Saturday, September 28, 2013

Go for GOLD

In February skiers & skaters get to "go for gold", in August runners & rowers get to "go for gold", in September hikers get to "go for gold"!  The February & August participants only get to "go" every four years where as we lucky Calgary hikers get to "go" every year.  What is similar between the February, August and my group of September players is that only peak performers get to "go for gold".   A big day was designed and put out there looking for interest.  I jumped on board for the opportunity to "go for gold" in the Skoki area near Lake Louise where the larch trees would be putting on their prime time show.  

This prime time show is only prime for a very short period of time and even though the weather forecast was not ideal, we knew the golden colors would be perfect and just had to go for it.  Let another week pass and the show may be over.  Our first stop would be the Halfway Hut tucked away amongst the gold.   
Being around noon, made this the ideal spot to dine.
While my friends were inside having lunch, I ventured down by the creek side to capture gold.
As we carried along the trail and the clouds hung low, I realized this would not be the day for grand scenery photos but a day to enjoy what was up close.  I focused on going for the gold colors that were right in front of me. 
larch tree in the boulder field
We skirted around Ptarmigan Lake, ascended our way through rocks and boulders aiming for a ridge just above Redoubt Lake.  It was time for another break.  Before fueling up and gearing up, I capture a destination shot with Ptarmigan Lake behind me.
We meandered off the ridge and through the meadow....
....arriving at the far end of Ptarmigan Lake...
...reaching another meadow...
....where the view was splendid and intersected the trail to ascend to Deception Pass.
view of Ptarmigan Lake from Deception Pass
Surprisingly Deception Pass was easy to reach, but then again, we are peak performers.  It was a whole other season up here.  We just left autumn down below and arrived at winter up here.  The slight covering of snow just added to the dramatic views.
While going for gold was our main objective of the day, I was happy to have hints and teases of blue thrown in, especially when it was time for another lunch.  This was my view as I found a little shelter to relax and refuel.  We also took time to review our route for the day and formulate a plan going forward.
I see why the call was put out for only peak performers.  We would be traversing this steep boulder field aiming for that grassy knob in the center just below the glacier.  From there we should be able to eye our next destination.  
We made it to the grassy knob, made our way up and over more boulders, skirted a rock slab, and WOW, a tease of blue!  Down below us barely visible through the clouds, snow and sleet was one of the Skoki lakes.  What a tease!  This view told me that I need to come back next summer on a glorious day.  
We made it to Packer's Pass, then descended from there leaving winter behind and arrived where once again it was autumn and we could "go for gold" once again.  The meadows today were a pleasure to hike on, being spongy made it easy on the knees.
We arrived back at Ptarmigan Lake and strolled slowly.
a golden view
I declare I love larch trees!
a truly golden moment
We made our way back to the Halfway Hut and took another break there.  
I prefered to stay outside and enjoy the views.  
These golden times are so very short and I wanted to breathe in every second.  
Today was fabulous!  
We went for gold!
We won!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Ending Summer on a High Note

It's been quite the fabulous summer and I wanted to end it on a high note and the exact place to make that happen was along the Highwood Pass where you are high before you even put one foot on the trail towards gaining any elevation.  I was happy to have so many friends on board to join me today to conquer the Highwood Ridge + Grizzly Ridge Loop.  After a short stint in the trees, some easy scrambling and only 90 minutes later we are already at the highest point of the day.  Unusual for today, I start of my photo montage with my summit shot at 2700 meters at the north summit of Highwood Ridge.
This Ridge is a wonderful place to cruise or sail, what ever your choice may be.  Even though it is still technically summer, the autumn shades were abound.  My summit shot was taken at the high point of that ridge center left.  It was incredibly windy here and that stuck with us the entire day.
Along the Highwood Ridge we could see down to the parking lot where we began our day.
We stopped for a fuel break below the south summit before heading up.  The wild wind was not favourable for sticking around for many photo opportunities but I did capture the summit's Inukshuk with Highway 40 far below.  
We then carried on along the col and began our steep descent off Highwood Ridge to the valley below.  This included some route finding, a little bushwhacking, a creek crossing, another fuel break and then the steep ascent up the slope to Grizzly Ridge.  Once on this Ridge, we found a lovely spot for a little bit of a longer break for our lunch. Yes, refueling again!

