Wednesday, August 19, 2015

CR2015: Canmore and East End of Rundle

On July 21st we flew into Calgary to launch our 2015 hiking expedition in the Canadian Rockies. First, we walked over to Hertz for our Hertz Gold "full-size car." They offered us an SUV, a Jeep Patriot, which we told them was unacceptable. We had three duffels of luggage, which would be in plain sight in the back of an SUV, whether taking a day hike between lodges or leaving the vehicle behind while at Lake O'Hara Lodge or Mistaya Lodge. We insisted on a car with a trunk. After 45 minutes, we were given the keys to a Dodge Charger.

We inspected the Charger carefully. Cars in western Alberta are subject to many physical insults, including gravel roads, and we did not wish to be charged for a ding or crack that was already present when we took possession of the car. We've had to pay for two windshield replacements in our years of car rental out of Calgary.

Mr. Charger already had a windshield chip, 
which we had the Hertz representative note. He said there was a small red dot on the contract diagram which indicated the pre-existing condition, but we got it in writing.

We arrived in Canmore and stayed at the Canadian Artisans B&B, hosted by Val and Bob, as we have for several years. This year, two pigs were waiting for us in our room,
along with Mr. Bear.

The next day we set out to tackle the East End of Rundle route, as we had in 2014. On our first day at altitude this would be challenging, but hey, we'd done it the year before.

First, a pit stop at the Goat Creek Parking area. We're headed up towards the high ridgeline behind the wooded bump.
Mr. Charger took us a few hundred yards back to the parking area on the edge of the canal leading to Whiteman's Pond, at the top of the gap on the right, saving us a trudge with billowing dust every time a car passed by.

The trail leaves from the roadside and immediately heads up.
The first point of interest is an avalanche-explosives warning sign.
The trail switchbacks through the woods, then takes a permanent bend to the north as the underlying rocks break through.
Sometimes there's a trail and sometimes you're looking ahead to spot a cairn (sometimes misleading) or piece of colored tape hanging from a tree, to which you must pick your way. Usually there are no more than two choices based on the boot traffic that has scuffed, polished, or mudded the rock. Here's a view looking back after our first half hour.
In a couple of spots the route skirts the edge.
After a brief flat spot and viewpoint at the crest of the wooded area, we're switchbacking through scree. In places there are multiple boot-beaten paths visible, and we must choose the footing that appeals most to us. We're using our hiking poles in earnest.

This panorama shows the wooded crest, bottom center, as well as a peek down the Spray Lakes valley.

Joan spotted nine mountain goats across the mountain!

The sky is constantly changing, both over us and down the valley. Will it rain? Who knows? We have rain jackets and rain pants. This photo tries to capture virga, rain not reaching the ground, visible to the south.

We reached the broad meadow below the final climb to the ridgeline, and decide to lunch. Ahead, more scree and the crest. The main trail is visible in the rocks (click to enlarge). This year there were far fewer flowers blooming in the meadow than in 2014; we were a few days later, and the season was running faster.
A young marmot romped through the meadow while we enjoy our break.
Then we resumed our climb. Last year we reached the ridgeline and stopped there. This year, we attained that point and continued to the left for a bit more altitude, with a scree slope on one side and a precipitous drop on the other, reaching a spot at the foot of the rock face towards the left of the earlier photo. The view encompasses both the Bow and Spray Lake valleys. You can see the lunch meadow down the bottom right corner.

Fully zoomed in, my camera captured the zone of the June Canmore natural gas explosion, not far from Canadian Artisans, which would be on the far right of this photo.
After drinking in the panorama we worked our way back down, and spotted several marmots. A young marmot led our focus to an adult; both are in this picture, at either side.
Another marmot snapshot near the top, with one on either side, although you'll likely need to click to enlarge. We save five in total on this trip, three adults and two young'uns.
Then it was time to plunge downhill, first through the scree slopes, and then through the mixed roots and rock outcrops lower down. As we went, it became harder to avoid slips and skids of the foot, even though we made an effort to focus. Dehydration? Low blood sugar? Going further than last year? Not having been at higher altitude in May like last year? All of the above? Still, we were doing well until almost at the end, when my right leg shot out from under me and I rolled downhill a turn and a half. I was OK, but Joan had to break out her first aid kit and wipe blood from small cuts on my face, and bandaid one of them. My right-hand hiking pole was bent, as you can see in this photo taken back at the car.
I would develop a bruise from where I'd rolled over the can of bear spray I was carrying, and a tear in the pant fabric under the bear spray meant that one of my favorite hiking pants was ruined after one day of hiking this year.

We cleaned up well, and had a good dinner at CrazyWeed. We were chastened but ready to keep going.