McCool Creek

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A few years ago, my brother Sam and I loaded up his pickup truck with our camping gear and my canoe and set out on Beese Road in Hosmer. We were heading to McCool Creek which is a small tributary to the Elk River.

At the mouth of the creek sits a miniature cabin, presumably an old hunting cabin. I say miniature because you have to crouch to get in the door and the cabin itself looks like that of a hobbit house. Inside there is a small wood stove and just enough room two people to sleep semi-comfortably.

We cooked dinner on the fire outside, shared a few beers and stories then shot guns into the night on the edge of the river, listening to the echo of the shots ricochet down the valley.  We stayed up late that night, being brothers very close in age we easily kept each other company. We joked and laughed and danced until we decided it was bed time. After all, we hadn’t been canoeing in a few years and the water level was high. We wanted to be in good form for the mission, or brother-quest as we called it.

That morning we left Sam’s truck at the cabin and slide the canoe into the brown water of the Elk.

“Here goes nothing,” I remember Sam saying as we loaded up. I will admit I was a bit nervous. Anytime I share an experience like this with Sam, I feel an extra bit of tension compared to being with a friend. I guess, that is just the older brother in me, looking out for my kind.

We got about a kilometre down the river and my fear was slowly disappearing. Our parents had taught us well; we were nailing every corner with ease, we knew the angles and how to maneuver the canoe through the rough water.

It was a unique trip, just the two of us using the lessons we learned from our childhood. From canoeing the lakes in Ontario where we would spend our summers to the moving water of the rivers with our folks on camping trips, those times made us feel like naturals on the water that day.

So thanks Mom, Dad. This is one of many gifts you have given us, and we are forever grateful.

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Touring with Malcolm

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It was the same time of year as it is now, the smell of grass filled the air, street cleaners were hitting the streets and we were experiencing every type of weather you can imagine. The ski hill had been closed for a few weeks but the mountains still had lots of snow on them. Malcolm and I had not given up on skiing so we planned one more winter mission.

Our story starts out once again on a backroad below Mt. Hosmer. We parked a truck just off the power line and tried our best to use game trails so we didn’t have to bushwhack the entire way to the snow line. Once we reached the snow we began touring up the south east drainage. It was a long haul, and a dangerous place to be in the wrong time; most of that side of Hosmer drained down the gully we were using as access but the spring conditions allowed us to travel safely.

Once we gained the ridge just below the true summit we made our way to the top of the slide features that are lookers right of the Ghostrider. The snow on that aspect was sun affected, which we knew it would be. Our plan was to ski down the north east side.

The chute I wanted to ski never sees the sun, so I had faith that the snow was going to be good. I knew I was standing on a cornice as I inched my way towards the edge. The cornice was so big that I was confident it would hold my weight. At first it appeared the only way to access the chute was to huck the cornice which would have been about a 30 foot drop into the chute, a big move that far out in the backcountry so I re-assessed.

To the right of where I wanted to drop in there was a buttress, a sort of rock outcrop and when I stood back I noticed the side of the cornice had peeled away from the rock. I could see light at the end; it was a tunnel between the cornice and mountain. The tunnel was about 20 feet long, and just big enough for me to kneel on my skis and pull myself through to the other side.

It was so tight that once I made it through I had a very hard time putting my skis on, but it was well worth the struggle. The snow below the cornice was incredible, I skied in the shade of a rock wall which was preserving the snow from the sun. Once the wall ended I wrapped around to watch Malcolm ski the line above, which was an elevated chute with exposure on either side.

We enjoyed our turns back down to the end of the snow and bushwhacked back to the truck. A classic spring mission with better snow than expected.

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Trail Checks

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Sam Moffat Photo

My favourite memories of work are from when I was on Trail Crew at Fernie Alpine Resort. We would rise with the sun, watch the sky change and see the first light hit Mt. Broadwood as we drove towards the ski hill. Almost immediately we would set out into the woods. Being amongst the forest and working with my brother Sam and our best friend Connor is what made that job so special.

