Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ridge 1 + Ridge 2 =

 =  my friend's favourite quote that she shared with us today!  It goes like this "if it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you!" That arithmetic was put to the test and it equalled out correctly.

Come hell or high water, there was no way I was going to let this Saturday just slip on by, considering the fabulous forecast.  I had an idea of where I wanted to go, I put a shout out to friends and low and behold, three jumped right in there.  Between the four of us, we quadordinated (yes, that is a word, we invented it today) a large day and made it happen! 

Mission:  ascend to Highwood Ridge, cruise the Ridge, descend to valley, ascend to Grizzly Ridge, cruise the Ridge, descend to Grizzly Col, descend to Pocaterra Cirque,  return to trail head.

With detailed directions provided by Short Stop, we easily found our way from the Highwood Pass parking lot, to where our first ascent began.  It was a mix of steep sections, rooty in parts, slippery rocks, a little mud at times, and some easy hands on scrambling.  Once we got that out of the way, it was smooth cruising the whole length of the Highwood Ridge.  The views in all directions were awesome!  This is looking down to the highway and behind us is Pocaterra Ridge on the left in this photo.
looking across the highway towards Ptarmigan Cirque, Mount Rae and Mount Arethusa
view to the south
As we cruised the Ridge, we could see the cairn on the high point of the south end and also where we would begin our descent to the valley below on the right.  All the while, we had the highway on our left and Paradise Valley on our right.
We reached the south end only to discover it was marked with an inukshuk instead of a cairn.  This was the choice place for a Highwood Ridge summit shot.  We also took the time here to check out the directions for our descent route.
From left to right:  Elk Range, Grizzly Ridge, Paradise Valley, Highwood Ridge
Now the challenge begins and I have no photos to share of this portion of our day.  Taking pictures was not our priority.  We put our route finding skills to work for the steep descent off the ridge which was over rocks of all sizes, through forest, a little bushwhacking, and at the bottom an easy creek crossing.  We continuously announced our presences and blew the air horn once.  We very, very slowly ascended the very, very steep slope to Grizzly Ridge.  I began to feel that feeling of not feeling well, light headed, slight head ache, upset stomach.  Once at the Ridge, we stopped for a full lunch break and all expressed feeling different levels of being beat.  After all, when you think of it, we began our hike at 2200 meters so we were high already before we even began to get high.

Now, back to taking photos while coasting along Grizzly Ridge.  
view to Paradise Valley below and Highwood Ridge to the right
summit shot at the high point on Grizzly Ridge
We discussed picking up the pace as time was getting on and we wanted to make sure we were down before dusk but these folks did not help with our making quick progress.  They were wonderful entertainment!  (we met up with them later, secured an email address to forward our photos of them to.)  They eventually made it into that window and then scrambled to the top of Mount Tyrwhitt.  
We made our way off Grizzly Ridge, to Grizzly Col then descended to Pocaterra Cirque.  This was the view as we made our descent with the start of Pocaterra Ridge in the center.  The lighting was gorgeous at this time of day and the colors were pretty.  Many of the larch trees still had all their needles while others were totally bare.
Pocaterra Tarn
heading home
I know today has to have changed me in some way, not quite sure exactly, but I know it has to do with depth of determination and of digging deep.  While today was not the longest and steepest hike I have ever done, it does stand out for being one of those days, you know one of those days, how can I say it "just one of those days!" 


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Vivid & Vibrant was... Healy Pass, the Monarch Ramparts, Eohippus Lake, Simpson Pass...

Even though I was hiking in Banff National Park where all the big mountains are, they were not the main attraction.  In a way that was a good thing because they appeared to be covered in a haze anyway.  From what you are seeing here already, you have probably figured out that orange and gold were the focus.  At this point, we have come off Healy Creek Trail and heading towards the Pass and this is where the show began.
Here is where we are headed next, The Monarch Ramparts (the long ridge spanning the width of the photo) which would be our high point for the day.  This was also the start of seeing the many, many lakes along the way.
I love the larch trees this time of year!
As we cruised along The Ramparts, the views grew and grew.
I was extra happy today that the weather was in our favour, and that we hit this trail at just the right time of year, when the larches were at their prime.  I choose to portray this extra happiness by making my summit shot more joyful and like I have a little more spring in my legs.
The larch trees were never ending.
We took time at the high point along the ridge for some fun photos.   I took a few moments to myself to "breathe".  I felt like I was "on top of the world" sitting here with this unbelievable view right before my eyes.
Our first lunch was at the beginning of The Ramparts and our second was here, after we descended The Monarch Ramparts down to Eohippus Lake.  This is what it looked like today.
Here it is on July 16, 2011.
After our second lunch, we hiked through the meadow towards the trail that would take us to Simpson Pass.  Along the way we passed by a few more lakes.
Last week we saw grizzly bears along the way, today it was a moose.  
There were two, see the other one napping in the grass to the right!
We made our way to Simpson Pass then back on to the Healy Creek Trail for the long stretch back to the trail head.   After today's hike, I felt pleasantly depleted (we hiked 27km), and I felt that I had my fill of the vivid and vibrant larch trees.  So that's it for focusing on orange and gold for this year now back to some more grey and black mountains before everything turns white!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

How Much.....

