Shop Local

Posted on Jul 3, 2012

I was in Victoria the other day visiting all the great outdoor retailers, climbing gyms etc. that have been so supportive of what we do here at Island Alpine Guides. On one of those visits with Brian Henry at Ocean River Sports we got to talking about a project that Brian has been working on called “Shop Local Victoria”.

It’s no coincidence at all that we got on to the subject of “shopping local”. Since it’s inception our goal at Island Alpine Guides has been to serve Vancouver Islanders. To show them what they have in the beautiful wilderness in their own back yards and to give them the skills to explore that beauty. Indeed we have made no efforts at all to promote what we do off Vancouver Island. It has been our contention that Islanders love their island and want to explore it and also that vacationing close to home is becoming more and more appealing to people for a long list of reasons from environmental to ethical not to mention convenience and aesthetics.

The chat that I was having with Brian and with all the people whom I visited on that trip down island was really illustrative of what the folks at Shop Local Victoria and at local shopping initiatives all over are trying to do: encourage people to shop locally to create collective prosperity, sustain their community, give back and put their money where their heart is, here in their communities on Vancouver Island.

It is our affinity to these concepts that made us write a bunch of tag lines for Island Alpine Guides back when we started. These ranged from “Think Globally, Adventure Locally” to “Looking for Adventure .... it’s right here in your back yard” to the somewhat flippant (hence it never made it on to one of our posters!) “There’s no place like Vancouver Island to get high”. All that aside the point is we support shopping local initiatives and support all those great outdoor retailers, climbing gyms, coffee shops, film festivals, mountain clubs etc. etc. who support us and we hope that you will do the same!

Looking forward to seeing you in the mountains this summer.

Jan and the team at Island Alpine Guides.


While I have your attention here are a few things coming up that have space on them and which may interest you:

Introduction to Rock Climbing 14/15 July

Nootka Trail 27 July - 01 August

Learn to Lead on Rock (trad) 28/29 July

Introduction to Rock Climbing 28/29 July

Augerpoint Traverse 11-14 August

Mountain Skills Helicopter Access 25-27 August

And Remember that we can post a trip or course for any dates that suit you. Just get in touch and we'll get them up on the site so that others know that they can join in on those dates.

Some Date Changes

Posted on May 17, 2012

We've had the dates for some of our upcoming courses and trips change and have added some new trips as well. Here's a snapshot of some of what is coming up:

Saturday 26 May - Skiing/Riding Spring Lines on Mount Arrowsmith

Sunday 3 June - One Day Crevasse Rescue Workshop

Saturday/Sunday 2/3 June - Traditional Rock Leading Course

Saturday/Sunday 9/10 June - Intro to Rock Climbing

Saturday-Monday 30 June - 2 July (Canada Day Long Week end) - 3 Day Alpine Skills Course

Saturday-Monday 30 June - 2 July (Canada Day Long Week end) - Fly in Mountain Skills Course

July 14/15 - Introduction to Rock Climbing July 20-25 - Nootka Trail Hike

July 28/30 - Tantalus Range Ascents

There is much more going on yet this summer and remember that the way we prefer to set dates for trips is for you to let us know when you want them to happen. So get in touch and choose some dates for your Island adventures this summer!

Enjoy the weather!


Why professional instruction?

Posted on May 8, 2012

When I think about what we do in our climbing instruction I am reminded of a letter that I got from one of our students which illustrates well what many of you have told us about what our courses have done for your climbing careers. Here is an excerpt:

"Professional instruction proved priceless to me on so many levels. I noticed my base technical skills were at a higher level compared to more "seasoned" climbers. There is just so much ground level knowledge I gained that would have been impossible to replicate without professional instruction. As I progressed in my climbing, I teamed up with my instructor as a climbing partner four years later on a 3000ft big wall on Baffin Island. I highly recommend professional training from certified guides to anyone serious about climbing safely and effectively."

I’ve watched a lot of people climb. From people learning to climb right up to seasoned climbers with years of experience. While you might think that the latter demonstrated the most refined skills I can tell you with certainty that this is not the case. The fact is that in the absence of a negative feedback to inform us otherwise, we tend to repeat the same behaviours over and over again for years on end regardless of whether that action is the most efficient, safe or suitable. That is a long way of saying that just because a climber is seasoned does not mean that the techniques they use are the best ones. They could well have been doing things the wrong way for a long time!

The big advantage of taking professional training is that you learn how to do stuff right. The obvious time to get stuff right is from the very beginning of your career. Then you can be practicing the right stuff all the way along the path as you become more experienced. Having said that it is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. So I am going to endorse the idea of even those seasoned climbers considering some instruction from professional guides to “tighten up” their technical systems and to learn some new, faster, safer and more efficient techniques.

We have a bunch of climbing instruction scheduled for this spring and summer not to mention peak ascents, hikes and much more. Below are a few examples up to July. But these are just a few of the dates we have planned. We do as much “custom” work as we do scheduled trips and we prefer to have you define the dates for courses and trips rather than us doing it. So if one of our trips is of interest or if you have a crazy idea of something special you want to do, drop us a line and let us know the dates you want to go on and we’ll post them on the web site to get others to join you!

