Sunday, July 26, 2009

Going For Green

That's where we want to go, to the top of Green Mountain! It's right there! Not far away! Not very high! Right in front of our eyes! That's why we picked this hike for today. Green Mountain was to be an easy, short Sunday recovery day, more-so for my friend who yesterday hiked 30 kms in just under 10 hours with an elevation gain of 1500 meters. This Mountain hid behind a sparse forest with gentle slopes that were covered in wildflowers. You probably know where I am headed with what I have shared with you so far!
We followed the trail and even came across the sign that said "Green Mountain" so we knew we were headed in the right direction. All the while, we got to see an array of magnificently colored flowers which was unexpected for me.
We saw Sheep River Falls, at times they roared and another time they were thunderous. We even had to cross a creek where the water was over our ankles. I was thankful for this creek on the way back, I needed to wash my boot which was totally covered in mud to the rim.

This is the route we took!

This shows where we should have gone!

We never did find our way to the top! We were armed with two fully functioning GPSs and a Gem-Trek Map. This was my friend's second attempt to summit and came away a little disappointed. I wasn't! This was my first time in this area, it was a different landscape which I appreciated. We got to practice our route finding skills. We did vow to do a little more research and down the road, make another attempt to attack.

From the elevation chart, you can see we did a lot of up and down on our quest! The next time we hope the chart will have a totally different profile!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Light Hiking With My Buddie

Today I got to see what hides under all that snow during the winter months up on the Sunshine Ski Hill near Banff. My friend R and I planned for this day a long time back. It would be a leisurely meander through the meadow taking time to stop and smell the flowers. This would not be about racking up the distance, bagging peaks or reaching new elevation levels. We even had minivan service to take us up the long and winding road to the mountain village where the trailhead is. This was my second time hiking in this neck of the mountains. I love that we have different seasons! Same place! Different time! This looks amazing through my eyes!
Our first real vista was up on Standish Viewpoint. It almost looks like a painting! It's hard to beleive this is underneath snow in the winter.
Sunshine Meadows is all about flowers and it lived up to that as you can see below. This is a sampling of the wildflowers that bloom here.
Like my blog header says "on top of the world" any chance I get to be up there, I go for it! I scrambled onto this big rock so I could get a summit shot of today's light hike with my buddie. Standing on top at the Standish Viewpoint, the scene was off Rock Isle Lake. See that little rock island in the middle of the lake? It's looks little, it's not! I even got to stand on the Continental Divide.
Often on my hikes, odd little things catch my attention. There is a reason for the title of this blog post. Along the way of this light hike with my buddie, we stopped for a bud light! A bud light lime! Green my favourite color! My friend R made a friend in this little ground squirrel. He joined us while we dined. Not only did we cross back and forth between Alberta and British Columbia on our hike but we also split our time on either side of the Continental Divide.
We had perfect weather for our day on Sunshine! It was filled with sunshine!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Higher and Higher

Of all the hikes I have done to date, today's trek to Cirque Peak on the Columbia Icefield Parkway, for me, has to have been the most challenging! I am feeling the level of difficulty involved is probably my limit. Although, I have said that before (3 times) and each time after that, I surpassed my limit. Today was such a large day it deserves to be framed! We kept a decent moderate pace all the way to Helen Lake. The few first kilometers we climbed through the trees and once we got above the tree line our destination was visible. We stopped at Helen Lake for lunch and while we were energizing, we put a plan in place to attack what faced us! "X" marks the spot! That is the top of Cirque Peak.
Along our journey, the Dolomite Peaks were forever present. They received their name from folks who thought they resembled the Dolomite Range in the Italian Alps. There are 5 peaks in total and are a mixture of limestone and dolomite.
This is grizzly territory but fortunately for us those that were ahead of us on the trail scared one off into the far meadow. We did see wildlife though! Here is a ptarmigan who blends in with the rock and a very healthy looking marmot.
Remember the "X" that marked the spot on top of Cirque Peak? Well, I reached it and now I am looking back to where we had lunch at Helen Lake. "X" marks the spot. It was quite the effort to reach the top. We had some so called "non-technical" scrambling to do. It felt technical to me because there was proper foot placement involved along with feeling for solid rocks to hold onto and there was hoisting yourself up involved too! I have been considering purchasing more solid and stable hiking boots and today I realized if I am going to be doing anymore of this kind of bagging, then I need proper footwear. At one point, a large rock dislodged and landed on the front of my right foot. Ouch! I was holding on to other large stable rocks with both hands trying to keep my balance. I could not get my foot from under the rock. The fellow above me was afraid to move fearing he would dislodge other rocks. I got a solid grip with one hand and worked at getting the rock off my foot. Finally I did! I have a dent in the front of my boot, the swelling in my foot has gone down but the bruise remains. One of the girls wondered if this is the way we should have gone that it did not seem safe without helmets. So we backtracked and found another way up.
The other way up took us to a scree-like slope which worked fine for me, I was able to move up the slope without much slipping or rock movement. It was slow though, I had to stop every few minutes to catch my breath. I said to my hiking buddie behind me that for a second there I thought, what the hell am I doing here! He gave a slight chuckle and nodded with affirmation. I realized it would take too much energy for him to verbalize anything more. I knew he had been thinking the same thing!

