Friday, June 28, 2019

Healy Pass & Egypt Lake June 28, 2019

For a few years now I have wanted to venture to Egypt Lake via Healy Pass but attack it out and back as a day hike.  Now was the time to get it off the back burner so I was happy to find a friend who was keen to give it a go.  It's a long day with a bunch of elevation gain late into the day when you could already be tired from what was accomplished so far.  Most people do this trip as a backpack trip, there is a back country campground there along with the Egypt Lake Shelter.   There is a song that I hear lots these days and maybe the words say it all with the objective I put forth for the day, "she's sweet but a little bit psycho!"  I wanted to be off into this place that seems and sounds so far away, where you cross the bridge over Pharaoh Creek leading to Egypt Lake & Scarab Lake & Mummy Lake and stand in front of Pharaoh Peaks. 
We started at the Bourgeau Parking Lot and followed the Healy Pass Trail through sprinkles, mud, rain and even snow.  We wondered what we were in for today, not having seen these conditions listed in any weather reports.  We stopped to take shelter, to dry off, to question what the heck!  Then just like that, out of the blue comes the blue.  Our spirits were lifted and we carried on.  It was so pretty when we arrived at the bridge crossing where the larch trees and meadows begin.   
The ground was a carpet of glacier lilies.....
....with patches of alpine paintbrush scattered here and there!
A mixture of glacier lilies & anemones as far as the eye could see!
We made it to Healy Pass with thankfully a bit of blue.  It lasted long enough for a quick refuel before capturing a few photos and getting on with getting down to Egypt & Pharaoh territory.  You can see The Monarch and The Monarch Ramparts behind me.
As we began the descent I noticed this sign which looked brand new.  
Well, it was new to me since my last visit up in the Healy Pass area.  
We are headed way off down into the valley in the middle below and surrounded by those peaks.
working our way down 
We reach the bottom and make a quick visit to the Warden Cabin to see no one is home yet.
While we questioned off and on along the way would we make it to Egypt Lake, we now know for sure that we will.  The bridge crosses Pharaoh Creek which is the water source for those camping at Egypt Lake and staying in Egypt Lake Shelter.  Right behind me is Pharaoh Peaks.
Pharaoh Creek
Egypt Lake Shelter
We arrived at Egypt Lake.  Before doing anything I made sure to capture a destination shot while we still had some blue sky.  With the history so far today, the blue would probably not last, and it didn't.  We did get to have lunch but did not linger long.  The showers started and turned to rain and then snow.
We made our way back to the shelter and went inside to brew some tea.  Our intentions were to make tea while having lunch at Egypt Lake but the rain put a damper on that plan.  It was nice to have tea inside and dry off.  While doing so, the sky once again turned blue.
The axe was the heaviest I ever lifted.  
my friend crossing back over Pharaoh Creek with Scarab Peak in the background
We made our way over to the Warden Cabin again before beginning the big ascent.  The Cabin was still boarded up but two people were settled in on the front deck with their backpacks and boots off.  We wondered was this where they planned to spend the night!
We were slow and methodical as we ascended!
Again it rained and snowed and hailed and sleeted but we forged on to get the job done.  
When the sun came out, I got happy and silly but boy was I beat.  
Once again there is The Monarch in the middle.  With the wind settled and the sky blue again, we sat on rocks to devour some food to get us through the last eight kilometers.  We had a great view of wildflowers and mountains.  We acknowledged how pleased we were with accomplishing that tough climb and also how fortunate we were to have this experience today.
I savoured my last sandwich and this view.  
Now we just needed to get back into the forest and get on with completing the last hour and a half of hiking.  It rained, it poured, it snowed just as we expected it probably would.  I didn't care at this point.  Ten and a half hours later we arrived back at the car.  I was pleasantly depleted and joyful once I got my boots and socks off and got to sit on the comfy car seat.  Thank you for sharing today with me and being in the same frame of mind with thinking "oh whatever with the weather" it truly doesn't matter!  I don't think these are the words to use "she's sweet but a little bit psycho", but rather I believe "they are adventurous, spirited, strong and passionate" are better suited!  

