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

Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Rockies - Part I

Going to the Ghost

So, here we are in the heart of the Rockies: Canmore, Alberta. It's been nine days since my last post and we've been reasonably active. However, before detailing some of our recent escapades I want to show you an early impression of arriving in the Rockies which should really have been in the last instalment. We came into Canada via Highway 93, which involves driving up the Kootenay River and then crossing the Continental Divide just north of Banff. The views as you drive north are a teaser of the majesty ahead. This picture of the Kootenay River flowing under the western ramparts of the Rockies will give you an idea of what I am on about:

As detailed in the last blog, we rolled through the Rockies and into Calgary, where we stayed with Jon and Di for a couple of days. This post is all about our trip into the  Ghost River wilderness for a bit of climbing. Luckily for us, Jon had arranged for his good friend Andy  Genereux - the author of the Ghost River climbing guidebook - to show us around and point us at some things. Andy suggested we head out the morning he got off from his latest shift with the Calgary Fire department, so we rolled over to his place and hit the road at about 8:30. It was a quick exit from the city and soon we were on the highway heading north and then west.

I just love the way some of the roads in and around Calgary are called "trails", which seems to hearken back to pioneer days. Here, we are looking out the window of Big Blue at the Crowchild and Stoney Trails, with Andy and Jon disappearing out of sight in Andy's (fire engine red) truck:

Big Blue managed to find an extra gear to catch up and before long we had arrived in the Ghost and settled into this fantastic campsite:

Once we had Big Blue levelled up and Jon had his tent pitch, we all piled into Andy's truck, descended to the river flats and drove a few kilometres up the valley to the day's chosen crag. Andy had picked out the classic six pitch 5.8 trad route "Bonanza" for Di and me, while he and Jon would do something a little harder to the left, finishing up at the same final ledge.

Jon refers to Andy as "The Incredible Talking Guidebook" due to his ability to seemingly remember every move on every climb he's ever done. Here he is telling us about the delicate step back right on the traversing fourth pitch, while we can only gape (as you can clearly see) with amazement at Andy's ability to identify and describe such fine detail from so far away:

The photo below shows roughly the line of our climb (the yellow dashes indicate the route is out of view in the chimney that comprises the first pitch):

Di, being the chimney aficionado in our climbing team led the first pitch:

And here's a photo of us at the top anchors:

As you can tell from the way we are dressed, it was a bit cool. It actually showered just a little, but this didn't last and we enjoyed the views while waiting for Andy and Jon to arrive at the top rappel station ...

... and here they are, two living legends of the Rockies climbing scene:

On a more down to earth note, right beside where Di and I were clipped in to our top anchor was this lovely patch of lichen:

Upon returning to ground level we were all happy to call it a day, so we headed back to camp for some dinner and to enjoy some of Andy's tall tales of roped soloing many of his first ascents in The Ghost.

The next morning before breakfast Jon got this lovely photo before we headed off the the crag:

Di had a bit of a sleep in while Andy made his own special version of Huevos Rancheros for the rest of us. (No picture; too busy eating and trading lies!).

Once Di roused herself we set off for some more climbing. Andy had earmarked another great route for Di and me to jump on, a four pitch 5.10d sport climb called "Magic Carpet Ride" while he and Jon did some single pitch stuff. Here's Di on the slabby 5.9 first pitch of our route:

(We are headed up and right of the big roofs just about Di).  And here's a bit of a bum shot of me just after the crux on the  second pitch:

All went well and we were soon back at ground level. All the way up our route there had been thunderstorm activity to the north and south of us which Jon described as a "pincer movement on the part of the weather gods". There was a great looking feature just to the left of the route that Di and I had just climbed. Another first ascent of Andy's as it turned out, which he'd called "Burning Arete" after doing it during a big fire in the area. It was a very engrossing mixed route which I got to the top just as some big, fat drops started to fall out of the sky. Jon cleaned the pitch as the rain increased and then we skedaddled back to the car, unfortunately not quite escaping a heavy shower.  Maybe if I hadn't stopped to snap this photo of the beautiful trail that Andy has made up to the crag we wouldn't have got quite so wet, but I couldn't resist:

 As we drove back to camp we couldn't help but notice how wet the road was, how full all the potholes were, how soaked Jon and Andy's tents were, and marvelled at how lucky we had been to escape getting an absolute soaking while out on the rock. 
We spent a bit of time having a coffee, eating cookies and telling more lies before packing up and heading off: Andy and Jon back to Calgary and Di and I on to Canmore.

Andy's surname should really be "Generous" not "Genereux", as that is his nature. He was very keen to share his love of "The Ghost" with us, and we appreciate him spending a couple of precious days off in between shifts to show us around his backyard. Thanks, Andy!

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