For the first two yeas our duty was to ride the chair and walk the trails with a handsaw and our digging tools. The years after we started building new sections and new trails. It was an amazing job. Surrounded by friends, dirt and trees all day, test riding our ideas for other people to enjoy.

I remember the best days of that job were after a storm. Before the lifts would open our crew would be dropped off by a truck to ride the trails to make sure there were no fallen trees. We would ride by ourselves, packing a handsaw to take care of any small trees and also some flagging tape and a radio to let the Saw Crew know of any big trees down.

One of these mornings I was checking the Ever Dangerous Downhill in Curry Bowl, the most secluded trail on the mountain. When it comes to skiing or biking I only have one speed. Once I get going I find it very hard to take it easy. Even though this was a trail check I was riding my normal speed.

Near the top, I rode into an open section. As I came around a corner I noticed hoof prints in the middle of the trail. Those are huge!  I thought and kept going into another corner.  As I blasted through the berm I saw the fur that left those tracks. I hit the brakes, skidding in the mud, hardly slowing down. It was a moose with huge antlers laying on the trail. I slide right into it’s back leg, hitting him with my front tire. Before he could get up, I planted my foot and pivoted my bike. As I took off through the brush I looked back seeing the confused moose stand up. He was as surprised as I was. I am just glad he didn’t hear me coming.

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Mammoth Cave

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Kyle Hamilton Photography

To this day, my favourite line I have ever skied is a cave halfway down the south face of Mammoth Head.

The first time I noticed this unique piece of terrain I was intrigued and wanted to know more about it. That year I was able to ski it successfully, but a more fascinating story is about one of my few failed attempts at skiing the Cave on Mammoth.

The only way to access to the cave is from below. It is a steep climb up the face then using ice axes and crampons I climb up a cliff that sits below the mouth of the cave. The cave itself is huge, the size of a city bus stretching about 25 feet into the mountain where there is a skylight, which allows snow to trickle in and cover the floor. That makes it possible to do four or five turns before hitting the mandatory cliff and skiing down the face towards the boulder field of Mammoth Head.

The first time I climbed in I carried my skis on my back, but this time it was earlier in the season and the cliff was bigger so I needed a different plan.

Once I got to the bottom of the cliff I tied one end of a rope to my belt loop and the other to my pack, setting up my skis so once I gained access I could pull my equipment up to me.

I began the climb, smashing my ice axes and crampons into the rock and ice. I had underestimated the size of the cliff, and right before the top I felt the rope tighten. I did not want to down climb so I anchored myself in and took a moment to think of how I was going to get up the rest of the way.

My ice axes had webbing that looped around my hands so I untied the rope from my belt loop, removed my belt, and tied all three together then tossed the axe perfectly into the cave. Using my one other axe I climbed the rest of the way then began pulling my skis and pack up the cliff.

While pulling up my skis, they jammed on the rocks. I gave the rope a tug but my belt could not withstand the force and broke at the seam, sending the rope down the cliff.

There I was, standing in the mouth of the cave with no way of skiing out of it. My only option was to climb back down. I was forced to jump the last part of the cliff, landing with a scream of exhilaration beside my pack. Out of the three attempts I have only once skied that line properly. I love the challenge that it brings, and look forward to skiing it again one day.

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Naturalist Radio – Episode 0: The Prelude

This is a project that after years of thought and song collecting is finally about to come to fruition. It will be a bi-monthly live podcast on Spreaker.com.

We wanted to create a space for our fans to hear the music that they wouldn’t hear at the clubs or parties we play at. We have so much other music we want to showcase and this will be the place. Each Live episode will be saved for re-listening on Spreaker and SoundCloud. These episodes will be downloadable as well.

In our shows you can also expect guest mixes and interviews from locals and our friends afar.

“A collection of musical episodes with tunes selected by FlatSpin & Mister Moffat. Featuring music and mixes from their favourite artists, local friends and the brothers themselves.”

This mix is an introduction to Naturalist Radio.

Hosted by the brothers FlatSpin & Mister Moffat, this series will give the listeners an opportunity to hear different music than you would normally expect from the duo.