Monday, June 24, 2019

Plain of Six Glaciers June 24, 2019

It has been ten days since I last hiked and only yesterday did I begin to feel any interest in hitting a trail again.  That jet lag lagged on but now it is gone.  As it is nearing the end of June I thought I should make an attempt to hike somewhere at Lake Louise before summer season up there gets into full swing.  I decided to make my destination the Viewpoint beyond The Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House.    I was on the road very early, I knew I needed to be to beat the crowd and to enjoy the hike under the best weather of the day.  

So - it's a Monday, a decent forecast but not the best, it is still June and school is not out yet for the summer.  So - note - I passed by the Moraine Lake turn off at 7:08 and it was already closed.  A few minutes later I arrived at the Lake Louise Parking Lot and I ended up at the far end of the lower lot in one of the last parking spots available.  Parks people were also beginning to send people to the upper lot.  So - this is a sign of what to expect from here on in.  I am happy to have already completed my classic Plain of 6 Glaciers hike and also already got in a hike up to Larch Valley earlier in June. 

It was sprinkling when I left home but I knew from the forecast I would drive out of that and be afforded a lovely day in the Lake Louise area.  Five minutes down the road a rainbow formed and it was there until I reached Scott Lake Hill.
It was quiet in Lake Louise Village but not so up at the Parking Lot.  
I thought UGH the trail is going to be busy already.  
I geared up and headed off towards the Lake.
Lake Louise was as beautiful as it can be.  But, where are all the people that belong to all those cars in the lot?  I thought, UGH, they are probably all on the trail already.  I captured this one shot as it was as perfect as it gets here.  I thought while here, about Lago di Braies in The Dolomites which I hiked to just two weeks prior.  That's their version of a beautiful iconic Lake.
I was still wondering where were all the people!  I passed by the turn off to Mirror Lake and Lake Agnes to where you would access Big Beehive, Little Beehive and Mount St Piran.  The access was closed due to a bear in the area.  This was a first for me to see this in this location.  I thought, UGH, this means everyone is probably already on the Plain of Six Glaciers trail.
pretty purple petals
Along the lake shore I passed by many meanderers and then once at the end of Lake Louise there was no one for quite some time.  Before the ledge section I met a couple from Texas and hiked with them up to the Tea House location.  We passed by about five people and that was it.  I still wondered where was everybody but then let that go because I knew they were not here and it would be nice and quiet.
I asked a fellow from New York to capture my photo and showed him I wanted it to look like the photo above.  This is what he secured.  He took directions well.  The couple from Texas went off to the Tea House and I headed off to the Viewpoint along with the New York couple.
I thought back to what my Dolomite friend taught me about yoga poses.  I took my time and went through the steps and this was the outcome.  It may be hard to tell here but that boulder is sitting on the edge with a steep drop down behind me and to my right in the photo.  You definitely need good balance here!
I settled in for a snack.  It was too early for full on lunch and I was not that hungry either.  I did have a spot of tea with my snack.  While sitting here Victoria Glacier let go some of her load creating a thunderous rumbling boom.  It was the first time the others ever experienced anything like that.  I was happy for them!    This was my snack time view of Lefroy.
view down to Lake Louise with The Chateau at the far end
On the hike back I passed many people just coming up.  The sky around the Tea House and the Viewpoint was now overcast with no blue.  These things confirmed leaving early was the wise choice.

arriving back at lake level
view from the lake edge looking at Lake Louise and The Chateau and the Lake Louise Ski Hill

I am quite happy with how today transpired.  I love this area and all the hiking opportunities with some being favourites of mine.  I don't know when I will next be here so I savourved every second today.  It's just not user-friendly enough anymore now to leave home at a humane time and expect to get a parking spot and not share the area with thousands upon thousands on any given day.  Maybe my next visit will be to X-C Ski come next winter!  

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Dolomites Italy "A Final Framing"

When I looked up the definition and the criteria for selection, it became obvious why The Dolomites in Italy are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It became a dream come true to actually physically stand front and center surrounded by this spectacular landscape.  The vastness made me feel tiny yet I felt larger than life when experiencing that feeling like I am on top of the world.  I am so thankful the stars aligned for this adventure and afforded me a joy reaching far beyond my expectations.  

My time was spent in the far northern reaches of Italy veering on touching the border with Austria.  Some said this area had a more Austrian feel than an Italian feel.  Signs and such would lead you to that conclusion.  For me, I was in Italy and living the Italian style.

