Hello from Las Vegas!

Master chef Dobzz cooking up a hot lunch

Master chef Dobzz cooking up a hot lunch

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This week’s blog post comes to you from Emma! Two weeks living in the van and we’re getting into a good routine, figuring out how to best keep things organized and comfortable. I’ve especially liked the challenge of making delicious, healthy, and varied meals with a limited kitchen and no refrigeration. So far we’ve made fried noodles, pasta, stir fry, soup, gnocchi, apple crisp, breakfast burritos, ramen, and quesadillas. No temperature control in the van means only being able to buy a few perishables at a time, and always having a plan for using them up quickly. We also haven’t been eating meat except for the occasional salami treat at lunch.

After leaving the amazing Blanding visitor centre, we made our way on an incredible drive through Capitol Reef National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, stopping at the viewpoints and some short hikes along the way. It had been about day ten of nothing but a few attempts of splashing a bit of water on ourselves, when a very kind stranger we had been talking to offered up his hotel for us to take a shower. Feeling fresh, we made our way to Bryce Canyon National Park in sub zero and whiteout conditions. We decided to escape the elements for the afternoon and hung out at a hotel pool. Because of all the snow, we were very limited in what was open at Bryce, so we did a short hike to check out some incredible hoodoos, then moved on to Zion National Park. 

The Hoodos in Bryce Canyon

Bears Ears National Monument

The insanity of Angel’s Landing…. Wayyyyy too many people.

It’s amazing what a bit of elevation can do- going from a metre of snow to t-shirt weather in just a few hours! Zion was somewhat of a “Disney World” of national parks. People everywhere, difficult to find parking, but also incredible sights. We were itching to do a climb here, but the delicate sandstone needed more time to dry. Instead we went for the infamous Angels Landing hike. Like everything else in the park it was busy, but also very beautiful. Dozens of paved switchbacks lead you to a ridge with some scary exposure. The hike itself was not difficult, but the sheer drop offs on either side really spooked me.


Next was St George- the city know for it’s retirees and excellent climbing. Here, we were finally blessed with warm temperatures and dry weather fit for climbing. The type of rock here was so varied- from smooth sandstone pockets, to sharp crimpy holds, to even sharper cheese grater from hell rock. We also spent a day at Snow Canyon State Park and did the Island in the Sky Traverse. Lots of low fifth class scrambling, with a few 5.6 moves and some rappelling on the way down. Over the three mile adventure, we had a bit of a difficult time route finding, especially the belay stations which were painted to match the colour of the rock. 


With cut up hands, blisters, and sore bodies, we ventured to vegas for a rest day. What a strange place. Just walking around the strip was excitement enough for these two bush kids. Of course we went to an all you can eat/drink buffet and made ourselves feel incredibly ill. Now we have $10 left so we’re off to the hotel’s casino… And then Red Rocks for some more climbing!

PS Olivier here.  You’ll be please to know that we won 5$ at the blackjack table on our first hand, and promptly cashed out.  Vegas: 0, Olivier + Emma: 5$.

Update from the grand USA roadtrip

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Helllooooo world!  I’m writing you from the small, quaint little town of Blanding Utah.  It’s raining and we’re taking a few hours to hang out at the visitor’s centre to make some breakfast, drink coffee, and do some internetting.

Me, Emma, and Vanie (a 1997 Japanese Toyota Townace mini van) are on a big, 7 week road trip exploring the western US.  Nine days in, the trip has been a mind blowing experience discovering the crazy, weird, and beautiful wilderness of Utah’s desert.

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We started in Squamish, and beelined down to Utah over two and half days.  Our first few sleeps in the van were cooollllddd with lows of -10ºC.  We couldn’t believe how winter’y it was around Snoqualmie pass.  As the snow thinned out and eventually disappeared around eastern Oregon, we thought the temperature would start going up (it’s the desert right?), but nope, it was still cold as hell.

We made it to Moab in the dark and set up camp just outside of town.  We woke up the next day to a surreal land of cacti, massive sandstone towers, arches, and really interesting looking desert terrain.  What surprised us the most however was the emptiness and vastness of the land.  The land just goes and goes and goes as far as the eye can see without a hint of human activity.  It was sooooo cool!!!!

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Over the next week, we explored Arches and Cayonlands national parks and drove down to Indian Creek to try our hand at the legendary creek crack climbing.  We also climbed our first desert tower!!!!!!

We’re now on our way to Bryce and Zion Canyon, making our way towards St George for more exploration and climbing!  Stay tuned next week for another road trip update :-).

PS We’re pooping in bags!  Human waste doesn’t decompose in the desert, so we’re carrying big old bags of post-coffee poop :-D 

The Coastal Trail Collective is now officially launched!!!!

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I’m so excited, stoked, and proud to be a part of the officially launch of the Coastal Trail Collective. I’ve been working since December to develop our website, and today’s the day we went live! The CTC’s website will be the place to go to learn more about logging, get Walbran Valley trail updates, and find Walbran related maps and resources. We also want this platform to be the first step towards being more inclusive.  We want to bring you on one of our trail building trips and we hope this website will get your stoke on!!!!

Check it out!!

Upcoming Jazz Show this weekend (Victoria)

Quick show announcement,

I’ll be playing with my Dad this upcoming Sunday in Victoria at the First Unitarian Church of Victoria. It’s part of the church’s jazz vesper series. We were supposed to play last weekend, but unfortunately had to cancelled the show because of the snow. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that it doesn’t happen again ;-).

