Sunday, August 23, 2015

Canmore - 51° 5' 1" N, 115° 22' 4" W

Sometimes adventure comes in the way of familiar experiences done with new friends.

Kate and I were sad to see our neighbors, the Eaglesons, move from their house beside ours on Broadview Road to a new one closer to the kids' school.  Our sadness quickly changed when we met the new neighbors, the Pettigrews, who are a delightful clan in their own right.

Shortly after they moved in, Kate was at their door, armed with an apple pie and a big helping of Collins Family hospitality.  We soon found out they were
escapeesformer residents of Winnepeg and their desire to play in the mountains (and job opportunities) had drawn them to Calgary.  We quickly decided they were too much fun to leave to find all the good things in the area all by themselves, so we appointed ourselves as their tour guides and took to dragging them out to our favourite cycling haunts, for both mountain- and road-bike rides.  So far we have toured around the river pathways, invited ourselves over to their home, done a full-day mountain bike outing to Little Elbow River, rode the Legacy Trail between Canmore and Banff, and Went with Gord to bag his first summit on Ha Ling Peak.

On the trail at the Little Elbow River

Lunch Break

Chillin' on the Legacy Trail

Luckily, the Eaglesons - and especially their cute, not-so-little-anymore kids - are still in our lives, too.  We keep inviting them out and they keep showing up.  It is a real treat to have the young energy and watch some awesome parenting.  If we ever decided to kidnap a new set of kids and raise them as our own, we hope we could do as good a job at raising them.

Alena and Kate bowling at the Winter Club
Throw in our cute-as-a-button great niece and we are fully supplied with little playmates.  Isn't being retired and having daytime available to play a good idea?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Horseshoe (Mt Cautley to Wonder Peak) - 50° 54' 29" N 115° 34' 19" W

The most amazing ridge walk.  We were encouraged to do this hike by a family from Minnesota with two 14 y-o boys. What they did fail to mention however, is that they headed down off Mt. Cautley and did not attempt the chimney on Wonder Peak. After a fabulous tromp across the meadows studded with the flaming purple fireweed, we found the trail leading up Mt. Cautley - heading first to the ominously named 'O'Brien's Leap'. Stunning views over Assiniboine Pass.  We then trekked up the ridge, across the scree to a peak with gorgeous views across Bryant Valley and back over the meadows to the Lodge, Lake Magog and the towering Mt Assiniboine.  We followed the ridge to the summit proper of Mt. Cautley (2,880m).  The ridge walk was very impressive with snow still snuggled on the north face. After traversing a steep scree slope made up of many different rocks, we hit the first chimney.  Seemingly insurmountable without the use of ropes, we had faith in the trail directions and skirted around to the right.
Tiny red spot in front of the chimney is Sean!
A scramble up crumbling rock then a shimmy up a narrow gap with a foot on each side, under a ledge and another scramble up the crumble and we are safe!  With each holding each others' packs and paying close attention to every hand hold and step, we managed not to fall to our deaths! But there was NO WAY we would get back down there so the only option was to continue on.  We followed the trail over the saddle and lost it going around the next chimney.  We ended up 'spider-man-like' along the top of a scree slope listening to the dislodged rocks chink, chink, chink, chink, chink and chink down the slope. Finally picking up the trail again, we clamboured over the last couple of saddles and peaks, bursting out on the ridge overlooking Wonder Pass. Despite the adrenaline rush, the views across Marvel Lake to Marvel Peak, Mt. Gloria and beyond were the stuff of postcards.  The feeling of being on top of the world with mountains, valleys, glaciers and lakes stretching form horizon to horizon almost made up for the death-defying scramble to get there.

Despite the elevations, there was a surprising amount of life up on the scree. Blue, blue forget-me-nots, clumps of small, white flowers, mosses and birds ... all tenaciously clinging to what looked like bare rock.  Little birds nesting in the rocks.  And insects.  On the lower slopes, we saw a hoary marmot.

The descent was a chance for the adrenaline to work its way out of our system.  On a rough path, walking along the edge of a 100 metre drop just didn't hold the thrill it might have earlier that day.  We wound our way down into Wonder Pass started a short two kilometre jaunt towards the camp.  The huts were a welcome sight to our hot and sweaty souls.  A plunge into the icy waters Lake Magog was wonderfully refreshing.  Oh to be clean!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Windy Peak - 50° 57' 46" N 115° 37' 02" W

Everything here elicits a Wow! There are no hikes that provide substandard views. Windy Peak is no exception. Stunning views.  The hike takes you through the Og Meadows, about 3km of trail framed by magnificent peaks. It runs across the lower slopes of Cave Mountain then switchbacks up Og Mountain to Windy Redge.  It certainly lived up to its name with a fierce wind blowing.  The ridge dropped off sharply but afforded stunning views across the Sundance Range and Banff national Park.  Yes, here we were on the brink of the Continental Divide.  Gord Pettigrew, here is a great one to ass to your list!

It was an out and back hike. Crossing the meadows is somewhat unfairly referred to as 'The Slog from Og' due to the long hike across.  With the peaks of Assiniboine, Magog and Strom, along with their associated glaciers, as a backdrop, who could call it a slog?

Along with the numerous ground squirrels and chipmunks, we also saw a long-tailed weasel and a ptarmigan.

hiking past the expensive huts

along Lake Magog
can you spot the weasel?

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Nub - 50° 55' 30" N 115° 41' 00" E

No guessing where we are going
We are enjoying the lovely weather here and the lack of tourists.  A good portion of the joy I get out of being here comes from the solitude.  Hiking all day and seeing four or five other groups helps to let my mind wander.  I am not concerned with how fast or slow anyone else is; I am not overhearing other conversations; I am not seeing discarded trash on the trail.  If we are taking turns at the front (as the trails are often single track), I can sometimes forget I am with anyone.  The scenery seems bigger and draws me in more. The quiet gets into me and I end up solving the world's problems in my head.  It's pretty awesome.

View from the Nublet
As we had fresh legs, we decided to hike up to The Nub, which is part of a series of high points called (in ascending order) the Niblet, the Nib, the Nublet and finally, the Nub.  We made it to the Nublet and the weather seemed to be turning.  The one day of forecast rain was coming from the west.  As we were above the treeline and the path to the Nub was a ridgewalk with a drop to the leeward side, we decided not to chance it.  Half an hour after we turned back to go to Elizabeth Lake, the clouds blew past and it turned into a gorgeous day.  Kate rounded a corner and frightened, and was frightened by, a hoary marmot.  It scampered over the rocks before either of us could bring a camera up to catch it, but it reminded us just how high up we were.

A rock made of ... rocks?
The geology is quite interesting - we both remarked on this huge boulder that was made of what looked like river-smoothed rocks.  There seemed to be rocks of all colours, composition, cleavability, weight ... it would keep a geology nerd fascinated for days on end.

Tramping around Elizabeth and Sunburst Lakes took up the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon.  I'm glad to have a whole week here, as there are many trails to explore.
Click to see more details of this hike

Sunburst Lake and the Nublet
Looking at Lake Magog and Mt. Assinaboine

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Mt Assiniboine - 50° 54' 31" N 115° 37' 04" W

Helicopter.  This is certainly the way to get into the backcountry.  Despite delays due to roadworks on Highway 1 and our car overheating, we managed to get into Assiniboine, albeit on a later flight.

View across Lake Magog meadows towards Mt. Assiniboine
The scenery was amazing.  We flew up Bryants Creek, almost touching the treetops as we rounded Cone Mountain.  Wonderful views of Marvel Lake, we went around Mt Cautley and the red rooftops of Assiniboine Lodge and Naiset Huts came into view. What a glorious location!  Snuggled in the large valley, looking across Lake Magog to the lofty and majestic Mt Assiniboine that soars to 3,618m. The alpine meadows are ringed by peaks with the odd glacier cascading down.

We are staying in Aster Hut, a rustic hut sleeping eight in double bunkbeds.  There is no electricity, wifi or flush toilets.  The cookhouse is very well equipped, the joy of which is we need only carry in food and sleeping bags and by flying in 'heavy', we will hike out the 26km 'light'!

Aster Hut
Inside our cosy cabin
In the cookhouse, planning tomorrow's hike

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Ha Ling Peak - 51° 03' 51" N 115° 23' 59" W

The Peak from the saddle
I am King of the World!
Gord Pettigrew, a recent import from Winnipeg, expressed a desire to climb a mountain peak from bottom to top.  And where better to do this than a scamper up Ha Ling Peak (2,407m) towering above Canmore.

 It was a beautiful day, glorious sunshine, not too hot.  In the 5.5km round trip, the elevation gain is over 850m, a good cardio workout for those of us maintaining our fitness a little shy of peak!

We reached the summit in time for lunch so enjoyed spectacular views up and down the Bow Valley, the Spray Valley and over Goat Range.  There was much more chatting on the hike down as we were all able to breathe!  A beer at The Rose and Crown capped the day off beautifully.  Gordon was impressed with the hike and is now eyeing off other peaks to conquer!

The reward at the bottom!
On the summit of Ha Ling

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Calgary Winter Club - 51° 05' 33" N 114°05' 41" W

Hanging with Alena!

One of the perks having the flexibility of time we currently enjoy is the ability to just hang out. One of our favourite hanging buddies is our 3 y-o great niece, Alena.