Monday, August 20, 2012

Rockies 2

Today, we leave the Rockies and begin our drive home through the Kootenays. This has, without a doubt, been the warmest trip we've had to this area, but we've still managed to have some new adventures and are sad to leave.

We enjoyed spending time with our friends and did a variety of interesting activities with different people. Two of our closest friends, Michelle and Derek, looked after a couple of youngsters for a few days and we all went climbing at Grassi Lakes. Here, Elise scales the Golf Course wall above the upper lake. Her motivation to climb always increases in the presence of other climbing kids. Go figure.

Here are the girls in front of the upper lake on the hike down. From left to right, Maya, Olivia and Elise. They definitely enjoyed each other's company.

Swimming at Quarry Lake in Canmore the evening after the climbs. These are Elise's new swim goggles. They fit her very well, but look more like a snorkeling mask! What a funny girl!

Despite the heat, I continued to climb and had a few nice days at the cliff with Derek and Michelle. These photos are from the upper wall at Acephale on one of the colder days of our trip.

Ben Blakeny on Whaleback (5.13c).

Chrissy Blakeny on Jingus Americanus (5.12d).

Evan Hau on Bunda de Fora (5.14d), one of the hardest pitches in Canada.

Since Elise really loves indoor climbing, we took her to the Sally Borden Centre in Banff one afternoon and let her go crazy on the walls. The gym was small, but it had lots of good routes for kids and Elise climbed for about two hours. She especially liked it when I pulled her up the wall and then quickly dropped her down onto the fat gymnastics mats. Afterwards, we went to the Banff Springs hotel and swam in the pool.

Elise was told she could do one "special" (read: expensive) thing while we were in the Rockies. She narrowed it down to the Calgary Zoo and horseback riding. Well, she got to do both! Nancy, our neighbour from across the street, offered to take Elise to the zoo with her son Isaac, and since they had a $10 pass it was cheap! