Monday, August 17, 2009

Hiking August 15th/16th

Well I have to say August 2009 has turned out to be one of the best months I can remember. I've been out in the mountains on some of the most Epic Adventures I've ever been on pretty well every weekend in August and to top it all off surrounded by some of the people that mean the most to me in life, with Jess, Dave flying down from Toronto for a bike tour around BC and the hike through the Skyline, as well as Cam and Katie Flying in from Ottawa for the Skyline Hike and staying an extra week for some hiking that proved to be nothing short EPIC!.

My last two post detail my 9 days I took for my Summer Holidays and now I want to give you a little teaser of 2 nights we spent in Banff National Park for a couple of hikes. I'll be honest I've been known to talk down Banff because of it's touristy nature and as a result stayed in Canmore I like the vibe better with a little more of a community feel. However, the weekends hikes were spectacular enough to forget about all that this weekend.

First off Saturday after some discussion on which hike of the many hike's to choose from in the area we decided to hike the Valley of Ten Peaks. We where torn between doing this hike or not as it is relatively easy, and in close proximity to Lake Louise, but offers amazing views on par with some much harder hikes meaning it's traveled by a lot of tourist which I find generally clouds my experiences in the Backcountry. However, with a late start, and less then desirable forecast we figured the crowds would be smaller then usual and decided to give it a go and I'm glad we did. The ascent through the tree line is OK it's just a lot switchbacks that are heavily traveled making the trail look a lot more like a walking path then a hiking trail. However about 3 or 4 KMs in you come into the Alpine Meadows where the views make you forget about the heavy use and manicured trail. We where warned about a Grizzly that had been spotted earlier in the day after it had caught it's breakfast (apparently a rabbit or something similar), I feel a little better that the grizzly had a full tummy succeeding at catching breakfast instead of looking for a hiker for lunch. And about 5 minutes later what did we see. Well of the course the Grizzly decided to pop back down into the alpine valley we where in and we got to watch the Grizzly in it's habitat from about 200 to 300 ft away (Click on the pictures to the left for the full sized picture of the grizzly). Of course we where cautious and watched carefully. It threatened to end our hike as the grizzly started heading towards our trail. However, instead after about 10 minutes it decided to climb back into the hillside allowing us to continue on. This was definitely the highlight of the day. As we raised a little higher in Elevation we where greeted by a dusting of snow that fell the night before and ended up with a picturesque hike up to the pass, and a temptation to return and attempt to summit Temple Mountain as it could be completed with relatively little mountaineering experience or equipment (a helmet for safety from falling rocks and ice pick to arrest your fall in case you slip on the glacier near it's peak should be all that is needed).

Sunday resulted in one of the most amazing hikes I've been on. We contemplated the options along the Ice Field Parkway near Bow Lake and Num-Ti-Jah Lodge of climbing to Helen Lake and attempting to summit Cirque Peak (generally an easy summit from Helen Lake is more of a hike then a scramble or climb) or attempting to summit Bow Peak. Cirque Peak is a well a marked easy hike to Helen Lake and a Moderate Hike if you include the Summit which provides multiple views of the Glaciers in the area, Once again this can be a busy hike on weekends because of it's relative ease and spectacular views. However, it is apparently mostly above the tree line and is supposed to offer spectacular views and a near guaranteed ascent to the summit unless the weather gets in the way. Bow Peak on the other hand is a much more of an adventure as it is an unmarked unmaintained trail considered challenging, that does not even have a trail head and you will often find your party the only one on the mountain. However the peak is still attainable through a scramble where no mountaineering gear is required. Well I'm sure any of you that know me, can guess where my preference was and after a group discussion we where off to make an attempt at Bow Peak and once again it turned out to be the right choice.

The hike starts with the following directions from the Crowfoot Glacier Parking lot continue approx. a KM till you reach a widening on the shoulder of the highway. Park here and continue on foot approx. 370 paces (240 till you pass a culvert and then approx. another 130) where you will descend the large rocks on the side of the highway and then search for signs of the trails. Well the trail turned out to be relatively easy to find an we where off. About a KM in you cross a glacial river a little more then thigh deep over rocks. It's cold, painful and undoubtedly INVIGORATING. From hear it's a pretty straightforward climb (however steeper then most National Park Maintained Trails) crossing multiple streams and providing countless amazing views. Adding to the our adventure where the fresh Black Bear Prints from the morning following nearly the entire trail into the Alpine with a second set of prints that may have been a cubs. So preceding cautiously, making a fair bit a noise we continued are way up the amazing hike up to the pass. I definitely have a preference for these "unmaintained" hikes as the extra challenge of fallen trees, stream, river crossings and usually seeing next to no people make the hike feel much more "authentic", relaxing, and rewarding (I think you'll more and more scrambles and unpopular hikes comming across these pages as time goes by.) Once we reached the pass, the views where amazing. I'm interested to figure out what trail continues on from this point as it looked like it had potential to be a beautiful multi-day hike on an unofficial trial, it may be part of the ACC hut systems trails but I'm not sure. However today our goal was to the scramble up to the 9,400 + ft. Bow Peak. The scramble was slightly challenging most likely as a result of our lack of experience scrambling and second guessing the stability of the many rocks that where loose, as well as our route choices. But after an hour and half of scrambling up the mountain side we where walking on top of the mountains ridge alone. I don't believe I could ever put the feeling into words but standing on a peak nearing with only a few feet on each side of you looking down nearly 10,000 ft on one side and probably 1,500 feet down on the other with 360 degree panoramic was unbelievable. Unfortunately we only had a few minutes on top, as we had given ourselves a turn around time of 4PM to ensure we descend in Daylight, which we didn't want to risk missing with the bear and possibly cubs in the area, but it was definitely enough time to lead me to understand what drives people to continue striving to reach peaks and tougher routes as I'm quite certain I've caught a little of that summer fever and that definitely won't be my last.

Valley of Ten Peaks

Bow Peak

Wow that turned out longer then I expected, can you tell I had a good time.

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