RockyMountainScrambler: Blog https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog en-us (C) Brigid Scott (RockyMountainScrambler) Fri, 07 Jan 2022 22:15:00 GMT Fri, 07 Jan 2022 22:15:00 GMT https://rockymountainscrambler.com/img/s/v-12/u403618107-o229237241-50.jpg RockyMountainScrambler: Blog https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog 90 120 Great Divide Trail Section A - Days 6-7 https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2022/1/GDT-sectionA-days6-7 Day 6: July 6/21 Barnaby Ridge to Southfork Lake and Lynx Creek CG

We awoke to clouds, but soon the sunshine burned them off and we were awarded with alpenglow on the surrounding peaks; this was extra special, since this was the first time we actually got to see what it was like in the area surrounding us, since the clouds had been low the evening prior. We did a bit of bush whacking to get out of the forest on the ridge, and soon we were ascending the ridge leading up to Barnaby Ridge Summit. It was an absolutely gorgeous morning, even if I didn't get my usual coffee to help wake me up. The sunshine hit us as we made our way up the ridge and we layered down. 

Orange spray paint on rocks marked the way along the base of the ridge cliffs, and I marveled at how high above the valley bottom we were.  Mashed potato clouds were still floating above the prairies as we made our way to the point in the hike where we would need to do some light scrambling - none too easy with a big pack on.  Making our way up, we helped each other out with best routes until we popped up onto the ridge.  The morning view was sublime. We took videos and photos (Sean even FaceTimed his GF back home) and had a quick snack.  We needed to make up for our lost time from yesterdays abbreviated hike, so we continued on up the rocky ridge. 

This next stretch of the route was spectacular. We kept stopping to look over the edge of the cliffs and we even found some snow to help supplement the 750mL of water we had each at the start of the day.  I would scoop some snow into my mouth and then take a sip from my water bladder and let the warm water melt the snow for a nice refreshing sip.  Travelling along the long red ridge, we ascended and descended many times. We eventually realized we could see down to Castle Mtn Resort. Although this high route is no doubt more of a challenge compared to the regular route along the valley, I have zero regrets taking it, and would definitely chose to do so again. 



         
              Almost to our high point above Southfork LakesAlmost to our high point above Southfork Lakes Looking out to the north from above Southfork LakesLooking out to the north from above Southfork Lakes
At the top of one of the higher points, we looked down the ridge to what we realized was the peak above Southfork Lakes.  There was a bit of cliff negotiating, but we managed to all get down to the wide lower ridge for our last gentle ascent up to the "summit". Although we couldn't stay long, since now we were all out of water, the views were lovely. Descending down meant getting a better view of the lakes, and a glorious panorama of the valley.  Steeply, we made out way down to closest Southfork Lake, and then decided to push on down to Barnaby Lake were there was an official campground, so surely a better access to water and some shelter from the sun (it was 12:30pm).  I was pretty hot, hungry, thirsty, and grumpy by this time, but when we walked into the camp and found shade near the food prep I plopped down happily and started prepping our coffee and breakfast wile Mark grabbed water from the lake.  We drank and ate and laughed. 

Dropping down to Southfork LakesDropping down to Southfork Lakes Southfork Lakes panoSouthfork Lakes pano

At 1:45pm we made our way out of the campground and down the forested trail.  The wind was whipping, and there was a section of trail that was hot and open and exposed to the elements.  We made our way quickly down the increasingly steep trail and eventually into the trees; we were 7km from our last high point, and 1100m lower. An hour after leaving our lunch spot, we were crossing the West Castle River, which we had been slightly worried about, but for apparently no reason. It was less than knee deep and moving quite slowly. Not long after we put the shoes back on, we began a hot road walk.  I put my facecloth on to cover my neck, as I could feel the sun beating down hard. In about 2 km we were to take a left off the highway and head up into the aspens. The trail ascended steeply up through the forest and then opened up to grassy hillsides with a nice view across to the mountains that we had spent our morning hiking along.  I reapplies sunscreen to my burning hot calves, but then realized that I must have brushed up against some Cow Parsnip, because I was starting to rash up good. We ascended the forested ridge and took a snack break at the top at kilometer 19 for the day.  We had hiked up 360m in 2.5km and it was very hot - my shirt was soaked with sweat. We had a fairly gentle 12km descent to Lynx Creek Campground and it was 5pm. The trail was mostly forested and muddy ATV trails, and we told animal stories to each other to help pass the time. We saw many animal prints along the way, including bear. 

Heading down to the valleyHeading down to the valley Road walk & looking back up at our morning ridgewalkRoad walk & looking back up at our morning ridgewalk Road walk before heading north to Lynx CkRoad walk before heading north to Lynx Ck

We trudged into camp at 8pm, and I lay down in our site with my feet propped up on the picnic table.  My legs were radiated pain and I had to do some deep breathing to get through it.  Once it subsided I helped with the last of putting up the tent, and then making supper. We found a good tree to hang our food, and then crawled into the tent to pass out in no doubt record time.

The last km to Lynx Ck CGThe last km to Lynx Ck CG
Distance: 32.7km     Elevation: up 1370m down 1900m



Day 7: July 7/21 Lynx Creek CG to Coleman

We awoke early to get a start on another long day. Sean set off as we were enjoying our coffee, as he wanted to be in Coleman earlier to enjoy some time off as he wasn't taking a zero day in Coleman (we would be). As we said our good byes, I realized how much I would miss seeing him off in the distance.  A much quicker hiker, he'd often accelerate to his own comfort zone, but would break eventually and we'd catch up and visit.  It was a lovely game of inchworm, and I would miss it.  Since we were taking a zero day, he would quickly get ahead of us, but we exchanged our Garmin info so that we could still chat every now and then - he would msg us a few times to let us know of any issues on the trail. 

After our breakfast, we took off, first depositing Marks very smelly socks in the camp dumpster on our way by. It was relatively early start at 6:45am, and the air was still cool as we walked out of the campground and back to the road.  We found a lovely campsite across the bridge down by the river, but I think that the neighbouring cows would have made for an interesting night if anyone choses to camp there.  A left turn at the junction took us past cows and fields of grass and wildflowers. Considering our big day yesterday, we were both feeling pretty good and were up to the challenge of another 30+km day. 

The walk along the Lynx Creek road was pleasant, with a set of water falls, bluebird sky, and mountain views to keep us content. After about 3km, we took a side trail up towards Willoughby Ridge.  It was a steep and rutted ATV track, but once we busted up onto the ridge, the expansive views made up for that.

Smoky views southSmoky views south
 

We could see some smoke coming in from the south, which was disappointing, but the north skies still looked relatively clear. We passed by tall Cow Parsnip, and I was glad I had decided to wear my leggings (actually my pyjama bottoms) since I had some wicked burns from the previous days encounter with them.  The oils they produce plus sunshine can produce an allergic reaction in some people, and I'm one of the unlucky ones. 


Regardless of my hot and rashy calves, the views were stunning.  We took a break at a spot labelled "flat spot" on the FarOut app, but pretty much carried on along the ridge continuously. The sight of Crowsnest Moutnain beckoned us, and we made quick work on the rail, despite the shot put sized rocks that threatened to turn our ankles. 

Willoughby Ridge looking northWilloughby Ridge looking north

The trail headed down now to the Lynx Ck Road that we had left this morning, and we watched a white truck drive along, and then a couple atvs. We stopped to fill up our water at a bend in the trail before it headed up to meet the road. We were so happy to be on the road that neither of us checked the map and we gleefully started down the road, chatting about how lovely it was to be able to take full strides and how pretty the mountains were, like Turtle Mtn to the NE, which we reminisced about summiting a few years ago. 

Ridgewalks & wildflowersRidgewalks & wildflowers Crowsnest MtnCrowsnest Mtn Looking south from Willoughby RidgeLooking south from Willoughby Ridge Heading down to Lynx Ck RoadHeading down to Lynx Ck Road

As we turned a bend in the road I got a weird feeling and checked the app - sure enough we were were on the wrong route.  We had just walked 1.5km towards Blairmore.  Both irritated at this mistake, we angry-hiked the distance back to the junction and carried onto the correct route. What was already going to be a long day was now a bit longer. Fortunately, hiking in the mountains in a good way to get rid of a foul mood, so it wasn't long until we were marveling at the beauty around us again. We had a short chat with a gentleman that was setting up the markers for the Sinister Seven Race (I don't know how anyone RUNS on that route without doing serious damage to an ankle or two), and met more than a few ATVers that were out for a summer ride. The first crew looked worried for us and told us to be safe, and the second crew stopped and chatted us up about what the heck we were doing.  Overall, very friendly encounters.

One of the many puddles on day 7One of the many puddles on day 7 Road walk into ColemanRoad walk into Coleman Road walking and DaisiesRoad walking and Daisies The last steps of Section A!The last steps of Section A!
We stopped for a break in the shade and some water at Haven's Bridge campsite. The shade was lovely but the flies were relentless. More road-walking ensued and a few more atvs and motor bikes and soon enough we were switch-backing steeply down the road to cross York Creek bridge, and we hobbled down to put our aching feet in the (very) cold water and have a bite to eat. It was only about an hour now until town and we were tired but excited and proud to be done this first section of the GDT.   The rest of the route was a pretty simple road walk into town, and we ended our Section A at the bridge going over the Crowsnest River where we would pick up in two days on our way north again. Our friends picked us up and brought us to our motel for resupply and a few rounds of burgers and beers, and the next day was spent doing laundry, repacking our bags, and eating a lot of food.
Distance: 32.6km     Elevation: up 1080m down 1130m

]]>
(RockyMountainScrambler) alberta backcountry backpacking camping canada canadian divide explore great lakes landscape mountains national Park rockies thru-hike thru-hiker trail waterton https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2022/1/GDT-sectionA-days6-7 Fri, 07 Jan 2022 22:15:22 GMT
Great Divide Trail Section A - Days 4-5 https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2022/1/GDT-sectionA-days4-5 Day 4: July 4/21 Twin Lakes Camp up Sage Pass; Ridgewalk to Scarpe Pass Camp

The alarm went off at 6:30am and we lay cozy in our sleeping bags for a few minutes and talked about if we should pack up before going to food prep for coffee and breakfast. The urgency to use the washroom and the need for caffeine made the decision easy.  I was feeling pretty lazy, so I didn’t even change from my sleep clothes, just put on my puffy jacket and toque due to the early morning chill. The lake was like glass, and I captured a few pictures of the early bluebird morning as Mark boiled water for our coffee.  I add coconut powder and hot chocolate mix to mine for a nice backcountry coffee. Relaxing the in the scenic food prep, we boiled a second round of water for our freeze-dried breakfast – Mountain House Breakfast Skillet which we jazzed up with shredded cheese, instant potatoes (usually four cheese or buttery), and yellow peppers. As far as backcountry breakfasts go, its one of the best we’ve tasted, and with our additions, makes for a 400-500cal start of the day, each.  I always scoop a few more spoonfuls into Marks bowl, since he requires more caloric intake.

Twin Lake, Waterton Lakes National ParkTwin Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park Upper Twin Lake ReflectionUpper Twin Lake Reflection Breakfast of ChampionsBreakfast of Champions

About an hour later, after cleaning up, we returned to our tent, and pack the packs for the days journey to Scarpe Pass.  On our way out of camp, we grabbed a quick pic of ourselves at the meadow food prep, and then grabbed water for the day from the lake outlet on our way out to the junction that would lead up to Sage Pass, our first pass of the day. We were happy with our “on trail” time of 8:20am, since we didn’t have a particularly long day ahead of us. Turning onto the Sage Pass trail, we switchbacked up through the forest, gaining better views across the valley, and spotted our last ridge crest that we had come down the evening before. A grouse, AKA trail chicken, was playing the victim as we inadvertently chased it up the trail. We tried to shush it off gently, as we were obviously stressing it out.  Often you don’t see the grouse before it takes off into the bush, with a LOUD flurry of feathers that’s startling enough to make your heart leap into your throat.  As the trees thinned out, we approached the red-rocked Sage Pass and paused briefly to take a video of the sign indicating the elevation of 2131m. It wasn’t a terribly scenic pass, but as we hiked through it to the north, the views opened up and we spotted the interesting looking mountains that we would be hiking by later that day.


On the way up to Sage Pass, looking back to yesterdays routeOn the way up to Sage Pass, looking back to yesterdays route Looking North of Sage Pass to the ridge we'll be hiking soonLooking North of Sage Pass to the ridge we'll be hiking soon

The trail headed east through another burned section and headed down through bear grass tufts.  As the trail turned north again and started to head down into the valley, our guts told us to check the GPS app – sure enough we were to NOT follow the trail down, but instead head up through the forest to the ridgeline.  Once we realized the way to go, we spotted a few small cairns that we had initially missed, which eventually led us up the hill to the ridgeline, and an awesome view down to Lost Lake. The air smelled smoky, and appeared hazy to the SE. As we were standing there looking around, Sean caught up to us and we all sat down for a snack together on the scenic ridge. After a few photo ops, we put the packs back on and headed up the ridgeline. 


Looking back to Sage Pass from the RidgeLooking back to Sage Pass from the Ridge Views North of Sage PassViews North of Sage Pass Montana MountainsMontana Mountains Ridge hikingRidge hiking On the ridge and looking down to Lost LakeOn the ridge and looking down to Lost Lake

There wasn’t much of a trail, but it was obvious from the GPS track that we were to more or less follow the ridge.  Every now and then a trail would appear and justify our decisions. Looking back at Sage Pass, and the big mountains to the south (in Montana), I paused to take the camera out of my chest case and snap a few shots; the scenery was spectacular. I took many pictures this day, as most of the hiking was above tree level. We came to a flower filled meadow and paused to capture the bright red/pinks of the Indian Paintbrush, and then a few hundred metres later, an abundant display of Glacier Lilies. There were the most perfect white clouds accentuating the blue skies, and what with the ridge walking and vast views, I paused often to take a video on my phone. The goal was to capture footage for an eventual video compilation that I would upload to my YouTube channel. 

