Sunday, April 22, 2018

Barrier Lake Lookout April 22, 2018

When I knew once again that Sunday instead of Saturday was going to be my play day, I rattled my brain on where to go.  I "settled on" hiking up to the Barrier Lake Lookout.  I have been up there numerous times, in various conditions at different times of the year.  When I use the words "settled on" it makes it sound like well this place is better than nothing.  My experience today gave me a whole new appreciation for this Lookout Location and the words to describe it would be at the opposite end of the spectrum to "settled on".  How fortunate was I to see this place in this way!
I went for the early start, not as early as I tried for, but early enough to see the beautiful sky on the drive out, being the third vehicle in the lot, a bit of golden glow for the hike across the dam, and hearing the coyote cries.   Shortly after entering the forest I met a group coming down who had been at the viewpoint spot since 3:00am.  I knew then I would be on my own.
a split shadow
After entering the forest it was full on snow packed and solid enough that microspikes were needed.  I was beginning to realize the early start and hopefully early enough finish would afford me no slush nor mud.  Upon reaching the view point, those lovely clouds had developed and would stay with me for the entire time.
The steep parts up to the Ridge and then on up to the Lookout were solid snow steps.  It actually made for an easier ascent.  Once the sun shone on these sections it would become a bit sketchy.  I reached the Lookout Location and was shocked to see the amount of snow.  Someone had to have been along here with a shovel.  
I have never seen this much snow up here.  I already began to think that hopefully when it melts it evaporates up and doesn't run down.  I wondered if there was this much snow on surrounding mountains.  I admired the view from the helipad before heading on to the back side of the Lookout house.
There was no way I was getting to the rocky section by the wind flag.  The snow depth was near to my shoulders.  I wondered who shovelled the path.  Would the Lookout person be coming up here to live any time soon?  This was as close as I could get to the flag as the wind gusts came and went.
When no one is home, the deck is open to visitors.  
Being up on it afforded a great view down into the Bow Valley.  
The depth of the snow is crazy.  You know how tall I am, the snow level was to my shoulders.  It was like a maze walking through this part.  I thought about when I was canyoneering near Zion and instead of working my way through slot canyons here I was working my way through a snow canyon.
on the sunny side of the deck
After savouring the sun and a snack and some time just sitting and thinking, I packed up and began the trek down.  Ooops gotta grab my destination shot first.  I tested the snow first before stepping onto it.  It was packed solid enough to support me.  I knew I better get going before the snow becomes slush making for a slippery sketchy descent.
view of Yamnuska on the way down
I spent about an hour at the Barrier Lake Lookout.  The descent down to the Ridge was easy enough and the descent down the View Point was easy too.  Beyond that the snow was becoming soft but the steep sections were completed.  As I worked my way down the switchbacks I came upon three people heading up.  I was surprised there was no one else before that.  Then there was more people and even more and then again even more.  I knew they would all be contending with slush and no doubt mud.  
Hiking back along the dam to the trail head the scenery was an explosion of beauty!  No wonder so many people were just stopping and staring.  In a way I didn't want this hike to end and in another way I was glad it was over, I wanted to hurry home and download my photos.  When I got home and looked at them it just confirmed that we have such beautiful places here in our rocky mountains and that the words "settled on" never really should be used.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I have said before and I will say it again, after today my eyes are full to the brim!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Prairie Mountain April 15, 2018

