The Flower Fed Buffalo
The flower-fed buffaloes of the spring
In the days of long ago,
Ranged where the locomotives sing
And the prarie flowers lie low:
The tossing, blooming, perfumed grass
Is swept away by wheat,
Wheels and wheels and wheels spin by
In the spring that still is sweet.
But the flower-fed buffaloes of the spring
Left us long ago,
They gore no more, they bellow no more:--
With the Blackfeet lying low,
With the Pawnee lying low.
- Vachel Lindsay

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The Rockies - Part 2

A Climb, Two Walks and Recovery in Calgary

Unfortunately we haven't had very regular access to the internet, so I've fallen behind. My apologies but I hope that this instalment will be worth waiting for. I'll still be behind, but c'est la vie!


A climb that we had earmarked before we left home was Joy on Mount Indefatigable. Deep in Kananaskis Country in a beautiful setting, Joy's line is an irresistible magnet: once you've seen a picture of it you want to do it.

Finally, the day arrived for us to have a go at this long-anticipated adventure. Knowing we had a long drive, we were up early. Here is the route from Canmore to the Interlaken Car Park between Upper and Lower Kananskis Lakes:

It's about a 75 km drive, almost all on dirt roads which are fortunately in pretty good shape. Big Blue is still cruising along nicely (we've done about 6500 mms together since we hitched up). There was a bit of mist hanging around Spray Lakes early on:

A little further down the road the sky was clear and we could see more of the mountains:

We were really lucky to have such a beautiful day for a long outing. Our approach involved walking along the lakeshore for a bit before slogging up steep scree to the bottom of the climb. Here’s Di looking nice and chirpy only minutes after leaving the car:

As we started up that slogging scree slope we were delighted to be serenaded by a loon on the lake. If you have your sound turned right up you should be able to hear its haunting cry:

Early on the way up the scree the view of the route looks like this, with the rough line of our approach and the route drawn in:

As you can see, the slab is quite low angled and was very quick to climb.

The view from the base of the climb made a nice excuse to stop and catch our breath before starting climbing:

Soon we were busy on the route itself. Essentially a long slab climb up a beautiful wispy corner feature, Joy is a classic of the Rockies. Here’s Di a long way below me about halfway up the route (the circle should make it easier to see her - these are loooong pitches!):

And here she is getting closer to the belay:

Further up the route, here’s Di looking ahead at options. She will break out of the corner on to the slab shortly. At this point we are getting well into the climb:

Once at the top of the route, there was an easy scramble over broken terrain, then some traversing across steep alpine meadows to the popular walking track to the top of Mt Indefatigable. The meadows were laced with Forget-Me-Nots:

It was a long way back down the track to the car park and when we got there we were very pleased to cool our feet in the lake. We pulled up pretty well after our 7 hour day out, which is about right in the middle of the expected time for the outing:

Not bad for a couple of old duffers, eh!

Sunshine Meadows

The evening after we climbed Joy we had arranged to meet our friends Konrad and Izabela at Tunnel Mountain to camp together overnight. It was so good to see them again after a seven year gap, but we were careful not to celebrate too much as we had arranged to meet their son Greg and his girlfriend Cassandra by 9:00 a.m. the next morning in the car park for Sunshine Village (one of the most scenic ski areas you will find in North America). In the summer Sunshine Village transforms itself into Sunshine Meadows, an amazing and extensive area of boundless wildflowers, and you can either walk the 7 kms up the road and back down or pay for a shuttle. We thought that it was better to  spend our time exploring the meadows so we opted for the shuttle. Greg texted Izabela to let us know that he'd be there in time for the 10:00 a.m. shuttle (Greg and Cassandra like their sleep-ins on the weekends!) so we had an hour up at the village with Konrad and Izabela to relax and let the day warm up before starting our walk. It was worth the wait. Despite there being mixed sun and clouds the views of the wildflowers and of the surrounding mountains were wonderful.

Here's a low angle view of some Paintbrush with an Anemone gone to seed peeking in from the side:

Despite the overcast conditions, a wider view shows just how thickly carpeted the meadow:

Sunshine straddles the Great Divide and therefore is partly in Alberta and partly in British Columbia. It's no wonder the views are so panoramic:

On a clear day you can see Mount Assiniboine - known as the "Matterhorn of the Rockies" from various points in the Sunshine ski/walk area, especially the higher peaks. When we had our year off in 1992 we had a day skiing at Sunshine and were blessed with such wonderful views of Mt Assiniboine we subsequently spent a week ski touring in the area.  Unfortunately, on this day, or most of our walk the peak was obscured by cloud but we did get a glimpse just as we were finishing.

