Category Archives: Rock Climbing

Greenland Heliskiing and Spring Update

What a winter! There was so much to do I needed 36 hours in the 24 of each day. Hiring some of my favorite guides to look after the clients I couldn’t ski with did add some of those hours. But it still felt non-stop. We were lucky too this winter, with the bulk of the Alpine snow falling in this corner of Switzerland. Mid February showed us with 138% of norm snow depth.

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This has meant a lack of updates from me. By then, my knee was strong enough to start guiding with confidence. There were so many fun trips in my backyard and further afield around the Valais and to Italy and France. One of my favorite powder shots was in late February, Nellie on her second run from the heli, super exhausted already…

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Heliskiing Verbier 2016

Then Greenland again! What a pleasure it is to stay in the tiny village of Kangaamiut, our base for heliskiing on the west coast of Greenland. There was less snow than I’ve seen, yet the skiing was as good as ever. A few more days of bluebird weather would have been nice. But the glaciers were so well covered, it allowed us to again ski lines never skied before. We will be in Greenland again from April 17, 2017 to May 7, 2017. Come join us for the best heliskiing in the world.

Summer is almost here, and I’ll be traipsing around looking for fun rock to climb and waters to sail. Please drop me line to join in any adventure.

Fiona rock climbing above the Rhone

Fiona, rock climbing above the Rhone Valley- June 7,2016

Autumn Reflections of a Mountain Guide

Autumn rock climbing

Autumn rock climbing

Summer blends to autumn, now ripening to winter, and I gaze as the colors fall to the swelling white blanket outside, soft and inviting. As a full time guide, seasonal change gives me time to reflect on what my job, my life, entails. I sit in front of my screen now, remembering the ridges, the weather and people I encountered. My dreams, my fears, the anxious and joyous moments I’ve experienced whilst moving about these hills, burdened and enlightened with the task at bringing my clients safely up, over, and back down. What’s it like to live the life of a mountain guide? “You have such a perfect job,” or the tired cliché “You have lovely office.”

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New snow in Verbier October 2013

I get up, can’t sleep. Davos still has the avalanche risk at 3, two weeks after the snow storm, yet those signs of risk have not presented themselves to me these past three days as I slide in and out of valley after valley, mountain top to mountain top. Shall I stick to my plan for today? After 25 years of skiing together, Janet and Will follow flawlessly through risky terrain, waiting, traversing, skiing and climbing at just the right tempo to make our passage as safe as it possibly can be. After 25 years together, we know each other better than most of my friends. Indeed, we are very close friends, having shared so many extremely intense moments together, hours pushing ourselves up hill, arriving back down well after dark, cold, wet and tired, ready for the long drive back home to the warmth of our beds.

Ski touring Verbier March 2013

Ski touring Verbier March 2013

What’s it like to be a guide, to live this life. Sitting here reflecting, looking at my bank account and calculating my financial responsibilities. Who am I? Father, son, brother, guide, lover, friend, counselor, spiritual comrade… The conversations we have about life, while disappearing into the hills, naked before that spark, that power we all feel which binds us living beings together. I open my inner thoughts of fear of failing, of falling, of dying, of succeeding. Who am I. I am Hans and right now I am your friend and guide ready to share another fine experience in these hills. Who knows what the future will bring. Risk? Life?

Mountaineering September 2013

Mountaineering September 2013

We left the bivouac at 4:00 this morning. What a sunset that was! And the three of us, alone at altitude, surrounded by the 4000ers, cooking our supper by candle and head light. I slept so well, so open to today’s adventure, route. I slept so well, so cosy under my pile of (slightly) rat infested blankets, feeling me, just me, not concerned with whether or not I would succeed or fail on this new (for me) alpine route. And here I am now, happy. Yet we see how the rock on the leeward side is coated with rime ice, making foot placement slippery to say the least. Happy I am, yet my fingers are so cold, I don’t dare wear gloves for not feeling the holds. Happy I am, yet the rock is SO crumbly and loose, chunks falling 800 meters to the slopes below. The route description said nothing of this! Happy I am, to feel me, cosy inside, as I imagine the sun coming soon out of the mist to warm us. My two clients on my rope have such different levels of experience, one so slow and awkward, the other so competent and helpful to the other. Happy I am, repressing my urge to reach the summit quickly, but rather stay here and now, feeling each hold, sunny side warm, cold side still so cold and frozen.

What I’ve discovered about my life as a guide, my daily struggles to reach the top, is so much like life itself. Yes, it is my dream job, though I never for a moment, growing up on the Big Island of Hawaii, where riding horses all day and catching a wave on the weekends, could have imagined I would someday be a Swiss Mountain Guide, sharing adventure every day with the most lovely people on this Earth.

And for that I am thankful.

Introduction to Rock Climbing and Multi-Pitch Climbing

Learning the basics of rock climbing, from foot placement to the dynamics of the entire belaying system, is an ongoing apprenticeship. Through constant awareness of how I place my feet, whether on an easy trail or vertical cliff, I continually enhance my contact with the earth’s surface. Sharing this with others, we gain insight to our contact with the rock. Our fear of falling/failing ebbs and flows as we learn new techniques.

Alex and Will were eager learners, able to quickly pick-up new techniques of balance on this vertical plane. Though they have climbed indoors on plastic, they found this natural rock a new challenge. We spent our first day at Saleinaz, with them lead climbing on their first pitches of rock. We then spent a second day together on Kalinka, a fun multi-pitch climb in the valley below Verbier.

The Verbier Music Festival is in full swing. What a privilege it is to wander into many of the free master classes and concerts during the day and enjoy outstanding classical music!

Grindelwald Days- Eiger Monch Engelhorner

Vadim was back again to climb in these Alps and we decided to base ourselves in Grindelwald. What an exceptional valley for climbers! From the magically silent cliffs of Hintisberg and the Engelhorner, to the ice palace at the Jungfraujoch, and the wild jaunt ascending to the Mittellegi Hut, this valley has everything for the ambitious mountaineer (and hill walker and tourist!). We were hoping to climb the Schreckhorn, Monch, and Eiger, but of course the weather determined our program.

We started with a few climbs in the surrounding valleys, then worked our way up to the heights. Cow bells echoing off the high walls surrounding Hintisberg sounded the way towards the Eiger. The changeable weather then chased us to the Mediterranean Sea and a couple more limestone cliffs.

Have a look at the photos and let me know when you are coming! Autumn air is creeping into the weather, and it looks like climbing possibilities shall be with us for a good number of weeks still.