2017: A Year in Short Format

I have always found the way humans perceive time as mysterious and fascinating. While a single day can seemingly drag on for ages and the water in your pot seems to take longer to start boiling if you stand before it, waiting – when you look back on past events, it feels as if time itself is compressing the further you go. After a while, to our skewed perception of time, everything somehow just happened yesterday.

After all, time is not constant to begin with. Quantum physics itself tells us that it is far from a one-size-fits-all, linear concept. But since this is not a science blog and I do not claim to have any actual knowledge about the topic (except what I have accumulated from watching way too many Youtube videos), let us keep it at that and get back on track.

Looking back on one’s year is, in my opinion, the poster-child of our oftentimes odd perception of time. Yeah, you may have guessed it; the above is my attempt at a smooth introduction for a review of 2017 – a roller-coaster of personal achievements and challenges.

The first quarter of 2017 was, of course, filled with heaps and heaps of skiing. Such is the nature of the calendar year; it marks the beginning of winter sports’ mid-season.

I recall January as being a blend between arctic cold snaps and deep, powder-filled days – oftentimes both. Since I really did not want to sit on a chair lift in what felt like -30°, the days were spent touring. I discovered a magical universe of very well-earned turns and (almost) screaming barfies up on Begbie Shoulder. Because of the lack of snowfall and continued logging up in the Gorge area, I was also able to keep on carving turns in this great playground until the end of the month. I also made it up Video Peak in Rogers Pass with, in hindsight, a bit too big of a group for a day that cold (I cannot say that I am the biggest fan of scaling peaks, easy as they may be, with a group of 7).

February mostly revolved around mountain awareness and education. Not only did I take a glacier travel course with Girls Do Ski ans helped out with an AST 2 course– I also completed my CAA Avalanche Operations Level 1. All three were incredibly valuable in their own right. Oh – I also went heli-skiing with my parents for my birthday.

Really, that month was not shabby by any means. Yet it was also when I hit rock-bottom. I found myself caught in a vortex of uncertainty and guilt for not enjoying my life the way I should. Stuck living in a place I hated, I was tumbling, head-first, towards depression. I was trying to figure out where my life was heading. It was senioritis all over again. Except this time, it had already been over half a year that I graduated.

An attempt at the Bonnington Traverse and a job offer from Parks Canada in March, as well as the onset of Spring, slowly brought some light back into my life. I also took a leap of faith and registered for the Golden Ultra 60K. With this newfound direction, I was slowly scrambling back out of my dark hole, while Mother Nature awoke the White Dragon (specifically the deeply buried mid-November rain crust) and let loose a gargantuan avalanche cycle. By the time I finally returned to the Rogers Pass area, I had a hard time recognizing some zones in the Connaught Drainage due to the sheer volume of massive debris piles and newly-created open spaces.

In April, I finally found another place to live. More importantly, though, I made the single most-important and best decision of my life: I decided to go vegan. Initially, I framed it as a one-month challenge. But after less than five days, I knew it would be for life. In a sense, that month represented a plethora of fresh, new beginnings – for Nature and for myself.

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Grassy Hut, on the Bonnington Traverse

I spent most of May back in Switzerland with my family, and participated in a 25-kilometre trail race in the small ski resort of Torgon, on the border of the Swiss and French Alps. This is where I discovered that the perception of what exactly a moderate amount of elevation gain entails varies wildly, depending on where you live. The, according to the race organizers, modest gain of 1,700 metres left me limping, with holes in my socks. This course would not have been defined as easy in North America, ever. But then, the Alps are tall and steep. Not unlike time, the concept of elevation is relative.

In June, itching for a solo adventure, I hopped on my bike and in a fit of last-minute decision-making, I rode the Icefields Parkway from Jasper to Lake Louise.

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From then on, my summer consisted of working in Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks, getting into Crossfit (which quickly turned from being a simple means of cross-training into something I really enjoy doing for its own sake), and spending many hours out on the trails. My days off work, I went running and scrambling around in the mountains. The trails of the National Parks and those around town became my true home. Without feeling the need to look for company on my many escapades, I just moved – alone, but one with Nature.

I felt wild and free as I topped out on Cheops, ran up Mount Revelstoke and Mount Cartier, among many other trail-side ramblings. I felt so good by the end of July, when I spent a weekend hiking and running with friends that are as mountain-and-movement-crazy as I am, that I decided, on a whim, to sign up for the Black Spur Ultra 54K, happening two weeks from then. I had no idea if I was ready. But the itch to finally give an ultra a go was so strong that I simply could not wait until the end of September and the race in Golden.

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Courtesy of Raven Eye Photography

In the end, I had a mind-boggling, eye-opening, and reality-altering experience at the race. But the Black Spur wasn’t the only life-changing adventure I found myself on in August. Indeed, toward the end of that month, I dusted off skis and crampons and camped up on the Columbia Icefield in search for summer turns. The latter were found, down from the summit of Snow Dome. I found a lot more on that trip as well.

Toward summer’s end, while the skies were mostly filled with thick haze and smoke from the record-breaking number of wildfires, I had the chance to climb Mount Begbie in a 14-hour, 2,100-metre straight shot from the bottom of the valley. Mid-September, I set off on a rather smoke-filled 30-kilometre exploratory run trough Yoho National Park – a last big outing before the Golden Ultra. While arguably the hardest thing I have ever done, said race only cemented my desire to run even longer distances.

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Robin gazing over a tiny world, near the summit of Mount Begbie.

I also became a brand ambassador for Sego Ski Co. and joined the Valley Retreat crew, which then started to get me more and more excited in anticipation of the coming winter season.

At the very end of that month, after a failed attempt to ski a glacier deep in the Monashee Mountains, my parents came back for a short visit. So did Taylor – yes, the one and only Taylor who managed to share a tent with me for a month and a half while we biked down the Pacific Coast in 2016. I had not seen her since we parted ways at the end of that trip, actually.

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My parents and Taylor on the day we hiked Abbott Ridge.

Then, October mostly came and went, while summer definitely just went. I tried to run a trail-marathon in Kelowna, but had to drop out, limping and almost crying, after 30 kilometres because of my IT band. I also waited until the last possible moment of the season to bike to the summit of Mount Revelstoke – an idea for which I was rewarded with pedaling through snow and the loss of all feeling in my extremities. And of course, the end of that month brought the onset of a new ski season. To keep up with tradition, I had my first turns below the watchful eye of McCrae Peak.

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November, apart from making everything look dull, grey and sad, and causing the temporary migration of many Revelstoke residents to sunnier locales, brought with it a new job and some phenomenal skiing. From the Gorge to Rogers Pass and even Highwood Pass in Kananaskis, I had good turns everywhere.

Then, in December, the skies went sunny, dry, and blue. I suddenly found myself ticking objectives off the bucket list in seemingly ever-lasting stable conditions. I was caught in a whirlwind of big ski-touring days, climbing 4 peaks in Glacier National Park within a week-and-a-half window: Video, Ursus Minor, Green, and Youngs. As I would have never dreamed to ever reach this level of competence, I still find myself slightly flabbergasted when I looking back at it.

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In the belly of the beast – Forever Young couloir.

Christmas was spent in Austria with the family, and I welcomed the New Year in the cold, under a full moon, on top of a ridge. More importantly, though, I welcomed it more ready than ever, more confident than ever. I have big hopes and dreams for this year – and I know that will become reality. Because I said so. Looking forward to what 2018 will bring, I can already say that it will be big. You’ll see soon enough.

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