Paintbrush looking back to Sage PassPaintbrush looking back to Sage Pass The hike was a photographers dreamThe hike was a photographers dream Heading North to the next set of PeaksHeading North to the next set of Peaks

We crossed a swath of snow and crossed paths with a large group coming from “Paradise Camp” which we later figured must have been either the camp at Font Creek or Jutland Creek. It was strange to see so many people (8?) after not seeing anyone but Sean since we left Lineham Overlook. As we continued to wrap around the ridge, we’d periodically stop for a photo op when the cliffs would jut out and give us a great view – which was often. I was keeping my eyes pealed for the ridgetop canyon that so intrigued me from a picture in Dustin Lynx GDT Book and as we hiked down to a lower section of ridge, I was pretty sure that I could spot a geographical area that looked similar to what would be expected. After a short snack break we continued onto the snow covered ridge, and sure enough came to the canyon. It was SO neat. Mark went first so that I could get some photo and video footage and then Sean and I followed through. The snow was slippery as we made our way between the wide canyon walls, with the northern peaks rising out of the head of the canyon.

Ridgwalking for many kilometers.Ridgwalking for many kilometers. Avens and CliffsAvens and Cliffs The views on the ridges north of WatertonThe views on the ridges north of Waterton Heading towards the ridgetop canyonHeading towards the ridgetop canyon Heading towards the ridgetop canyonHeading towards the ridgetop canyon Ridgetop CanyonRidgetop Canyon Ridgetop CanyonRidgetop Canyon

After exiting the canyon the trail headed to the eastern side of the ridge and descended the mountain to the meadows at Font Creek. We stopped in camp to refill water from the cold stream. The black flies were quite annoying but there was a nice spot to sit in the shade by the stream for our 30min lunch. We crossed the stream and did a bit of sleuthing to find the trail, which we finally did. It led up through a larch and pine forest to a ridge crest with nice views of Mt Matkin through the trees. Heading down, I marveled at how green this forest was – not burned like in Waterton, and not red and grey like the pine beetled trees back home in Jasper.  Winding down and down, we hit a trail junction and one of our first GDT emblem nailed to a tree. I saw it as I came down the hill and was so excited – it was the first “proof” that we were on this great journey. We carried on through the trees past a pretty stream or two until we arrived at Jutland Creek camp. It was a soggy entrance into the camp at food prep, but otherwise it would have been a fine place to camp. We sat down on the log stools for a snack and a coffee to boost our energy stores.

Font MountainFont Mountain GDT MarkerGDT Marker
Mt MatkinMt Matkin Mt MatkinMt Matkin

There was a trail that led up trail through some campsites and some old camp trash (looked like an old stove), but dwindled as we came to a wet area. Not able to find the trail, we back tracked back to food prep and then to the wet area – there had been a trail marker there that I had noticed, and sure enough it led up to the trail. We headed up through the trees and crested the ridge as the trail worked its way down through a large boulder field (the boulders were large, the field just a normal size). It was quite warm out and that “are we there yet” feeling was popping up in my mind as we trudged – I mean hiked – along. There was an open bedrock area that we feared was the camp, but we didn’t spot Sean (he had gone ahead), so we pressed on. In another couple hundred metres we came upon a clearing, another trail marker, and Sean. Happy to be at camp, we set up our tents and had a nice warm afternoon nap with the fly off and the flies buzzing outside. After our afternoon siesta, we went in search for the elusive water source that was purported to be a couple hundred metres north of camp.  Water source found, although really just a trickle, we rinsed the sweat off and filtered water for supper. Mark had found a good bear hang before our nap, so went to retrieve our food and we sat in the meadow away from our tents and prepared our freeze-dried meals. We had tried dehydrating some meals (spaghetti) but it ended up being more work and less flavourful than we had hoped, so we had mainly Mountain House and Alpine Air meals for the duration of the summer, supplemented with instant potatoes and cheese for both of us and ichiban noodles for Mark (to increase his caloric intake). Sean had dehydrated his meals and seemed to enjoy them well enough. We chatted away and gazed up at the ridge that we were to ascend the following morning. Deciding on a 6:30am departure, we tidied up and rehung the food bags before heading to bed.

The start of the ridgewalking up to La Coulotte Peak (at Scarpe Pass)The start of the ridgewalking up to La Coulotte Peak (at Scarpe Pass) Matkin and Font from the northMatkin and Font from the north Font Mtn from the northFont Mtn from the north Font Mtn from the southFont Mtn from the south
Distance: 17km     Elevation: up 840m down 740m


Day 5: July 5/21 Scarpe Pass Camp up La Coulotte to Barnaby Ridge

We woke up early as planned to get a start on what was supposed to be a big day to Southfork Lakes.  The weather had other plans for us - the clouds were low and our meadow was enshrouded  in fog. As we ate our breakfast and had another cup of coffee, the clouds lifted enough so that we could almost see the top of the ridge we were to ascend. Deciding that was as good as it was going to get, we packed up our tents and bags and set off at around 8am. After ascending the very steep ridge, we popped up into the clouds on top and had some relatively easy ridge walking, if not a bit wet from the moist air, for a few kilometers. Although we had no views of the surrounding area, due to the low cloud, it was still not a bad way to spend the morning.

GDT Trail MarkerGDT Trail Marker Into the cloudsInto the clouds Are we still on the route?Are we still on the route? Wide saddle after ridge descent before another ascent.Wide saddle after ridge descent before another ascent. Back into the cloudsBack into the clouds La Coulette is in sight...kindaLa Coulette is in sight...kinda

Thankfully our GPS was working fine, as we had to keep checking it to make sure we were on track still, high above the mashed potato clouds. Stopped by the end of the ridge, we checked the GPS, and then did a scree ski down to a broad saddle. After emptying out our shoes, we ascended up the next ridge, eventually wrapping around to the base of La Coulotte Peak.  We had a snack and a sit down and surveyed the scene - the clouds had lifted a bit so that we could see the majority of the ridge leading up to the summit, but the summit ridge was still obscured by clouds. Heading up the steep summit wasn't technical, but it was tiring. There were wildflowers and singing birds along the way, and the clouds drifted by in a pretty manner. Breaking up past a small cliff band, we realized we were on the last of the summit ridge when we saw the large summit cairn.  Although our views were almost completely obscured, we felt accomplished for making it to the peak.

Ready to tackle the peakReady to tackle the peak Route up La CoulotteRoute up La Coulotte Looking back at the ridge leading up to La CoulotteLooking back at the ridge leading up to La Coulotte Looking back at the routeLooking back at the route Lots of reasons to stop tp take a photograph on the way up (thank goodness)Lots of reasons to stop tp take a photograph on the way up (thank goodness) Summit wildlifeSummit wildlife Valley bottom through the lingering cloud coverValley bottom through the lingering cloud cover Summit ridgeSummit ridge

We had lunch and watched an entertaining chipmunk, but then decided that we should probably continue on our way since it was after noon and it's not like we were enjoying the view. As we were trying to figure out the best route off, the clouds started to clear and we were afforded sunshine and blue sky. Sean took the cliffs to the east of the summit block down, and we wrapped around to the west to cross under the summit block and met him on the ridge leading north. There were a few more sketchy cliffs to get around, one requiring Mark & Sean to backtrack and ascend back up to wrap around to where I had found a safer weakness in the cliff. Soon enough we were making our way down the ridge towards the red rocks of the next one.  A little gem of a lake (West Scarpe Lake) was siting at the base of the cliffs to the east, and looking south back up at La Coulotte Peak, we could finally see the morning's ridgewalk that we had done - it looked much more impressive without the clouds.
FinFin

Because of the hard hike up to the peak paired with the tardy start due to the weather, we were a bit behind schedule  Sean offered to drop down to Grizzly Lake to get us all water, and we continued on, at our slower pace.  Another ascent up to a peak, with some more clouded in views, and then down the ridge to more red rock and peekaboo views through the clouds down to the valley. This time it was Ruby Lake that shone brightly in the green valley below.

Looking south to our morning ridge walkLooking south to our morning ridge walk West Scarpe LakeWest Scarpe Lake All the ridgelinesAll the ridgelines Looking towards the next peakLooking towards the next peak West Scarpe Lake and La Coulotte PkWest Scarpe Lake and La Coulotte Pk
 

I was completely pooped due to the steepness of the trail and that 35lbs on my back, but not as tired as Sean was when he rejoined us on the trail after dropping down 1000ft to get the water. In retrospect, a person should definitely end their day at Grizzly Lake Camp, but we pressed on hoping to make it past the high point on Barnaby Ridge, although I as starting to seriously doubt those chances. There were a few spots of interesting maneuvering to get around and off the cliffy portions, one which involved Mark passing my pack back to me once I got down and around the sketchy area. Luckily it was flagged, as I would not have believed that was the way we were to go - evidently the flagged route was much preferred over the past work around. 



Barnaby Ridge PanoBarnaby Ridge Pano

After a bush whack of the most irritating kind (also wet), we made it through the forested ridge top and started to see sights of the (clouded in) summit of the next ascent.  Pausing at an opening in the forest, we noticed an old fire ring and decided to stop for a snack. In the span of about 10 minutes, the sky was thundering and lightning and then opened up for a pour.  We were able to get the tarp up on time that we didn't get wet, and we got cozy underneath and checked the weather report.  Not good news - lightning storms and rain was forecasted for the rest of the evening. We decided it would be stupid to make for the summit, so we had a light supper and set up our tents after the rain stopped; I was so tired that I wasn't that disappointed that we couldn't continue on.  Luckily we gathered some of the rain water from the tarp, but we were still low on water (Mark and I split a Freeze Dried meal to conserve). We all remembered there being a large pile of snow about 1km back, so after setting up camp we went in search. Confusingly, we made it all the way back to the end/start of the bushwhack, and had no desire to revisit those shenanigans, so we gave up. Slightly deflated, we returned to camp in the rain and headed to bed. 

 

Distance: 16km     Elevation: up 1380m down 1250m



 

 

 

 

 

]]>
(RockyMountainScrambler) alberta backcountry backpacking camping canada canadian rockies divide explore alberta great divide trail landscape mountains national thru-hike thru-hiker trail waterton lakes National Park https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2022/1/GDT-sectionA-days4-5 Wed, 05 Jan 2022 21:42:01 GMT
Great Divide Trail Section A - Days 1 - 3 https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2021/12/GDT-sectionA GREAT DIVIDE TRAIL 2021, SECTION A

Looking Back at Lineham Lakes before descending to the valley.Looking Back at Lineham Lakes before descending to the valley.

Day 0 – June 30/21 Road Trip

It’s a sunny and warm day and Mark & I are all loaded up to head down the Parkway to Waterton to start our Journey!  We have said our good byes and I’ve hugged and kissed my cats a hundred times. Our wonderful friend Kirstie has volunteered to transport us down to the border and will be hiking with us the first couple of days.  We are super excited but have a fairly long road ahead of us.  We both took a personal day for the last day of school so that we could take the whole day for the travel down.  Its 800km from Japer to Waterton, and we will be staying at a cabin just outside the park, which was provided to us by another friend, Andrew– I sent him some of my photographs to use in his wonderful hiking books last year and he contacted me when he heard we were going to hike the GDT and offered the use of his cabin for our first couple of days.  Thank you, Andrew!

After grabbing some road trip snacks, we head south – which will be the only time we’re heading that direction for another 6 weeks until we arrive in Jasper and then flip-flop1 up to Kakwa Lake to hike south back home to Jasper. There are some huge thunderclouds rising from behind the peaks as we drive down, a testament to the heat wave that has been occurring this past week.  We are lucky to be starting on the tail end of it and will only have a couple days of the 30-40C heat (today’s high hit 37C).

We make good time down the parkway and chat the entire time about school (we know Kirstie and her husband Chris and their daughter Hayley from teaching together in Whitecourt, AB), common friends, and of course the big hike, specifically the resupplies.  I have organized all our resupply boxes and Kirstie, Chris, and/or Hayley will be bringing them to us as we make our way North. Mark and I are beyond grateful to have such amazing friends who will do this for us – there is a LOT of planning that goes into planning a thru-hike of 1200km, and knowing that our resupplies are taken care of is an immense relief. The first drop will be in Coleman, AB (our first zero day2), then Baril Creek (they will hike in 9km with our fresh supplies), then Kananaskis Lake (second zero day), then Healy Creek (they will hike in 6km again), then Field, BC (3rd zero Day), then Saskatchewan Crossing (a nearo day), then Pobokton Creek (Hayley will hike in our supplies), which brings us back home to Jasper AB. We have arranged for a supply drop in the wildlands of the Willmore Wilderness via an outfitter we call Kakwa Dan – for a sizeable but completely worthwhile fee, he will hike our week resupply up to Blueberry Lake and stash it in a bear hang for us to find.  It will mean we only have to hike with one weeks-worth of food at a time, as opposed to hauling the entire two weeks-worth.

