".

that was because, the mountains, one of the few things grounding myself to a collective reality at that point in my history… had appeared to betray me.

but as i sat with it, the "betrayal" became something different. i began to recognize my hubris, my attachment and my anger…

i had not gone to joffre to commune.

rather and with embarrassment: i had gone to achieve/conquer.

and along that path i was holistically pushed further than i had ever been pushed before.

and so, as i sat with my experiences, it became clear to me: at the same time that i was made aware that my potential was more than i had thought, i had also been given what i was taking to be a warning.

i had no clue whether all of this was just a projection, an attempt to make sense of the senseless, or if it was, as it seemed, a reminder that i am part of a whole in ways that i can only glimpse/sense...

in the end, it doesn’t matter because whether it was "all in my head" or not, the take home message for me was clear:

"you are capable of more than you believed: but if you don't respect me i will take you out like the aggregated specks of dust that you are."

2. skin balling snow.

after being turned around by the clumping snow of water saturated spring snow after another 4 hr drive to jasper [to attempt a sweet traverse that has continued to evade me] i headed back to yyc.

and as i passed louise on the trans canada highway, i couldn't help but look up at the aemmer on mt temple. [2.0]

i hadn't thought about it that spring, but i knew given the conditions i'd seen over the last bit, that there was a chance that what has to be one of the most classic ski lines on the north american continent, might just be in nick.

so without another thought i headed back to my apartment to exchange the 160cm skimo rig for gear i'd hopefully feel a little more comfortable descending a 600m mostly 45ish degree couloir.

3. back in the parking lot...

after making it back to the parking lot that night i laid down in the back of the van with the type of nervousness i had felt in the past.

was i ready for this? should i wait for a partner? what was this continued “madness”?

i fell asleep, but was awakened while everything remained pitch black. and so this time i didn't shut off the alarm even though it again went off too soon.

i headed out in the pitch black with only the comfort and company of the alternating carpet sweeping over snow sounds, that skins make.

while there was a half hour bit of confusion as i missed one of the first turn offs, the path to first glimpses of mt temple was effectively uneventful.

4. the rockies eiger.

as i first caught a glimpse of temple through the trees i became more and more psyched. snow conditions were still good and i was now following a track set by at least a couple people likely only the day before.

the path ahead beckoned.

and once again i was also following in the path of doug ward who [along with kevin hann] had first skied the aemmer in 1979. and all of us were following in the footsteps of the couloir's namesake, the swiss guide, rudolph aemmer who along with his american client val dunn had first chopped steps in 1918 on a "failed" attempt on the east ridge of mt. temple.

while contemporary touring gear and having slightly more consistent snow conditions than most of the rest of the rockies “big lines”, has pretty much made skiing the aemmer approaching that of a trade route, well, still… regardless of a person’s gear, when one is looking down a little over a half kilometre, of what by some measurements is around 55ish degrees near the top... well... how could a person expect it to be anything but… shall we say…


and now i was getting so close i could smell it. the perfect line that one can see the bulk of from the highway…

and it was just around the corner.

5. ahhhh... for fUcks sakes.

but as i rounded the corner above lake annette i hit breakable suncrust. now very close to the base of the aemmer it appeared as if it might all be for not. but only one way to find out and fortunately the couloir is north facing so hopefully the snow conditions were just due to direct sun and not temperature as well.

and then i finally rounded the corner...

and saw the line in all of its glory.

a freight train of snow staring down and stacked above me, for what seemed like an impossible distance.

and so i began to climb.

6. up.. and up... and up...

unlike the last time, on this go round i [mostly] wasn't fUcking around. i had real ski boots instead of compromise lightweight stuff and just to be sure, i had brought two technical axes. no more kiddie axes even if the near perfect snow pack that i found on this ascent, made them complete overkill and i left one on my pack the whole way up...

600m is a long ways up. and so i kicked and kicked and kicked some more. as i was in the heart of it snow began to fall. but it was never anything more than a minor flurry and given the lazy fat flakes that fell it just added to the beauty... even if there were moments where i wondered whether or not i was going to have to turn around...

as i should have done on joffre.