.....can one handle!  I got that sensory overload feeling today on our hike to Wenkchemna Pass! You may too by the time you reach the google earth map at the bottom of this post, but I tell you, invest a few minutes here and come on our ride.  It was one of those days when one thing after another, then another, then another, then another happened.  Don't get me wrong, all this was good and was what makes for a fabulous, memorable day.  The stars aligned with perfection today with sensational scenery, fun friends,  wonderful weather and exciting experiences.   It all began to unwind when the trail opened up. 
Eiffel Lake showed off it's cobalt color and even offered up a reflection.
Our destination of Wenkchema Pass was now clearly in sight which is in the center of this photo.  It looked so close but clearly wasn't as we hiked and hiked and hiked.  At this point, we could see other hiking friends, who were merely dots, scrambling their way up the Peak on the right.
Just before the Pass and looking back, there was The Valley of Ten Peaks and also Mount Temple on the left in the middle.  I never thought I would say a puddle looked pretty, but the one down below is.
We reached the summit at 2611 meters (8566 feet) and each had our summit shots shot.
The weather was fine so the summit cairn was our dining spot.  No need to go low for shelter today.  From here we could see some of the ten peaks and the valley below, we watched our other friends scramble up Wenkchemna Peak and even gave a shout out back and forth.  It is amazing how sound carries in these places.  Checking out the sights we noticed other friends on top of Wasatch Peak.  We met up with them later and I showed them the photo I got of them up there.
After lunch, we packed up and headed down the trail.  Descending down through the steep rocky section was where I experienced that celebrity status feeling.  A gentleman asked "are you Alexandra?"  He is one of my loyal followers and must have as much passion for the mountains as me because he and a few others came all the way from Edmonton to hike Wenkchemna Pass.  We shared a photo op and chatted for a bit.  It was so nice to meet you and I wonder was there anything at the summit that made you smile extra wide!

We made it off that steep section then all of a sudden some of my friends let loose.  What did you eat? What did you drink?  I contribute it to being high on life and feeling on top of the world.  Thank you for your craziness and for the laughs.  This was as loose as I got.
Eiffel Lake went from being that cobalt color on the ascent to sapphire on our return trip.
We've been to the summit, we had our fun, we got wonderful photos, shared many laughs now it was time to put our heads down, watch our foot placement on the rocky rooty section of the trail and make our way back to the trail head.  In a moment of quiet and now business, there was this blast of a loud shrill whistle from behind that startled me.  We all stopped and looked back only to see this marmot posing.  We didn't see it as we passed by and I guess it felt dissed so needed to let us know.  Ten minutes later, we are off again after the marmot felt we enough photos and moved on. 
Once again, now it was time to put our heads down, watch our foot placement on the rocky rooty section of the trail and make our way back to the trail head.  NOT!  This is why there is the hiking restriction of a mandatory four or more folks sticking very close together.  

Mama grizzly....
....and her two cubs who were about 100 meters away feeding in the meadow.  Here we go, more time, more amazing to watch this from a safe distance.  When Mom looked up at us, we moved on then saw the very fresh scat on the trail in two areas which was not there on our way in.  
...of course...
...we're in Banff National Park...
The colors were brighter for the return trip and I took one final shot before reaching the junction and meeting up with and joining in with the migration coming down from Larch Valley.   
This was an absolutely fabulous day to be in this paradise.  My old and new friends were the biggest part in making this such an enjoyable outing and I hope you felt like you were "on top of the world" just like I felt!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Wishing it to be Autumn!

Many years ago I did the color analysis to find out what color of clothing and make-up are best suited for your skin tone.  The four categories are the seasons.  The results showed I was a "spring" which I was happy about because "spring" colors were bright and light.  Now I wish I was an "autumn"!  The main reason for today's hike into Burstall Pass was to see the autumn colors of gold, orange, red.  I have had a fabulous summer hiking season and I have been wishing it to be autumn to experience those cool, crisp mornings and seeing those colors. 

Autumn was in the air at the trail head, once we reached the alluvial flats there were those autumn colors and in my mind I was no longer a "spring",  I declared myself an "autumn".   
view from alluvial flats
Snow Peak and Mount Birdwood from Burstall Pass
found a high spot on Burstall Pass for my summit shot
We explored around the Pass and along a portion of the trail that leads to Leman Lake then found a sunny, sheltered spot for our 45 minute lunch break.  You can see the trail on the bottom right which we took from Burstall Pass to our lunch spot.
Mount Assiniboine
I was glad we timed it right to see some color and it turned out being a warm day too.  As it was a Friday, the trail wasn't too busy.  The hike was straight forward and rather easy with no challenges which was exactly what I wanted for this day.  My wish has come true, it may not be officially autumn by calendar standards, but it is in the mountains and it is in my mind!