By Cody Lank, FOW
In the backcountry of interior BC, Cody Lank looks through a unique lens, drawing upon decades of experience from some of mountain cultures best. Rogers Pass, BC. FOW: Cody Lank // Photo: Carson Meyer (@carsonmeyerphoto)
All of us owe everything to those that showed us the ropes, and FOW Cody Lank is no different. In this candid response to a simple question, Cody pays his respects to the figures that brought him into the fold and left a lasting impression.
What makes me special? That’s a bit of a loaded question, yet also a point to provoke introspection on one’s life.
In regards to interior BC ski culture, it’d be my friends and mentors who I’ve shared time with in the mountains over the last 23 winter seasons and who have influenced and inspired me. Those influences and inspiration have definitely had an effect on who I am today. They’re why I’m special for sure. So, here they are.
Mid 90s: Brian Dollack
One of my oldest best friend’s dad. He was into rock climbing, mountaineering, and ski touring. He taught us basic climbing knots, and anchor building principles. He took us backcountry riding for the first time, up in the western Monashees, we were snowshoe/snowboarding. At ridgetop we asked him where we should ride down? His answer: “Anywhere you want, boys!”
In hindsight, not the most conservative response, but it gave us that sense of freedom and freeriding that you only get up in the mountains!
Brian Dollack, around 2009, topping out on a rock climb in Haines Creek, BC.
Late 90s: Barry Blanchard
Legendary Canadian Alpinist and Mountain Guide. The more I got into mountain activities, the more I realized I needed to take some courses to learn crucial skills. So I took a snow and ice climbing course at the Columbia Icefields, and Barry was one of the guides. At that point in time he’d put up several of the hardest mixed alpine routes in the Canadian Rockies (which are still extreme test pieces), been on numerous expeditions throughout the world, and was, and is one of the most genuine characters you could ever hope to meet.
Barry Blanchard, fairly current, from his book The Calling.
During the few days of glacier navigation, building snow and ice anchors, crevasse rescue etc. I’d ask Barry about certain multi-pitch rock climbs I wanted to climb later that season. I was a total newbie climber at the time. His answers were always super positive which gave me a lot of confidence. “Yeah man, that climb is rad, you should go do that for sure!” He was expressing the true spirit of alpinism. All those mountaineering skills are directly relatable to skiing. They built me a solid foundation.
One good quote I remember him saying, while all us newbies were bumbling around with our crampons on: “Walk like a cowboy!” You don’t want to hook a point on your fancy Gore-Tex pants and take a tumble! Every time I strap crampons on I think about that. Go get yourself a copy of The Calling and read it.
Barry Blanchard, rappelling off the Rupal face of Pakistan's Nanga Parbat. Also a photo from his book.
Early 2000s: Rudi Gertsch
Rudi Gertsch is a second generation Mountain Guide from Grindelwald, Switzerland, Heli-ski pioneer, and owner/operator of Purcell Heli Skiing, out of Golden, BC. I worked as a ski tech and tailguide at Purcell Heli Skiing for three winters. At the time I was transitioning back into skiing, after mostly snowboarding for the previous decade. I had a few seasons of backcountry experience, but it was skiing with Rudi, and the other guides that I really learned to read terrain. “Terrain knowledge, that’s your strongest tool in the mountains.” That’s a true statement, take note.
Rudi always impressed me, that old hard ass farmer/mountain guide, always skiing 190’s, never hesitating to send big airs while guiding in his 60’s, full of energy, usually Jagr shots during apres ski, going home long after dark, doing his farm chores feeding cows etc., and getting up at 5am to do it all again! He’s still going strong.
Mid 2000s: Ptor Spricenieks
Big mountain soul skier, first descent of Mt. Robson’s north face, ski freak radical. Ptor based himself out of Golden for a few years, just as our crew was beginning to ski bigger lines around the Dogtooth Range, Rogers Pass, and the Rockies.
This shot of Ptor comes from an old copy of Kootenay Mountain Culture.
It became extremely clear right away that a day skiing with Ptor would involve steep and exposed terrain. If you couldn’t keep up you got left behind. If you could keep up, you heard insightful, universal, philosophical ramblings from a man who’s skied the world; India, Canada, Peru, France, Colombia, Italy, Alaska, etc. Ptor’s classic dropping in quote: “Yeeeee dooogggiieesss!!!”
I never saw Ptor ski out of control or fall once. Not once. And he charges lines like a bull. In exposed terrain, that ski edge and its contact with the mountain can be your only link to reality as we know it. At that point your skill set or style needs to be flawless. That’s Ptor’s skiing. Flawless style, decade after decade, descent after descent. I’m sure his old friend and ski partner Doug Coombs is smiling every time he nails the conditions on a steep line in the Les Ecrins mountains!
This is a photo Ptor took of Troy Jungen on the summit of BC's Mt. Robson, September 1995, just before they dropped into the north face.
There’s many more, you guys included! I’ve skied with so many good people, especially while working up at Golden Alpine Holidays lodges. I try and pay attention to details, learn new things, be aware of changes, and not be complacent with terrain, decisions, fitness, respect, and appreciation.
There ya go, that’s why I’m special, because I try to respect and appreciate the people that came before me and showed me the ropes. And the environment!
My girlfriend took this photo of my friends Kyle and Sebastian and myself, touring towards the west face of Eagle Peak up at Rogers Pass. That was a good day. I'm pretty sure it ended with an epic sunset run from the alpine back down to the valley bottom. Good memories! Either way, it's important to make sure you have the equipment suited to the experience you desire. Photo: Andrea Eitle