Flying off Mount Olympus by Kai Jacobson

By 1am, I was the first of roughly 25 people passed out in a house in a village near the base of Mount Olympus. Not the most epic beginning for story...but I was the only Canadian, amongst 25 Greeks. Tsipouro, which is basically Greek moonshine, distilled in backyard distileries and served in plastic bottles along with homemade wine flowed heavily through the night. The room bustled with paragliders, old greek cowboys, climbers, children and dogs. Bouzouki, a traditional Greek instrument, echoed through the house while men sang along, swishing back wine and tsipouro. Myself, the only Canadian basically drank the homemade concoctions endlessly until I went (stumbled) off to bed because I could no longer walk. My most vivid memory is of an older, bearded man yelling, "Yamas" (Greek for cheers) about a thousand times and never leaving my glass empty for more than 5 seconds. Most of the characters spoke limited english but I applaud their effort at making conversation and getting the only foreigner hammered before dinner (which was served at 130am...).

I was startled awake by the 5 or 6 people that shared our room, tasting tsipouro burps and wondering why the hell we were up so early. With groggy eyes, I packed my bags and got in the old, custom painted van, hoping to squeeze in a nap before the trek began. I was mistaken, as the unpaved road was basically a mountainside ledge that snaked up the mountain. The drive was breathtaking. Wild horses and goats lined the cliffsides alongside crumbling farmhouses. 

The trek started from an old alpine refuge hut in the middle of no where. I hiked light, alongside the paragliders, who carried roughly 30 kilos of gear so they could, literally, fly off the mountain. A few of us opted to make the summit of Greece's highest peak, Mount Olympus. It is a technical scramble, with a bolted, rope option but since we didn't have a rope...we did it anyways. We scrambled to the summit and enjoyed the 360 views of where the Greek Gods were said to have roamed. A more technical route down led to another alpine hut where we met with the others for lunch. Donkeys supply the huts with everything from Spaghetti, to cold beer which is served at a reasonable price. It was absurd to me that you could hike a strenuous 4-5 hours, into the mountains and could get your hands on cold beer and hot food...something we need to work on in Canada. Unfortunately, I was still so hungover I didn't indulge. 

The paragliders suited up and a crowd formed in curiosity and speculation. Our first teammate launched successfully into the abyss, making his way to a small village near the sea, about a 35 minute flight away. As the others took off, we turned to make the not-as-thrilling down climb back. We managed to make it back in time for some wild pig the villagers had been preparing through the day in the outdoor clay oven.

I wasn't able to explore the picturesque islands of southern Greece but experiencing some real Greek mountain culture was irreplaceable. Thanks to all my new friends for their hospitality and putting up with my lack of Greek. I look forward to skiing down the same peaks someday soon!



 

A climb in the Rockies by Kai Jacobson

With a 530 alarm, we made our way to Morraine Lake. Bundled up for a cold morning in the Rockies and a bit stiff from sleeping in the truck bed for two nights. I prepared eggs and coffee while Hayden packed our gear. Eager hikers gunning for sunrise photos darted past us. We scanned them for climbing gear, skeptical that another party would be aiming for our intended summit..As we entered the alpine, haze from the forest fires blanketed the mountains and made for an almost eternal sunrise. We hauled our gear up 2500' over 6km through colorful forests, lakes and 360 views of the Rocky Mountains. As we continued up to the Pinnacle mountain - Mount Temple col, the Grand Sentinel came into view. A towering 400 foot quartzite tower, the most prominent in the area. Goosebumps rose on my arms, it was the culmination of 4 months of our first real summer of climbing. Smith rock, Squamish, Skaha, Revelstoke, the Rockies and now back to accomplish the big goal. With Hayden starting an engineering job in Nelson, this was our last chance and we lucked out with the perfect weather window. 

 

Descending the pass, we began to question the approach. The faintest trail was in sight along a scree slope, made up entirely of loose rock. The trail was barely visible because it had been continuously wiped away by rockfall. Fortunately, we left early enough that the heat hadn't began melting the snow and releasing rocks. 

As we entered the path, the mood went from psyched to serious in seconds. Communication became rare, used only when necessary. Adrenaline pumping, we both began to question our desire to do the climb. Although, knowing each other, we kept those ideas to ourselves and pushed on. 

We made it to the safe (ish) zone, dropped packs and both understood the worried look on each others faces. We pretended to be psyched, not wanting to let the nerves get the best of us.

After a summer fueled by Trader Joe's coffee, we'd decided to have one last cup at the base of the climb. We boiled up some water, ate our sandwiches and both asked how we were feeling. "Good, ya that was sketchy but we got this". Knowing that saying anything else would only generate more doubt than we already knew existed.

After staring up at the looming tower, we realized carrying a camera bag, lunch and extra clothes was not realistic when climbing up the sheer vertical slopes (hence the iphone photos). Jeans, long sleeve and a power bar it was for the 4 pitch monster.

We entered the ledge, already 150feet up, I looked up at the first bolt, legs trembling, hands shaking. We rock, paper, scissored for the first pitch. I'd been on a losing streak lately and for once hoped it would stay that way. It didn't, so I roped up, opted for a hug over a high five this time and went to work. 

Elvis would have been proud by the shakey legs we maintained through the climb. The first pitch was graded at what I would have no doubts climbing on a normal day, from the ground. But suddenly when you're looking up at the exposed corner, then down a 150 + feet to a rocky scree, then surrounded by towering peaks, loosely glued together with flakey rock, everything changes. My arms tensed, my mind started playing tricks and my confidence dwindled. I took deep breaths, made one move at a time and inched my way to the first anchor.

Hayden cruised up the first pitch, knowing the hardest pitch of the climb was on him, up next. Our minds were clouded with fear at that point, having never felt anything like that in my life. He made his way up the next sustained pitch which held potential for some gnarly falls, especially amongst the jagged quartzite that made up the route. If he got through this, we'd be half way, giving me slight comfort. Although, at that point, I had begun convincing myself that it was okay to bail, I can always come back. 

He made it to the anchor, we were halfway there. My arms got a rest as I belayed and after watching him making the first few tricky holds, I knew how to tackle it. I climb far better when I talk to myself, sing or grunt (loudly). Noticing I refrained from that on the first pitch, I let it all out on this one. I began to trust the rock and more importantly, myself. The moves started to make sense, hard but doable. I met Hayden on a small ledge below the 3rd pitch.

I almost shit my pants on the first pitch and I think Hayden was about the same after the second. We both looked at each other, knowing we were being pushed outside our comfort zones. I think we both considered bailing at that point, just wanting to be on flat ground again. We got close to the breaking point but after a summer climbing together, we knew we were safe and it was just nerves getting the best of us.  We knew the subtleties of how to ask if we were alright without actually asking the question. The crux (hardest part) of the route was said to be above us. I was worried about my arms getting too tired since not climbing enough in August. I had myself convinced there was no way of getting over the massive roof I saw 30' above us. But, we'd made it that far. Hayden was moving, winter was coming, our epic summer of climbing was coming to an end and we were halfway up our ultimate goal. 

I started talking, then singing, then grunting and mixing it all up to get through the next pitch. Hayden came up to meet me and had a tired, worried face on looking at the last pitch, leading up to the top of the thin tower. The most exposed section of the route, climbing a flat vertical face with nubbins for footholds and two finger ledges for hands. 

We pulled it off, both summiting on the sketchy ledge, covered in loose rock. We both were convinced the entire tower would come down. So we yelled at the top of our lungs, high fived, took our 'selfie for the moms' (which we never actually show our moms) and started the descent. 

The way out was sketchy, with refrigerator sized blocks tumbling down the route we had taken in, we opted to reroute via a somewhat more protected route, which added length to the hike but necessary for our well being. After a long, strenuous day, we made it to the lake, the safe zone, free from rockfall. Packs off, sandwich in mouth and a face wash. We both couldn't describe the day we just had, the rollercoaster of emotions we went through and the culmination of a wild summer. 

Kara + Devin // Tofino Wedding Photographer by Kai Jacobson

What an adventure it's been with these two. I met Kara & Devin as a guest at the wedding of a close family friend. When they invited me to be part of their small wedding in Tofino, I immediately started counting down the days. Instead of meeting for coffee we chased powder at Mount Baker. It was easily the best day of skiing last season as we encountered untouched, knee deep snow. Kara raced by me and Devin soared off jumps, making me feel like a total amateur (which I clearly am after breaking by both goggles and ski poles in a 30 minute span). I knew after that, Tofino was going to be incredible. And it was! The wedding was spent on the beach, with family, craft beer and delicious food..it doesn't get much better. It's been quite the adventure and I can't wait for the next one with you guys!

