Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Saturday, 9 September 2017

A Canadian Adventure - Day 37

Friday 8 September 2017

Lake Louise

After another nice lie in we breakfasted and packed up fairly quickly, with no condensation at all on the tent, and were on our way by nine o'clock.

We drove back up north to Lake Louise, to where we should have been travelling south today. About an hour on the boring tree lined highway.

Skirting the town of Lake Louise, we headed with lots of others up to the eponymous lake. It was crowded, with a dreadful huge building at the end of the lake, views from which provide the cover photo for many a Canadian calendar. Today's view is the first picture above.

With no convenient café for elevenses we ate our remaining biscuits and joined the hordes on their pilgrimage to Lake Agnes, passing Mirror Lake on the way. Whilst the yellow sun was trying its best to cast a shadow, the yellow of the turning larch leaves seemed vibrant in comparison. It was a dusty trudge through trees with no views for a procession of glum walkers.

Near Lake Agnes we came across a casualty who had tripped on a root and bashed her head. She was being looked after, just awaiting a helicopter. That duly arrived as we reached Lake Agnes, spattering everyone with dust and spray as it landed at the end of the lake near a rather twee teahouse. It was very crowded. We went inside. £10 for a pot of tea. We left. We stuck with our water bottles today.

Most people turn back at Lake Agnes (second picture), so the path around the fish filled lake and up a well graded zigzag to a col was much quieter. The helicopter took off and landed three times during the course of the rescue. It was still in evidence when we reached 'The Big Beehive' an old pagoda on a promontory. We lunched just below this structure. Our lunchtime view is shown below that of the pagoda. An information board told us this was 'Wilcox' territory. We keep coming across this Wilcox man. But the shelter was apparently built by the Canadian Pacific railway in 1916. You can hear the trains far below. Some spots of much needed rain came to nothing.

Sue then fancied a scramble up to somewhere called The Devil's Thumb, so I waited in a comfy spot near the col whilst she did that. My view of the larch forest from where I waited is the fifth picture down.

We chose to descend by the Highline Trail. Very pleasant and quiet it was too. It took us into open country with mountain outlines in view. I'm told there were some glaciers at the head of the valley.

Eventually we reached the river that flows from an alleged glacier into Lake Louise. Sixth picture, and imagine the pleasing sound of rushing water to go with it.

Soon we reached the edge of the lake, and lots more people. The view from there is shown in the seventh picture. The big building at the end of the lake is said to resemble Colditz. It's an ugly chateau that was used in World War II, to 'house' (ie imprison) all Canadians with a Japanese heritage. They now flock to this monument of suffering and pay a minimum of $450 for a double room!

It reminded us of a (very) poor man's Lago Misurina, near Cortina.

The penultimate picture shows the view back to the allegedly numerous glaciers from the same spot.

After arriving back at the car park, we managed an incident free short drive up Highway 1 to the village of Field, where we are happily installed in the Fireweed Hostel (last picture). It's just like being at home, and nice to have a bed after ten nights in the tent.

13 km with 550 metres ascent. Sue did about 2 km and 200 metres ascent more than that. Charlie managed nearly 100 km.

We've been yearning for Manchester's relatively clear air today. Whilst the locals here are sympathising with the tourists, we can only sympathise with the locals who have to put up with a smoky atmosphere, and for some towns and villages a complete evacuation from their homes, for months on end. Unfortunately we have pre-booked accommodation in this area for the next 12 days, so we can only hope for rain and a change in the wind direction.

One of our guidebooks is called 'Don't Waste your time in the Canadian Rockies'. "That's ironic" observed Sue, "the next edition will be much thinner and subtitled 'Go To Europe Instead'."

Friday, 8 September 2017

A Canadian Adventure - Day 36

Thursday 7 September 2017

Banff

We got used to the increasingly intermittent noise and slept in until 9 am. A rest day was decreed.

A morning of minor domestic duties, mainly involving sitting in the sun in our comfy camp chairs, culminated in 25 minutes of exercise before a tuna mayo lunch.

The resident squirrels were over us like a rash - can you spot one in the first picture?

After the short drive to town we spent the afternoon wandering around in high heat on a smoky day. A highlight was the beautifully wood panelled natural history museum, wherein many of the exhibits in the zoo next door that closed in 1937 are preserved for posterity.

Across the road, Jump Start café provided a refuge for us to enjoy a cold drink and a WiFi connection. For the record, Sue has emailed our car hire company for a copy of the new contract that replaced the original one after 30 days, but no reply has been forthcoming.

