Who is Robert Sim? Other than a qualified ski guide and an adventure sports and travel photographer, he is an extreme alpine adventurer who has had his fair share of nail-biting close calls. Sim is also a period contributor to Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.
Tonight, an amalgamation of photos and words will give you a taste of his Himalayan (mis)adventures, allowing you to step into his boots for an evening and walk among the giants. Sim’s work will be displayed as one piece of a new four-part exhibition introduced at the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre. The event will start at 5 p.m. and admission will be by donation. Snacks and refreshments will also be available.
Below are two excerpts entitled ‘Language of the Gods’ from his larger story, dubbed ‘Valley of Gods’. So, take a moment to transport yourself into a world where it’s not just the views that are breathtaking.
Language of the Gods
Words and photos by Robert Sim
The first lesson to learn in the Himalayas is that when they speak, you listen. You don’t have a choice in the matter. They hold such a tremendous amount of energy that even just being up there looking at them, will leave you buzzing for days. The sheer size and the vastness of the roof of the world can leave you with nothing to compare them to, even if you are a seasoned ski town veteran. The historical significance of the peaks surrounding the valley can be traced to ancient texts in both Hindu and Buddhist philosophies. Temples, sacred sites and holy caves are sprinkled throughout, where it’s not uncommon to cross paths with wondering Sadhus (Hindu holy monks) on pilgrimages to sacred places. The energy that flows through the ridge tops and gullies feels overwhelmingly strong as if it could vanquish you with ease—and without remorse. Still, it beckons your soul to come and explore.
“Moments later a ripple moved through the snowpack, rolling like a wave under foot, dropping us down by a foot or more.”
Lead Guide, Trev Street, was the first to ski off and chose a conservative ridge to navigate over. He had just disappeared over the edge when the mighty Himalaya spoke. A loud crack erupted from beneath us somewhere and echoed off opposing valley walls, resembling a train wreck. Moments later a ripple moved through the snowpack, rolling like a wave under foot, dropping us down by a foot or more. I’ve experienced ‘whoomphs’ in the mountains but not anything like this. This was terrifying. I froze. It’s likely I was making one of those faces you make when you think it’s all over. When the rumbling stopped and we all finished checking the height of each others’ eyebrows, we all fumbled for our standard issue, brick-like radios, to reach Trev. Hugh Barnard was the first to call to him and relief washed over us as the radio crackled to life with the sound of his voice.
“Uhh, yeah … I think I just soiled myself, but I’m fine.” was his response that sent a nervous laugh through the group before simultaneously checking our own situation. In defense of any and all, when you find yourself in India, you don’t really need a hair-raising experience to soil oneself… it’s almost guaranteed to happen ‘au naturel’.
After that, we split up to cover different aspects of the mountain; Hugh and the late Eric Guertzenstein skied off to the North West and I rode down the North East to meet Trev. Before we could begin digging, Hugh stated on the radio that the entire face that we were standing above released as a result of that earthquake we had just encountered. Yes, the whole face. They were going to get a crown wall profile. Lead guide and local product Chunni Thakur was on route with guests for the first run of the season. We tried to relay information over the radio but couldn’t get a response. The helicopter landed on the ridge directly across the valley and after unloading its guests it took off back to base. We managed to get through to Chunni on the repeater. He acknowledged the info and we stuffed the radios away and began our snow profile.
“It just reloads and waits to be triggered again and again like lurking demon waiting to catch unsuspecting travelers.”
Mere moments later Chunni’s voice comes back over the wire. It was the type of information that makes your hair stand on end on the back of your neck… that is of course, if it isn’t already doing so. Five turns into the season, Chunni had kicked off a modest size two avalanche. Luckily, with the information we managed to get to him, he decided to take a lower angled run. Due to slower release as the avalanche started to break up and move, he had time to jump off one of the sliding blocks and onto the safety of the bed surfaced self-arrest.
Luckily no one else was caught in the slide and he was fine. It was touchy, more so than predicted. The culprit — about a metre-and-a-half of well-bonded slab sitting atop a 70 cm facet layer with 6-7 mm crystals. Just a big old slab sitting atop of marbles. We called for a pick up after the second group arrived so that we could get aerial photos of the slides. We found that both of the slides had each remotely triggered other avalanches up to 500 m away from the original. That wasn’t the news we wanted to share when we got home and it set the tone for the majority of the season as with a facet layer that deep, it doesn’t really go away. It just reloads and waits to be triggered again and again like lurking demon waiting to catch unsuspecting travelers.
The above extract was taken from Robert Sim’s story, Valley of Gods. If you’re left wanting more, here is a reminder of tonight’s art exhibit:
Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre
320 Wilson St, Revelstoke, BC V0E 2S0
Presentations will be starting at 5 p.m.
Michelle Spragg – ‘See the Forest for the Trees’
Rob Sim – ‘Valley of the Gods’
Susie Kathol – ‘Susie Kathol Ceramics’