Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Summer Fun In The Rockies 2016

After the annual spring trip down to Red Rock country (March 31-May 15), there were a few loose ends to tie up at home. Pat was eager to get back to training on her roller skis and as I hate roller skiing, Ruudie and I would head for the lower hills as the higher elevations in the mountains had too much snow. We were to find that after a very warm spring in BC when we were down south getting rained and snowed on, the summer was going to be cool and wet. Oh well.

Pat lined up some coaching time with a friend from Canmore, an Alberta mountain town 20 minutes from Banff sometime in mid June. This was going to be the first of 3 trips to the Rockies we would take over the summer. We also got to see the Monashees and Selkirks mountains on the way so this trip report is a compilation of these 3 trips. 

We did another backpack trip into the Monashee Mts but that is in another report and a short weekend hiking trip to Reveltoke but since it rained a lot there wasn't a lot to report on.

Heading to Canmore eventually where Pat has lined up a former coach and former national Norwegian team athlete to teach her and a fellow competitor about current ski techniques and training schedules. This is our first camping spot after leaving Coldstream.
After a hike in the mountains, we stop for the night at 3 sisters PP near Dead Man's flats. Not many campers today and such a great spot beside the Bow river. During the summer months, these places are booked solid.
You can just see the peak of Ha Ling above Canmore in the far right . Still pretty chilly. The spring has been warm in the Rockies so far but cooler, wetter weather will prevail all the way into September.

While Pat is training on roller skis in Canmore, I take Ruudie and head up to Bourgeau Lake in cool, wet conditions. Dogs are allowed in all of the National Parks as long as they are on a leash. This is just before we come to the lake. The ridge in the background is the access to Mt. Bourgeau, a hike we will complete later on in the summer.
Harvey Pass is where that cornice is, top left.
As we climb to Harvey Pass, snow starts falling heavily. The higher lakes are all frozen at this time in mid June.

Ruudie does not like hot summer weather so this is right up his alley.
Come back to the Rockies again in July to meet our son and DIL and of course look after Ronen our grandson while the kids go to a friends wedding in Lake Louise. The National Parks are really busy so we pull into Monarch campground just east of Field and look for a spot. All booked up. But we see a sign that says campers are allowed to camp in certain parking area so here we are backed into a place where normally it is just a temperary gravel area where visitors can drop their long RVs when travelling up the narrow, windy road to Takakkaw Falls.



Just behind us is the Kicking Horse river silty with glacier melt water. I think that is Cathedral Mt.in the background with the sun on it and the CPR mainline going up to the spiral tunnel and the transcanada highway.

Our son Andrew booked into the serviced area of Lake Louise for 3 nights and we made reservation for one of those nights to look after Ronen while they went to the wedding. Explained to the people at the office what type of RV we would be driving. When we pulled up to claim our spot, they said because we have a pop-up TC, we would not be  allowed in the serviced campground. They got us adjoining campsites in the tenting/non-service campsite ringed with an electric fence.




Ronen already knows when he is the centre of attention and hams it up for the camera just before he cuts another cord of wood with his Stihl chainsaw.Lake Louise with clouds all around. All of the parking areas were full, the walkway around the lake was full of people. Quite a few canoes. Mt. Victoria is in the background.
We all decide to go for a family hike up to the Lake Agnes tea house. It is a moderate hike starting at Lake Louise. This is Ruudie and Mattie at the lake before Agnes. 



Ronen checking out the trail ride horses on the way up to the tea house. Sue is an English dressage rider so Ronens thinks these guys are pretty neat.


Did I mention there was a lot of hikers. I had never seen it this crowded although it has been many years since hiking up to the lake. It definitely was not my first choice but with 2 little kids in tow, it was nice to get out.


This was the scene at the campsite while the kids walked across the tracks to the Lake Louise municipal grounds where the wedding was taking place. Pretty quiet even though the place was packed.



Say our good byes to the kids and Ronen and drive up the Ice field Parkway and get a spot at Mosquito creek campground. From here it is a short hop over the road on our way up Mosquito Creek.

Out destination today is South Molar Pass. Getting close to tree line. 

Looking back down to the valley where the Parkway is. South Molar Pass is up a steep wall just behind us.

A mountain to our right as we climb over the pass. See hikers but compared to the crush of people around Lake Louise, this was solitude.


