Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

A Canadian Adventure - Day 48

Tuesday 19 September 2017

Not West Wind Pass, and West Wind Pass

A cold clear morning soon became overcast whilst we breakfasted and Peter, David and Richard drove up from Calgary.

Today's walk would be a short one, so tea and coffee were provided before the five of us set off up the gravel of Highway 742 in Peter's Subaru. (Sigh of relief from Charlie!)

It wasn't too far to the West Wind (named after a river, not after the prevailing weather) trailhead soon after the Driftwood turn.

We headed up a good woodland path that revealed glimpses of the reservoir behind us. A left turn was taken because we thought we should be going higher, whereas the more worn path headed down.

Up and up we went. This turned out to be the path to Rimwall, a summit of just over 2500 metres. On the way up we met an American girl from Pennsylvania. "I apologise for my country" she announced. We apologised for Brexit. It has become a habit. Most people just feel sorry for us. The Canadians are lucky, they seem to have a few politicians who command a morsel of respect.

After chatting for a while with the American, who was the only person we saw all day, and pausing for twelveses (it had been a late start!), we continued up steep ground on a vague path guided by cairns. At about 2220 metres we reached a point where the vertigo free members of the party could look down on West Wind Pass from above. Some bighorn sheep had the same idea before trotting off to easier ground.

An easier line of descent was taken before we left the path and bushwhacked down, via an excellent lunch spot sheltered from the wind with lovely views down to Spray Lake, to meet the correct West Wind path as high up as possible. Richard chose to descend from here as he fancied a snooze in Peter's car.

The rest of us enjoyed a sometimes airy but generally easy path that ascended 170 metres to the correct pass, a wide gap in the ridge at about 2070 metres. There were fine views and lots of photography took place.

Then we took the easy path back down to the car, passing what I recorded yesterday as being Spruce Grouse. I still think they are Spruce Grouse but David prefers to think they are the rarer Sharp-tailed Grouse. Sadly no pictures on the phone.

Lovely views as we descended, in particular towards Spray Lake.

Back to the Motel for tea and biscuits, rudely interrupted by a call from Karen who we met in Estonia. Peter, David and Richard went home and Sue and I stretched our legs by the creek.

The Thai Pagoda restaurant proved a good place to meet up with Karen and Erik. We had a lovely evening with them, and some good food. It was great to meet up at last!

Today's pictures:

•  An early view of Spray Lake
• Twelveses
• At the high point of 2220 metres
• Spray Lake from our high point
• Three vertigo free members of our group at the high point
• On the rough 'off piste' descent
• Two views at the West Wind Pass
• Descending
• Dinner with Karen and Erik.

7.5 km with 700 metres ascent, in 5 hours. Then 4 km by the creek in 22.15. Charlie had a day off.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

A Canadian Adventure - Day 47

Monday 18 September 2017

Helen Lake, Lake Katherine and Cirque Peak

We decided to chance another visit to the Icefields Parkway. We've been up and down the road before, to comments like "boring road lined by trees". This morning there was no smoke, low cloud or rain to obscure the views, an example of which is today's first picture, of Castle Mountain from the car.

After a 115 km journey we parked opposite the Crowfoot Glacier that we couldn't see last time we stopped beside Bow Lake.

It's a 6 km walk up to Helen Lake, mostly out of the trees but even when in the trees there were peripheral views to the Bow Peak summits. There was also a short 'burnt' section, and another place where it looked as if the trees had been felled by an avalanche.

The cool wind didn't deter us and we enjoyed a cuppa by the lake with a chatty Dutch couple. Our broken flask has been redeployed given the cooler weather and seems fine as long as it stays upright. Otherwise the contents empty into Sue's rucksack.

We continued past some tame marmots to a ridge. Lunch was taken.

Despite the prospect of some wintry showers, Sue chose to climb to the summit of a nearby peak, Cirque Peak - 2993 metres.

Whilst she was doing that I continued along the ridge to a viewpoint where I met a trapper from "the north". He said he had been gobsmacked to see a wolverine on the way up. All we'd seen were marmots, the usual vermin, some small birds such as Black-headed chickadees, and an unidentifiable bird of prey (probably a golden eagle).

From the end of the ridge I descended over rough ground to Lake Katherine and on towards Dolomite Pass, which I may or may not have reached. Anyway, the scenery did look Dolomitic, there was no quick prospect of a different view, and I didn't want to keep Sue waiting.

A good path led back to our lunch spot and soon after that I spotted Sue near our Helen Lake rendezvous point. I dashed down, just making it before she had time to finish the tea. Her ascent had been successful, and a bar of chocolate disappeared by way of celebration.

Then we descended back to the car on the lovely path. Views were now limited as we were on the edge of a snowstorm. We passed some ptarmigan like birds that were probably spruce grouse.