I’m pretty damn excited for this gig. My Dad’s written most of the music and the band’s sounding really good! It’s going to feature Rob Cheramy on guitar, Bruce Meikle on bass, and Gord Clements (aka Dad) on saxophone and bass clarinet.

Hope to see you there!

Tickets by donations

Music starts at 7pm

Buzzing with Projects

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One of our big goals has always been to have a trail that goes through all of the planned cutblocks in the Walbran Valley.  While the current trail network showcases some of the best of our ancient forests, most people don’t realize that it’s almost all protected from logging.  None of the proposed cutblocks go near the trails and the trees are for the most part well within the protected parts of the special management zone.

We believe that the current trails don’t give the public an accurate sense of what will be cut, and also helps the logging companies argue that their activities won’t affect our beloved Walbran.  We’ve always wanted to have a trail that went through all the planned cutblocks so that people could see the actual flagging taped boundaries, and witness with their own eyes which trees are marked for harvest.

This past fall, our project got underway with bang!  After extensive exploratory bushwacking, a tiny grove of behemoth cedars was discovered nestled between 3 cutblocks.  The grove was on par with any of the other groves in the valley and had arguably more giants per square acre than anywhere else.  We explored the hillside looking for good trail lines and found even more giant cedars and doug firs all over the place.

After a few weeks of exploring and building, our new trail is almost ready for unveiling.  A long, challenging loop trail that will get the stoked up for big tree lovers and hikers alike.  The trail will go through some of the most striking features of this forest, while dipping in and out of the flagging boundaries.  You’ll be amazed and saddened by the size of these trees, and by the sight of the flagging tape.  The trail will also have a special extension to THE best view of the valley.  High up on a rocky outcrop, the trail overlooks the walbran, Anderson lake, the falls, and the pacific!!!!

The trail isn’t done yet, but stay tuned.  It will be ready for the spring :-).

New Trail in the Walbran

A few weeks ago, Will and I headed off to the Walbran to do a little bit of exploring, and ended up cutting a pretty sweet trail to a recently discovered grove of massive cedars. 

The trail isn’t quite finished so I won’t give away too much, but I will say this; the trail goes by over a dozen cedars over 12m in circumference, a couple giant doug fir trees (super rare in the Walbran), and a mega tree over 17m in circumference.    Sadly, almost all these trees are well within the proposed cutblocks on the hillside and could be cut down at any point….  Stay tuned for more info & trail maps,.

We headed to the valley late in the afternoon and by the time we got to the FSR, it was pretty dark outside. As we drove up a hill about 40mins behind Cowichan Lake, the sky lit up with a dim orange glow and a pretty dramatic scene unveiled itself. Across the valley, the whole hillside was on fire. You hear the crackle of these gigantic fires, see the huge flames shoot up in slow swirls, and hear the sound of a city block worth of wood being burnt to the ground. Since the weather had cooled off, logging companies were starting to burn slash piles. It’s a forest fire prevention strategy done after a harvesting operation to try to curtail the debris left behind drying out and catching fire in the summer. Doing controlled burns in the wet fall/winter seasons removes the fuel sources and helps return some nutrients to the soil. I gotta say though, seeing this massive fire without any supervision was a little disconcerting. Two years ago, some of these burns got out of control and resulted in multiple hectares of forest being burnt down.

Ontario Road Trip

Last August, me and Emma went on a sweet cross-canadian road trip from the West Coast to the Ottawa Valley. With Vanie, a 1998 Toyoto TownAce van stuffed with climbing and paddling gear, we cruised through winding mountain roads, flat prairie plains, and beautiful ontario shield landscapes.

Highlights:

  • I tried whitewater paddling for the first time. Experienced a new level of fear….

  • Got to climb some awesome sport and trad routes in Nelson, Thunder Bay (sandbag capital of the world) and in the Ottawa area.

  • Explored Algonquin Park. Found zero moose :-(

  • We saw some freaking butterflies hatch over breakfast!!!

About that last comment; Emma’s dad had placed monarch butterfly chrysalis all over his house, and every day over breakfast we got to see a few of them hatch, dry out, and fly away!!!!

Sad Cutblocks

If you adventure on Vancouver Island, you’re going to have to interact with logging at some point.  Every trailhead for any backcountry adventure starts and ends with a logging road, main line or spur.  In the last 150 years, 75% of our island has been logged.  Even worst, over 90% of our big tree ecosystems (valley bottom, productive forests), have disappeared due to logging.  These iconic trees, the massive mega giant cedars and douglas firs, need tens of thousands of years of forest development for the right conditions to grow, then 1000 to 1500 years to reach their size.  These trees are disappearing and wether or not you’re for or against our current logging practices, it’s pretty sad to see these giants being cut up for lumber.

Earlier this year, I came across one of the saddest scenes I had ever seen.  Emma and I were driving towards Port Alberni from Tofino, and after about 40mins of driving, we found a cutblock on the side of the road littered with some of the biggest trees I had ever seen in my life.  Over a dozen massive cedars had been fallen for what appeared to be a highway expansion project.  It broke our hearts to see this destruction for more pavement…

Welcome to the new website!

New year (kinda), time for a new website (sorta)!

Welcome to the new and improved OlivierClements.com! After a good run with my old provider, Weebly.com, I gave in to those “This American Life” ads and got myself a Squarespace site. Looks spiffy eh?

Couple of new features; you’re going to find some new tracks I’ve never posted before in the music section, lots of new pictures in the photography pages, a brand new overview of my guiding work, and a cool new blog that will get so many more posts (probably hopefully).

If you wanted to check out some of my older posts, you can easily do so at https://olivierclements.weebly.com/.

Enjoy!