The wind was still wicked, the clouds came and went, the sun sporadically appeared and the scenes were gorgeous.  This is along Grizzly Ridge with Paradise Valley down below in the middle and Highwood Ridge, where we just were, to the right.
Looking south, behind us, as we worked our way along Grizzly Ridge.
We missed the cairn along the way so stopped here for my summit shot on Grizzly Ridge.
We descended steeply off Grizzly Ridge to Grizzly Col.  
We stood on the Col eyeing Pocaterra Cirque.
Down we go again!
At Pocaterra Cirque looking back up at Grizzly Col and the trail we descended through snow.
view of Pocaterra Ridge
The blue sky reappeared for our stroll through the Cirque.  The larch trees have begun to transform but the best is yet to come over the next few days.  They seem to be a little later showing off their golden glow this year.  No matter what, this was such a pretty area to pass through. 
Pocaterra Tarn
The winds died down here long enough to get some gorgeous reflection shots in the Tarn.  We took another break here.  Even though at this point, we wanted to get this hike/scramble over with, we were reluctant and slow to leave this spot.  Even though we were low now, technically we were still high elevation-wise and mentally-wise I was so high I felt like I was "on top of the world"!  
I ended summer on a high note, at a high place, in a high frame of mind!
Mission accomplished!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

I See Your Halo

Have you heard that song "Halo" by Beyonce?  It's been on my play list for a couple of years and I swear I have listened to it about a hundred times.  For some reason, it grabbed me and held on.  Well, on Thursday, a certain few lines grabbed me in a whole different way.

Everywhere I'm looking now
I'm surrounded by your embrace
Baby I see your halo
You know you're my saving grace 

I checked the dictionary for the definition of halo and this is what it said:  the aura of majesty or glory surrounding a person or thing that is regarded with reverence, awe or sentiment.  BINGO!  Those four lines speak volumes in describing that feeling I feel every time I venture into the mountains.  Today's hike/scramble to the summit of Windtower embraces that aura, that glory, that majesty, that reverence, that awe, that sentiment.     

I had originally planned to summit Windtower on June 22, 2013 but our world came to a stop the day before and this hike was put on the back burner.  Today the time was right!  This is looking at Windtower from West Wind Pass.  Our goal is to be at the top of the highest spot in the photo below.   
A view during our brief stop at West Wind Pass.
Blue sky, few small puffy clouds, mountains, lake, reflections all packaged into one.
This was our view of the Spray Lake from part way up the steep open slope.
Looking back at The Rimwall with autumn shades splattered here and there.
By shortly after noontime we arrived at the summit to find a large cairn and a couple of wind shelters.  It was lovely and warm with no wind, so no need for shelters.  There was a need for a summit shot and this is mine.  We each had our turn going for our shot.  Everything about the place, conditions and weather was on our side so we visited for a full hour.  
After dining,  I checked out the area.  There was not a large amount of terrain to check out.  Right behind our lunch spot was a drop off and I checked it out. This was the safest way for me to do so.  Further along, we found a stash of filled water bottles tucked in the rocks and a couple of bolts for the climbers route.  On top of Windtower, I really felt that newly discovered halo effect!

Everywhere I'm looking now!

I'm surrounded by your embrace!

Baby I see your halo!

You know you're my saving grace!

Today turned out exactly as I hoped it would!  Due to this hike not being able to take place back on June 22nd because our world had come to a stop, today felt like a victory in taking back our mountains.      With arms wide open, we gladly accepted and embraced this gift today!