Next day, we keep our campsite and drive up to the Helen Lake trail head. Parking area is full. 


There was a group of horse riders heading out for a number of days. One of their destinations was Isabella Lake which we were able to see once we climbed up to Cirque Peak

Looking down at Helen Lake which is a very popular spot. 
Looking south towards the snowy peaks around Lake Louise. Somewhere down in the middle valley is the parkway.
Pat and Ruudie after hiking up over Dolomite Pass, scramble up a cornice on the way  to Cirque Peak.
Ahhhhhh! Made it says  a camouflaged Ruudie at the top of Cirque Peak.
Views across the valley include the Bow glacier, falls and lake. Had to dodge a bunch of rain/sleet squalls to get in a few photos.
Heading back down to Dolomite Pass, Helen Lake and out to the trail head at Bow Lake.
After happy hours, a nice warm meal after a days hiking. Mosquito Creek campground.
Because it is so busy in the popular  hiking spots around Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, we have to rack our brains figuring out a good route where there was not going to be a lot of people around. Decided to pull into a parking area on the Moraine Lake road which accesses Paradise Valley. From here we will hike a 25km loop over Sentinel Pass, down to Moraine Lake and then back to the truck.  Mt. Temple looking downright perky in the morning sun.
We follow Paradise Creek heading up the valley towards the Giant Steps.
A nice view of the Lake Louise ski area as we ascent the valley passing Lake Annette.
Pat nearing the junction left that will take us up to Sentinel Pass. We have seen maybe 6 people since starting out this morning. The Giant Steps waterfalls are ahead and to the right. Mt. Yukness  directly in front of Pat.
We have never been to the Giant Steps and beyond. Next time.
After walking up the switchbacks for awhile, we look up at the saddle ahead and see lots of little ants crawling around. This is Sentinel Pass, one one the more travelled high passes in the Rockies.
After a long slog up rotten, large bouldered scree, we reach the summit. We meet hikers coming down from the pass who have parked one vehicle at Moraine Lake and one where we are parked.


The Mitre is straight across from us.  Although, we will have seen a lot of hikers on this day, there will be only 2 others who make the complete 25km circuit that we see when on our 6 hour hike.
There are a lot of hikers on the Moraine Lake side as the trail is excellent and the elevation gain from the lake is not too big. Valley of the Ten Peaks in the background. Below them out of sight, is the very busy, Moraine Lake.
Mt. Fay looking pretty spectacular in the July summer sun.
Hike down through the parking area of Moraine Lake which seems to get busier every year. One thing that has helped with the crush of humanity is shuttle buses servicing many of the vehicle drop off areas because in these National Park there is no interest in increasing the parking due to the steep terrain and ecological foot print they would take up. Looking back towards Moraine Lake and our way back down the valley.
The paved road to the Lake is just below us. In the background is the main valley where the Trans Canada highway is located.One thing we never considered, was that instead of dropping down the valley to our Truck, the trail actually climbs up to a small lake which looks like a old horse camp when tourist were taken up to Moraine Lake before the road was put in. From here it was a steep downhill to Paradise Creek and back to the truck.
Time to head home. Pull off the road west of Golden just before crossing the Columbia River for lunch.
Drive a little further and pull into the Illecilewaet campground situated in Glacier National Park. Next days hike is the Glacier Crest Trail.
After a long set of switchbacks, we get above the trees and Ruudie finds his first snow patch to roll in.
Below us is the Asulkan Valley trail which is one of the favourite Ski touring routes in the winter.
Getting close to the top of the ridge.
The Illecilewaet Glacier is to our left which can be accessed by the Great Glacier Trail.

At the bottom left is the now dilapidated Best Western hotel at Rogers Pass which is soon to be torn down and replaced with something much nicer. In the background centre is Mt. Rogers and to the left is Mt. Sifton. The saddle in the middle is the highest we have gone when hiking up from the Hermits trail. Great views of the Monashee Mts. to the north and Mt. Sir Donald across the valley.

Just to the left of Pat's pole is a lateral moraine where a steep trail winds up the steep ridge and eventually ends at a small mountaineering hut. This is the terminus of the Asulkan Valley trail. From the hut, there are endless opportunities to hike and ski onto the glacier through the Asulkan Pass.
Ruddie's happy to be up In the mountains on a beautiful, clear day.
A close up of Mt. Rogers.
Last look around before heading back to the campsite.



