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Climbing in the Bugaboos and Using Big Data



“Falling”, I yelled to Jas as we were approaching the base of the climb. I was taking cautious steps on the thinly snow-covered glacier ice, then, my next step I was sliding towards the open bergschrund about 30ft below me. I quickly reacted, instinctively falling on my ice axe to stop my fall before the rope drew tight and pulled Jas into the crevasse along with me. We were approaching the North Face of Pigeon Spire in the Bugaboos, and at the time we were traversing along the base of the granite wall with one piece of protection between the two of us. Admittedly my trail runners and aluminium crampons were probably out of their league.


Jas traversing the base of the North Face of Pigeon Spire shortly before I slipped


The first snow bridge to gain the terrain above the bergschrund went pretty smoothly. From afar, the slope looked covered in snow which influenced my runners and crampon choice, but when we were about halfway across the traverse which led to the route, it became icier, and the slope reared up from 30 degrees to 45–50 degrees for a short segment. Jas warned me that it was more technical and cursed at me for not having boots on…For me it was a natural choice, the slope was manageable with runners, and I didn’t want to carry boots up the route we were about to climb.

A short stressful moment as I slide down the slope towards the crevasse was worth not having the weight of boots in my pack, now if I wasn’t able to self-arrest that may have been a different story…


The view from inside the Bergschrund, some natural framing.


The day started out, as usual, we were at Applebee campground trying to decide what route we wanted to climb. We had climbed the classic route, Wildflowers on the West Face of Snowpatch the day before and had the climb to ourselves which was quite enjoyable. Although Wildflowers is a classic, it is still oft climbed, and it was later in the season, so most climbers were lining up at the base of the typical routes. We decided we wanted to have a day similar to the one previous, a route neither of us had tried before on good stone that led to the summit of one of the Spires.

We chose, Tail-feather Right on the North Face of Pigeon Spire, to our knowledge none of our friends had climbed it before, and we had never even heard of someone climbing it. The route is shorter, five to six pitches and because it is north facing gave us an excuse to start later, waiting for the day to warm up while we chugged a couple of coffees at camp.


Approaching the base of the North Face of Pigeon Spire. We crossed the schrund at the far left.


How was the climbing?

Following my mini fall, we got to the base of the route and quickly dispatched with the long, meandering first pitch that led us to the start of a prominent dihedral. The information from the guidebook said we were supposed to climb around an arête and climb a face to the left of the dihedral. The book also suggested that the corner which we were standing at the base of was possibly unclimbed. Sitting there looking up at the dihedral we had to go for it, the rock looked much better than the other side of the arête, and the style of climbing was more what we were looking for. Around the corner looked like face climbing with marginal protection while looking up at the corner we felt it seemed similar to the Split Pillar in Squamish, BC.

Looking up at a splitter pitch of 5.10 climbing.


The following three to four pitches were great climbing on excellent rock. The first pitch was up a chimney with fun stemming, secure hand-jams and unlimited protection while the next rope length was almost precisely what we thought it would be from the ground. Splitter hand-jams for 30m to where you join the final pitch of the route previously climbed. The climbing in the clean dihedral was outstanding, it was hard to believe that someone hadn’t climbed it before, but we didn’t find any indication of an ascent, and when we spoke to the guidebook author, he was unaware of anyone climbing the corner. We were surprised to climb such a great line with no known ascent.


Looking down at the feature we felt looked like the Split Pillar.


It’s interesting the outcomes we can have with just a bit of curiosity and extra effort. Instead of climbing what everyone else was doing, we were able to go out and have an adventurous day, exploring and possibly climbing a new route. That 30m dihedral was one of the better pitches I have climbed in the Bugaboos, and I was thrown off with the quality of climbing.


Another shot looking down the pitch with the glacier below.Stoked to top out on a route with such fun climbing.


Similar to choosing to do a route in the mountains that is not normally climbed, you can also think outside the box in real estate and find improved results.


We goofed off getting shots here after topping out on Pigeon Spire. Howser Towers in the background.