Next stop, after an assessment of the hostelries of Banff. And on the whole these are expensive eateries. The place is similar in some ways to Cortina, where the back street restaurants give best value. Our Kamloops experience stood us in good stead. We selected St James's Gate Olde Irish Pub, and enjoyed fish and chips/chicken pie and a beer, for $40 including the tip. That's good value here. We've got to like these Irish bars for early evening eating, with their muted TVs and their gentle music. This one was like a bigger version of Ken and Helen's local pub in Ottawa.

A supermarket provided our last port of call before adjourning, fully provisioned for the next few days, to a relaxing evening at camp despite the smell of smoke. There was a curious sculpture outside the supermarket - 'Mountain Camp 2008' by Susan Dewiler. This is shown in today's last picture, all of which were taken at camp or around Banff.

We've seen a vague outline of some hills today, but everything is shrouded in smog as thick as that in Vancouver when we arrived five weeks ago, so we don't feel we've missed out on a good walk.

It seems quieter than last night. Very pleasant in fact.

4.2 km in 25.10 and about 2 km around Banff.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

A Canadian Adventure - Day 35

Wednesday 6 September 2017

Nigel Pass and an unexpected visit to Banff

We were up and away from the campsite quite efficiently and were parked just down the road at the Nigel Pass trailhead by nine o'clock. This was to be a largely valley walk at the edge of the tree line. That limited our views to the mountains very close to us, which was just as well as the smoke was concealing everything else. From the pass we could just about make out the outline of Parker's Ridge, some 10 km away.

The route started along a track on which I'm pictured. The gloves, fleece and trouser legs were soon discarded. Some animal with diarrhoea had spread its scat across the track. It must have over indulged in red berries.

A group of five people, the only day walkers seen, passed us near a clearing which is the site of an early Park cabin. (Second picture.) It was locked, unlike the small thunderbox nearby with a lady stenciled on the back. I later found that very useful.

The good path rose gently through mixed woodland then a sanctuary of willow and an assortment of berry producing bushes. Sue distracted the wildlife with frequent shouts of "Hello Bear". We met two small groups of backpackers finishing a four day circuit. Later we chatted to three more who were starting the circuit. Were we envious? Well, we had tried to get backpacking permits for some routes back in May, but the quotas were full, so we decided to bring a bigger tent on this trip and do day walks.

Yes, we were very envious. We consoled ourselves with a chocolate muffin.

However, today's walk was a good one. The third picture shows Nigel Peak, with the pass showing in the middle distance atop some reddish rocks. The next picture shows Sue on the pass, our high point of the day at 2195 metres. There was a nice cool (if smoky) breeze.

From there we dropped down to cross the milky blue Brazeau River and continue on through an area like Dolomitic scree towards the first of the backcountry campgrounds that the backpackers use. You can't just camp where you want, and it's difficult to go anywhere other than on a recognised trail. Perhaps that's why some Canadians struggle with the TGO Challenge.

The fifth picture shows the view of the Brazeau River and Nigel Peak (presumably named after someone called Nigel) from the furthest point we reached before turning back towards the higher reaches of the river. The sixth picture sees us enjoying lunch before the river crossing (next picture) with a backdrop of smoke engulfed mountains.

From there we enjoyed an incident free stroll back along our outward route, encountering the aforementioned three backpackers and numerous squirrels, pika, chipmunks, small birds, etc - but no bears despite Sue's frequent greetings.

18.5 km, with 500 metres ascent, in 6 hours.

So, after our pleasant six hour walk we returned to Charlie for what should have been a scenic 60 km drive to Waterfowl Lake campground.

This turned out somewhat differently. Forget the 'scenic' bit. What followed was a long, boring drive along a tree lined road at a speed limit of 90 kph which everyone seemed to be ignoring despite stories of whole processions of vehicles being frequently pulled over for speeding. Occasional outlines of mountains could be seen beyond the fir trees.

Waterfowl Lake campground, from where we had planned what on paper was an excellent walk for tomorrow, was closed due to the risk of fire.

20 km further on we stopped at Bow Lake for the only view we got on the entire journey. The bottom picture, into a weak yellow sun.

Another 23 km and we stopped at Mosquito Creek campground. Full.

The campsite at Lake Louise had bad reviews, so we continued, now on the Bow Valley Parkway after the Icefields Parkway terminated at Lake Louise, to Protection Mountain campground, some 40+ km on from Mosquito Creek. Closed.

Back to the huge campground at Lake Louise. Full.

Our only option now was to head a further 60 km, along another horrible tree lined road with no views, to Banff, where a patient time in a long queue at the 618 site Tunnel Mountain Village 1 Campground yielded a position for us at 'J3' that we gratefully accepted.