P.S. I shot video for their wedding so this was a little sunset session we did the night before!

Smith Rock | A Climbing Trip by Kai Jacobson

Smith Rock was the first place I ever went rock outdoor rock climbing so it was only fitting to make it my first real rock climbing trip. Located just outside Bend, Oregon (the best place on earth), Smith Rock offers stunning landscapes, a winding river and a wicked climbing community. Our goal was to push at least one multi pitch, Wherever I May Roam. The route is a 5 pitch sport climb up the Northwest Face of the Smith Rock Group. We did that the second day and managed to squeeze in 3 more during our stay. It was insane, incredibly awesome and I can't really put into words what the feeling is like getting to the top of these routes as the sun is setting or waking up at sunrise to be first on the wall and walking out by 10am. It's an addiction.

Having Bend not too far away was extra satisfying with it's countless breweries offering cold pints as a reward after a hot day. I only managed to bring my camera up one climb, since you can imagine, it's a bit cumbersome when ascending these routes.  So these photos are mostly from our ascent up Voyage of the Cowdogs. Until next year!

Michelle + Dalton // Kelowna Engagement Photographer by Kai Jacobson

I've known Michelle since we were in diapers. Growing up, our parents were good friends (and still are!). Being apart of one of the biggest moments in her life is a little bit surreal. We've come along way from tubing in Osoyoos as teenagers, and I know her and Dalton are going to make a beautiful couple on their big day. 

Since I'm living in Kamloops for the month of April, I took a little road trip to Kelowna to shoot their engagement. We decided to head to Knox Mountain for it's great views and grassy hills. We got some beautiful weather and an epic sunset! I can't wait for their Vernon wedding this September. 

Skyline Divide by Kai Jacobson

Late August of last year, Andrew and I tackled the Skyline Divide trail. It was one of the most epic overnight hikes I've done to date. Roughly 15km round trip and 2500ft elevlation gain, the trail takes you up a steep, knee crushing incline that makes you want to turn back after the first 5 minutes. Following switchbacks for a couple hours through the forest with a few water breaks and snacks, we ploughed on to the ridge to make it for sunset. I thought Hank was going to perish on us a few times because his pig-like anatomy is not ideal for steep hiking BUT he trekked on. 

We made it to the ridge, soaking in sweat, with mosquitoes buzzing around any uncovered skin. The view was breathtaking. As you reach the treeline and the forest opens up, you're left with jaw dropping views of Mount Baker. As we walked along the ridge, the wind picked up, temperatures dropped and fortunately the mosquitos dissappeared. We packed light so quickly set up camp anywhere we liked and took in the views while the dogs guzzled water and food. 

As the sun set, we spun in circles taking in the 360 views of the of the North Cascades and ocean far off in the distance. Not another soul in sight, we had the place to ourselves. This was the one time we forgot to bring whiskey or beer, instead opting for lighter packs, only to immediately regret that decision as we settled in for our canned chili dinner. After the sunset, we were pleasently surprised by one of the most incredible night skies I've ever witnessed. Hanging our heads out the back of the tent staring into the sky, we quickly dozzed off after the day's tough trek. It's night's like those that really make you love the outdoors.

We raced down in the morning to get breakfast and a well earned cold beer. Driving down in my old 1987 BMW on a 21 km potholed logging road was not the best idea...We parked at the breakfast joint only to have someone sprinting after us saying every drop of oil in the car had empited in the parking lot...let's just say a cracked oil pan in middle-of-nowhere Washington is not an ideal way to end a hike. Needless to say, it's all part of the adventure!

Side note: DRIVE SLOW AND CAREFULLY. It's a 21km logging road (one way) and it ain't pretty. There is no cell service. So tell someone where you're going before you leave, bring enough warm clothes and water to last an extra night or two and drive a vehicle equipped for a logging road. Towing a car from Glacier, Washington to a junkyard in Chiliwak is not cheap.