The effort it took to get to the "X" that marked the spot was well worth it when you end up with views like I have here in my summit shot. After this shot was taken, I sat down on the peak and could not keep my heart off my sleeve. I got emotional behind my sunglasses. No, I was not hyperventilating! That's what some others thought! Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine I would be reaching higher and higher.
I was not able to eat while we relaxed here. I noticed my GPS had skipped a beat just like I did. My summit was the first summit, a couple of others went to the far one thinking there was a registar to sign but there wasn't. I took numerous photos up here and this one is my favourite. It shows the cairn that tells us we are in the right place. You can see the Glaciers above Bow Lake. In the bottom right corner of the lake you can see Num-Ti-Jah Lodge.
It was a quick trip down off the summit. Running down the scree is like floating on air or snowshoeing down a mountain in lots of new fresh snow. We were flying! Not only was I flying down the mountain but I was flying high feeling like I was "on top of the world"!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Wild Bouquet

Even though today's focus was to be wildflowers, it was hard not to be distracted by the surrounding mountains with beautiful lakes tucked into their bases. I tried to remain focused to today's bouquets while we ascended upon Healy Pass! I'm just learning how to use the macro feature on my camera and I will be needing more practice. Today I just did lots of zooming in close and this is the fruit of my labor.
Yellow seemed to be a dominant color as did fuchsia with splashes of white and pale pink here and there. My intentions for today were to have closer examinations of the flowers comparing them to flowers in my Central Rockies Wildflowers book but time didn't allow for that. That will come on July 25th when I touch down on Sunshine Meadows.
I did touch down on Healy Pass as you can see. Yes, that is me lost in the Castilleja Miniata aka paintbrushes.
Flowers looked pretty everywhere!
Along side a babbling little brook!
Framing a mountain scene!

Carpeting a mountain meadow!

And even blending in with our blended frozen watermelon treats!

Wild bouquets were presented to us today in all shapes and sizes and colors.

Don't be fooled by what looks like or sounds like a walk in the park! This was still 6 hours and 30 minutes of hiking over 19 kms with 698 meters of elevation. The elevation was gradual though and with views like these today, effort did not amount to anything, that will come tomorrow!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Mish Mash!

Friday night already! Where did the week go! I have nothing to show for it other than two and a half days at home with I don't know what, but it was some kind of flu bug. At least it happened through the week and isn't spoiling my weekend!

You may notice I have a new list to the side here called "Alexandra's Hikes & Summits". The headlines I pick for my hiking posts have been title teasers, not really giving the heads up of what peak I bagged or meadow I meandered. This new blog roll gives a nice clean list of the actual names along with a link to my story.

I have been asking myself, "will I ever run again?" Since the marathon on May 31st, I have only run once. I don't miss it! I don't feel bad that I'm not running! I just don't feel like running! I can't be bothered! Will I get that urge back to run again! It seems so far out of reach right now!

Last Sunday I volunteered for the very first time at a race and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I helped Karen at the Robert Hamilton Memorial Race. I showed up at 6:30 am in time to help empty out her car and set up the tables of food. I also got to help at the finish line. I felt right at home and felt like I belonged yet it did not make me wish I was running. It's always fun to be around runners even when you are not running.

This weekend will be one of my new favourite kind, hiking both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday's hike is all about wild flowers. I never thought I would see the day when I would call an 18km hike with 650 meters of elevation gain, an easy hike. I have my "Central Rockies Wildflowers" already to roll. I am hoping to have lots of pretty flowery pictures to share. Then Sunday's hike is all about glaciers! Hold on tight for that one! I have no idea what I am in for!
As I was putting my lunch together for tomorrow, I realized what a colorful sight it is. Also realizing it looked rather healthy when I wasn't even heading in that direction. I'm sure others would wonder, what's healthy about it? My main course is Greek pasta salad with olives, red and green peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, feta cheese, green and red onion. I have a tuna sandwich on honey & wheat berry bread to go with that. My fruit fix is an apple, bunch of blueberries, frozen crushed watermelon. For snacking on along the trail, I'm packing a power bar and a mix of dried fruit, salted nuts, raisins and m&ms. To top it all off, what's a hike without a two bite brownie. All this gets washed down with plain water and water/Gatorade mix.
I'm ready for tomorrow other than getting a good night sleep (which may have to be in the basement where it is cooler) as we are into a heat wave here and hoping that the nagging cough has kicked the bucket!