Driving back, via dinner in the Irish pub in Banff, we passed through evidence of the snowstorm that missed us. We were glad to get home, but disappointed to receive an email suggesting dinner with Karen (Superwoman skier who we met in Estonia) and Erik tonight. The horse had bolted. We hope to meet up with them (they live in Canmore) before we leave.

Today's pictures:

• Castle Mountain from the car
• Setting off
• A typical trailhead sign
• On the woodland path
• Crowfoot Glacier
• Burnt forest
• Helen Lake
• Lunch (1)
• Lunch, with Cirque Peak
• Lake Katherine
• Avalanched forest
• On the Icefields Parkway

19.5 km with 650 metres ascent, in 6.25 hours. For Sue, 400 metres extra ascent but about 3 km less distance.
Charlie managed an impressive 230 km.

Monday, 18 September 2017

A Canadian Adventure - Day 46

Sunday 17 September 2017

Pocaterra Ridge

Another bad start, despite it being a beautiful day with no toothache.

The three keys for Charlie were all on a metal band that can't be split. So they lived happily together. We had a routine whereby we always opened the car before we opened the boot. This morning I was distracted. The keys got locked in the boot. The Bow Valley receptionist was very helpful and called out a rescue service, and Sue got a taxi to the Kananaskis Visitor Centre on Highway 40 where we were due to meet Peter and his friend Kevin.

I followed on half an hour later after a very efficient rescue service. The mechanic also did us a favour by cutting the metal band and releasing the three keys. "You wouldn't believe how often I have to do this" he jested.

The delay wasn't crucial as today's 10 km walk could still be undertaken at a leisurely pace. We dropped Charlie off at the car park at Little Highwood Pass and continued on to Highwood Pass in Kevin's Jeep. At 2206 metres this is apparently the highest tarmaced road in Canada. The car park was full so we were by the roadside, which was positively swamped by cars when we returned later. It's a popular day out from Calgary. We soon found out why.

Sue takes up the story from (before) here:

"On this blue sky morning, the views along the road were superb, of mountains, adorned by ski pistes in one area near Kananaskis Village, and avalanche tracks in another. It was slightly hazy but we didn't think it was smoke. The road climbed and after about 40 minutes we reached the parking lot at Little Highwood Pass where we left our car. It was another 4-5km to reach Highwood Pass at 2206m, where the car park was already full (10am) and cars were now using the wide verges.

The Pocaterra Ridge was justifiably popular today. Initially it was level, on a muddy path, then it ascended in woodland, where the path was quite icy in places, and snow lingered in the shade. A short descent brought us out of the trees, and to a gentle climb through sparse, yellowing larches, with snow on the slopes above. It was beautiful. Above, we could see a line of people climbing, on the skyline. Small streams crossed our path, and soon the trees were behind us, as we climbed, with views growing. There was banter between people as they passed, all enjoying the conditions, although the wind was cool.

The summit, at around 2680m, had excellent views, but we weren't alone! The ongoing ridge could be seen, as we traversed the highest part, looking for a good spot for lunch. This was achieved, and we enjoyed a sunny, sheltered picnic, just off the first top.

The next section was the hardest, as it was north facing, steep, partially frozen and consequently icy. We moved slowly, taking care, but after that it was lovely, walking on the crest, with views in all directions. Some of the warped rock striations were impressive.

The ridge gradually descended, with four tops in all. The final hill was a patchwork of yellow and green larches, and included the last ascent. The ridge ended abruptly with a view of Kananaskis Lake, and a direct descent through the trees took us out of the cold wind that the open ridge had invited.

The final part had us negotiating a section of woodland that had been altered by flooding, so we weaved around, finally emerging opposite the Little Highwood Pass car park, where the Toyota was waiting, around 4.10pm. After dropping Peter and Kevin back at Kevin's car, we set off back to Canmore at 4.25pm. More hazy now, it was still a scenic journey back to Canmore, during which we had to slow down for some errant Bighorn Sheep.

Shopping was completed then baths and dinner in number 32 - shrimps with the rest of the chipotle dip, then egg and avocado salad, with raspberries and blueberries with cream. 

The day that started badly gave us a truly wonderful and memorable ridge walk."

Thanks Sue

Thanks also go to Peter for suggesting this route, and to him and Kevin for providing such good company. My apologies for the hiccup at the start of the day.

The pictures are chronological, with no proper rendition of the more tricky ridge bits, partly because the sun was in the wrong place and partly because I was concentrating on survival rather than on photography! 

10.5 km with 600 metres ascent, in 6 hours.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

A Canadian Adventure - Day 45

Saturday 16 September 2017

Burstall Pass

A bad start to the day. The moment I put my book down last night a serious toothache took hold (don't worry mother, there's a happy ending). It lasted all night. An Internet search this morning revealed a dentist that opened at 8 am. I went down there twice. The premises were deserted.

So we reverted to our plan and after de-icing Charlie we drove about 40 km up the gravel road known as Highway 742 to the Burstall Pass trailhead that Peter had recommended and for which he had lent us his map and guidebook. It was a popular destination, with lots of cars already in the car park.