The sun is low in the sky as we pull into the very scenic driveway of the cabin. The peaks of Waterton and beyond to Glacier are on the horizon.  After unloading our stuff, we crack a cold beer and sit on the porch and use the binoculars to spot mountains that we know and/or have climbed in the two parks. We also trace the skyline north and envision the unknown trail that awaits us past Waterton.  Most of the trails in Waterton/Glacier National Parks are very familiar to us as we have spent extensive periods of time exploring the area.  On day 3, when we get to Lineham Pass and drop down to the valley, we will be on brand new terrain all the way to Coleman, and then further north yet till we reach the junction of trail that leads to Marvel Lake. After that the trail will all be familiar all the way north until we take a left to GoodSir Pass off of the Rockwall.  We are excited to revisit the what we’ve hiked in the past and also stoked to see the new terrain.

As the sun set around 10pm, we settled into our bed and tried to get some sleep before we start the biggest adventure on which we’ve ever been.

[1] On a thru-hike, a flip-flop is a change in the original direction you were travelling.  Occurs due to weather and other reasons such as remote access to trailheads.

[2] A zero day is a day were no distance is hiked, similar to a nearo day, when not much distance is hiked.

The southern peaks of Glacier National Park, MTThe southern peaks of Glacier National Park, MT Binocular viewing of Waterton at duskBinocular viewing of Waterton at dusk Mountain sunsetMountain sunset


Day 1: July 1/21 Waterton Lake

We’re up early at 6am so we can get a jump start on the heat of the day. The three of us make coffee and breakfast to go and head back onto the road into Waterton. Today’s journey starts at the Bertha Lake Trailhead, which undulates through the forest along the shore of Waterton Lake to the International Boundary. After the “first day of hiking picture” Kirstie, Mark , and I head onto the trail at just before 8am.  Its only 18C and the trees proved shade for the first bit, until we break out into the sunny hillside of Bertha Peak. The Kenow Fire of 2017 becomes evident as we hike, but the wildflowers and returning vegetation are a reminder of how important fire is to an ecosystem. In about 30min we get to the bench that overlooks the huge lake and take a short break before descending back down to the lakeshore amid beebalm, gaillardia, columbine, trillium, harebell, etc.  We also go through a rocky section with a cliffy overhang, and then through some more forest until we hit an avalanche chute and sit down for a snack. It is quite warm, so we continue along through the forest and come out to a real nice beach at ~4km ad another at ~5km. 

Morning hiking along the lakeMorning hiking along the lake The bench over looking Waterton LakesThe bench over looking Waterton Lakes Gaillardia and Queens CupGaillardia and Queens Cup
When we get to a shaded forest with a bridge that crosses Bertha Creek we take some time to filter water, wet our hats, and enjoy the shade. You’d think that a trail along a lake shore would be relatively devoid of elevation, but by the end we have ascended a total of 500m overall. That said, we took advantage of many of the scenic beaches along the way, and weren’t in too much of a hurry. By the time we got to the border monument it was 10:45am and it was HOT. We sat in the shade and then on the dock before settling on the shore with our feet in the very chilly water.  Lunch is enjoyed chatting to our new friend Sean, with whom we’ll spend the later half of section A hiking.  We swap stories (he lived in Jasper for a time) and discuss our respective itineraries – he is a speedier hiker and plans to finish in 45 days while we stretch our journey out to 60. After lunch we say our “see you laters” and head back on the pretty trail back to the townsite. We meet a few more thru-hikers along the way, and say our hellos.  As we get closer to the townsite it is now above 30C and we are thinking about sitting on the beach with a cool one, which we do….after we walk from the Bertha trailhead to the trailhead were we will start the next morning at Cameron Falls. Supper is Subway eaten on the hot but scenic benches overlooking Waterton Lakes at Maskinonge Beach, and then back to the cabin to post to IG/FB and prep for the next day. We have one more day of "slack packing" before we have to load up our big packs and start north to Coleman, and it's nice to enjoy the couch to sit on as I write in my journal and chat with Kirstie about the next day. 

Distance: 14km     Elevation: +520m

Border Monument  - composedBorder Monument - composed To the south lies the beginning of the Continental Divide Trail that runs all the way down to MexicoTo the south lies the beginning of the Continental Divide Trail that runs all the way down to Mexico The Official Start to the Great Divide Trail!The Official Start to the Great Divide Trail! The shade in the forest was most welcome on this hot day.The shade in the forest was most welcome on this hot day. Aspens and regrowthAspens and regrowth Kirstie enjoys cooling her feet at the end of the hike.Kirstie enjoys cooling her feet at the end of the hike.


Day 2: July 2/21 Carthew-Alderson

Up and at ’em early again, and a repeat of the previous mornings activity. Cameron Falls is somewhat busy and we chat with a man that is astounded at what we will be doing for the next 59 days. At 8am we say goodbye to Kirstie for the day; she will pick us up at the Rowe Lake TH (where we will start our Day 3) and we’ll head back to the cabin. The day is nice and cool as it is slightly overcast, although the sun is trying to break through and lovely sun beams are over the lake to the south. We hike up the valley with great views of Crandell Mountain down into the canyon. We cross a few streams and past many ferns and through the burned forest up the flank of Bertha Mountain. We make good time and arrive to Alderson Lake for an early lunch. The flies are ridiculous and the heat is making a comeback.  Alderson Campground is very pretty and we wish that we had stayed here – a completely reasonable itinerary would have been to go tag the border and then hike here to camp.  Maybe next time *wink.

Heading up the valley from Cameron FallsHeading up the valley from Cameron Falls Kenow Fire of 2017 burned extensively in WatertonKenow Fire of 2017 burned extensively in Waterton Fern gullyFern gully One of many trail streamsOne of many trail streams Trail stream long expo (used a downed log for balance)Trail stream long expo (used a downed log for balance) Alderson LakeAlderson Lake

As we leave camp, Sean rolls in from the Boundary Campground (like I said, he’s a speedy one), and we chat briefly. We exit the campground and continue heading up the valley towards a waterfall. The views open up and we look down onto Alderson Lake nestled beneath the towering Alderson Peak. Stopped at a switchback for a picture, something catches my eye – there is a wad of toilet paper stuff under a rock that is billowing in the breeze. I roll my eyes at the ignorance of some people.  If you need to go number two on the trail, the appropriate course of action is to go off trail 40m, dig a 6” deep cathole (always carry a trowel) and then bury the evidence.  We find some more rocks to cover up the mess and then carry on. 
The valley out of Alderson lake was full of waterfalls and mountain viewsThe valley out of Alderson lake was full of waterfalls and mountain views Alderson LakeAlderson Lake Heading up to Carthew LakesHeading up to Carthew Lakes

The views are now open all the way out to the prairie and we do a couple switchbacks to the left of the waterfall and pop out at the Lower Carthew Lake. Having hiked this trail before, we have seen the beautiful view, but it stuns us nonetheless and we stand for minutes in the wind, enjoying the scene. We decide that it's so pretty that we should sit by the lake and have another snack to prolong our time here. A few people pass as we enjoy our snack of salt & vinegar hickory sticks.  I take a couple of pictures to send to Kirstie & let her know we are slightly behind for pick up time. The signal is weak and the message finally goes through and we pack up to continue.  The trail wraps around the north shore of the lake and then crosses the outlet beneath a waterfall, where we gather some water. 
Lower Carthew LakeLower Carthew Lake The waterfall in between Carthew LakesThe waterfall in between Carthew Lakes

The trail crosses up some snow and then a few switchbacks over the waterfall coming from the upper lake. After a few minutes of steep up hill, we arrive at the Upper Carthew Lake and we appreciate the ice/snow shelf at the head.  We wrap around again and head up a bigger snow patch up to the "shelf" above the lake.  Fabulous views back and ahead through the proliferous alpine wildflowers. The views just keep getting better and better as we ascend the trail through the red rock.  After many stops for pics and to catch our breath, we make the final push to the high saddle over looking the lakes. To the east are the prairies and the blue gems of the Carthew Lakes, and to the west are the massive peaks of Glacier National Park, including Mount Chapman, with the jewel of Wurdeman Lake nestled at the base. 

The trail leading up to the passThe trail leading up to the pass Ice shelf at Upper Carthew LakeIce shelf at Upper Carthew Lake The alpine wildflowers were profusiveThe alpine wildflowers were profusive Out to the prairiesOut to the prairies
Carthew LakesCarthew Lakes Chapman Peak and Lake WurdemanChapman Peak and Lake Wurdeman

We take a nice sit down break and take more pictures and send a message again. This view is a favourite of ours since we have spent so much time in Glacier - we have even stood on top of Mt Chapman and looked south to where we are sitting now. Reminiscing about past adventures, we eat our snickers bars, drink water, and reapply sunscreen. Not wanting to get too behind, since Kirstie is picking us up at the trailhead, we end our break and head down the steep scree trail towards summit lake. The trees are burned from the 2017 fire, but the wildflowers are beautiful- we even spot some Bear Grass. Hiking down, we wrap around the bowl and have to negotiate the trail around some steep snow.  The fire must have burned hot here, because there is still barely any growth on the blackened ground. The trail starts to head directly through the trees to Summit Lake and leads us to a stone path that spits us out at the lake...right next to some more human feces. I'm not sure what allows a person to justify leaving such a deposit next to a trail, let a lone a water source, but I'd like to think there was some outstanding reason, and that it wasn't just ignorance or lack of common sense. But then you'd think they would do a better job of burying it, or in the very least, transport it to an area away from trail and water. So perhaps voluntary ignorance and a general lack of concern for their fellow hikers is a more likely cause. Sigh. 

Heading down from the passHeading down from the pass Wurdeman to your mother.Wurdeman to your mother. Resting the feet and enjoying the viewResting the feet and enjoying the view

After a quick break to appreciate the peaks lining Summit Lake we headed back on the trail and towards Cameron Lake.  We needed water, but did not want to filter from the compromised water source we had just left - of course we filter our water, but the knowledge of feces so close to the source was enough to make us wait. Hearing the stream before we saw it, we cut off the trail and over to the small but clear water.  Using our pump, we filled our water bottles and chugged some of the chilly liquid.  Back on trail we saw that if we had just stayed on trail 20 more metres, we would cross the stream on a bridge. 

Chapman Peak from the shore of Summit LakeChapman Peak from the shore of Summit Lake The burned forest on the way down to Cameron Lake was quite prettyThe burned forest on the way down to Cameron Lake was quite pretty Down to a very busy Cameron Lake.Down to a very busy Cameron Lake.

Continuing along through the burned forest, the views across the valley opened up and we spotted Cameron Lake, glistening in the sunshine.  Rowe Peak, Akamina Pass, and Forum Peak form the west side of the valley and we appreciated the views before diving down into the forest. Once again, we've been on all three of those peaks/passes, so we recalled past adventures as we hiked through the forest.  We broke back into old growth forest as we neared the lake, and started to hear how busy Cameron Lake was.  Wrapping around the outlet, we were now dodging dayhikers and lake enthusiasts. A short break on the benches was all we could stand; we were still in a pandemic of course, and that was the most people that we had been around all day. We hit the pit toilets in the parking lot before starting the very hot and tiring road walk to Rowe Trailhead down the parkway. We hiked the shoulder facing traffic and had to step into the ditch several times as vehicles passed by. It's unfortunate that there isn't a trail along the roadway, as it is a very scenic stretch, but not ideal to walk on the pavement. Passing Bear In Area signs, we called out around corners to let any potential wildlife know of our approach. As we neared the parking lot at 5:30pm, we saw Kirstie and waved excitedly at her. The road walk was a kilometer more than it should have been according to the maps, so we were very happy to get into an air conditioned vehicle and crack a beer.  We traded stories about our day as we drove back into town to grab supper and head back to the cabin to relax and chat. There was a particularly beautiful sunset to the SW, and I grabbed some pretty shots of the peaks of Glacier reflected in the pond out front of the cabin. I posted as much as I could on my socials, knowing that soon I wouldn't be able to share our adventures until we were back in service on day 7 in Coleman. We packed and repacked our big backpacks in preparation for our next section of trail, and then headed to bed as the sun set behind the mountains. 

Distance: 25km     Elevation: up 1200m down 800m
Carthew "summit' panoCarthew "summit' pano Sunset at the cabin was a delightSunset at the cabin was a delight Chief Mountain - I've been up there!Chief Mountain - I've been up there!


Day 3: July 3/21 Tamarack Trail to Twin Lakes Camp

I didn’t sleep well last night due to thinking about what the GDT had in store for us now that we were officially donning the big packs and starting off north. Slackpacking the first two days was a really nice way to break us into all the walking, but we were both excited to actually head off into the wilderness now.  We cleared our belongings from the cabin and packed into the truck for the drive to Waterton. Saying good bye to Kirstie at the Rowe Trailhead (where we left off yesterday), we headed up the trail. It would be another 5 days until we would see her (and Chris) again when we arrived in Coleman.

The Kenow Fire had not spared this lower section of forest, so we had fairly decent views of the valley leading to Cameron lake as we rose up the hillside. Eventually we hit forest that had escaped the burn, and we were grateful for the shade.  We ran into a pair of friendly hikers and chatted with them a bit on the trail and then again when we got to the beautiful Rowe Meadows. They hadn’t brought a water filter, thinking they’d just go on a little hike, but now that they were on the trail they wanted to push to the scenic Rowe Lakes. We filtered some water for them so that they could continue their hike – we’ve had some really kind people help us on the trails throughout our hiking career, so I’m always grateful for a chance to return the favor to fellow hikers.

