Monday, September 28, 2009

Mt. Sparrohawk/Reed's Tower

This was most likely my last hiking weekend for 2009 as the fall season is upon us meaning there's only a few weeks left before the snow begins to fly in the Rockies. And for the next few weeks work is going to take up nearly all my time as we are into booking season once again. However I'm pleased to say we ended the hiking season with a challenging hike that yielded impressive views. It was a great weekend which included hiking/scrambling to Reed's Tower and Mt Sparrowhawk along the Spray Lakes Reservoir in Kanaskis, as well as some mountain biking at the Canmore Nordic Centre. I'm going to focus on the hike on this post as the biking at the Nordic Center provides some great XC riding, but being a XC ski resort that's exactly what it offers. Nothing really exciting to report back except that it was a well marked, well maintained, XC network, ideal for a 4 or 5 inch travel XC bike. It's tight, twisty, rough and well it may not be on my list of destinations it's definitely worthwhile if you are in the area already. Surprisingly, it reminded me of a lot of the Ontario XC riding just on a little bigger scale.

This season we've been using some of the Guidebooks by Craig and Kathy Copeland as our guides to hikes in the Rockies and I highly suggest if you are going hiking in the Rockies you pick up a copy of Don't Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies. This book has been amazing! Accurately, ranking, describing, and giving directions for the best hikes in the Rockies. We've also been using a couple of their where the locals hike books, which also provides a good base for choosing hikes but the lack of a rating systems, as well as comparing the hikes on a more local scale resulting in a few hikes not yielding the expected blow you're mind status, but is still a great resource for planning your hikes.

Interestingly out of the 10 or so hikes we've done this year based on this series, this is the first one where I would tend to disagree on their opinion on how to do the hike. They listed this hike as Reed's Tower being the main goal and Mt. Sparrowhawk yielding great views but the amount of effort being required to reach it making it optional (The two peaks are the ones in the picture to the right). My personal opinion is that Mt. Sparrowhawk is the destination here and Reed's tower a sidetrip on the hike if you want to more KM's to make a full day out of the trip or if wind/weather stops you from reaching Mt. Sparrowhawks peak the more sheltered Reed's tower can be a consolation prize. Don't get me wrong the views on Reed's tower are great but I'm not sure I would have descended very satisfied if it was the highlight of the day.

So about the Hike itself this ones definitely a challenge. It's not your traditional hike where you climb some switchbacks out of the treeline, then have a mix of hiking through alpine meadows, and slight climbs/short steep ones, ending with a climb to/over a pass, or a scramble that is your goal for the day. This is essentially 6,000 ft of climbing non stop, next to no switchbacks, and more then half being considered an easy scramble. (i.e. no trail just you climbing on scree towards your end destination, I use easy because of the lack of route finding or technical skills needed to reach the base of Mt. Sparrowhawks peak but from a cardiovascular standpoint it's definately moderate to diffucult.) The hike starts at the Sparrowhawk Day use area along the Spray Lakes Road @ about 6,000 ft. with Mt. Sparrowhawk sitting at over 10,000ft. From there you start climbing through the trees for about 30 minutes till you reach your junction. Right takes you down a trail to the tarns which is a more popular hike (but I wouldn't suggest it in comparison to the other hikes in the Banff/Kanaskis area), left and you are hiking nearly straight up with few switchbacks towards Reed's Tower. It's about an hour from the trail head till you are out of the Treeline with great views from that point on. From there it's pretty straightforward and there's a bootpack trail to follow up to the base of Reed's Tower. If you choose scramble the Tower it's pretty straightforward start heading up the ridge for about 1000ft, or maybe a little less, of scrambling to the top. Here the views are good and the scramble is fairly easy with no route finding or technical skills needed just the fitness to get there.

When you get back down you walk around towers left side and begin the long Scramble to Mt. Sparrowhawk. After climbing for about an hour and half (maybe 2 hours) we reached the "pass" between Mt. Sparrowhawk and the peak South West of it. This was a point with mix emotions. It yielded gorgeous views on both sides of the pass and we where only a few hundred feet from the peak (I'm guessing about 800 or less). However, the winds and cold where being funneled down the spray lakes reservoir right at us making difficult to even stand in some of the gust. We stopped behind the little weather observation shed for a snack and had to make the decision to turn around. Primarily a result of the cold as Jess felt it throughout her body, and my gloves turned out to be inadequate to the point where a couple fingers had lost feeling and started to turn blue. (I would thought the black diamonds gloves would have been designed with synthetics that would keep their warmth once sweaty but I was wrong and should have paid more attention to the materials). A switch to wearing my extra pair of Merino Wool Socks on my hands help get them back to Temperature as we descended. Also the high winds posed some threat to walking on the peak. I think it would have been fine and being warmer or adequately geared up we would have carried on but needless to say the combination of the wind and cold resulted in the "pass" being our high point for the day.

We hiked back out going out around the opposite side of Reed's Tower. Unfortunately my camera's batteries died so I don't have any pictures from this side. But it's the route you should take if you are comfortable with a little route finding as it yields different views that are worth the extra kilometers, and the lack of a distinct trail makes finding your way back to the tarn trail an element of adventure on the X-Country hike. Well I guess this being the last hike of the season will result in things slowing down on here through the fall as I tumble into a little more of a training regiment for next summer, and ski season begins. Until them hope you've enjoyed some of my summer adventures and the pictures.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Yup We've Done Wonders for Our World?