We completed five hikes in the region as are displayed on this GoogleEarth Map.  These are my tracks recorded on my Garmin 64s, except for our first hike to Lago di Braies.  A member from my group forwarded me his track.  In all the excitement I put uncharged batteries into my unit.   We used different devices and methods for recording our hikes and compared at times what our distances and gains were.   

I recorded my summit experiences on Peakery.  Durakopf was listed there but no one had recorded hiking there or reaching the summit.  In the eyes of Peakery, I was the first one to summit Durakopf so earned the flag which I will have forever.  I also earned "King of Mountain" but there just needs to be one other person to summit it twice and I will be dethroned.  

my three Italian Dolomite summits

We had quite the guide and how lucky we were.  Our group was his third last to lead.  Two more groups to guide and then he is off heading down a new path in life.  With mixed emotions he leaves this life of five years behind to move to another country and begin a new career path which is the polar opposite to a guiding in the mountains lifestyle.  I enjoyed hearing his adventurous stories.  He knows the area well and had lots of facts to share with us.  He is at home in the mountains and that showed with his "happy feet" and being comfortable standing in precipitous places.  I liked that he took us off trail at times, getting us across creeks and at times into the bushes with some light bushwhacking.  I thank him for appeasing me when I wanted photos incorporating my antics.  

I wish you the best of everything in life!  

I came away with just short of 1000 special split seconds in time.  
Following are two small collections of some of my favourites for one reason or another.  
I look at them and I am drawn to them.

I enjoyed sharing these days with the others in my group.  Our guide told me this company is most popular with the people from Great Britain.  He was surprised and seemed delighted when I met him at the airport and told him I was from Canada.  We had members in our group from United States (Colorado & Wisconsin), Australia, Wales and England.  It surprised me how much some of the group knew specifically about Calgary, Alberta and some had even been to Banff National Park.  If you ever find your way to this part of the world please be in touch.  You can contact me in the upper left corner here under view my complete profile and then click on contact me.  It would be my pleasure to show you our mountain lifestyle.

I am only now feeling like myself again as that jet lag is no longer lingering.  All the vacation laundry is complete, my fridge is full again, the suitcase is back in the basement.  My blog posts are finalized, the collection of maps are filed away and I made the last visa payment.  Even though, I still don't feel ready to let Italy go.  I know as time passes the vividness will blur a bit.  Wonderful memories have been made and I will always have those.  

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Dolomites Italy Monte Piana June 14, 2019

Before this adventure, I did loads of homework on the locations of the hikes which were listed in our itinerary. I tried to find gpx files, read other peoples trip reports and looked at photos.  For me this is all a part of the anticipation.  I did not though read the significance of the locations or the history of the areas.  Today's hike put lots of things into perspective for me.  While I was appreciating this trip, immensely enjoying everything about it, today's hike confirmed how fortunate I am in life to be able to do what I want, when I want, where I want, how I want.  For this I am truly grateful!

Once again the church bells ring loud and clear at 6:30am and I take that as my reminder it's time to get ready to begin another extraordinary day in this peace of paradise in the Dolomites of Italy.  Once again too, the forecast reads wear sunscreen, bring lots of water and sport the shorts. Once again also, our ride picks us up at our front door at 8:30 for a 30 drive whisking us off to the playground.

Today's goal is to reach the summit of Monte Piana and explore the plateau.  To do this we first had to make an unexpected creek crossing. A portion of the trail and the bridge had been washed out by a flash flood.  We accomplished the crossing, next we attacked the steep climb and then took on the switchbacks.  We arrived at a wide open space with a 360 degree view.  The Tre Cime were directly in front of us.  I zoomed in on the hutte and could see a few people checking out the place. We had a lovely long lunch break here.

It was time to hit the summit of Monte Piana so we added on a little more elevation gain.  This place is full of war history.  Note to self:  need to follow up on the historical facts.  We meandered around the area working our way to the summit cross and gingerly stepping as we got closer to the edge. Peeking over the edge gave me butterflies in my stomach.