May 26 - Crevasse Rescue Course

May 27 - Rock Refresher Course

June 2/3 - Learn to Lead on Rock

June 9/10 - Introduction to Rock Climbing

June 22-24 - Three Day Alpine Skills Course

June 30 to July 2 - Fly in Mountain Skills Course

July 14/15 - Introduction to Rock Climbing

July 20-25 - Nootka Trail Hike

July 28/30 - Tantalus Range Ascents

Looking forward to a great spring and summer!


Spring in the Island Alps

Posted on Mar 23, 2012

One of the things I love about living on Vancouver Island is the transition to spring. This spring should be a really good one. We’ve got tons of snow in the mountains which will make spring ski touring last forever while the valley bottoms will warm up and we’ll get out rock climbing on the sunny crags very soon now.

Spring on the island brings some other unique opportunities. One that we take advantage of every spring is that there are steep north faces on some easily accessible peaks that allow us to run quick, foot access two and three day alpine climbing skills courses. We’ve scheduled the first of these for 23 to 25 June. We’ve also scheduled our first helicopter accessed mountain skills fly-in course for the Victoria day long week end 19 to 21 May. This course uses a helicopter to access high island alpine and a glacier to offer the “full meal deal” mountain skills course in just three days thanks to the quick trip to the alpine classroom.

Thinking of helicopter access and ski touring we have some very cool and rare opportunities to offer this spring to get into hitherto difficult to access areas with fantastic ski touring terrain and at a relatively modest price. Get in touch with us for details.

For those that want to focus in on crevasse rescue skills we are offering our one day crevasse rescue workshops this spring as always. The first of these is scheduled for Saturday 5 May.

We have lots of other trips and courses to schedule yet for the spring and summer from ski tours to alpine and rock climbing. Remember that the way we like to set dates is to hear from you when you want to go. So cruise around our web site and think about when you’d like to do a trip or course. Then get in touch with us to let us know the trip and the dates and we’ll start a trip on those dates for you and others to join.

Looking forward to spring in the Island Alps!

Your Alpine Education

Posted on Feb 15, 2012

We introduce a lot of people to the back country both in winter and in summer. Whether it is an Avalanche Skills Training One, a Mountain Skills Course, an Introduction to Rock Climbing or any of or many introductory courses and trips, we are very happy to play the role of giving you a solid start in the mountains by building a good foundation of skills. On many of our introductory courses the question that gets asked is “what next?”. The answer inevitably is “go and gain experience”. The business of learning about the mountains be it navigation, understanding the avalanche phenomenon, building good anchors, or whatever it is, is much more an experiential process than a book learning or classroom process. So the answer is always to go and get experience. So what form does that experience take? We recommend a range of activities. At one end of the spectrum is trips with friends who have the same skill level as you. The big plus for your learning on these trips is that in the absence of more experienced people on the trip you are forced to participate actively in decisions making. Ultimately that is what this game is all about: decision making. You can’t get good at it if you don’t engage in making decisions and living with the consequences of them. Next on the spectrum of learning opportunities is to do trips with more experienced friends. The advantage here of course is that you get to learn from those more experienced than yourself. The disadvantage is that people tend to defer to the more experienced members of the group. Our advice to you here is resist this and contribute to the decision making. Your point of view is of value and your learning will increase if you are actively involved. It is also worth noting that we have accident statistics that show that recreational groups of inexperienced people making decisions by consensus are safer than recreational groups that contain a de facto leader who is more experienced. Finally getting out on trips with professional guides is also a great way to learn. Don’t be fooled by the moniker “guided trip”. Our guides (and guides in this country in general) are accustomed to teaching as well as guiding and are typically very keen to make guided trips a fully educational experience. In fact the line between the two is so blurred at times that it would be hard to distinguish between a trip and a course. We encourage you to “pick your guide’s brain” on any trip you do. You’ll have a great learning experience that sets you up well for doing more trips on your own and ultimately leads you to your goals in the mountains.

Speaking of guided trips and courses, we still have a bunch of things happening this winter. Here are a few of them:

Glacier Skiing Course 25-26 February. With lift access at Whistler to start the trip we’ll get you into heavily glaciated terrain quickly to get straight to learning the skills needed to take your ski touring to the next level.

Avalanche Skills Training Two at Mount Cain 23-26 March. Takes your avalanche training to the next level at a legendary island location.

Ski Tour/Introduction to Winter Mountain Travel March 31/01 April. An island based ski tour for first time ski tourers or those with experience wanting to learn more from a professional guide.

Avalanche Skills Training One. Our last AST1’s of the season are running 3/4 March at Mount Cain (a bit of a drive but our favourite place to do these courses); and 10/11, 17/18 and 24/25 March at Mount Washington.

There is much more to tell you about but rather than list them all here we’ll suggest that you cruise around the site and see what interests you. Then get in touch and ask us questions. We’ll help steer you toward the trip or course that is best for you.

Hope to see you out in the mountains soon!