7. a break.

when i finally reached the top of the couloir i sat back to enjoy the perfect position and dig into some food and water.

as i sat there the overcast sky broke and a couple slots of solar beams illuminated the saddled place of comfort that i was perched on.

and then it happened again.

the phone rang.

and this time it wasn't the single weak bar that allowed a text to come in but not one to go out.

i had four full bars and it was my best friend from childhood calling. i hadn't spoken to him in months... possibly even a year at that point.

i took the call:

"you'll never guess where i am"

when the call was over, i sent him a pic. [7.0]

8. down.

there's not much to tell. i wish i could say i ripped that mother with style and mastery. alas, although i had snow conditions that one couldn't hope to be much better, in the one compromise i had made, i had taken light skinnyish skis that had me feeling a bit kicked around with the new snow depth that was over top an occasionally tricky center runnel. nothing that wasn't manageable… but at the same time, similar to being on joffre i promised myself, for very different reasons, that i'd never do one of these descents with "kiddie" skis again.

i like skiing too much to get down stuff just for the tick.

but it was still a thing of beauty.

how could incrementally and [sometimes] fluidly falling down over a half km of mostly 45 degree snow not be?

9. amor fati.

after i was down, all of the nervousness that i had felt on the way up and back down washed away. the nervousness of minor ptsd like wondering if the hammer was going to drop on me, like it seemingly had done just a few short weeks before.

but there were no hammers that day... and i felt blessed beyond anything that i felt i deserved.

and anything that i could have hoped for, in the months that had preceded that day.

10. i dunno...

so is there a point to all this?

are the mountains just a bunch of precariously piled rock and ice as our age of science would have us believe?

are there sometimes other spirits that we dance with out there... as many other cultures and historical time periods have told us?

or maybe it's just some kind of multiverse that exists in a state of both being and not being until we project our abilities, intent and desire onto a both responsive and active canvas?

or... i'm sure there are a hundred other explanations…

to all the above this is all i know for certain:

i dunno.

what those two days in march 2015 did leave me certain of was this:

whatever the deeper and more wholistic truth/s is/are…

i have been one of the luckiest/blessed to ever walk this mysterious existence we all temporarily call home.

and even with the regular, and sometimes seemingly unsurvivable suffering… well… sometimes…

sometimes what is around the next corner is a wholistic experiential beauty that is beyond anything i/we could have imagined before hand.

[may you/we be in peace]

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2.0 thanks for this photo goes to one of this generation's can. rockie...
2.0 thanks for this photo goes to one of this generation's can. rockies o.g.'s.
Credit: jon walsh
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7.0 looking across temple's east face from the saddle at the top of th...
7.0 looking across temple's east face from the saddle at the top of the aemmer couloir
Credit: nah000
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  Trip Report Views: 5,602
About the Author
nah000 is a climber.


Mountain climber
The Ocean
  Apr 25, 2018 - 09:15am PT
I know the feelings. I dunno either. I wonder....Many things.

Thanks for this TR

Ski Mountaineering is still deep in my soul.

Mountain climber
  Apr 25, 2018 - 09:29am PT
Wow! Beautifully written, nah000!

Thank you for posting. The Aemmer is quite an impressive line.

I like this:

are there sometimes other spirits that we dance with out there... as many other cultures and historical time periods have told us?

or maybe it's just some kind of multiverse that exists in a state of both being and not being until we project our abilities, intent and desire onto a both responsive and active canvas?

Author's Reply  Apr 25, 2018 - 09:10pm PT
thanks gents...

climbski2: i know what you mean... while i’ve at times focused exclusively on climbing, at the end of the day i mostly do it so i can get better at falling... :) also: your denali tr has always been one of my faves... hopefully someday you’ll sit back down and regale us with a few more tales... and you too kunlun... might as well try and turn this funny farm [myself included] into an at least partial/occasional venue for shootin the shIt bout ski mountaineering... ha!
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
  Apr 26, 2018 - 05:29am PT
i have been one of the luckiest/blessed to ever walk this mysterious existence we all temporarily call home.

Awesome! I would say we all fit into your description above - but most all don't realize it and never will. It is the mountain that brings such clarity......we are blessed men.


Mountain climber
Terence Wilson greeneck alleghenys,ny,
  Jun 25, 2018 - 06:46pm PT
Good stuff right there..thanks.

Just livin' the dream
  Jun 25, 2018 - 07:09pm PT
yep another victim to magical thinking...

That's your left brain dissin' your right. Stop it. :-)

Missed this first time around...and enjoyed it immensely.
Thank you.


Author's Reply  May 31, 2019 - 12:06am PT
one more loose end, whether for potential future google searchers or the few of you still huddled around the waning coals, completed...

i finally got the long promised vid up and posted to the trip report above... given my being kicked around a bit by my skinnyish skis, it's not your garden variety ski porn... still hopefully it gives you some sense of the intensity that i found on that line that day:

[Click to View YouTube Video]

thanks again, to all of the folks who've enriched my life on the supertopo forum over the years...

it was a hell of a run.

Ice climber
  May 31, 2019 - 12:11am PT
Never saw this one

David Knopp

Trad climber
  May 31, 2019 - 07:45am PT
Yahoo the video was great. thank you. Snow looked beautiful!