The 15 most toxic places to live

Visit the following link to see the quick slideshow. I've attached few examples from it so you get a feel for what you are about to see. I'll leave it there as the slideshow is impacting enough I shouldn't have to expand.

An island of trash twice the size of Texas floats in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, circulated by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre. The trash, which is mostly made up of plastic debris, floats as deep as 30 feet below the surface.

The Yamuna is the largest tributary of the Ganges River. Where it flows through Delhi, it's estimated that 58 percent of the city's waste gets dumped straight into the river. Millions of Indians still rely on these murky, sewage-filled waters for washing, waste disposal and drinking water.
La Oroya is a soot-covered mining town in the Peruvian Andes. Ninety-nine percent of the children who live here have blood levels that exceed acceptable limits for lead poisoning, which can be directly attributed to an American-owned smelter that has been polluting the city since 1922.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Moose Mountain!

I want to start this post off by applauding the trail crew and advocacy groups that got Moose Mountain to where it is. They've done an amazing job at providing Alberta with a Downhill/Freeride playground that is on part with the big mountain resorts and this will undoubtedly become one of my favourite places to ride. I'd say this is hands down the best riding in Alberta. Now I just wish I was closer so I could get there more often and offer some help with maintenance and building. A great day of riding was had with some lengthy runs and tones of really well built trails and stunts. Places like these are why we ride DH bikes instead of the Light Duty XC stuff and I'm glad I found somewhere somewhat close to home to offer me that caliber of riding. My day could have personally been a little better as I snapped my rear triangle on one of the drops on Race of Spades, but thankfully I got a couple of runs in and can't wait to go back. Trails like JG on the Rocks, Race Spades and T-Dub will ensure I'm back to explore the rest of the trails. Here's a few pics of the trails and my bike.

*I didn't have any my camera that day so I just grabbed these pics from pinkbike but some pictures where taken which I will try and get a hold of to update the post with.*

Visit for more info on the area or to offer support.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Yoho National Park

Last weekend we booked rooms at the Fireweed Hostel in Field, which has to be the most high end accommodations I've stayed at for a hostel and one night an an alpine hostel (the Whiskey Jack up near Tekawa Falls) for another weekend of adventure in the Rockies. This time venturing over the border into BC to visit Yoho National Park. Now in regards to accommodations I would suggest staying at the Fireweed Hostel for the entire stay vs. spending a night at the Whiskey Jack if you where to repeat the trip. There was nothing wrong with the Whiskey Jack but the Fireweed was simply awesome, clean, great mountain feel, great host, earning their self proclaimed boutique feel and I really enjoyed being right in field. The only downfall is the train tracks out back but I don't think you can get away from the sounds of the trains anywhere in field being the small community it is, that gives it, it's mountain charm. If you are looking for a quiet mountain getaway consider Field and Yoho national park as the tiny town with a population of 300 or so, set in a gorgeous mountain park without the tourist you get in the main parks such as Banff and Jasper, has amazing food at the Truffle Pigs, and great coffee at the cafe and quiet, quaint atmosphere that was great to relax in.

Day 1 we wanted to take our time getting started so up 7:30 breakfast at the cafe/grocery store and some Oso Negro coffee and we where off to do the Emerald Lake, to Yoho Pass, to Burgess Pass loop with hopes of attempting a scramble to the summit of Mt. Burgess. The hike on it's own is approx. 18 to 20km and I'd rank it as a slightly above average hike. In comparison to some of the other hikes we've done this summer I wouldn't say it was spectacular with a lot of climbing for what seemed like little time above the treeline with views. However the views you do get are great. Another downfall to hike is that 90% of the views are of the same valley, however if I was to choose between this or one of the hikes bordering the city limits of Jasper or Banff that are a little more "tourist oriented" I'd do this hike again in a heartbeat. Now on the other hand the scramble to Mt. Burgess looks like it would be GREAT! and yield some impressive 360 degree views but unfortunately we started too late. And in all honesty the scramble looked like it would be difficult to find a decent route since we didn't do any research on common routes, and to top it off we where quite tired from the hike, after Friday mornings hill sprints and the 5 hour drive.

Day 2 our plan was to do the Iceline trail and then head through the Yoho Valley back up onto the Whaleback before dropping back down into the valley and climbing over the Twin Falls and then hiking out the shorter route to twin falls. The Iceline deserves it's status as the premier hike in Yoho with stunning views, but even more impressive is the imposing nature of the mountains still filled with ice throughout it. I highly suggest the hike across the Iceline. If you are going to complete the extensions we did I suggest only doing so if you
a) want to add KM's
b) can hike a 30 to 35KM day and explore the glaciers feeding the Twin Falls (which we didn't have time with the shorter days and tired legs - Who's idea was it to do Hill Sprints Friday morning before we left?)
c) you do an overnight trip staying at the Twin Falls Campground so you can explore the area more. Most of the hikers we met where doing overnight trips into the valley.

The extension was definitely worth it but it would be better if we could have explored a little more. I'd like to plan to attempt this early season (the trail opens in July) as a backpack trip as the ice and snow would most likely be amazing, the challenge of most likely finding your way over a snow cover trail in part would be an added challenge, and finally I would like some extra time to scramble to the peak of the Whaleback, Possibly scramble a couple of the peaks on the edge of the Yoho Valley and definitely explore the glaciers that feeds the twin falls. With the great vibe in the area and a little more of a secluded feel I'm sure I'll be back in the near future (a winter Nordic or AT trip may be in order).