STOP!  HALT!  SLOW DOWN!  WAIT!  I CAN'T KEEP UP!  This past little while has been a blur, the days are blending together and now it's mid April already!  I haven't been able to "stop and smell the roses" or to "remember to breathe".   I fit in a few hours this morning so I could get to a place where I could stop the clock. Prairie Mountain was that place!
My hope was to get there and be part way up for when the sun woke up but I was late.  
Yet I was still early enough to be afforded a front of the line parking spot and a very quiet trail.
I was early enough to be before the winds and clouds of the day came along.
There is still lots of wind whipped snow to the sides of the main trail.
How did mid April arrive so quickly, like out of the blue it snuck up.  That means in a mere month more hiking options will open up like Moose Mountain.    It sure looks like there is tonnes of snow over that way.
It was sunny and calm when I arrived at the summit of Prairie Mountain.  I had the place to myself so took time to make sure I captured a perfect summit shot.  It was nice to see a new in tack Canadian Flag flying. Just the slightest of breezes and that little flag flew like there was no tomorrow.
I wandered down slope towards the turnoff to do the Loop. For a few seconds I contemplated going for that loop but being solo it was best to return the old fashion way, which was the way I came up.   I looked around for some creative photo opportunities and came upon a couple.
I turned around and hiked back up to the top and saw I was still solo here at the summit.  
I stopped to smell the roses and to remember to breathe.  

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Fortress Mountain March 31, 2018

On the drive out to the Casino to meet up with White Mountain Adventures, I sensed this day snowshoeing up on Fortress Mountain was going to be one of those days, you know, one of those days!  What a gift to have the cold January-like temperatures and the type of February snow both on a spring day when it's time to say good-bye to March.  I hoped for something special but what transpired far exceeded my expectations and I was transported both physically and mentally to "on top of the world"!
This Guiding Company went above and beyond today to take the two of us above and beyond.  Their rule is they need four for this adventure to go ahead.  I tried twice for a February trip with no success.  We were both determined and they decided we can make this happen today for just these two ladies.  For some reason which they don't know why, this particular full day snowshoeing adventure has not proved popular.  If I could round up eight strong snowshoeing friends, they would hold a private adventure for us up on Fortress Mountain. similar to what I experienced today.

view as we geared up 
The only tough decision today was which direction to head.  
Doing a 360, you could not go wrong whether you headed north, south, east or west.  
We aimed for the untouched pure white gold.  
The views were incredible right from the get-go.  Fortress Mountain is known for being the set of three movies;  The Bourne Legacy, Inception and The Revenant.  I am not that much into movies but those of you who are may recognize some of the scenery.

I hope you have settled in and got comfy for this read.  It is a bigger post which is worthy for being such a big day.  Up on Fortress Mountain you will find a wide open gigantic playground.  Being just the three of us and being strong snowshoers and game for adventure, our guide took us further above and beyond.  This place is a snowshoers & photographers dream.  We indulged!
The Fortress was prominent for most of our day.
After ascending through some deep pow, we then veered onto the cat track to take us even higher.
We were the only snowshoers on this mountain today plus there was a group of cat skiers off on the ski slopes.  A couple of fellows who were working with them and monitoring the conditions and keeping track of where people were stopped and chatted with us for a bit.  Thank you for capturing this shot for us.  Our guide wanted to get to Bonsai Lake for our lunch break.  We got directions on the route to take.
We hugged the tree line, leaving the wide open slope pure for the skiers.  
Our guide pointed to Bonsai Lake which is at the very bottom in that wide open space.  
OMG was what I thought!  
We began the gigantic steep descent, assessing the best route as we went.  The Guide went first and waited for us.  He captured a video of us making our descent.  It was so much fun, I was squealing with delight.  I asked for a pinch thinking this was a dream, it felt like it!  But it was as real as it gets! 
We still had more steep descending through the white gold to reach the bottom.
still making our way down
We arrived at Bonsai Lake and set up the picnic table and bench.  This adventure included a decadent lunch.  We had hot chicken vegetable soup, our choice of sandwich (we went for turkey which we got to pick when we signed up for this trek), hot chocolate, cookies, plus apples and energy bars if we wanted them.  Our guide picked up our lunch from a cafe in Banff before leaving to pick us up.  There was some snowmobile activity in the area.  The cat skiers were having their lunch set up at The Bourne.  This collage shows the snowmobiler, us toasting to our day, the lunch time view, the lone bonsai tree which is perched on a gigantic boulder, and you can see our picnic spot through the boulders.  
After investing time savouring the scenery and our lunch, we then packed up and had to make another tough decision.  Which direction should we go.  Once again, you could not go wrong whether you aimed north, south, east or west.  We aimed in the direction that would create a loop.  This meant breaking trail in deep pow again. 
a tree along the way
It was time to climb gradually back up and now we went back onto the cat track. Our guide told us if the cat happens to come along, we need to get right off the track because that thing is wide. We carried on and went up around the corner and then.....
.....there comes the cat.....
The out of this world views were relentless.  I am glad they were, they gave me reason to stop to capture the prettiness.  I was feeling tired climbing too.  This must have been a delight for the snowmobiler.
A view of the tracks made by the cat skiers.
We arrived back to an area that looked familiar which meant our adventure was coming to an end.  We crossed our track from the morning completing a big loop.  
Instead of following our old track the rest of the way back, we ventured off to enjoy some more of that sweet snow that Fortress Mountain has to offer.  Our guide made sure that every second of our time up here was the best it could be.
I did not want this day to end.  
We settled in the snow to prolong the end even if just for a few minutes.    