This fast flowing river is an indication of a dying glacier. It has taken 10,0000's years to form all of that ice and just 50 years of warmer global temperatures to kill the ice fields.
Another tough camping evening around the fire when you are retired with lots of time and your kids are independent and not pestering their parents .
The trail today is up Abbott Ridge and this is the only trail in this area where you are allowed to hike with less than 4 people because of grizzly bear activity in the vicinity of the trails. I guess there has never been a grizzly attack on groups of 4 or more. Pretty heavy timber with lots of moss. This is known as the "INTERIOR WET BELT"
Far below is the Asulkan Valley trail and straight through the Asulkan Pass, middle right, is the route so many hikers, Ski Mountaineers use to access the back country.
Mt. Sir Donald in the background. Just to the upper right is the Glacier Crest Ridge.
Ruudie doesn't miss an opportunity to swim/drink out of any water source in the summer. His thick coat is just too warm for summer heat. We usually shave him almost bald in late April and by the end of the summer, his fur is back to normal. 
Mt. Sir Donald with the Illicilewaet Glacier to the right. The Perley Rock trail follows those creeks up to the left side of the glacier.

A wardens cabin with the best views in the park.
Taking time to take in the scenery. Abbott Ridge gets narrower the further you go before dropping down to access Mt. Afton.

The ridge drops steeply off both sides. It would be a tough bounce from these volcanic rocks if you ever fell off. Hwy #1 and the Rogers Pass heading east are below. Mt. Rogers in the background.


One last look at Mt. Rogers.
Heading back down the trail and the campsite. We will break camp and head to Yoho NP where getting a campsite will be tight but doable.
Back in Monarch overflow campsite. We said because of the trucks using their "Jake brake"coming down the hill from Kicking Horse pass , staying at this place had to be the noisiest campground in the world. But because spots are available, here we are underneath Mt. Stephens.




Today hike will take us up past Bourgeau Lake and eventually Harvey Lake and then the Pass. Last time Ruudie and I were here in the middle of June the upper lakes were frozen and there was a blizzard happening as we tried to make our way up to the peak and eventually turned back in a nasty rain storm.
Get to talk to a French guy just relocating to Vancouver. He had been in the area before and could not wait to get a visa and move here.
This a shot down the valley where we have just hiked. Hwy#1 is at the foot of the background mountains.
Ruudie always finds the snow in this case a lingering cornice from the winter. Banff is barely visible in the background valley. Mt. Bourgeau.
Thank goodness for telephotos. This is Banff and the Bow river.
Mt Assinaboine a little out of focus in the distance. We have hiked past the mountain 3 times camping in the area and also skied there one winter and stayed in the lodge.
On top of Mt. Bourgeau. Pat taking in the great 360 degree panorama.
Bourgeau Lake which takes 2-3-hours from the highway. You can just make out the trail over the scree in the middle of the photo. The little lake is where Ruudie was swimming a few photos earlier.
The jagged front range looking east.
Mountains to the west, the background ones are around Lake Louise.
Haven't been to Kananaskas Lakes for awhile situated in Peter Lougheed PP. This is the Labour Day week end and there are lots of campsites open. It is because the 3 day for cast is for rain, cool winds and snow/sleet. Not great camping weather.
We were planning to take a fairly long day trip(30km) but being up on an exposed ridge for hours while the rain/snow beats down is not fun. Pat and Ruudie out for a stroll on pavement which is something new.
We wake up to fresh snow higher up. Although we haven't hiked or camped in this area for a number of years, it is very familiar to us.
Pretty quiet in the campground. Pat would take junior cross country ski athletes up onto the Haig glacier in the summer to ski train.There is a Quonset hut built with Calgary Olympic legacy funds where the athletes stay. Dave would backpack up to Turbine campground and stay for awhile and explore the area as day trips.
Super Dave not looking too Super. This is the beginning of September and with the wind it,s freaking chilly.
The long range temps are going down so we decide to head back to Canmore, but first we have to stop off at the trail head for Chester Lake and go for a hike. Lots of Calgary cars in the parking lot as it is only 1.5 hr drive.
We plan to hike the circuit. A few years back were some heavy early summer rains which caused huge amounts of flooding. This new bridge across Headwall creek would replace the one washed away.
Nice views as we head up, yes of course, Headwall Valley which we have just climbed over.
The mountains are always in a constant building and eroding cycle as noticed by all of the rubble at the bottom of the valleys.
First lake we come to is Lower Headwall. Looks like snow squalls coming in through the passes.
Next lake will be Upper Headwall. Straight ahead is the pass that overlooks the Fortress ski area. To the left is the pass we will be hiking over.
We get a tongue lashing from a very rude local with bad breath and teeth.  We find out later that the reason these guys are so bad tempered is the fact they just get going on building a bit of a nest egg for the future after waiting for the snow to melt in July when before you know it, it starts to snow early September.
Wind is picking up as we head higher. Have seen 3 people coming back down from the Lower lake but no footprints of anyone doing the circuit.
We were not sure which pass to take as we didn't have a map and initially, we headed right but decided later on to bear left rather than heading to the pass in the background.
We had to hike back over to the proper pass climbing over rock ridges and fresh snow. Pat just 15 minutes from the pass.
Made it says Ruudie. Nice little mini cornice, first one of the year.
Mt Chester is in the background. This ridge is a technical climb but there is a relatively easy route from Chester Lake and Headwall Valley.
Down we go. actually steeper than it looks. And a bit slippery with the snow.
A saddle between Gusty Peak and Fortress Mtn.
Hard to tell if that is Chester Lake or the lakes on the other side of road #742.
There is the pass we came across. Pat proudly wearing her toque from MWC 2016 Voakatti, Finland where she picked up 2 golds and a silver.
The hiking was slow as we made our way through the rubble that continually falls from the shear rock walls on either side. No visible trail.
At Chester Lake, Ruudie doesn't miss an opportunity to go for a swim.
This is where most of the hikers end up at.The trail is wide and has a fairly gentle rise so even families with small kids can hike up here.
A nice view of the new snow on the opposite side of #742, possibly Burstall Pass.
Get a campsite at the Spray Lakes West Campground before heading back down into the main Bow valley.
A view of the Spray Lakes reservoir. Lots of clouds still hanging around.