By now we'd driven about 220 km rather than the anticipated 60 km, and had spent three hours longer than planned in the car. We had limited time before darkness fell, so I put the tent up and Sue saw to dinner. By 8.30ish it was dark and we were resting in the tent, which despite appearing to be in a forest is next to a main road and a railway line. We will just have to put up with the noise.

A Canadian Adventure - Day 34

Tuesday 5 September 2017

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.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

A Canadian Adventure - Day 33

Monday 4 September 2017

Jasper to Columbia Icefield Campground

After another comfy night in the tent we woke to fog. Our drive south along the Icefields Parkway is supposed to be one of the most scenic in North America. So the fog was a slight (understatement) disappointment.

Luckily, by the time we reached our first stop after 25 km, the fog had burnt off and we enjoyed a short exploration of the paths around Horseshoe Lake, with good views of the surrounding mountains.

We stopped at just about every available viewpoint today, so I'll only enumerate where we actually went for a walk. The first walk was at Athabasca Falls. There was a huge amount of water going down. It finishes up thousands of miles away in the Arctic Ocean.

Coffee and carrot cake at Sunwapta Falls Resort, where there are some brilliant photos by Paul Heppner, fueled us for the next excursion, at the eponymous falls. After lunch at a sunny picnic bench we joined the hordes who were viewing the upper falls. Then a bit of a walk took us to the equally dramatic lower falls, well away from the crowds. That''s where the rainbow effect was at its best. Surprisingly this stroll amounted to almost 5 km!

It wasn't far then, after more pauses for views that may or may not be included in today's pictures, to the Columbia Icefield Centre. A big building with a green roof. We drove past it to the Wilcox Campground, rejecting that and turning back to the 'tent only' ie no RVs Columbia Icefield Campground. We found an ideal spot (apart from the usual lack of grass) for the next couple of nights. It'll be cooler as we are at about 2000 metres whereas Jasper is at 1000 metres.

We have some quiet and friendly neighbours from Maine, Steve and Theresa. Between us we have tried to put the world to rights, North Korea permitting.

Today's pictures are chronological. As you can see, it was a wonderful day once the fog had cleared, with a lovely moonrise.

It's a shame there is no WiFi or phone signal here - this posting will have to wait.*  

9 km on three short bimbles. Charlie managed about 100 km.

* Now Tuesday and we've nipped very briefly into the Icefield Centre, which has WiFi. The next posting may be subject to a long delay though. Thanks in the meantime for all your comments. It was nice to here from Ken and Helen, and from David O.

Monday, 4 September 2017

A Canadian Adventure - Day 32

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sunday 3 September 2017

Maligne Canyon

Overnight rain meant that we slept well without the sound of screaming children. Just the cawing crows to get us into gear for an early morning (9am) cuppa.

Then we visited the Bears Paw Bakery for breakfast before tootling up to Maligne Canyon. A popular place on a Bank Holiday. Full of tourists like us, looking at the plentiful information boards, as well as coachloads of orientals who we assume are enjoying a long weekend away from Vancouver. Nowhere near as crowded as Joffre Lakes though.

It's a remarkable canyon, well worth the visit. There's not much water at the top, but the water draining from Medicine Lake, many miles upstream, 'springs' into the river as it descends the canyon. It must have been these lower reaches that a Belgian Jesuit missionary was trying to cross with his horse in 1846 when he named it 'Maligne' ('evil' or 'wicked' in French).

There are supposed to be fossils at the top of the canyon. We saw lots of these. Bipeds. There were also whirlpools, and all the usual features of a deep, over 50 metres in places, narrow gorge.

It was good to make contact with my daughter Kate during this walk, and we were pleased to hear that her first day in a new job went well, and that an 'Escape Room Blog Project' has been instigated.

We returned to camp for lunch in the shelter, as it had started to rain again. Then a planning session for the next few days, during which our contact with the outside world may be limited as we'll probably be on very basic campsites with no phone signal. It's possible that you may not hear from us until next weekend, and that postings may be erratic.

After a bit of exercise by the river we adjourned to Jasper for the last time, visiting the poshest laundry in the world, and the supermarket, to set us up with provisions and clean clothes for the next phase of the trip. Then pizzas at a rooftop pizza emporium with a '70s music tape, and great, clear views to the Queen Elizabeth range of mountains that we could only see as vague outlines until yesterday. What a difference the lack of smoke makes!

All in all a very satisfactory 'rest day'.

Today's pictures were taken in Jasper and in Maligne Canyon, the last one was from the pizzaria.

4 km on bimble in canyon with ~ 100 metres ascent, plus 4 km by the river in 20.45. Charlie had an easy day.