This mix is a sampling of what our show is going to be about. No boundaries, no limits, just good music.

Tune in every second Friday from 8-9pm MST
Episode 1 will be live and direct Friday May 12th.

Adventure with Connor

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From my living room, out of one of my north facing windows I have a perfect view of Mt. Hosmer. I often find myself looking out, remembering the good times I had on that mountain with my friend Connor. He grew up on Bryant Road so we spent many days exploring the backroads and the forests below the peak.

We were in High School and Connor had a photography project he was working on; he wanted to shoot a time-lapse of clouds moving through the valley so we jumped into his beat up Nissan Pathfinder and headed for higher ground. We had gone over 20km on a well used backroad then decided to get off the beaten track and try a less used road.

We had been driving uphill since we left his house so hadn’t noticed the brakes on his truck were not working until we were forced to turn around once the road ended in a wall of trees. We almost went off the road right then and there but decided we could make it back to his house if we put the truck in 4-low and went slow.

After a few agonizingly slow kilometres Connor put the truck back into 4-high. Shortly after we arrived at the main backroad. Still in 4-high we came around a corner and began coasting towards a hill. The hill was about 250 metres long and ended in a 160 degree banked corner. There was a 30 foot high bank on our left and a wall of trees to our right. As we rolled into the hill Connor reached for the shifter and tried to pull it into 4-low. I will never forget the sound of the gears grinding, then the bang as the transmission popped accidentally into neutral.

Connor told me to hold on and swerved the truck left into the ditch, trying to flip us before we gained any more speed but we rallied through the ditch and were now riding the bank. We hit a huge rock with the passenger side wheel which forced us up the bank then back onto the road. Right before we hit the corner Connor swerved back into the ditch and we rode the corner like a berm. Halfway around we came to a stop then tipped onto the roof. Connor asked if I was alright as we dangled from our seat belts. We were both fine.

It was getting dark and neither of us had a phone so we left the wreckage and started walking. We walked for hours and knew our parents would be wondering about us. They were all waiting at Connor’s house, trying to decide if they should call Search & Rescue when we showed up filthy and exhausted. Finally with no need to go further, we slumped onto the lawn, and began explaining our adventure gone wrong. At least, we had the timelapse shot.

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Powder Frenzy

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It was the night of a big winter storm. A storm that had potential to be the biggest one of the season and I had plans to meet at the Timber for first chair the next day. I woke to the City clearing the streets before my alarm confirmed it was time to get up. I could hear the bombs as I put on my ski clothes and made coffee. There was a lot of snow in town so I hustled to get ready, rushing through my daily checklist: Skis, boots, poles, transceiver, shovel, probe, helmet, goggles, sandwich, water. Check. It was 7:45 and I was ready.

I dug out my car and headed towards the sound of the explosions. My friend called me as I was putting on my boots in the empty parking lot; he had just arrived at the Timber and was first in line. I put on my helmet and goggles then grabbed my skis with bare hands. Oh no! I don’t have my gloves! Panic mode ensued. I riffled through my car, but with no luck. I looked around to see if anyone had pulled into the parking lot, hoping I could bump a pair, but it wasn’t going to be that easy. I thought about going to the lost and found but I didn’t want to risk getting there and being turned around so I jumped back in my car, cursing myself as I did.

Driving back towards town was painful. I was going in the opposite direction of the endless line-up of cars. I pulled up to my apartment, ran up the stairs in my ski boots, grabbed the first pair of gloves I could find then set out back to the highway, cursing myself once again.

I had let all of my frustrations go by the time I got to the ski hill turn off. I was laughing at my mistake when I felt my car cough and sputter. I was forced to pull over to the side of the road. I looked down and for the first time I became aware of the red fuel light in the corner of my dash. Needless to say I didn’t make it for first chair, I didn’t even make it until after 10 o’clock.

This is what can happens when there is fresh snow to be skied. Your brain lets go of everything else, friendships momentarily disappear, you become flustered and forgetful. Your only focus is skiing.

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