Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Rawson Lakes

11.3km 5658ft trailhead 7806ft Sarrail ridge vert gain: 2200ft

Next trip was to Rawson Lake, a small tarn above Upper Kananaskis Lake. Really impressed with Kananaskis Lake pictures behind Suz at left. Stunning crystal clear lake with Mt Indefatigable (Mt Fatty as the locals shorten it) proudly guarding the far shore. Strangely, there was no-one around even though you can drive right to this magnificent lake.
In an effort to lessen the load of my pack and give my shoulder a break I chose to leave the trail guide in the car. Thus setting in motion the following short drama:

Dave: I absolutely will not carry that book around today! (expression denotes total confidence) I stared at the map and totally know where were going.
Suz: ( expression of stiffled scepticism ) Hmm.
3 hours later
Dave: Okay maybe this isnt the Surail Ridge but lets just climb up here 'cause I'm positive it flattens out and plus ....

Anyway, we eventually ended up where we intended. And though they say that the winners write history here I am recording the events. Therefore I will boldly suggest that trudging around, backtracking and climbing blind dead ends added to the adventure of the trip. At least until Suz figures out how to hack this article. The view on top of Surail Ridge was dizzyingly great. All told this trip was 12km round trip with elevation gain of 1200 feet.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Headwall Lakes

14km 6265ft trailhead 7675ft upper lake vert gain: 1400ft

This weekend we went to Headwall lakes, a series of tarns in the southern end of the Kananaskis range. The walk up the valley was more than pleasant with much of the understory turning colors. The fireweed was at its zenith for color.

about 5km from the trailhead is a fairly steep and gnarly section that demanded total care and attention but after about 100 feet of vertical, the trail evened out into a fantastic Karst landscape of weather eaten limestone cut into fantastic shapes. At about 7000 feet, just above the treeline, the landscape becomes quite lunar.
One of the many oddities above the treeline was a chirping sound that seemed to change direction. It was as though there were pan-dimensional chimpmunks trapped in eddys in the space-time continuum. Suddenly at a moment of interphase, the probability wave collapsed into what looked like a cute rodent with big ears and no tail.
Our friend google explained that this critter was a Pika and that they are renown for their ability to throw their voice in every direction. This same rodent, also found in Japan is the inspiration for the Pokemon character Pikachu. Luckily we weren't aware of this at the time for an encounter with living anime would have had deleterious consequences to our mental health.

At left Suzanne pauses at the top of the upper headwall. The range in the background is the continental divide. All told, the trip was 15km roundtrip with 1500 feet in elevation gain. The cirque guarding the tarns has a very wild quality about it. Suzanne gave this trip 7 chewy bars out of 10 but I was more fascinated by the karst as I would give it an additional scoop of gatorade powder.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Grizzly Peak/Col

5.8km 7239ft trailhead 8550ft col vert gain: 1300ft

Trip # 3 took us to Grizzly Peak. The northernmost peak in the Opal Range. The Opal range dominates the K-country landscape with its vertical bedding planes giving rise to some very striking mountains. The car is parked in the ditch at an unmarked creek which tells you that you're definitely off the beaten track. The approach follows the wonderfully named Ripple Rock Creek with Mt Evan Thomas looming behind Suzanne in the photo.(right)
Foolishly I pronounced this "the best trail ever!" though the first kilometer was unbelievable gorgeous. But it quickly got pretty steep. Which is fine, you just have to throw yourself at the task ahead. But after about 500 vertical feet, our protestant work ethic was morphing into some sort of zoroastrian trial by fire. Finally after determining that I could climb up but my lack of shoulder extension prohibited me from getting down safely, we carefully retreated. Was rather surprised since a guidebook I had made no mention of the exposure (drop) pictured at left. Certainly when fully healed I will return with great fury and vengeance.

left: Beaten by the Rock Band

Fortuna, ever a good friend provides again as we determined to salvage the day by wandering over to the Highwood Pass. This is the highest public road in Canada and after parking at the pass we journeyed up a nameless peak overlooking the highwood valley.

This view was a 10 out of 10 and took only a half hour from highway 40! Pretty good effort/reward ratio. Climbing southeast into Pocaterra cirque brought us through stunning country finally having a well deserved break at the tarn that fills the cirque. Suzanne got the best of me in an impromptu tarn pun off.

At left Suzanne poses in the Pocaterra Cirque somewhere above the treeline in the peri-glacial deathscape. We loved this hike and it allowed us to recon the Pocaterra ridge (peak on the left)

I found a very small ammolite up here but of an unsaleable grade. Something that really impressed me was along the way we passed a wall of scree that was perhaps 500m tall and bowling around us in two directions. Its quite staggering to have 400 million apple-sized rocks filling your entire field of view. All in all this trip got 8 Quaker chewy bars out of 10 despite turning our legs to jelly.