Entering Rowe MeadowsEntering Rowe Meadows Rowe Meadow selfieRowe Meadow selfie Heading up out of the meadowHeading up out of the meadow Ascending the Tamarack TrailAscending the Tamarack Trail

As we snacked and filtered our own water, we eyed up the steep ascent as it wrapped around the bowl of Rowe Mountain up to Linehan Ridge. We had hiked this area a few times, but not with backpacks carrying 5-days’ worth of gear.  Deciding that we would take lunch at the Lineham Lakes overlook, we decided we better get going and get the climb done before it got much hotter. Up we went through the forest and the breaking out of the treeline we hiked past an increasing number of wildflowers. Glacier lilies, then skunkweed (which is much prettier than it sounds) and other alpine flowers. Passing by a large swath of snow, Mark grabbed some to stuff into the pocket of his hat due to the heat. We were on the tail end of the heat weave, but it was still plenty warm, especially considering the degree of our ascent.

Above treelineAbove treeline Glacier LilliesGlacier Lillies Looking backLooking back Heading towards Lineham Overlook (Lineham Peak on right)Heading towards Lineham Overlook (Lineham Peak on right)

The red rocks of Waterton makes for a beautiful hike on their own, but then all the wildflowers paired with the stunning view out the valley makes Lineham Ridge a spectacular hike.  Make sure to stop at the Lineham Lakes overlook on your next trip – at the end of the long switchback, before turning right, you should see a faint trail that heads towards Lineham Peak. Take it, and enjoy a clifftop view of the jewels of the high valley glistening in the sun, and the impressive peaks of the horseshoe that makes up the cirque. Directly across is Mount Blakiston, then following left to the red tip of Hawkins Peak, around the ridge to where you are and then following up the right to Lineham Peak. We chatted with some people up here as we ate our lunch – they seemed confused as to what hike they were doing, and it seemed as though maybe the had bitten off more than they could chew.  From their description of the All Trails report, they were planning on doing Lineham Peak, which has a scrambly bit down into the avalanche debris, but they were under the impression that it was just a hike. We gave them the details of what to expect and then carried on our way up to the second highest point on the GDT. First we had to take the long switchback out of the bowl, and climb up the steep block of rock leading to the high point.  I was sweating plenty, but the elevated views were stunning.  We followed the orange markers along the ridge and enjoyed the wide open vistas as we walked in the wind for which Waterton is known.

Lineham Overlook is slightly scenicLineham Overlook is slightly scenic Lineham Lakes & Blakiston PeakLineham Lakes & Blakiston Peak The ridgewalk leading to Lineham PkThe ridgewalk leading to Lineham Pk

Heading back onto the Tamarack TrailHeading back onto the Tamarack Trail High point on Lineham Ridge (L)High point on Lineham Ridge (L) Second highest point on the GDTSecond highest point on the GDT

Alpine CinquefoilAlpine Cinquefoil Taking a moment on the high pointTaking a moment on the high point Skunkweed looks prettier than it smellsSkunkweed looks prettier than it smells Looking down to the valley we'll be soon walking alingLooking down to the valley we'll be soon walking aling

We enjoyed the views along the broad ridge, every now and then making a detour so we could peek over the edge. Approaching the far end of the ridgewalk, before the orange markers led down towards the valley bottom, we sat and had a snack overlooking Lineham Lakes, with Lineham Peak at the end of the hanging valley. The trail traced steeply down from the ridge and wrapped around the northern wall of Rowe Mountain, sending us deep down into another burned Waterton Valley. Deciding that instead of the Tamarack Trail this should be called the Waterton Rockwall, we appreciated the cliffs that surrounded the head of the valley and continued hiking to the east of the precipitous divide. 

Looking Back at Lineham Lakes before descending to the valley.Looking Back at Lineham Lakes before descending to the valley. Time to descend off of Lineham RidgeTime to descend off of Lineham Ridge

The forest was once again burned, the soil was dark, and the flowers abundant.  We spotted bear grass right before pulling over at a little pond from which to filter water. It was hot. The trail undulated along the spine of the rock wall and we hiked a little less enthusiastically, due to the heat and sun beating down. Sunscreen was applied often, but the silty dirt from the trail made a fine mess of it on our skin. Sean caught up to us at a stream crossing where we were rinsing off our arms and legs and dipping our hats into the freezing cold water to cool down. We chatted briefly, and then headed off on the trail together, chatting where the trail allowed. A steep section led through the forest and up to the crest above Lone Lake, where a sizeable snow drift had survived the early summer heat. Wrapping around to the right of the drift allowed somewhat easy travel through the snow and trees back to the bare trail. Sean took off, eager to get to camp. Down we went, with views of the lake at the head of the cirque. The trees had been saved here, except for the area that had obviously been terminated in an avalanche event. We crossed the outlet of the lake by carefully walking over few well-placed logs, and then hiked up to say "see you later" to Sean as he set up his tent. A quick look around at the unique food prep, and we were back on our way beside the spine of the Rockies, through meadows, past tarns (one fouls smelling one), and up and over a couple more ridges.  We stopped, tired, for a snack break as the sun dipped behind the rockwall, and the mosquitos took advantage of our stationary position.  Continuing on, we called Hey Bear more frequently in the dusk-like light, and made one more ascent up to a sunny ridgecrest. One last down! We wrapped around yet another cirque and spotted Twin Lakes twinkling in the evening light. Marmots called from their rocky perches as we hiked by, and we arrived at the meadow leading to the campsite at around 8pm.  We split up duties, with Mark getting water filtered and supper ready, and me going to chose a site and set up camp.  I hiked by a tent with the fly off - the people inside were either not as tired or dirty as we were, and/or just not concerned with privacy. I quickly set up our tent at the back of the campground and arrived back at food prep as Mark was setting our freeze-dried meals aside to rehydrate.  Down a few meters to was a nice place to wash up in the lake (meaning rinsing the layers of dirt off my legs and face, but never with soap), and appreciate the peaceful scene. We ate our hot meals and talked about our favourite parts of the hike so far. Pooped by the days adventure, we resigned to bed shortly after, and a buck deer walked through our site as we tucked into the tent at just after 9:30pm.

The Waterton Rockwall extends from Rowe Mountain to Sage PassThe Waterton Rockwall extends from Rowe Mountain to Sage Pass Almost back to treelineAlmost back to treeline Kenow fire helped with the viewsKenow fire helped with the views Grabbed water at this pondGrabbed water at this pond Many meadows along the routeMany meadows along the route Lower Twin LakeLower Twin Lake

Distance: 25km     Elevation: up 1500m down 1200m
 


 

 

]]>
(RockyMountainScrambler) alberta backcountry backpacking camping canada canadian rockies divide explore alberta great divide trail landscape mountains national thru-hike thru-hiker trail waterton lakes National Park https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2021/12/GDT-sectionA Mon, 06 Dec 2021 16:00:00 GMT
Mount Willingdon via North Molar Pass and Pipestone Gap ️️⛰️️ https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2021/12/mount-willingdon-via-north-molar-pass-and-pipestone-gap Banff National Park Backpack/Scramble Trip 

Aug 27-31, 2020

Total Distance and Elevation Gain: 80.5km, 3720m

Day 1: Trailhead to Fish Lakes Campground 15.75km, 765m

It was a sunny afternoon when we crossed the Icefields Parkway after parking at the Mosquito Creek Hostel.  The trail starts on the north side of the bridge and heads up through the forest and then eventually evens out for the 5km hike to Mosquito Creek Campground. The campground is situated nicely in the trees with the food prep area beside the river.  Definitely a nice place to stay if you were limited by the distance you could hike or were travelling with short hiking partners with early bedtimes.  After crossing a bridge, the trail became a bit rougher (roots & mud), but we made our way up through the forest and occasional flowery area to a large expanse of alpine meadows and mountain views at around 8km from the trailhead.  Walking slowly on the braided trail, we stopped often to appreciate the beautiful surroundings.  We were also trying to spot the route a person would take over "Mosquito Pass" or "Quartzite Col" although we were fairly certain the route to the latter turned off before the meadows. The outlet of little Mosquito Lake made a good spot to fill up our water bottles and have a snack while we eyed the route to the high pass. North Molar Pass is evidently one of the highest in the Canadian Rockies, at 8500ft (2590m), but the trail appeared to switchback nicely up to the tight col situated at ~12km from the trailhead.

North Molar Pass MeadowsNorth Molar Pass MeadowsIt does take 8km to break free of the forest, but it's a nice hike through the trees. Looking back at the meadows and Noseeum PeakLooking back at the meadows and Noseeum Peak Hiking towards North Molar PassHiking towards North Molar Pass

Pausing to appreciate the view back to the meadows.Pausing to appreciate the view back to the meadows. Popping over North Molar Pass and heading down toward Fish LakesPopping over North Molar Pass and heading down toward Fish Lakes Hiking towards Molar MountainHiking towards Molar Mountain

We crossed the outlet, appreciating all the cotton grass tufts as we hiked up toward the pass. The trail got steeper and the mountain vistas opened up further as we made our way closer.  The surrounding peaks of Mosquito Mountain and the small peak to the SW of the Pass look sharp and rubbly but very interesting. Once at the pass, the views extend down towards Molar Mountain to more alpine meadows.  Down we went the briefly steep trail to the meadows and then we trekked through the green and flowery alpine to a creek that gradually increased in size to a stream that eventually required a bridge to cross.  If you want a good view of Fish Lakes, before the trail turns right towards the bridge, head up to your left to a hill with a fabulous view of the area. See the pics below (second row, middle pic) of the pretty views.
Some more meadows on the way to campSome more meadows on the way to camp Pulsatilla Lined TrailsPulsatilla Lined Trails Backpacking the Canadian RockiesBackpacking the Canadian Rockies  
Hiking trail and mountain streamsHiking trail and mountain streamsBefore this trail bends right, walk left up to the hill overlooking the Lakes. An overlook of Fish LakesAn overlook of Fish LakesThe view from the brief off trail walk up the hill to the left of the trail. Waterfalls head down from the meadows to Fish LakeWaterfalls head down from the meadows to Fish LakeYou can see the bridge at the top of the water

After our brief off-trail break appreciating the high meadows and view down to the lake, we returned to the trail and crossed the bridge. The trail then descended down through sub-alpine forest to finally arrive at the Fish Lakes Campground, at almost 16km.  We picked a campsite, set up the tent, and then went down to the lake for supper. As the evening light descend onto the valley, we chowed down on our yummy meals and enjoyed the scene.

Cataract Peak from Fish Lake CampgroundCataract Peak from Fish Lake Campground Supper time!Supper time! Evening light on the mountains to the east of the Pipestone RiverEvening light on the mountains to the east of the Pipestone River Gorgeous Fish LakeGorgeous Fish Lake Alpenglow in the backcountryAlpenglow in the backcountry

Day 2: Fish Lakes to Devon Lakes + Pipestone Nublet: 18.45km, 695m

Since it was going to be a fairly long day, we were up and on the trail by 9am...which might not be early to some people, but we very much enjoy having a coffee or three in the morning.  And when you are situated by such a beautiful lake, you want to take advantage of that coffee view. And after taking ALL the reflection pictures, I sat down to enjoy breakfast.  Our fave backcountry breaky is the Mtn House Breakfast Skillet - the secret is adding yellow/orange bell peppers, a handful of shredded cheese, black pepper, and instant potatoes (just enough to soak up any extra water).  They are a little pricey, but I made myself sick of oatmeal a few years ago and split between the two of us it's a good hearty start to a day of adventures. 

Happy Moments in the Backcountry   Clear Waters Blue Skies Morning Mountain GoatWe watched this goat traverse the cliffs across from Fish Lakes
Good Morning from Fish Lakes Campground Coffee and SunshineFish Lakes Sunrise Fish Lake ReflectionsFish Lake Reflections Sub-Alpine MeadowsSub-Alpine Meadows Heading NW on the Pipestone HighlineHeading NW on the Pipestone Highline Moose Lake, Pipestone Gap (top right), and the NubletMoose Lake, Pipestone Gap (top right), and the Nublet Cotton Grass and Creeks abounded on the Pipestone TrailCotton Grass and Creeks abounded on the Pipestone Trail Moose LakeMoose Lake The beautiful Upper Pipestone TrailThe beautiful Upper Pipestone Trail
Iceberg LakeIceberg Lake Backpacking panoramasBackpacking panoramas Refilling our water bottlesRefilling our water bottles The peaks of the Siffleur ValleyThe peaks of the Siffleur Valley The red rock around Pipestone GapThe red rock around Pipestone Gap

We headed out of the campground for a few hundred metres and then took a left at the fork in the trail.  The right trail heads down to the Pipestone river and then wraps around to complete the Molar Pass Loop, which we would like to check out in the future. As it was, the trail descended to a warden cabin situated in a beautiful meadow with views of the surrounding mountains.  We hiked past the outhouse and down to the creek.  Some searching had to be done for the best way to rock hop across - which was no easy feat with ice on the rocs and surrounding vegetation - but we made it across with just one wet boot out of four. Shortly after crossing the creek, the trail switchbacks up for about 15-20 min to a beautiful meadow and then travels at a downward trend to Moose Lake, with impressive cliff walls and wet meadows of cotton grass everywhere.  As we hiked along the trail in the sunshine, fully appreciating all the mountain views, we felt SO grateful that we booked into this trip! Maybe it was the great weather, or maybe it was because it was the last of MANY great trips this summer, but this trip felt special.  Hiking past streams and alpine lakes and meadows, we made our way towards Pipestone Gap.  As we neared, we noticed the "nublet" of a bump between the Pass and the Gap and decided we would definitely try to get up it so as to gain a superior view.  We headed up the red trail and wrapped around to the gap - there was a sign indicating that hikers were to take the high route (the one we had been on) as to protect the Grizzly Bears and other wildlife that used the lower Pipestone River route. Honestly, the high route was some of the prettiest country I've seen, so the bears can have the low route! We had a quick break while we eyed a route up to the Nublet Peak, and then headed up! It was a 15min grunt up and wow was it worth it! We spotted some beautiful blue lakes and the wall of mountains that paralleled the Siffleur Valley. After a satisfactory amount of "wows" and "look over theres!" we headed back down to the pass and made a cup of coffee for the last push up and over Clearwater Pass to Devon Lakes. 

