Friday, December 19, 2008

Rae Glacier

From the Kananaskis valley, the Elbow valley always beckons us. Guarded by the raw and imposing Mt El Pocca and Mt Arethusa this valley has always been a brief glimps on the way by to somewhere else. At left I've drawn our route from the hiway to the glacier.

As we drove through Kananaskis valley, the clouds and fog were lifting as a new system blasted in. But for an hour, the mountains were half bathed in fog making some super views.

On this particular snowy day in October, we parked at the Elbow day use parking lot 6400ft and hiked in to Elbow lake. On the shore of the lake we met a couple backcountry skiers who had been tele-skiing on the glacier that morning. After getting the ski report we braved the increasing winds and snow as we hiked up the river to Rae Glacier which feeds the Elbow River and is the source of Calgary's water. At left, Suz pauses in the glacial deathscape, a desolate environment made more harsh by the 60km/hr wind stripping us of our comfort. But undeterred, we plodded through the snow to the glacier's toe before retreating to the valley.

As cold and miserable as it was, this was a good advertisement for the Elbow Valley. In the two pictures below, it is pretty easy to imagine a beautiful summer day following the river round the next turn and scrambling up the lofty peaks that rise above the valley. We'll definitely return here either as a multi-day trip through Pipestone Pass directly behind me in the pic, or to scramble part of Mt. El Pocca.


I'm glad I've been lazy in recording our previous trips as these pictures are warming me up from the -40 its been lately.
On this Sunday afternoon in October, we thought we'd amble up Mt Laurie otherwise locally known as Yamnuska (translates to "wall of stone") For interest I proposed we tackle the south side rather than the normal approach from the northeast.

Here Suz stops to drink in a hard earned view of the Bow valley. Due to the loose condition of the rock, it was prudent to climb parallel routes. I recall having a similar sensation when I'm standing in line at the grocery store. "Is she on a better line than me? Should I snake in over there?" In the picture below, Suz is thinking about her next move.

eventually, the slabs turned into very loose scree. When loose scree is steep, climbing it can be like slogging on a stationary treadmill. I quickly realized why nobody goes this way! After a brief conference, we decided that swimming in this ankle-busting pitch was not enjoyable, we made our way down back into the trees where we promptly got misplaced. The emotions that accompany being lost are directly related to the weather, and this being a wonderfull day, we just enjoyed bushwacking through the trees. as we stumbled along, I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye and quickly directed Suz to some deadfall with a fisher on it! They're quite rare and you have to spend a long time in the bush to be lucky enough to see one. This one regarded us like a tom cat would sitting on a front porch, not really paying attention to us, but not exactly ignoring us either. We walked slowly to it as it half bounced and half slithered away in a very feline way. A vicious member of the weasel/wolverine bloodline, its one of the only animals that kills porcupines.
With all the time I spend in the bush, I've only ever seen one from afar and felt lucky at that. Our boneheaded route made us turn around and get slightly lost in the valley and ultimately rewarded us with this rare sight. Another endorsement of the path less travelled!