Saturday, November 26, 2011

Playing in the Dark!

In the past, I have only ever admired the Lions Festival of Lights from the vantage point of a slow moving vehicle.  This year I had reasons to get up close and personal!  First, it was a great opportunity to play with the low light, night time, fireworks etc features on my new SX40HS.  Second, I could check off an item from my to-do list!  The item I got to check off was to particpate in a mob flash dance.   How cool was that?  Very cool!  Especially seeing the looks on folks' faces when the dance broke out.  

This is a sample of how my camera performs!
I am happy with the fireworks setting.
Night time burst works great!
Close up in the dark is perfect!
Auto focus does exactly what it is suppose to do!
Then there are the characters and face dectection, blink detection, red eye reduction!
The Mayor!
All in all, a fun and successful time out playing in the dark.  
There are roughly 50 pages in the camera guide yet to go through, so I still have lots to learn.  

Sunday, November 20, 2011


One of the adventures on my to-do list was to go to the Elk Lakes Alpine of Canada Hut.  On my list I didn't get into when I wanted to go, for how long, how I was going to get there, with who, I only knew that I wanted to go!   Check Mark!  I went!  It didn't take long before I began to feel like I had escaped.  Sign after sign proved I was getting further and further away.
We were able to hike until this point but from here on in, it was snowshoe time!  Just one thing, from here on in, it wasn't from here on in.  It was back track then aim for the Hydroline Trail and from there it was from there on in. 
There was much more snow then anticipated and that slowed our pace when we had to break trail.  (Note: This sign was actually taken on the way out two days later in daylight hours.)  Back to on the way in! We had already snowshoed an hour in the dark by the time we reached this sign.  I had snowshoed in the dark before and felt a little wobbly, but with a 42 pound pack on, I felt like a drunken sailor. 
Finally, just over six hours later after leaving the trail head, we arrived at home sweet home!  
Discoveries can be good and bad!  The good ones far out weighed the bad ones for me this long weekend!  I love being in new places with child-like wide eyes discovering new mountains, new creeks, new lakes!
I discovered that winter hutting takes work!  On top of trekking in through the deep snow with a heavy pack, I lost count of how many buckets of snow we collected to make water.  I'm sure that if all the logs I brought in to keep home sweet home toasty, were put on top of each other, they would make one of those gigantic B.C. trees.  It was work but work that I didn't mind doing at all!
The discoveries that I did make that were bad were that I had lost my down jacket on the way in (never to be found on the way out) and that when I dropped my camera the last morning some insides broke off (never to be able to work again).  Those are just materialistic things but I still had to have one of those "behind my sunglasses moments" without sunglasses, then carry on with life!
I thoroughly enjoyed the fresh air, the exercise, the company, the scenery, the Hut!  There were so many reasons to smile and to laugh.  My most favourite moment was on Saturday morning when I got up before the rest and I was sitting on the deck by myself, sipping on my coffee, watching the stars disappear, the sky begin to light and the alpenglow put on a show.
photo by Adventure Designer
An enjoyable part of this adventure was spending looooonnnngg hours in front of the fire.
photo by Adventure Designer
One of the things on my to-do list is to go to the Elk Lakes Alpine of Canada Hut.  I don't know when I want to go, for how long, how I'm going to get there, or who with, I only know that I want to go back!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Red Sky........ morning, hikers take warning!
We all did our homework last night and this morning checking weather, road and avalanche conditions and seeing that all was in check and A.O.K., we decided today would be a let's do it day for Sparrowhawk Tarns with the option for another close by Ridge! The sky was absolutely beautiful for the drive out with the pinkish red mixed in with the blue.  For us, this meant a nice day ahead! 

We found the trail head and parked on the side of the road to wait for our friends.  We got out to walk around and check the conditions of the surrounding mountains only to see these tracks at the trail head. We put our animal tracker skills to use and declared a cougar had passed by here within the hour.   Just like the red sky, new cougar tracks were no worries for us!
Our friends arrived, we joined forces then hit the trail!  We made it through the sheltered tree section then we were out in the open for the rest of the ascent.  From this vantage point we could see that Read's Ridge was a definite possibility on the way back.
We ascended between Read's Ridge on our left (above photo) and the beginnings of Red Ridge on our right (below photo).
 This cairn marked our way!
We layered up behind this boulder as the wind was picking up and it felt like the temperature was going down.  I looked behind and took a photo of Spray Lake thinking this could possibly be the only view I might get of it today.
We continued our determined ascent through swirling snow, paying close attention to foot placement through the gigantic boulder field.  At times we were able to walk on top of the snow, other times we sunk to our knees.  Our pace slowed.  Visibility was decreasing.  We would stop look at each other, no words being spoken,  then carry on.  
Thank you Smuts Fist for this photo!
When conditions deteriorated to this point where I could barely see my friends a short distance ahead,  we stopped then looked at each other, and this time words were spoken!  Smuts Fist made the call, to call it a day!  We couldn't see anything, it was getting worse, we couldn't tell what was a slope and what wasn't. We all quickly agreed with the call and hightailed it out of there.  
But of course, not before taking our non-summit shots!
We worked our way towards the trees finding a sheltered spot and stopped for lunch.  After eating and hiking back to the trail head, I checked my 60CSX to see we were going to be just short of 10km of hiking.  Now that's a short day!   Even though, it was still fun to be out adventuring with my friends!
If you check the google earth map below, you will see we almost made it to the Tarns.  Give or take another roughly .5 kms over approximately 50 meters up would have taken us to the beginning of our destination.  Today the smart decision was made though!  I know I will return one day in favourable summer or autumn conditions where including a close by Ridge won't be an option but a definite instead! 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Freedom to Explore