Finally find a little bit of sun but the air still has some coolness to it. Grab a spot early  at Two Jacks campground on the way to Lake Minnewanka. They were to close for the season next day.
There was a short hike to C-Level Cirque a former coal mining area before there was a National Park. About an hour up and hour back. Nothing too exciting although there was a lot of history of the area below in the parking lot.
One neat thing that I did not know at the time was we would be standing on the top of Cascade Mtn in a few days which is just above us up these steep ridges. I had been admiring this chunk of rock from the Banff main street since 1967 and it always looked so steep, which it is but there is an easy way to approach it from Mt. Norquay.
This is a short window of sun that we got during the long weekend.
Back at Two Jacks campground. Have a quiet stay. It froze over night. Didn't even have a fire.
Today will be a long hike. Start off from the Mt. Norquay parking lot and start hiking down to the 40 mile creek bridge. From here, baby it's all uphill until you can look straight down on Lake Minnewanka.
Hike into the Cascade Amphitheatre bare right up some trails that come from above and once we gain the ridge,it's full speed ahead.

Somewhere in the middle of the skyline is our destination.
Looking back from where we started, the main parking lot of the Mt. Norquay ski area.
Rest time as we marvel at the pressures these rocks are under after millions of years.
Below us is what you would call the craggy side of Cascade that you observe from Banffs main street. Mt. Rundle, another long, famous but fun hike above Banff in the left background.

Looking down on the Bow Valley where the CPR mainline, hwy.#1 and the Bow river all share some real estate. Canmore is down there some where at the end of the valley.
Looking out at the front range and 40mile creek. Mountains as far as the eye can see.
A very rocky ridge indeed. Well, the hiking/scrambling is done. After the summit we are on this becomes a climbing route.
Looking down the Bow valley.
Lake Minnewanka. A few years before, we drove to the parking area for the lake and rode our mountain bikes 6.4km to the trail heading up Mt. Aylmer. Chained them up and climbed the mountain. Great views. Long day.
Mt. Inglismaldie just to the right of the lake.
Mt. Temple above Lake Louise.