On top of The Gap NubOn top of The Gap Nub Gap Nub views of the Siffleur ValleyGap Nub views of the Siffleur Valley We called this North Cracker Lake cuz it reminded us of a lake in MontanaWe called this North Cracker Lake cuz it reminded us of a lake in Montana Studying that mapStudying that map Looking back at where we travelled from.Looking back at where we travelled from.

Although we berated ourselves for not making the coffee on top of the nublet, we were out of the wind and the sun was beating down on us nicely.  Late August in the Rockies is often chilly, and this trip was no different. Caffeinated, we headed back onto the trail and down the valley to the junction leading up to Clearwater Pass.  Around 90min later we were cresting the pass with the impressive Mount Willingdon dominating the scene.  As we paused to take in the scene, a movement caught our eye.  At first we thought Mountain Goat, but then it became evident that the loping motion was that of a wolf.  We watched as the large whiteish grey creature stopped to look back at us, and then turn and bound up into the rocky cliffs at the base of Devon Mountain.  It. Was. Awesome. 

Walking through the Siffleur Valley towards the junction for Clearwater PassWalking through the Siffleur Valley towards the junction for Clearwater Pass Can you see the tiny wolf? It can see you!Can you see the tiny wolf? It can see you! Zoomed at 140mm and then cropped a lot!Zoomed at 140mm and then cropped a lot! Looking back at where we spotted our wolfie friend, beneath Devon Mtn.Looking back at where we spotted our wolfie friend, beneath Devon Mtn. Looking back towardLooking back toward Heading into Clearwater Valley - Looking at Mt WillingdonHeading into Clearwater Valley - Looking at Mt Willingdon   One of the three Devon LakesOne of the three Devon Lakes

There are three lakes in the valley and we had been instructed by Parks to head to the last two for the camp that was in the shelter of some trees. As we headed down the valley, we did find a good campsite that would have been great for our approach of Mt Willingdon the next day, but we trusted the site that Parks wanted us at was better...and oh my goodness it was! Despite hiking a km too far down the trail (head for the outlet of the large first lake and rock hop across), we made it to the upper two Devon Lakes and set up our tent in one of the most scenic places I've ever tented.  Now, remember folks, you DO need a backcountry permit to camp here, and it takes either a 36ish km hike or a sketchy shortcut route, so keep that in mind.  

Heading towards our designated and reserved campsiteHeading towards our designated and reserved campsite Cool rocks at Devon LakesCool rocks at Devon Lakes Mount WillingdonMount Willingdon

After we set up camp we found a good place to stash our food for the night and a good place to eat our meals. Since we were staying in the alpine, there were no trees large enough to hang our food to keep away from rodents, bears, wolves, etc.  For this trip we used a Bear Bin and a Ursack with a scent proof liner, and although both are efficient, the Ursack was much nicer to pack into our Backpacks. After finding a nice spot down by the lower lakes shore, we ate our meals and studied the route up to Mt Willingdon that we were hoping on ascending the next day, and watched the sun set on the valley and its peaks.

Watching the light travel across Mt WillingdonWatching the light travel across Mt Willingdon Supper time!Supper time! We could see our entire route for the next day.We could see our entire route for the next day.



Day 3: Mt Willingdon: 12.85km, 1185m (Aug29)


We slept in a bit due to a horrendous sleep the night before. There was a very strong wind that sent our tarp flapping very loudly and randomly throughout the night. There was a nice layer of sand on top of our sleeping bags from the wind blowing into our three-season tent. The cloud cover seemed pretty thick, but we could see the mountain tops, so after breakfast and coffee, we headed out with our daypacks. 

Morning light at campMorning light at camp Getting some views back to Devon Lakes after the summer blizzardGetting some views back to Devon Lakes after the summer blizzard

We hiked a trail down past the lower lake to its outlet and then followed a faint route down to a rock-hop water crossing, then up the hill to get back to the trail that lead right to Martin Lakes or left to Clearwater Pass. We walked the trail for a few minutes, eyeing up the best approach to head up the long ridge that eventually intersected the summit ridge leading to the peak. Off we went through the willows and bog to climb up to the ridge, noticing as we went the low clouds that were moving up the valley somewhat ominously. As we hiked up, we kept an eye on them and realized that sooner rather than later we would be IN them. It started to snow lightly, so we stopped and decided the weather wasn't going away anytime soon, so we set up a tarp and prepared to make coffee (obviously). As we got comfortable (or as comfortable as a person can be dressed in all their layers and squished under a one-man tarp) the snow started to really fall and our views of the mountain were obscured. After 90min of huddling under the tarp, we decided to call it a day and head back to camp. We took down the tarp and packed everything away and looked up to see blue sky emerging above the peaks. Well then. There was new snow on the peak but the blue sky and sunshine was enough to make us cancel our cancellation and continue on.  The air was very chilly, so we kept most of our layers on as we headed up, taking a few breaks to appreciate the unfolding panorama. We followed the ridgeline pretty closely, and there was a good trail most of the way. Approaching the large rock at the intersection of the approach ridge and the summit ridge, we walked though white quartz rock that was sand like and fascinating.
A chilly WillingdonA chilly Willingdon One of the many lakes from the summit - looking northOne of the many lakes from the summit - looking north

As we popped up onto the summit ridge, a frigid wind poured over from the north. The view was fabulous, with ice and glaciers everywhere, and a few blue gems of lakes. Stepping back not 10ft was enough to shelter us from the cold breeze and we sat looking down onto the valley that we had just climbed out of. We could see the Siffleur Valley to the west of Clearwater Pass, along with the 3 lakes and one tarn at the foot of Devon Mountain. Looking up to the peak we figured it was going to be further than it looked.  Up we went, fighting the bitter cold wind, past rock with icicles and fresh snow from the storm, and up and over the easy cliffs to arrive at the icy crux. We had read that a person could indeed find passage, but the rock faces were pretty sheer with ice, so we took extra care finding a safe route up to the ledge.  Once up, we walked a few meters north and were pretty happy to find a rope that had been fixed into the rock.  We would have been able to get up without it, but getting down would have been almost impossible, especially with the icy wet rock. Thanking however installed it, we pulled ourselves up and onto the final summit route. The trail switch backed a few times before popping up for a view down to Upper Martin Lakes and the MANY peaks to the north. Turning right, we headed up the last few meters to the peak. We made it! It was cold and still breezy, but the views were phenomenal. We spent time identifying peaks such as Temple, Molar, Hector, Ptarmigan, Columbia, and Glaciers/Icefields such as Bath, Wapta, etc.  The clouds had mostly lifted so we could see countless peaks in all directions.  We made coffee and checked out the summit registry and explored around the ridge. After an hour of ooohs and ahhs, we started our way down, enjoying our triumph, especially since we had thought we were going to have to bail earlier.  Persistence and preparation are two of the most important assets when in the backcountry! We made excellent time down, once again mentally thanking the rope installer (otherwise we would have not bagged the peak!), and stopped a few times as we made our way down the ridges to the valley. We arrived at camp late and I was a tad loopy eating our supper. Our celebratory dinner was Stovetop Dressing, Instant Taters, Gravy, and Turkey Jerky ripped up and all stirred together. If that doesn't sound amazing to you, you are missing out. 

Looking NELooking NE Looking east to the prairiesLooking east to the prairies Sunset, backcountry style.Sunset, backcountry style.
Day 4: Devon Lakes to Fish Lakes 17km, 580m

Since we slept in the previous morning, we made a point of being up before sunrise. Mark went to use the bathroom tree as I got dressed and put in my contacts. When he left the tent, I asked him if it looked like I still had a few minutes - he said yes, the sky was still dark.  Not three minutes later, as I was about to pop in my contacts, I heard him calling to me. I stopped my rustling to listen, and heard a faint "get out of the tent! the sky is on fire!" I guess he was mid-pee when he looked up and saw the colour stared to burst and he panicked a bit. I grabbed my camera gear and burst out of the tent still in my long johns and glasses, saw the incredible colour, and started running carefully down to the water.  Red and orange was erupting across the clouds and we were giggling with glee as we snapped as many pictures and compositions that we could until it eventually faded. 

Good morning!Good morning! Devon Lake Waterfalls long exposureDevon Lake Waterfalls long exposure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark went and grabbed the cook gear and we had coffee down on the beach - and then we made more coffee because I spilled my cup all down my pants when I was grabbing a few more pics of the sun coming over the peaks.  Luckily I had put my rain pants on due to the chilly morning. We headed back to our food prep area and made breakfast and watching the sun slowly make it's way down the peaks.  We did not want to leave, but we were due to stay at Fish Lakes CG again, so after a leisurely breakfast and another cup of coffee, we packed up the tent and headed back out to Clearwater Pass. I was sad to go, not only because we had had such an adventure in this valley, but also because this was the last backpack trip of the summer before we has to go back to school/work. Hiking past all the Devon Lakes we gently ascended to the pass and then headed back down into the Siffleur Valley. The hike back to Fish Lakes was windy but so beautiful and we decided that we wanted to return very much. Pretty much the entire section of trail from Devon Lakes to Fish Lakes is highly scenic and has a wild feeling about it. 

Happy Campers!Happy Campers! The beautiful Pipestone Trail undulates above the valley floor.The beautiful Pipestone Trail undulates above the valley floor. Cotton grass and impressive peaksCotton grass and impressive peaks
Taking in the views of the PipestoneTaking in the views of the Pipestone We called this guy the TurtleWe called this guy the Turtle

We got to Fish Lakes and had the camp to ourselves, which was quite the change from our way in.  It was chilly as we ate in food prep so we went for a bit of a walk around the campground after supper.  We saw an owl flying around and found what appeared to be older campsites further in, and then relaxed in the tent lamenting a bit that tomorrow was our last day.

 

Day 5: Fish Lakes to Trailhead + Pass Overlook: 16.45km, 495m

We woke to a fresh dusting of snow. It was chilly but we managed to keep warm as we went about the morning chores of taking down the tent and making breakfast. It was a gorgeous scene to see, the white powder on top of the mountain scene. We headed up out of the valley and made our way to the pass. The views were stunning yet again, and as I looked around I knew that I would be returning to this area. After we descended the pass we decided we wanted to see what was on top of the rise to the south of mosquito valley.  We made our way over the pond outlet and up the grassy hill to find an excellent overlook of the area. We could see the trail coming down from Molar Pass on one side and the one we had just came down from North Molar. We had coffee and a snack up there (it was chilly) and then made our way down to the trail again, through the meadows, and down through the forest to Mosquito Creek camp. There was a large party coming in and I found myself feeling envious that they were just starting their adventures as we were ending ours. As we hiked along the forest and streams, we discussed our beautiful summer of backpacks trips and decided that tis was  one of our most successful backpacking summer to date. Almost to the trailhead, we hiked past mountain photography Paul Zizka, which was much more exciting for us, than him, I'm sure. We got to the vehicle and put down the heavy packs and had a rest.  It was a great trip and a fantastic summer!

A Dusting of Snow at Fish Lakes Camp

Looking to the east at Fish LakesLooking to the east at Fish Lakes The fresh dusting of August snowThe fresh dusting of August snow
Molar MtnMolar Mtn

 
Heading back up to N. Molar PassHeading back up to N. Molar Pass Looking back down from the Pass.Looking back down from the Pass.

]]>
(RockyMountainScrambler) alberta backpacking banff clearwater devon hikes hiking lakes landscape mount mountains national park pass siffleur wilderness willingdon https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2021/12/mount-willingdon-via-north-molar-pass-and-pipestone-gap Thu, 02 Dec 2021 15:55:14 GMT
Snake Indian Falls https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2020/10/snake-indian-falls Rainbows & WaterfallsTired but satisfied that the struggle was worth it! Jasper National Park Bike Ride 🚴

October 3, 2020 🍂

53km and 956m elevation gain

I am not a biker.  Give me a trail to walk on, no matter how steep and I will hike it happily.  But when I get invited on an epic adventure that is much farther than I could ever hike in a day, I'll suck it up and hop on a bike. So on a sunny and warm October day, we drove east of Jasper, turned onto the Snaring Road, then onto the Celestine Road and drove to the trailhead to Snake Indian Falls.  Celestine Road in itself is an adventure - it's a rough one-way road (high clearance vehicles recommended) that is timed to keep the travelers safe (click here for the details). There are a few spicy sections that may make you nervous, but it is a beautiful drive, especially with all the fall foliage.

       Snaring Road SunriseThe Snaring Road is paved until the turn off to Celestine Lake Road.                               Early Morning AspensSome of the beautiful foliage along the Snaring Road

We parked in the lot at the end of the road and got all of our bikes ready for adventure.  Once onto the trail we crested a short hill and then dove down to the bottom of a gorge and an impressive bridge crossing the Snake Indian River.  Then UP the trail went to gain the ridge that you can see to the east from the bridge. Then you begin the long steady up and occasional down for over 26km on the North Boundary Trail.  We passed the junction for Celestine Lake at around 4km, which next time I would very much like to visit...perhaps just hike in.

Snake Indian RiverThe ridge from the bridgeThe Snake Indian River in Jasper National Park Autumn TrailsOnce on the ridge, the trail goes through the aspens, with occasional mountain views Autumn AspensThe south portion of the North Boundary Trail had many aspens to appreciate.
Autumn Biking AdventuresAutumn Biking Adventures Cotton CloudsI was having a real "are we there yet" moment here, but I was distracted by those clouds Stretching the LegsThe trail goes by this pretty overlook, and I needed a reason to get off the bike! Snake Indian RiverSnake Indian River
 

As we rode the forested trail we passed by another two campgrounds (Shalebanks and Seldom Inn), a few large piles of bear scat, and around 7 logs that we had to dismount to get our bikes over.  There were a few scenic spots were we had snack or butt breaks.  After passing the last campground, it wasn't long before we were at the spur trail leading left to the falls.  We stashed our bikes out of the way and then walked (stiffly) down to the overlook to the falls.  After some photos, we headed to the rocks jutting over the falls for a snack or two and some much needed coffee. It had taken from 10am to 2pm to bike to this point (including bum rest breaks), so we weren't in much of a hurry to get back on our bikes, but we were also cognizant that fall daylight hours are limited.  We made our way back up to the bikes at around 3:30pm, after a good 1.5h spent basking on the rocks.  

Snake Indian Falls - Wide AngleSnake Indian Falls - Wide Angle Snake Indian FallsSnake Indian Falls Snake Indian Falls - From beside the fallsSnake Indian Falls - From beside the falls

I was in a bit of pain, as I have never biked for that length of time or distance, so I taped my Thermarest pad to the hard bike seat and adjusted it forward slightly.  Although I was NOT looking forward to the ride out, it was indeed more downhill than up and my seat adjustment eased the pain a bit...either that or I was numb, which does the trick, too.  The ride out was actually much more enjoyable, and we stopped once at the creek for another coffee before we crossed it. I'm really glad we decided to do this at the height of autumn colours as it made the long journey more interesting.

Padded SeatTrust me, this needed to happen Crossing the CreekThe rocks were slippery, but the water level was pretty low. A good day on the trailA good day on the trail Leafy TrailsLeafy Trails

We made our way out and managed to roll into the parking lot at just before 7pm as the light was fading to dusk. Luckily we had another 30min left in our "outward bound traffic" (even if we came across three vehicles that didn't seem to see the importance of abiding by these hours).  We usually go for a customary burger and beer post adventures, but everyone was so tired we all went our respective ways.  Although my butt hurt for a full 5-6 days after the trip, I do recommend it, especially if you do get on a bike occasionally. 🚵‍♀️
 

Happy trails! 🍂
 

 

]]>
(RockyMountainScrambler) alberta autumn backcountry backpacking bike ride camping canada canadian rockies explore alberta jasper Jasper National Park landscape mountains national north boundary trail https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2020/10/snake-indian-falls Sun, 18 Oct 2020 19:34:10 GMT
Sunset Pass ️️⛺ https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2020/10/sunset-pass Backcountry Camping at Norman Creek, Banff National Park 🏕️
 

September 25-27, 2020

After work on Friday, we zipped down the Icefields Parkway to the trailhead for Norman Lake.  We loaded up and headed up the steep trail at 6pm - it is around 4.8km and 580m of elevation gain - and arrived at the meadows in which the campground sits at around 7:30pm.  It was getting dark, so we set up camp and started a fire to enjoy with our supper. 

Arriving to CampIt was almost 7:30 by the time we made it to camp, which in the fall in the Rockies means it's getting dark! The next morning was a chilly one so we slept in a bit before the need for coffee was too much.  We sat in our camp chairs and drank it while looking out at the meadows beneath Mount Coleman. The food prep area at camp was behind and the the left of our chairs in the picture below, complete with firepit, and two small picnic tables.

Good MorningWhere we sat and drank our beverages in camp :) Our goal was pretty relaxed: wander around the meadows and find Sunset Pass.  We loaded up our daypacks and headed out the trail exiting camp. The fall foliage was gorgeous - red, oranges, and lots of yellows covered the meadows as we wandered along beside the creek.  We came to a fork in the trail - it was obvious the trail across the creek to the right (northeast) would head to sunset pass, but we were curious about where the trail to the left (southeast) went! We followed it along a slightly mucky trail along a creek with a few interesting features.

Autumn Hiking in Banff National ParkA view of Mount Coleman on the way through the meadows to Sunset Pass Autumn WanderingHiking along the horse trail east of Norman Creek campground in Banff NP
We came out to a clearing with a shallow and reflective part of the creek that had another fork in the trail and decided to break for pictures and lunch.  After our munchies we opted for the right hand trail, thinking that maybe we would backtrack and take the left hand trail if it didn't work out.  Soon we could hear the sound of the creek as it ran through a small slot canyon.

Rampart ReflectionsLooking at the backside of the Ramparts in the backcountry of Banff   Backcountry ReflectionsAutumn hiking in the Canadian Rockies
Our pace slowed as we were distracted by all the cool waterfalls and the small canyon that they ran through.  I think this was one of my favorite parts of the day!
Waterfall AdventuresExploring the mini slot canyon on our way to the horse camp. Secret CascadesA miniature slot canyon along a horse trail in Banff National Parl

As we were searching for an easy way to get back across the creek, we spotted a bridge and a tipi made of old fence posts. It seems as though we found a horse camp (after we got out on Sunday we researched it and it was indeed a horse camp). We explored around and found some campsites and a large picnic table and firepit. There were a few trails to leading away from camp, so we picked a trail to continue on and it ended up wrapping around to our lunch spot! We crossed the creek and then headed back to the meadows from where we had originally forked off.

Hidden CampThe bridge leading across to the Horse Camp Mountains and TipisLooking back towards the camp - tent sites to the left of the tipi, and food prep across the river to the right. Heading back to the main trail Mountain Meadows

After we got back to the original fork and crossed the river, the skies started to cloud up.  By the time we walked the meadows and started to enter the forest, we were treated to a white out blizzard for a good 30min as we hiked up towards the pass. As we neared the pass, the sun came out again and blue skies again made an appearance.  A trail sign indicating the Banff/Wilderness Border led us to pause at the top of a hill.  We noticed a slight trail to the northwest and decided to take it.  The trail opened up and it became apparent that we needed to get on top of the ridge that led towards the peaks at the west end of the great meadows. We made our way up and the scenery opened up for us (the wind did too!).

Windy RidgewalksLeft is Mount Coleman, and you can see the high point on the ridge at the centre. The Corner of BanffAs we hiked along the upper ridge we came across this sign - we swept the now off of it and then too the picture.

We gradually made our way higher and higher up the ridge until we came to the small summit. Stopping for a snack break, we relaxed on the rocks and appreciated the views. We could now see the lower trail that worked its way down to the now visible Pinto Lake in the Cline Wilderness. It was decided that we would make our way off the ridge down to the lower ridge overlooking the lake. 

Ridge Summit ViewsLooking down into the Cline and Whitegoat Wildernesses from a small summit on the edge of Banff National Park

Winter is ComingLooking past the small summit towards Mount Coleman add beyond        Mountain FlowA close up of where I thought the horse camp was situated.
The MeadowsLooking back towards camp and Mt Amery, which is located on the other side of the Icefields Parkway. Descending the RidgeHeading towards the lower ridges overlooking Pinto Lake
We worked our way down the ridge and then cut across towards the lower ridge, knowing that we'd eventually hit the trail.  As we crossed it and hiked to the ridges over looking the lake, we could see a few cairns lining the ridge.  Although I had taken many photos if the lake from higher up, I couldn't help but take more. Although it was sunny, the chilly wind nudged us back to the trail and we headed back towards camp. 

Pinto Lake OverlookA tiny hiker gives the scene some much needed scale Late Afternoon Light         Back to CampHeading back onto the main trail and back to camp for supper.

We headed down through the forest and popped out at the eastern end of the meadows. The late afternoon sun against the autumn golds made for some beautiful shots, and I paused many times on our way back to camp.

When we got back to camp there was another party camped at one of the three empty sites. We said hello and then started our supper while we sipped our beer - luckily it had stayed so cool all day, they were nice and cold. We built another fire and chatted about our successful day of adventuring.  Mark realized that he had accidently left his bear spray at the waterfalls when he had taken off his pack...oops! We also spotted the small summit on the ridge to the east that we had stood upon a few hours earlier.  The light started fading and the alpenglow on Mount Coleman slowly signaled the end of the day. We stayed up a bit with the fire, but we were pretty pooped from our full day of adventuring, plus we wanted to be up for sunrise. 

                           The Summit Ridge             Early Autumn Evening

Morning came early (although not summer early) and it was quite chilly - our water bottles were frozen as were the edges of the creek.  We carried our chairs and coffee and breakfast making gear down to the creek to prepare for sunrise and breakfast. There were a few pink clouds of which I captured a long exposure, but it was mostly blue skies and alpenglow that kept us entertained as we hunted for great compositions.

After many coffees and and appropriate amount of ooohs and ahhhs, we decided we should get camp packed up. The goal was to hike across the meadows towards Mount Coleman and find Norman Lake, and then head down the trail to the junction, then up the path to Sunset Lookout.  We've been to the lookout a few times now, an didn't look forward to carrying our big packs up, but we've always enjoyed the view from there, so that was the plan!  As we headed across the bridge out of camp with our packs on, we stepped off the trail and headed in the direction of the lake.  The willows were bushy, but we made it to the creek exiting the lake in a few minutes. As I snapped a pic, there was a flourish in the water - the creek was packed with fish of various sizes. As we walked along it, we delighted in watching the fish dart by.  We arrived at the boggy shoreline of the lake - it was scenic clear but shallow and full of algae (some seemly pink).

Norman CreekWalking along the creek towards Norman Lake

After the customary pictures, we cut across northwest to where the trail would have come into the meadow from the main trail coming up through the forest.  Joining the main trail, we made short work of the rest of the trail down to the Lookout junction and turned right.  The trail is steep but after 2km we came out to the Lookout and spent an hour or so drinking coffee and basking the sunshine.  Although we didn't want to leave, the call of burgers and beers was enough to convince us to pack up and head back down the 5km to the parking lot. 🍔
Autumn at Sunset LookoutLooking down to the aspens and the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park            
 

 

]]>
(RockyMountainScrambler) alberta autumn backcountry backpacking banff banff national park camping explore alberta jasper Jasper National Park landscape mountains nice" pinto lake sunset lookout sunset pass https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2020/10/sunset-pass Fri, 16 Oct 2020 21:46:02 GMT
Maligne Pass ️️️⛺ https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2020/10/maligne-pass Maligne Pass Backpack Trip

September 11-13, 2020

After work on Friday we headed down the Icefields Parkway to Pobokton Creek Trailhead. We made short work of the 8km of still muddy trail, stopping for quick breaks at the usual places (there are two or so nice spots by the creek).  We turned right at the trail junction and walked the last km or so to camp to set up, blissfully alone.  As we were setting up the tents I looked up to see pink clouds over the river so immediately abandoned my post (sorry not sorry Mark), grabbed my camera gear, and set up by the river.  After that excitement it was time for a fire and supper - our usual freeze dried meals. We like to fancy the meals up by adding fresh bell peppers, cheese, and some instant potatoes if needed.

Backpackers head into the backcountry of Jasper National ParkPobokton Creek TrailBackpackers head into the backcountry of Jasper National Park                              A long exposure beside Pobokton Creek Campground in Jasper National Park.Sunset on Pobokton CreekA long exposure beside Pobokton Creek Campground in Jasper National Park.

The next morning we headed back to the junction and now continued on the north trail towards Avalanche Campground and Maligne Pass. The leaves were turning red and yellow and the river crossings were either bridged, or low enough to rock hop across. Our friend was camping at Avalanche Campground for the night, so we "dropped" her off to get set up and headed up to the pass to find a site in the random camping zone north of Maligne Pass.  The plan was to meet her at the pass and summit Replica Peak, although my knee/IT band had other ideas. Nevertheless, Mark and I headed up the valley and then up through the steeper forest to pop out just south of Maligne Pass.  We headed across country to where we knew there was a sizeable lake to set up camp.

Maligne PassMark heads off cross country sp that we can find a low impact campsite. Autumn in JasperThe meadows were alive with fall foliage as we headed to the camping zone.

After crossing the hummocky landscape and cresting a hill, we came across the lake and found a good place to set up camp.  We hung our food in an Ursack, and then headed back across to meet up with our friend. This is when my knee convinced me that bagging a peak was maybe not a great idea.  Luckily my hiking buddies are laid back and up for any kind of adventure.  We decided to explore the whole pass areas and se how many of the lakes we could find...which was five not including the lake our tent was sitting at or the one at the pass! 

   Home Sweet Home Reflecting Pool with Cotton Grass            Mary VauxLooking north of the pass to the impressive summit of Mount Mary Vaux.

From the lake at the pass we hiked cross country to the west.  We passed by some interesting rocks, some pretty reflecting pools, and some waterfalls. There were two lakes, one above another at the west end of the pass, pictured below.



Heading back south toward our campsite, we hiked down the ridge and then along the large lake.  We passed our campsite and walked around the lake to peek over into the sunken valley to the south. 

Looking SouthCan you see our tiny tent?                                       Wandering the Pass.Hiking Past the largest of the lakes i the Maligne Pass area

After scrambling up for the view above the lakes (pic above), we headed back to camp to prepare supper in our designated food prep area.  We chose a spot by the water 100 or so metres away from the tent.  We boiled water and took some pics and enjoyed the calmness of the area.



The next morning we woke to hazy skies and a calm lake.  The smoke from the fires down south were unfortunately making their way into Jasper and was even making the sun blood red.  We had coffee and breakfast down by the lake again, and after breakfast we explored up on the ridge south east of camp for a nice shot back toward the lake.  Then we broke down camp, packed up, made sure we left absolutely no trace of our presence there, and then headed across the hummocky landscape back to the trail. 
 
