Wednesday, August 06, 2008

not too soon to see the ramparts of home

Upon arriving home and spending a relaxing evening with Suz, I was anxious to test myself in the mountains while I was still battle hardened from the summer. I First chose Mt Grotto which at 8881 feet seemed a good first choice. I solo climbed the ACC direct line here shown in yellow.

I was quite pleased to make the summit in 2 hours and 30 minutes which I will have difficulty besting in the future I think. Adding my own height to the mountain, and by standing on two stacked rocks, my eyes were perched at an even 8888 feet! A suitable companion task to the Quest walk in Saskatoon I thought.

After a rest day, Suz and I went to the foot of Mt Bogart for a very relaxing hike though with significant elevation gain.
Along the way I revisited my failed attempt on Mt Sparrowhawk seen behind me. The picture below shows me about 3 thousand vertical feet from Spray Lake, our starting point. Around this elevation(6000ft) the hoary marmot can often be found, and we discovered a small colony here with several of them sunny themselves and poking around uncaring of our invasion of their privacy. This one was pulling up rocks to eat the yummy grubs hidden underneath.

After another rest day, I made an attempt on the Middle Sister, part of the Three Sister group south of the Trans Canada by Canmore. Middle sister, shown above is not surprisingly, the block in the middle! My route climbs up Stewart Creek, a series of bolder-strewn dry waterfalls, then traverses the south face.

Its a pretty big undertaking and the way I felt getting out of the car in the morning was more suggestive of pure sloth than unbridled enthusiasm. But I soldiered on picking my way through the boulders till I was back in a good tempo. At one point, I was finding a route up a dry waterfall when I realized I was on very loose scree on slab with bad exposure on one side. Without care it would be easy to slide into the small canyon beside me. I quickly but carefully downclimbed and traversed over to a different line. When you're by yourself, even something remotely dangerous must be treated carefully and respectfully.

Here I am at the col connecting Big Sister from Middle sister. I wasted too much energy by choosing a straight ascent line rather than a wider and longer traverse and at this point, I was pretty tired. Off in the distance is the Trans Canada hi-way and the flat plains of the prairies extending to the horizon.

I think this picture also shows how tired I am! Perhaps I'll take 2 days off before I set out again. After a summer of hard work, I'll take this unpaid and harder work every time.

Back From the Beyond, a summery summary

Another summer in the woods blurs into my jumbled memories of bears and bugs, swamps and swearing. If there could be such thing as a good year, I would claim that I had it. The wasp population crashed this spring, the weather was wild but not extreme, the bugs were bad but not impossible. Thinking back it feels like I spent most of the summer folded into the front seat of an ASTAr helicopter with a map in my lap navigating to an endless series of clearcuts. I think I audited a couple hundred which means lots of time flying around trying to make the world match my maps and trying to do it as fast as possible since the helicopter costs $1500/ hour. The wood from the blocks is trucked out in winter over the frozen muskeg so summer travel, of any appreciable distance is by helicopter only

When I wasn't flying though I saw great quantities of the earth, hidden jewels secreted away from any signs of man. Places that I will be the first and last eyes to glance upon. I watched a pack of wolves take down and devour a deer. A chilling spectacle for both eyes and ears as the deer let loose a scream that I shall never forget. Bears in quantity this year but luckily for me, all healthy and well fed. I was stalked one morning by a black bear. It followed about 5M behind me for a disturbing amount of time but its demeanor was so non-aggressive that I was strangely calm until it finally left me alone. Another bear I caught sneaking up on me like a cat, a behavior I haven't seen before and a very alarming incident, but when I went into "bear scare" mode (screaming and banging sticks to the ground) it lumbered off. The other 120 bears I ran into this summer rambled off showing various degrees of concern towards me.

Suzanne came out from Calgary to visit when I was working in Kananaskis. She spent the day with me although she didn't really get a look at at what I usually do. But it broke up the summer nicely to have a short visit. Perhaps she was the good luck charm that held the usual disasters at bay!