Heading back down on some very steep and loose scree.
Pat has to scramble over this piece of rock and then traverse a steep slope under the dome where you can just see another hiker starting to inch his way across. You don't want to fall here.
On a long traverse of the mountain where we will have to climb up a bit and then descend all of the switch backs to 40 mile creek.
Ahhhhhhhh! That water was worth waiting for. Not a lot of water for him to drink so Ruudie makes the best of every creek, pond, snow field, muddy puddle to drink and roll in the water.
It is about a 3.6km climb up to our truck from 40 mile creek, tough when you are tired after a long hiking day. Alpine area looks pretty green.
Grab a spot at Tunnel Mtn campground. Kids are all back at school, parents are back to work so there is plenty of room now in the campgrounds.
Relaxing by the fire, with good snacks, good wine, good company.
Pat has a few days of training being coached  in Canmore so I take the dog and head out on my own every day. This is Ha Ling, a very popular hiking spot just above Canmore on the #742 road.
I start to clinb up East Rundle on the climbers descent route. Pretty steep.
Looking down on Canmore close to the east side climbing wall on Rundle.
Views of the canal and reservoir system above Canmore.
A small creek close to where we are parked where Ruudie gets watered and rejuvenated.
Our trusty Ford mule and the Outfitter off on another adventure.
Today is a hike up the Squaw's Tit  right from where we are staying which is at a friends of Pats house who is a competitive skier and is getting coached by the same guy Pat is. She lives in Harvey Heights so i start up a few trails and eventually find the ridge above town where there is a bench which has a walking/biking trail along the top.Looking out you can barely see Canmore and the gap in the mountains in the centre right is where the reservoir is and the road to Spray Lakes.
Looking west up the valley to Banff, Mt. Rundle massif is on the left.
Getting a better view as I climb. Very steep trail. Started hiking somewhere a little above the highway.
Last shot looking towards Banff, as I get into some scrambling. Trail is very steep in this area of the mountain. Get hit every once and awhile with rain/snow squalls. Wind has really picked up and it is getting chilly.
Never made it to the top that day but maybe some other time when the weather is better. My last day of hiking and then it is time to leave for home. Today it is a circuit called Tent Ridge. It starts close to the Mt. Shark helipad and the views are pretty good. This is looking back across #742 and Mt. Engadine? after about an hour hiking uphill from the trail head.
Spray Lakes looking down towards Canmore.
This might be Watridge Lake on the Bryant Creek trail.

One of these Mt could be Chester across the valley from Tent Ridge 
Ruudie chillin out in the sun. Mt. Smuts has to be one of those in the background.
Mt. Nestor. The truck is somewhere to the bottom right out of the picture.
Tent Ridge is just in front of us. A lot of pretty impressive peaks arranged as we traverse the ridge.
To the left down in the valley, is Mud Lake on the way to the Kananaskas Lakes.
Looking back up the ridge that I have just hiked down. Fabulous views on a nice, cool sunny day.
Mt. Shark looking like the a big dorsal fin  looking west towards Mt. Assiniboine PP.
Ruudie looking down the Spray lakes.
More mountains.

As you move along the ridge, new views of the rugged peaks to the south come into play.
Heading down the last bit of rocky ridge before the long trek through the trees.
Back to the parking area and the Outfitter. Just another benefit of owning an all electric compressor fridge. Being out of level for hours on end is no problem.
Pat,s last day of training. We drop one car off at the road near Vermilion Lakes so Pat and her friend can rollers ski up the Mt. Norquay road.  While they are doing this, Dave and Ruudie drive up to the trail head of Squaw Mt. Lookout and hike the 6km easy circuit. Take a photo of Cascade Mt. where we were a week before although the peak is in the clouds. Looks pretty steep from here.
Pat and Sheilas coach gets them to run up the little hill behind the Mt. Norquay lodge 5 times after they finish the roller ski climb up the road to the parking area. The ascent from the lodge takes them about 3 minutes to make it to the top of the hill and they are suppossed to be in zone 4(150-160 beats per minute). Not a bad finish to a training day. Dave goes along too but cannot keep up with the Femme Fatales. Cool day.
Time to head home on Hwy.#1. Shot of some fresh snow on the Yoho NP mountains near Lake O'Hara. Lucky there was no snow that morning going over Kicking Horse Pass.


We love being in the mountains no matter where. BC is blessed with a huge amount of wilderness area mountains which can be difficult to access. The Rockies in the national parks can be busy in the summer but if you just take the time and walk even 1 hour from the trail head,  most of the visitors are left behind. Until we meet again on that summit or mountain lake, Crosschecks say thanks for coming along for the fun.