A big shout out to our Guide and to White Mountain Adventures for creating such an amazing play date up on Fortress Mountain.  If you got caught up with this ride and read to the end then you now know too that this was one of those days, you know, one of those days that ends up leaving you breathless and lost for words!  THANK YOU FOR TODAY! 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Rummel Ridge March 24, 2018

Today was the day to get the job done!  Back in February 2011, I was invited to share in working with a team of friends to get to the summit of Rummel Ridge.  That was back when Rummel Ridge was not sexy like it is now.  There was not much info on a trail, nor of snowshoers summiting, nor of possibly there being a broken trail.  Fast forward to 2018, it was like deja-vu, I was invited to share in working with a team of friends to get to the summit of Rummel Ridge.  While some of them have been since 2011, others have never, I wanted to take care of unfinished business.  There was a very high probability for success today with loads of trail information plus insider information of there being a trail broken recently.

We arrived to a pretty view at the roadside parking spot.  The forecast said snow for later so I made sure to capture pictures where we could actually see the surroundings.  We saw right away where the trail was and yes it was broken, thank you very much.
The climb starts pretty much right from the get-go so the views come into play quickly.  
We intersected the new High Rockies Trail and followed it for a short section.  There were a few broken trails here and there to which we did not necessarily follow. We took a trail that was the safest and worked best for us. We then took turns breaking trail while route finding to get us to where we needed to be.  The sun was out the shadows shone.
We popped out into a first big opening and this was as far as I made it back in 2011.
flash back to 2011
Today I made it to the summit of Rummel Ridge.  We commented earlier that what we did not want was to have a white-out when we reached the summit.  Well, that was pretty much what was tossed at us.  It was hard to tell where the end of the ridge was so we stuck to a very small section.
Here we are at the summit of Rummel Ridge!
I did not instigate this!
After a short visit to celebrate our success we ventured back down to a somewhat flat somewhat protected area to dine.  It continued to snow the entire time and at times heavy.  I did read a  report there would be an "intense pulse of snow" so we just bundled up even more when it hit.  After lunch I took a look back up to where the summit was.
It was time to get on our merry way and to make our own way through the deep soft snow over steep slopes through the trees.  Thank you to the strong trail breakers and route finders for getting us through our descent.  It was the best snow ever that we had today.   It was loads of fun to run through it and to slide down it.

I was so depleted, but pleasantly so, by the time we arrived back at our vehicles.  The consensus was dinner and a drink in Canmore would be the perfect topping to our day.  It was just like old times for me when that was always a part of sharing our day.  Thank you for making it possible for me to take care of unfinished business. The question now is "how long will the springtime snow be enjoyable for snowshoeing?"