Real Estate Marketing at the University of Calgary

Earlier this year I registered at the University of Calgary in one of their Real Estate Marketing courses, I decided to enrol in the class that focused on marketing large development projects, a course on how to market master-planned communities versus how to market single family homes and condos.


I wanted to learn something I had less experience with; I wanted to explore marketing a development project on a larger scale to see if I could implement any of the strategies the big players use to market clients’ homes. The course was filled with lots of information, and I learned a lot over the 8-week period. Also, I appreciated hearing directly from the leaders of some of the largest residential developments in Calgary.


One thing stood out for me though, something that was so easy to implement that I’m surprised everyone is not doing it. During the course, the instructor, Jason Hardy from Chatterson Drive, a large national real estate marketing firm discussed an app that his team routinely uses during the development process. The app uses data analytics and census data to analyse individual postal codes to give users a better idea of the purchasing behaviour of individuals living in their primary and neighbouring target communities.


Fortunately, the data the app provides is directly transferable to creating ads on Facebook that can target the same segments of the population. If we know who is currently living in a community, their demographics (age, race, family dynamics) and information like their purchasing behaviour and the types of media they consume, I can directly target similar individuals, who might be interested in a home in that community with ads on social media as part of my marketing plan.


Who else is doing this in real estate? Who is using big data to selectively market homes online? No one. Realtors aren’t using data to figure out what segment of the population to target when they market a home. Realistically, no one even knows you can do this, and the percentage of realtors marketing their listings, versus themselves is extremely low.


So, what is it that most realtors do to market your home?

Let’s face it, most Realtor’s marketing budgets go towards marketing themselves. Think about it, the bus benches, the billboards, the LRT and the ads you see online and on TV…How many are marketing homes? How many are marketing themselves first? Most, if not all the ads you see are created by a Realtor to draw attention to them, not your home. Outside of listing a home on MLS (the multiple listing service) and printing off a few feature sheets, what are Realtors doing to market listings?


Sure, Agents can do what everyone else is doing, similar to climbing classic routes in the Bugaboos, you can do what the masses are doing. If you are lucky, that involves some professional photos and maybe an open house; it always surprises me the number of agents who aren’t even willing to put that much effort in…Do you think someone who won’t use a camera to photograph your home, using just their iPhone, knows about an app that allows them to target individuals online using big data to market a home? Doubt it.


Occasionally, I’ll see a sponsored story on Instagram or an ad on Facebook that is actually for a home and not specifically for the Realtor with the listing. The Agent marketing this way is someone I would want to work with, someone who cares about marketing the properties of their clients and not just about getting their face out there on a bus bench. Think about the number of real estate ads you are bombarded with daily, how many of those are a Realtor marketing a home, or are they just Realtors marketing themselves?


Who’s trying something new in real estate?

There hasn’t been an innovation in real estate in a long time. Sure, there are now fancier photos, maybe some video tours and the platform to search for homes is changing so we can use our phones, but has the bones of Real Estate changed? I see Realtors, door knock, cold call and harass their spheres of influence but are they out there learning new ways to provide value to their clients? The days of Realtors cold calling people out of the phone book aren’t gone even though the phone book is. The phone books have just been replaced with automatic dialers instead of a print edition.

In climbing, it is a smaller segment of the population that aren’t strictly repeating classic climbs that have been climbed time after time; people that are out there attempting new things. I suspect the percentage of Realtors taking the time to learn new skills and new ways of marketing is even lower. Statistically, no one is using data analytics to market homes, even though it is as simple as using an app to find out more about a community and then applying that knowledge to online marketing. Most are merely marketing themselves the old school way; billboards, print flyers and bus benches all directed towards selling the Realtor or their team, not their listings.


At a time when it is hard for many Realtors to differentiate themselves, I find it easy because I am taking the time to pursue professional development, to learn new skills to market homes, not just how to market myself. Realtors aren’t using data analytics to market homes specifically to target audiences, and that’s what it takes in a depressed real estate market similar to Calgary’s, where only a select number of homes are selling, a combination of innovation and effort to do better.


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