Sue had resuscitated the broken flask, so some ibuprofen could be dissolved in tea in an effort to reduce the severe tooth pain arising from 40 km on a washboard road surface. This initially had little effect. But a few km into our walk a lump arose on the gum below my recalcitrant tooth. 'Ah' I thought, 'abscess' - 'need antibiotics'. The lump grew and I tried to excise it. Pain jumped from 8/10 to 10/10. The ibuprofen then kicked in and the pain lessened.

It was a brilliantly sunny morning, albeit quite frosty. We were ready for that and well equipped. The views were great.

We reached the 2380 metre pass at lunchtime and tucked into our usual fare, the ibuprofen having reduced the pain to an extent whereby I could just about tolerate eating on the 'good' side of my mouth. Sometime during this process the lump on my gum started to decrease in size. My theory is that it was punctured by an errant shard of the excellent crisps we've been eating. (More crisps please!) This seems to have released the pressure. Tonight's red wine has been laced with a cocktail of ibuprofen, codeine and paracetamol (Sue had to give the pharmacy a full family history in order to get that) and hopefully the sore gum will repair itself.

Anyway, whilst the tooth episode has detracted a little from today's walk, I hope the photos will demonstrate that the day wasn't a complete disaster. In fact the views were absolutely superb.

There were lots of people, all local Canadians as far as we could make out (this walk doesn't feature on the tourist leaflets), and that made it a chatty day. At the end of the walk there seemed to be a move to relax in camping chairs prior to the drive home. Since Shak's chairs live in Charlie's boot we were able to join in that tradition on the warm, sunny afternoon.

Wildlife today was mostly keeping its own counsel, but we did see a Hairy Woodpecker, several birds of prey, and the usual squirrels. I forgot to mention yesterday that we found what might be a hornets nest. Constructed from papery layers and about a foot in size, hanging in a tree, it looked empty. Until we poked at it; then we ran away. There will be a photo in due course.

There are still some flowers, struggling on trying to tempt the last of the bees, including fleabanes and yarrow, and the ubiquitous papery remnants of the (probably Pearly) Everlasting flowers (pictured).

The walk was another 'there and back' effort, very little of which was in trees without a view. An excellent route with an intermediate plateau between two gentle ascents, and thanks go to Peter for suggesting it.

Dinner was delicious. Home cooked avocado, tomato and olive salad, sautéed potatoes, mushrooms and onion, with salmon burgers. Followed by strawberries and cream. With a nice red wine.

Today's pictures:

1 - Early morning view from our living room
2 and 3 - From the Burstall Pass trailhead by Mud Lake
4 - A view from one of the Burstall lakes
5 and 6 - On the 'intermediate' plateau
7 and 8 - Around lunchtime
9, 10 and 11 - on the descent (it clouded over a bit)
12 - There were lots of these clumps of Everlasting plants

16.5 km with 500 metres ascent, in 5 hours, and 4 km by the creek in 21.45.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

A Canadian Adventure - Day 44

Friday 15 September 2017

Sparrowhawk Tarns

My old university contemporary Peter, and his friend David arrived from Calgary at nine o'clock. After a brief pause for refreshments a day off for Charlie was declared and we all jumped into David's Mazda.

The Highway 742 road to the Kananaskis area is a gravel track from the outskirts of Canmore and when we reached the Sparrowhawk picnic area after a rainy/snowy journey of more than 20 km we found the access gate to be locked. It's the end of the season. So we parked by the gate and headed up to the tarns along a good forest path.

The rain turned to sleet, then snow, then it stopped. It was cool. Conrad has correctly observed the change of season, but we seem to have moved from summer directly to winter. You'll note the snow over about 2000 metres in today's pictures. Our there and back route started at 1750 metres and reached a high point of about 2350 metres, from where we could just about see one of the five tarns (fourth picture down). The rest were hidden away in nooks and crannies that we decided not to visit, given the snowy conditions and the rough terrain.

Nobody else was on this trail today. Great! At times the path was obscure and hard to locate under the snow. David's GPS tracking came in handy on the descent when we encountered a mystery stream crossing.

A fair proportion of the walk was above the tree line, with lots of mountain views both above the tarns and in the other direction beyond Spray Lake Reservoir where we'd parked. Recent snow had given some of the mountains a white fringe.

Some squeaking pika entertained us, but not as much as the cheery chipmunks who seemed to be preening each other, getting ready for a party. There was no sign of any Pilated Woodpecker, but one did land on a tree trunk a couple of metres from us yesterday, down by the creek.

It brightened considerably during our descent on this cold day, but by 3.30 we were back at the car and ready to move on to the Bow Valley Motel Tea House (Room 32) in Canmore.

Peter and David were duly waved off, with thanks for choosing a perfect walking route for today's conditions.

Sue and I adjourned to The Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company restaurant for shared salads and pizza of a very high quality. Nice beer too.

10 km with 600 metres ascent, in 5 hours.