 

 

]]>
(RockyMountainScrambler) alberta backpack trip canada canadian rockies hiking jasper Jasper National Park Maligne Pass mountains https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2020/10/maligne-pass Wed, 14 Oct 2020 16:53:50 GMT
Sunwapta Peak ⛰️ https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2020/9/sunwapta-peak Sunwapta Peak, Jasper National Park

1700m and 14km return

September 5, 2020


After parking at the Beauty Creek parking lot at the side of the Icefields Parkway, we skipped across the low stream and headed towards the trees.  We hit the old roadway and saw the cairn indicating the route up through the forest.  After a gentle incline through and over the trees, the trail steepened considerably as we made our way up the mountain. Icefields ParkwayLooking down from our route up to Sunwapta Peak in Jasper National Park

At around 3km and 500m of elevation we started breaking out of the trees and could see the summit, which was still a ways away. The route was pretty straight forward and the trail was obvious until we hit the bigger scree and talus.   We followed cairns for most of the way up until we were close to the summit ridge, at around 6km. We then headed for the edge and were not disappointed with the epic views down and towards Pobokton Pass area.

Sunwapta ScaleA hiker gives some scale to the grand views surrounding Sunwapta Peak. Tangle PeakA hiker looks towards Tangle Peak from the summit ridge of Sunwapta as it juts up from the Icefield Parkway.

After taking a bunch of photos from the ridge, we continued up for about another kilometer until we hit the summit.  There is a large cairn with a pink summit register with Fireball, a Magnum condom, and of course a register and pen inside.  We laughed at the condom, took a swig of the Fireball, and filled out the register.  It was plenty chilly up there, so we made our customary summit coffees and I took more pictures along the ridge, taking care to stay away from the thin cornice (see pic below).
Brazeau BeautyA zoom towards Brazeau Lake finds it peeking out among the cliffs. Icefields GiantsTiny Boundary Peak is dwarfed by the giants of the Columbia Icefield. (Mount Athabasca to the right)
Tangle Ridge A more zoomed out version of the previous shot. Cornice PeekabooWhatever you do, do NOT step on the cornice that abuts the summit of Sunwapta Peak. I took this shot with a zoom lens on my camera, and my feet on solid rock. Tiny Vehicles - 7km of hiking awayWe were the only ones at the Beauty Creek parking lot when we started the hike, but by noon it was full! We didn't see a soul all day though, and when we got back down, our truck was all alone again. Summits ForeverA look north of the summit into Maligne Pass area. Summit View - SELooking towards the tiny (from here) Brazeau Lake, Pobokton Pass and Jonas Shoulder areas, and all the varied splendor of Jasper National Park Sunwapta DownA similar view of the previous shot, but with an emphasis to the area at the foot of the mountain Sunwapta SummitA hiker looking slightly saddened to leave the summit and begin the 1700m descent through crappy scree. Geological GorgeousnessA view south includes some impressive upthrusts and a hint of the smoke that was heading our way from the fires down south.

]]>
(RockyMountainScrambler) alberta Canadian rockies jasper national park mountains peak bagging scrambles sunwapta peak sunwapta peak scramble https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2020/9/sunwapta-peak Mon, 28 Sep 2020 02:07:58 GMT
Maligne Canyon Ice Walk ❄️ https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2020/2/maligne-canyon  

Maligne WondersMaligne Canyon Icewalk Maligne WondersMaligne Canyon Icewalk Ever wanted to explore an icy canyon deep in the Canadian Rockies?  Well then head to Maligne Canyon in Jasper National Park! All you need are some ice cleats and a sense of adventure, but if venturing out into the wild on your own makes you nervous, then contact SunDog Tours. They provide waterproof boots, ice cleats, helmets, a friendly and informative tour guide, and transportation to and from the Canyon.  The tour is about 3h in length and you'll see some amazing and beautiful sights starting right from the parking lot.  You'll head along the river as it dives deeper and deeper into the canyon. There are bridges to cross and icy hills to slide down on your way down through the forest to the canyon floor.  Then it's time to put on your helmet and head into the deep canyon.  You'll see frozen water features and if you're lucky, some caverns with stalagmites and frosty ceilings.  

Bridal Veil FallsMaligne Canyon Maligne Canyon Icewalk

]]>
(RockyMountainScrambler) alberta ice walk jasper Jasper National Park landscape maligne canyon national https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2020/2/maligne-canyon Sun, 23 Feb 2020 02:06:52 GMT
Winter Adventures in Jasper National Park ❄️ https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2020/2/winter-adventures-in-jasper-national-park   Skiing at Pyramid LakePyramid Lake Loop is an easy winter trail.

We recently got asked to give a session on Hiking and Wellness at the NCTCA in Edmonton.  Here are the resources from our presentation :)

 

Resources

a.  "Winter in Jasper National Park"
- visitor guide, activities, trail reports & descriptions, gear rentals, safety references 

b. "Jasper Winter Trails" on Facebook  

- up to date trail updates from the locals that love to hit the trails

c. "The Winter Bucket List"
-Jasper Travel:Tourism Jasper 


 

For our session slide see https://rockymountainscrambler.com/nctca-jasper-adventures
 

]]>
(RockyMountainScrambler) https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2020/2/winter-adventures-in-jasper-national-park Sat, 08 Feb 2020 00:15:50 GMT
Insiders Guide to Visiting the Canadian Rockies https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2020/2/insiders-guide-to-visiting-the-canadian-rockies Pharaoh PeakThe view down to Egypt, Mummy, and Scarab Lakes in Banff National Park. Aug 2017

MagnificentWorld.com recently interviewed me and then put together this great post! Check it out!

https://www.magnificentworld.com/insiders-guide-canadian-rockies/
 

]]>
(RockyMountainScrambler) https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2020/2/insiders-guide-to-visiting-the-canadian-rockies Fri, 07 Feb 2020 23:26:02 GMT
Winter at Wilcox Pass Viewpoint ❄️ https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2019/2/winter-at-wilcox-pass-viewpoint  

The Icefields Parkway approaching the Columbia Icefields. Looking towards Mts Athabasca and Andromeda from the route
 

 

The trail up to Wilcox Pass is one of the prettiest in Jasper, and the view from the top is astounding.  If you are looking for a nice half-day adventure, this has a lot of bang for your buck.  Starting at the trailhead at the entrance of the Wilcox Pass Campground, the path steadily climbs up through the forest for a kilometer before it breaks out into the alpine.  Another 600m or so brings you to a pair of red chairs overlooking the impressive Columbia Icefields area.  The winter trail is usually pretty packed down, but if there has been recent snowfall, snowshoes would be a good idea.  Otherwise, crampons do the trick. 

If you're wanting to go further to thepass (4km from the TH), be warned you will pass through avalanche terrain.

Snowdome and Mt Kitchener from the route up to Wilcox Pass Viewpoint Pausing to take in the winter scene. Red Chairs just over the hill at center. Wilcox Peak Looking behind the chairs. Mountain sheep feeding on the cold slopes. The view from the red chairs at Wilcox Viewpoint Almost to the red chairs
 

]]>
(RockyMountainScrambler) Alberta Jasper National Park Wilcox Pass winter hikes" "icefields parkway" Winter wonderland https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2019/2/winter-at-wilcox-pass-viewpoint Mon, 25 Feb 2019 03:21:39 GMT
Eight Great Hikes in Jasper National Park https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2019/2/GreatJasperHikes Old Farts at Old Fort PointOld Farts at Old Fort Point

"I am often asked, via my Instagram page, what hikes I would recommend to visitors to Jasper National Park.  So I've created a list to which I can refer you wonderful people!  The purpose of the list is to help you narrow down the many options in the area; you will still need to do some research on trail conditions and such to fully inform your trip.  Any distances and times I've provided are approximate, and the hikes I've included are less than an hour from the townsite in any direction.  Click on the name of the hike to conveniently get the Parks Canada information.

Useful maps and apps:

- AllTrails is very useful for locating trailheads and distances/elevation gains 

- National Geographic Maps (available at Tourist Center in town)

Parks Canada - Jasper NP Trails

Notes to make your experience (and others) better:

- Most of the trail heads have a toilet, so please use it and not the bushes.  If you do need to relieve yourself whilst hiking, please step off the trail so that no one can see you and do NOT leave any toilet paper behind. Everybody, including the animals that sometimes drag it onto the trail, thanks you for this courtesy.

- Be prepared! Mountain weather is fickle and can change quickly.  Always have a few extra layers of clothes, including a rain layer. 

- You will never regret packing sunscreen, bug spray, and a snack into your backpack.  And don't forget that extra bottle of water just in case it's longer or hotter than you thought.

- I always hike with Bear Spray attached to my belt, and make lots of noise ('Hey Bear!') especially when travelling through dense bush or before going around bling corners.

- Check with the Jasper Visitor Center to make sure there are no recent trail closures and to grab a trail map.

1. Cavell Meadows

Love glaciers, wildflowers, and towering peaks? Don't mind lots of tourists and an interestingly windy road with somewhat limited parking?  Then Cavell Meadows are for you!  You can hike up to the lookout or continue up through the meadows for a 8km loop.  Please keep to the main trails to avoid damaging the fragile meadows.

You will have to check with the Jasper Visitor Center as the road has been closed for construction on the parking lot, and there are seasonal closures to protect the caribou in the area.  The trailhead is on 93A  around 26km south of town.

2. Valley of The Five Lakes

Want a nice undulating trail that visits five lakes that are different colours of blue?  Starting from the sizeable parking lot 10km south of town on the the east side of Icefields Parkway, this trail has a variety of lengths that you can adjust depending upon your timeline or fitness level.  I enjoy doing the large loop clockwise to take advantage of a longer hike (around 5km and 75-90min).  You will pass by five blue-tiful lakes set in the forest on a easy but undulating trail to follow with many road signs and all junctions signed.  

3. Old Fort Point and Loop

Would you like to get a sweet 360 degree view of the the Jasper townsite area, looking south to the peaks down the Parkway, North to Pyramid Mountain and the townsite, west towards BC, and east down the Yellowhead highway and the Colin Range?

From the parking lot south of town, you have two options.

1. Quickly ascend a steep stair case that is built into the cliff and head up the short but steep trail to the Point (less than 1km). Note, this is very icy in the winter.

2. Take the enjoyable loop through aspens and conifers around to the climax of the top of the knoll over looking the town.  The first section of the trail continues to Valley of Five if you want a longer option, and even continues to Wabasso Lake for an enjoyable day hike. The loop is ~4km and takes around an hour to complete.

4. Lake Annette

If you are looking for a nice easy walk , this would be it.  The "hike"  circumnavigates Lake Annette, affording lovely views of Pyramid Mountain and the Colin Range, and passes by a beach area that makes for a nice place to stop and enjoy the view of Whistlers Mountain and the peaks down the Parkway.   Since this is a short walk, ~1h, the day could be extended in the summer by renting a SUP board from the beach at Lake Edith, a short walk away.  I've walked the trail in all seasons and enjoyed it each time.

5. Maligne Canyon

If you enjoy canyons and waterfalls, then head down the Maligne Lake Road to the Maligne Canyon Tea House.  This hike can also be done from the Sixth Bridge (3.7km) in order to lengthen the day (two vehicles, or out and back) and to experience the development of the canyon system as it rushes down the valley from Medicine and Maligne Lakes.  This can be a busy trail, and please be careful on the slippery sections with the handrails.

6. Beaver Lake

Continuing down the Maligne Lake Road (at 27.3km), past the lovely turn out looking down Medicine Lake, there is a parking lot after a tight curve in the road, on the left.  The trail to Beaver Lake had been washed out a few times, but new bridges have been put into place.  The hike through the forest is lovely and the views at Beaver (at 1.6km) and Summit Lakes (at 3.2km) include the impressively steep Elizabeth Range to the east. If you are feeling energetic the trail does continue to a backcountry campground at Jacques Lake (12.2km), of which I have enjoyed hiking many times in the spring and fall.

7. Bald Hills

At the end of the scenic Maligne Lake Road (44km) is the eponymous Lake.  Wrap around the right side of the Lake and park in the lot.  The hike up to the Bald Hills starts back across the road and provides some of the best views down the valley to the giants at the head of the lake.  It is a decent climb up (610m) over 5km, but it is beautiful.  Across the lake is the Opal Hills hike, another lofty viewpoint down the lake.  If much energy and time is had by the group, both viewpoints can be hiked in the day.

8. Sulfur Skyline

If you are looking for more of a challenge, the Sulfur Skyline has a lot to offer.  Not only is there a hot springs and a restaurant with excellent food and frozen yogurt at the end of this hike, but the view from the top of the ridge is spectacular.  The trailhead is at the end of Miette road an hour east of Jasper townsite, and is a beautiful drive itself.  The 8km hike takes around 2.5-3h and climbs 670m to the beautiful panorama at the summit.  There is no water along this route, so bring an extra bottle.

9. Bonus Option: Morro Peak 

In contrast with Lake Annette, this would be the most challenging hike on this list.  It requires a bit of route finding (there's flagging) and involves 630m of elevation gain, which could be an issue depending upon your fitness and experience level.  However, if you are up for it, it has some very nice views down the valleys as it is situated on the end of the Colin Range.