Interested in seeing some pretty flowery photos? Stayed tuned then!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Embraced by Gargoyles

I sensed a large day ahead after reading reviews and viewing others photos of Cory Pass, Mount Edith and Gargoyle Valley. What is considered to be one of the most difficult hikes in Banff National Park served up an extra large day! Now I am knowledgeable on a whole new kind of gargoyle! I was familiar with the kind of gargoyle in the center of the photo below, not the kind you would feel comfortable being embraced by. In Cory Pass we were surrounded by these stunning pinnacles, rock formations, gargoyles. The shapes were quite unique, very large and over powering but yet the way they surrounded us, enclosed us, I felt embraced by these gargoyles and I was fine with it!
The last few hikes have taken me to places I never dreamed I would be fortunate enough or even fit enough to go to like the Tunnel at Crypt Lake and the Ledges at Lake O'Hara. More and more I find myself in places where I am more parallel to the mountains then perpendicular and at times using all fours to get where I need to go.
I feel it's building character and strength to face what faces me ahead below. My confidence level is not yet at 100% in situations like this, but with the support of my hiking buddies, I'm getting there!
By using all fours, I can get to places where the views are out of this world. I always knew the greater the effort, the greater the reward! Looking back at the sandstone color of Gargoyle Valley looked golden through my shades. Mount Louis with a very distinct looking peak continued to catch my eye as we worked our way along the scree trail in the valley. The tree is almost perfectly aligned with the center of Cory Pass. No matter where I stood, I had a view of one mountain range or another.
Although today's distance hiked was not as significant as other times I hiked, the elevation was! With just over 900 meters of net elevation and 1050 meters of total elevation, this would be the most yet for me. Would you agree, one would have to feel "on top of the world" climbing to these numbers!

Today's adventure has increased my appetite and I am hungry for more! Now, just to get through this work week before I can get my fill again!

Friday, July 10, 2009

From Pancakes, to Gargoyles to Lending a Hand

The "Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth", The Calgary Stampede is winding down this weekend. That means an end to the pancake breakfasts, which isn't necessarily a bad thing! While Stampede is winding down, my weekend is starting up! It kicks off tomorrow with hiking what is considered one of the most difficult hikes in Banff National Park. Cory Pass, Mount Edith, Gargoyles has been called an athletic, punishing endeavour. I think accomplishing this one could definitely label you as being hard core!
My opportunity to lend a helping hand back to the running community kicks off on Sunday morning. I am volunteering at the Robert Hamilton Memorial Road Race. I'll get to catch up with Karen again as she organizers all us volunteers.

Stayed tuned for what I hope will be positive, successful outcomes!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Oooh! Le! La!

For three months, I have been following my countdown clock and it seemed like today would never get here! Finally it arrived, our day at Lake O'Hara in Yoho National Park which just so happens to be a World Heritage UNESCO Site. Lake O'Hara was all about oooohs and aaaahs and ledges and lakes!
We decided upon a route where we could hug the Huber and Yukness Ledges. The ledges are considered alpine routes due to the significant elevation gain, the proximity to cliffs and drops and also unstable hiking surfaces. "Adventure Designer" guided us along these portions of the trail. From all vantage points along these ledges, we had a bird's eye view of lakes, mountain ranges, we even spotted the Elizabeth Parker Hut nestled in the trees in the far off distance.
The lakes came in many colors and varied in size with each being distinct in its own way. Of course, the main attraction is Lake O'Hara itself but one should not diminish the beauty of Lake Oesa, Lefroy Lake, Victoria Lake or Yukness Lake. The lake water is clear and colorful, also cold enough on this hot day to cool your hands and refresh your neck, arms and forehead.
As you check out the next collage, let yourself drift off to these places that I got to experience! I was high (mentally at times too) and I was on edge (mentally at times too). My eyes were full of such spectacular scenery and at times I just had to sit to catch my breath that was being taken away by the beauty.
When we are venturing off on these journeys, you never know what may come across your path. Some things are planned others are surprises and yet still there is the unexpected. If you click on the first photo below, you will see bubbles float by. This was "Sunny D Light's" surprise for us! "Ms D No Stopping Me" brought her kite. Have you ever known of a kite to fly so high from a mountain top? You can't get away from that is! Well, it is the 21st century so what can we expect. Have you heard of Mitchell Fenton? We now have!

This was an absolutely amazing day! Thank you to Sunny "D" Light for securing four coveted spots on the yellow school bus that took us from reality to a place where we could walk through a dream.