We left the summit and hiked almost the entire length of the plateau to where we would intersect the trail and begin the descent.  Part of it was off trail, then on trail, then on gravel, then road.  Our ride was waiting for us.  What another incredible day in paradise!  

our hike began by walking along Lago Antorno
 It was a calm, hot, humid morning.
 the calm afforded us mountain reflections in Lago Antorno
 views began right from the get-go
We crossed the road which is the entrance to the Nature Park with the Tre Cime being the main attraction up there.  We veered off to hike through the meadow.   We would be leaving the vehicle and people traffic well behind.
 view from the meadow
 notice the switchbacks up the side middle left
We could see our route down which would come at the end of the day and is the beige line descending from the top left.  Last week our guide took his group up that road due to large amounts of snow still on the main ascent route.  Fortunate for us, lots of snow melted over the past number of days and we did not have to resort to the road to ascend.
Yes, I still say fortunate for us we did not have to hike up the road, even after part of the trail was washed away along with the bridge that crosses the fast flowing creek. I whined a bit when I realized we were facing a barefooted creek crossing in fast flowing freezing cold water.  Once safely on the other side I let the whining go.
By now a significant amount of time had passed, the morning hours were passing, the temperature was increasing and we were now facing the warned about steep climb in wide open spaces with no shelter from the sun.  In no time at all, I could see back down to where the mess of rubble was and where we crossed the creek.
Thankfully the swtichbacks offered a reprieve and it was somewhat more easy going.  All that is relative!  We reached an open area where we were now having amazing 360 degree views from up high.  I could see too the direction we would be eventually heading to summit Monte Piana.
 We would eventually be up behind and beyond this wall!
 passing by a pretty place on our way to dine
We reached an area below the big main plateau and settled down for quite some time.  I felt like I was one with the Dolomites.  This is as far to the edge that I dare scootch for a destination shot.
 right in front of us is Tre Cime de Lavaredo (three chimneys)
Our guide pointed out the spot where I put an orange star.
I zoomed in to see up close Rifugio Locatelli

an Italian Dolomite crocus
 our lunch spot with a front row seat to a prime time view
One of the ladies in our group is a yoga instructor.  She was performing poses wanting a new photo to add to her site.  When I saw what she was doing, being the copy cat that I am, I wanted to do it.  She guided me through how to get to this position and to be able to hold it.  It wasn't until I uploaded my photos later that day that I saw how perfectly I am pointing to the tallest cime.
 of course I needed a jumping photo proving I am high on life
After quite some time invested in our lunch break, we carried on with our day and carried on up higher to the plateau of Monte Piana.  Fortunate again were we for the lack of snow up here.  The plateau of Monte Piana is the location of a violent battle during WWI between Italy and Austria.  There are many trenches and tunnels located all over the plateau.  We gingerly worked our way around them.   Numerous monuments are located here also.  Previous I had read there was an open-air museum up here but did not really understand what that meant.  Now I know!  I thought about the many men that lost their lives up here and even though my Dad did not fight in this war but faught in WWII, I still thought of him.  In a way it felt erie to be here, this is where those lots of things I talked about earlier were put into perspective for me.
We stood as close to the edge here as safely possible and I could see bunker entrances on the sides and also locations where the holes were cut into the mountain side to place guns.  
 We headed towards the summit of Monte Piana.
 looking straight down from the summit to the valley below
 My Monte Piana summit shot!
After visiting the summit and learning more of the history of this place, we carried on along the plateau, once again passing by trenches and monuments.  We even saw the entrance to a trench that had a sign stating is was the restaurant down below underneath.
 looking over at the trail where we were earlier in the day
 crosses and monuments and signs
 Our guide lead the way through the snow making sure it was flat ground underneath.
I asked him to capture a photo of me walking along.  I like this look.  It once again puts things into persective and shows how small and insignifant I look in this vast area on Monte Piana in the Italian Dolomites.
We reach the start of our descent route and I can see the general direction of where we need to end up and that is over there by that lake in the center.  The route is that beige line I pointed out near the beginning of my story.  It is a long, narrow, winding road.
 descending from Monte Piana
 one last photo of this peace of paradise called the Dolomites
This was the last hike.  How poignant of a hike to end on.  Our ride was waiting for us at the bottom.  We boarded the bus and in 30 minutes we were back at our home away from home.  We had two hours to pass before meeting in the dining room for our last supper which this time around was candle lite, yet still as before was decatant, divine and delicious.  This was an amazing day filled with fun times and great memories.