 

 

 

]]>
(RockyMountainScrambler) alberta bald hills beaver lake canada edith cavell hiking tips jasper Jasper National Park maligne canyon old fort point sulfur skyline valley of the five lakes https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2019/2/GreatJasperHikes Mon, 04 Feb 2019 04:17:20 GMT
Golden Adventures https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2018/7/golden-adventures Want a fun challenge that will take your breath away and make you feel like you're a badass?  Head to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and sign up for the Via Ferrata and Mountain Biking packages!  We started off our July long weekend by heading up the gondola to the summit of Kicking Horse Mountain.  We met our guide, Richard, and he hooked us up with all the gear we would need to safely ascend the route.  After learning the ropes on the practice wall, we all hiked the short trail to the base of the Ascension Route and clipped in.  We started off by crossing a single plank suspension bridge, and then headed around and up the cliffs of the mountain.  The clip that you use that goes on at the beginning follows you along as you go, a constant safety contact with the wall of the mountain.  At each junction, you just slide the clip through the metal plate so that you can continue on through the next section.  We took a short break on a large rock shelf before carrying on to some spicier sections of vertical, and then a wire bridge.  I got to the single length of cable and had to take a breath; it looked a bit intimidating!  But I took another deep breath, slid my safety carabiner onto the section, grabbed onto the wire on top and stepped onto the single cable and started moving across. Whew! (check out my Instagram Channel for a sweet video of the wire crossing).

Making our way up some of the vertical sections.

A few more vertical sections that tested my upper body strength and then I popped out on top of the summit ridge!  Whoo hoo! One last walk of the ridge and we were able to unclip and enjoy the summit.  The weather improved for our time up top and we actually got some welcome sunshine.  After we enjoyed the spoils, we headed down the trail and back to the Climbing Centre to drop our equipment off.   The climbing took about 2h and we we're pooped from the excitement, so we headed down and checked into our suite on the hill with Kicking Horse Lodging.  We headed down to the hot tub and finished off our evening with a lovely soak, and then headed up to our room to relax with some wine in front of the fire place.

Up the summit ridge

The next day, after a yummy breakfast and coffees at Double Black (across from the main gondola), we checked into the Performance Rental Centre for our downhill mountain biking lessons and rentals.  Sander was an awesome teacher and he hooked us up with all the safety gear we needed to negotiate the mountain safely.  We both got shiny red bikes and headed to the mid-mountain gondola to load the bikes and ride it up.  Even through the clouds were low and it was trying to rain/hail on us, we were so stoked.  I was also very nervous,  but Sander took us on a green trail to help me get a feel of the mountain.

 

He taught us things to remember (FLOW - fingers (only use one on the brake), level pedals, outside of the turns, weight balanced according to gravity) and gave us pointers for improvement.  Our second run down we headed onto a blue run, which I was nervous about, but ended up being my favourite due to all the fun roly-polies (probably not the technical term).  Since our lunch reservation was approaching, we paused our biking fun and headed up the main gondola to Eagle's Eye Restaurant, "Canada's Most Elevated Dining Experience". 

Our wonderful waitress at Eagle's Eye Restaurant

The lovely host seated us, and our cheerful waitress took our orders.  Lunch was delicious, and the cheesecake that we splurged on was divine.  After a nice hot coffee, we headed back down for another run, this time on our own!  It was super fun to rip down the trails and I couldn't believe how much of a work out it was!  Elated but exhausted, we headed back to our sweet suite at Palliser Lodge for another hot tub and relaxing around the fireplace.  Looking out the balcony windows watching the rain, was super peaceful after a busy but awesome two days.

 

Recommended Establishments

Lodging: Kicking Horse Lodging 

Food: Double Black Cafe  Peaks Grill Eagle Eye's Restaurant 

Activities: Via Ferrata and Downhill Mountain Biking through Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

 

]]>
(RockyMountainScrambler) double black downhill mountain biking eagle's eye restaurant kicking horse landscape mountain resort mountains via ferrata https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2018/7/golden-adventures Wed, 04 Jul 2018 04:57:48 GMT
A Spring Vacation in Whitefish, MT (continued) https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2018/4/a-spring-vacation-in-whitefish-mt-continued Early Morning GlowA zoomed shot of our balcony view Good morning sunshineThe view from our balcony at Snow Bear Chalets

The next morning we awoke to the sounds of the birds chirping and we even spotted a squirrel scampering across the deck of our Treehouse Chalet.  There were a pair of Stellar Jays swooping around the trees when I went out onto the deck to grab a few shots of the sun rising over the shoulder of the mountain. Mark suited up for some morning skiing after we enjoyed some coffee on the deck – it was chilly but we were bundled up in some fuzzy robes we found in the closet.  I watched him walk the 10 or so meters to the ski hill, put on his skis, and then glide away down to the chair lift to spend the morning skiing Whitefish Mountain Resort.  Left to my own devices, and still nursing my torn MCL/ACL, I brewed a cup of tea, put on the fireplace, and settled down on the couch in front of the floor to ceiling windows and started processing some photographs. 

Balcony Views from Tamarack TreehouseMark riding the lift up to do some skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort Sunny view of the skihill

Shortly after 4pm we headed into Glacier National Park to meet our friend for sunset on Lake McDonald.  We picked a pull over that would get us access to the beautiful lakeshore without too much stress to my knee.  After I had hobbled down, I plunked my bum in the multi-coloured rocks and chatted with our buddy Blake who is an author of some of my favourite books about Glacier, Climb Glacier National ParkAs we sat and visited and took photos, the sky did not disappoint us!  It went from peach to pink over the western mountains, and we snapped away, capturing the scene.  It was another magical Montana moment, and I felt very grateful for getting to experience it.

The next morning was a happy repetition of the day before: Mark skiing and Brigid relaxing by the fire, this time enjoying a good read.  That afternoon, once Mark was back from an awesome morning on the hill, we headed off for downtown Whitefish to do some shopping.  We hit all our favourite spots, starting with an Americano at Montana Coffee Traders. We’ve spent many hours sipping coffee, using the free wifi, and perusing the fun knick knacks.  Next door is a great selection of clothes (for hiking or around town) at The Toggary.  We continued downtown and stopped in for a local brew and some wings at The Craggy Range Bar and Grill. More shopping at Meriwether of Montana, The Montana Scene, and many other gift shops and book stores whet my whistle for spending (plus I was hobbling around on one crutch and my feet hurt) and we decided it was time for supper. 

 

After a short drive back towards the ski hill, we pulled into the impressive Lodge at Whitefish Lake for supper at The Boat House.  We were seated by a large window and had a lovely view out onto Whitefish Lake.  The food was delicious, and the chilled local beer was thirst quenching. We left the historic lodge full and satisfied, and definitely happy with our choice of establishment.  Returning to our Treehouse Chalet, we fired up the hot tub and relaxed into the evening.

]]>
(RockyMountainScrambler) bear chalets glacier lake landscape mcdonald montana mountains national park resort ski snow whitefish https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2018/4/a-spring-vacation-in-whitefish-mt-continued Wed, 04 Apr 2018 23:25:02 GMT
Early Spring Road Trip: Jasper National Park, AB to Whitefish, MT https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2018/4/early-spring-road-trip-jasper-national-park-ab-to-whitefish-mt We woke up Saturday morning raring to go!  We didn’t get on the road as early as we had hoped, but on the road we were nonetheless.  The sky was a beautiful blue, with wispy white clouds adorning the mountain tops as we drove down the epic Icefields Parkway. There was fresh snow on the peaks and cliffs that made their vertical relief seem that much more impressive, their nooks and crannies that much more obvious.  We didn’t make our usual stops since we were late getting going, but we did pull over at the Athabasca Pass overlook for a panoramic view of the valley…and the last cell service we’d see for another three hours! Although there are many places that are great side trips (Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls, Honeymoon Lake, Tangle Falls, Beauty Creek, or anywhere along the Athabasca and Sunwapta Rivers) on the way through to the Columbia Icefield, we just admired the vast beauty from the vehicle; we have of course, been lucky enough to drive this road many times.   When you drive down the hill to the huge glacial moraine that is the Columbia Icefield, it’s like you’re driving on another planet. The vastness of the arctic tundra landscape is mind-blowing, accentuated by the looming peaks of some of the tallest mountains in the province and the glaciers that accompany them. The wind is usually gusting when we drive through, and an extra layer is always needed for adventures. 

I named this fellow Edgar.I named this fellow Edgar. Looking towards The Ramparts on the Icecfield ParkwayLooking towards The Ramparts on the Icecfield Parkway

But, since we were on a mission to drive south, we carried on into Banff National Park, past Wilcox Pass (a lovely hike to stretch the legs) and Parker Ridge trailheads (incredible views) and on down Big Bend towards the Weeping Wall. On any given wintry day, one can spot ice climbers up on the massive ice wall.  On we drove past the snow-covered peaks that line the Parkway, until we came to the sunny Saskatchewan Crossing.  The road crosses the North Saskatchewan River and you get spectacular views on either side; west into Glacier Lake Valley, and east into David Thompson country, where the beautiful and bubbly Abraham Lake rests.  Just over the bridge is a pullover for Mistaya Canyon, another fabulous place to stretch your legs and explore the impressive chasms and pools of water further up. White-capped peaks abound on the Icefields Parkway in the early springWhite-capped peaks abound on the Icefields Parkway in the early spring Big BendBig Bend

 

The road from there curves up and then down to Waterfowl Lakes and the impressively “peaky” and always photogenic Mount Cephren.  Next up is Bow Summit, which in the winter is a slightly longer hike up to the viewpoint, but still another great place to stretch your gams if the weather and light is right.  Bow Lake is the next big stop and has excellent pit toilets of which to take advantage.  A walk around the lake in any season is a definite must, as there is much to see within a short circuit of the lake shore, including the historic Num-Ti-Jah Lodge.  In the summer the lake is Gatorade blue, but in the winter the vastness of the snow-covered area is impressive, especially Crowfoot Mountain and its lovely glacier to the south.

Num-Ti-Jah Lodge is located in a very picturesque location at Bow LakeNum-Ti-Jah Lodge is located in a very picturesque location at Bow Lake Savoring the spring sunshine at Bow LakeSavoring the spring sunshine at Bow Lake

Back on the road, the next great place to wander is Herbert Lake, which of course is snow covered in the winter, but usually provides a lovely reflection in the summer months. Soon you’ll pull into the Village of Lake Louise, where you’ll have your choice of three excellent coffee shops that offer soups, sandwiches, bakery tasties, and your choice of hot beverages for the road. Taking the #1 south until Castle Junction, then turn west, eventually entering Kootenay National Park.  The three main spots that we’ve enjoyed stretching out legs and grabbing some pictures in the past are Marble Canyon, Numa Falls, and Olive Lake.  At the southern end of the Kootenay Parkway lies Radium Hot Springs, in which one day I would love to take a soak.  Just into town on the west side of the road is our favourite place to grab a salad or sandwich (or a cheese stick wrapped in bacon!) to go at the Mountain Market.  The market is adjacent to the Kootenay Visitor Center, which provides bathrooms, a historical display, taxidermy exhibit of the local fauna, and a 3-D topographical map of the watersheds.

Back on the road south brings you through the Columbia River Watershed, until the border.  Although the drier climate and smaller mountains may be less impressive than the Rocky Mountains, the drive is still a pleasant one. Once across the border, we stopped in the quaint town of Eureka, which definitely deserves a walk down their main street.  After that it wasn’t long until we were pulling into Whitefish, excited to see our new home for the next three days on the slopes of Whitefish Ski Resort. Snow Bear Chalets did not disappoint! Our lovely host Gail phoned to make sure that we got in ok and gave us some information about the luxurious lodge.  We explored the treehouse, excited about the gorgeous architecture and layout – the kitchen (fully outfitted) was a perfect size with a huge marble-topped island that doubled for extra counter space as well as the dining area. Off the kitchen was an open living room situated around the fireplace, with amazing views out the huge windows to the deck.  When we ventured out we found a BBQ, seating area, and a hot tub.  Back inside and past the fireplace brought you to a bedroom with large sliding doors for privacy and large windows that let in the golden light.  Up stairs, back past the entrance way with ample storage for coats, ski boots, and anything else, was the loft with the remaining large bedroom and ensuite bathroom (which, like the lower level, had heated tile floors).  The staircase is coiled, as it is in the treehouse turret, and gives way to the large room with a view over the living room and deck area to the ski hill.  There is a third and magical level with a ladder leading to a round bed and a roof of stars that glitter. After we explore the might treehouse, we unpacked, poured some bubbly, and scurried out to the hot tub to watch the Ski Cats drive by one by one to groom Whitefish Ski Resort.

Standing in the kitchen of the Tamarack Treehouse, looking out past the deck to Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort The inside of the Tamarack TreehouseSnow Bear Chalets

 

]]>
(RockyMountainScrambler) alberta banff bc british columbia glacier icefields jasper landscape montana mountains national park parkway travel https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2018/4/early-spring-road-trip-jasper-national-park-ab-to-whitefish-mt Wed, 04 Apr 2018 19:20:39 GMT
Sunset at Logan Pass https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2018/4/sunset-at-logan-pass Logan Pass SunsetLogan Pass SunsetA long exposure Wandering the Logan Pass BoardwalkA summer sunset in Glacier NP

This summer I was lucky enough to witness a killer sunset up at Logan Pass in Glacier National Park, Montana.  We had driven up the Going To The Sun Road in order to assess how much smoke was in the area, since we were planning on scrambling up Mt Cannon the next day for the Solar Eclipse. The smoke wasn't bad at all, and we were treated to a usually insanely busy area, all to ourselves for the hour.  I managed to capture a few long exposures and we wandered around the boardwalk leading up to Hidden Pass enjoying the smells of the mountain atmosphere, with the hint of forest fire smoke blended in.  

]]>
(RockyMountainScrambler) glacier landscape logan montana mountains national park pass sunrise sunset https://rockymountainscrambler.com/blog/2018/4/sunset-at-logan-pass Wed, 04 Apr 2018 01:22:44 GMT