It has become an annual tradition for me to spend November 11th, Remembrance Day out in my playground being thankful and also this is the place I choose to be to take the time to remember those that fought for our freedom! When the invitation was put forth to explore the Powderface Ridge area on and off trail, I jumped at the opportunity.  I have never been before! This is the main ridge which we saved for later after exploring another area first.
It wasn't the prettiest blue sky day, but gorgeous none-the-less.  
There is Banded Peak in the far off distant center.  
Nihahi Ridge uniquely framed!
At 11:00, we found a nice sheltered spot to take a moment of silence.
Lest we forget!
While this was not our high point for the day, I thought it was a great spot for a dramatic summit shot.  This location was about 45 minutes into our hike and already we had forever views.
We tracked back and then ascended the slope to the main Powderface Ridge.  We only covered a very short portion of it before finding our dining spot.  What an amazing view!  My feet frame Calgary which is not recognizable in the photo but which I could see plain as day.
From here on in, we were off the beaten track and this is where the true fun started! We traversed, switch-backed, slid, tripped, bush-whacked down slopes, over rocks, through fields and meadows and more meadows and even more meadows.  The proof is in the track!
The meadering through all the meadows was to find this stove which we spotted just as we were giving up our seach and carrying on with ending our day. We spent some time here taking fun photos.  About 30 minutes after visiting here, we landed on a trail which would hopefully lead us back to Route 66 where we parked our vechicle for the shuttle back to the start.
We came out of the bush a little bit off track, so had a short distance to hike to the vehicle.  The car shuttle back to the start was an adventure in itself and what happened on the car shuttle stays on the car shuttle.  
This was a very easy day exploring and playing and a great way to acknowledge the freedom we have.  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Always Passed By

I was expecting my long week of long dinners, long meetings, long lunches to carry on into Saturday with my planned 15km 950 meters of elevation hike to Pigeon Mountain being a  long one potentially through snow.  As it turned out, the only thing long about today would be our shadows!  I have passed by Pigeon Mountain many hundreds of times and always just looked at it then quickly forgot about it the second I passed it by.  Today, we didn't just pass it by, we stopped in for a visit!

The first five kilometers are along roads and power line trails with continuous gradual elevation and no views at all.  This portion went by quickly and easily.
After the 5 kms and a couple of switchbacks, we arrived at the sign that indicated it was time to fuel up, gear down and start to climb.  We only had to endure a few more minutes of being without views and then.....
....we landed in a wide open space where we could see forever from here on in!  Finally we could see our destination which is that high point in the center of the photo.  It looked so close!
While ascending the steep snowless slope, I took some time to admire the views and pick out familar sights.  Right before our eyes were Wind Tower that I summited just over a year ago, the Three Sisters (Faith, Hope, Charity) and I could see Ha Ling Peak peeking out over Canmore.
There were numerous dips that created framed views!
Near the top was gorgeous!  The trees were lightly covered with brand new snow, as was the ground and the whole wide opened space sparkled.  It was here that we felt the wind and the windchill. 
I was fine with my four upper layers on, along with hat and big mitts.  The sky was clear for my summit shot background except for a plane passing by.  The others made a quick descent while Agent-X and I took a few more summit moments to take care of other fun business.
While so many others have summited Pigeon Mountain, it has not been claimed by any Peakery members.  So I claimed it and this is my badge!  I will own it and wear it proudly.
I didn't take the time to enjoy this view on our ascent, my priority was concentrating on the final push to the summit.  Now it was time to fully enjoy seeing the Bow Valley down below with Mount Yamnuska distinctly sticking out.
We checked around for potential hiking options for another season.  This gentle slope led to what looked like a possible lovely ridge walk with an easy scramble down the other side.  
Where's Waldo?  
Look closely!  
One had to have an eagle's eye to see these eyes!
The last five kms along the power line and road went quick and as we were finishing up, I was realizing that I would be home having dinner at my table at what I consider a normal  dinner time.  Not all that long ago, 15kms with just under 1000 meters of elevation would have been a long day for me.  I think we were all glad we were now heading home!
I missed being in the mountains last weekend, so was glad to be out today and it was great to catch up with my, busy with life, friends.  I liked that we could once again leave the snowshoes at the vehicles and be quite fine with just boots.  It was these important little things that made me feel like I was "on top of the world" today!