Thursday, 7 September 2017
A Canadian Adventure - Day 34
Parker's Ridge and Wilcox Pass and Ridge
Sue had us out of bed at 7.30 with a full day's walk in prospect. It was a lovely clear morning. 1°C in the car and down jacket weather outside. But perfectly calm and we had both slept well.
After the usual oatmeal crisp triple berry cereal doused with yoghurt and milk, plus half a giant muffin each (well, I saved mine for the first break on the walk) we paid our farewells to Steve and Theresa, the quiet Americans, and after evicting a red squirrel from Charlie's back seat we set off on the short (maybe 4 km) journey to the Parker's Ridge trailhead.
After parking in the shade of a campervan we followed its occupants up a woodland path that soon led into open country. Starting a walk at 2000 metres does wonders for escaping the tree line! It was an easy path up to the ridge, where we were rewarded with fine views of the Saskatchewan Glacier.
Sadly the smoke was blowing in from the south, so views in that direction were very hazy. C'est la vie.
We went beyond a saddle, up to several stone windbreaks, and on up to a further windbreak at about 2340 metres. A great viewpoint so there was no obligation to go further up the ridge. A couple of marmots couldn't decide whether to be curious or disinterested in our presence.
A different path through a genuine alpine meadow returned us efficiently to the saddle, from where we followed another path, southish, until it came to a dead end at a precipice. This path afforded a full view of the Saskatchewan Glacier and no doubt fine views to the south if the smoke hadn't intervened.
We were back at the car by noon, after this enjoyable three hour jaunt ahead of any crowds.
Charlie then took us to the Wilcox trailhead which is just a kilometre down the road from our campsite.
This path was busier due to the time of day. It rose gently through bear infested (according to reports, we didn't see any) woodland, soon releasing us onto a hillside unfettered by trees. There was a queue to sit on a 'Red Chair' - apparently these are springing up in viewpoints all over Canada - so we continued on to another good viewpoint for lunch.
The gently rising and well used path continued all the way to Wilcox Pass, named after a chap who in 1896 was searching for the Athabasca River and found his way blocked by a canyon and the Athabasca Glacier. He made his way over this pass and around the steep sided lump that is now called Mount Wilcox. Since then the glacier has retreated significantly. Whilst the ice is apparently as deep as the Eiffel Tower is high, it now looks very innocuous and has been commandeered as a tourist trap, with large wheeled buses taking rich punters onto the glacier via a roadway. (We gave that trip a miss, having been on and in glaciers more interesting than this one.)
Just near the pass, three Bighorn sheep were munching in the tundra. Sue went up close to get a picture, and we saw four more, all males, near the ridge. The sheep look like some of the rare breeds you come across in the Dane valley near Danebridge.
A relatively new signed path led us a further 1.4 km, via several false summits, to the ridge that overlooks the Athabasca Glacier and the Icefield Centre. We watched the buses trundling up and down the glacier. Sue had her eye on the path that led to the 2886 metre summit of Mount Wilcox, but it was too late for that. Anyway, we'd reached a high point of 2425 metres - the highest we've been on this trip - on our way to the ridge.
On our way back down we evicted a couple from the Red Chairs and enjoyed a few minutes relaxation whilst finishing our liquid supplies, which weren't as strong as the Bowmore that the previous incumbents took with them.
The Columbia Icefield Centre required a visit, if only out of curiosity. The toilets were better than the dry toilets at our campsite, and the coffee and tea they sold us went down well whilst I used their guests WiFi to edit and send the previous posting. I don't expect to be able to post this entry until the weekend.
Then it was back to our sunny campsite for cold beer and a meal of pasta and sausage in a delicious sauce, followed by strawberries and yogurt (the cream was finished yesterday).
Our day finished with another lovely moonrise over the mountains, and an early night in our cosy Terra Nova Hyperspace tent.
Pictures are chronological.
9 km on Parker's Ridge walk, with 400 metres ascent, in 3 hours.
9+ km on Wilcox Ridge walk, with 500 metres ascent, in 4 hours.