At our lunch stop this persistent Columbia Ground Squirrel kept trying to coax food from us ...

... but we resisted with determination as it's both illegal to feed the animals and bad for them.

Although Greg has been dragged along on outdoor adventures with his parents since he was a little tacker, Cassandra has not done much hiking. As you can see from this photo, Greg is no longer a little tacker and Cassandra seemed to enjoy the day out immensely:

We first met Greg in 1992 when he was about six, and it was fantastic to catch up with him again and to meet his lovely partner Cassandra.

Here's another photo of us with Greg's proud parents:

Further along the walk we were treated to yet another lovely panoramic view. You will notice how extensive the meadows are, but this is just a very small fraction of them:

Because of the height and therefore the cooler temperatures of Sunshine Meadows there were lots of Anemones still in flower:

Close to the end of our walk was this much-photographed view of Rock Island Lake:

One thing that really struck us was how widespread were the wild strawberries. In many places they grew thickly alongside the track. Unfortunately it was still too early in the season for them to be ready to eat as most were still in flower or just in the earliest stages of setting fruit ...

... but if you visited the area in mid to late August you might get a feed if the squirrels, marmots and bears didn't beat you to it!

After our terrific day out together, Greg and Cassandra drove home to Airdrie while the rest of us returned to Tunnel Mountain for a little more libation than the previous evening.

Windy Peak

Iza and Konrad had picked a walk overlooking Canmore for us to enjoy the following day.  Luckily for us it was one of the few short walks between Calgary and Banff that they hadn't already explored, mostly because it's recommended that you visit in a party of four or more due to frequent bear activity in the area. Di made sure that she had our bear spray with her, and Konrad and Iza brought both their bear spray and their bear banger with them. (Di, ever alert for a bear deterrent, showed great interest in this little device and subsequently purchased one when we went into Calgary).

It was a fantastic day out. Better weather than the previous day and, perhaps because of the lower elevation, although the alpine meadows we traversed weren't as extensive as at Sunshine, there seemed to be a greater variety of flowers in bloom. On the way up we had this view of Mt Lougheed on the left and our little objective on the right:

 I might just let the flowers speak for themselves:
Old Man's Whiskers seed head
Mountain Fleabane

Brown-Eyed Susan
White Camas
Wildflower Bouquet
Western Canada Wood Lily

On the track up we passed this leaning tree, which is a pretty good indication of the prevailing wind direction:

At the top of the peak the Geodetic Survey of Canada had placed this marker ...

... and while I was relaxing and enjoying the view this moth lighted on my arm momentarily:

Of greater interest though was the marmot that Di photographed:

We enjoyed a great, leisurely lunch then began the walk down the hill. Everything was just bursting with life, as is attested by the crop of healthy pine cones atop this tree, just like a lot of Christmas tree decorations:

Small, but perfectly formed:

The only downer for the day were the mozzies, which were voracious! Numerous applications of repellant hardly deterred them: the only solution was to move fast. Luckily, they don't seem to cause too much of a reaction so any swelling we did get was fairly minor and disappeared quickly without too much itching. 

Into Calgary

When we got back to the car park we followed Konrad and Iza back to their place in the northern part of Southwest Calgary, which is very quick and convenient to all roads leading west to the mountains, which is why they have settled where they have. It was fantastic to get a real shower and enjoy a bed a bit bigger - well, truth be told, a lot bigger - than what Big Blue gives us. Konrad and Iza had arranged for us to go out for sushi with Greg and Cassandra on Monday and insisted on us staying two nights. 

Two nights in a real bed! Luxury! We managed to catch up on all our laundry, stock Big Blue with groceries, and I did some blogging. Sushi at Globefish on Monday was fantastic  then Konrad showed us some slides from a trip that they had done into Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. They were stunning images, and I tried to convince Di that we could do a day trip to Berg Lake for the views but she wasn't biting. She'd made her mind up that a 42 km return trip with a lot of elevation gain wasn't in the best interests of matrimonial harmony. I guess she's probably right, but that's another story.
As ever, Konrad and Iza's hospitality was wonderful, but the mountains awaited our return. On the way out of town we stopped at the candy store again so that Di could buy herself a new harness because the one she'd been wearing was - literally - a pain in the butt, and a new pair of climbing shoes for all day comfort to replace her faithful old Boreal Aces. It looks like she's not giving up climbing yet ... YAY!

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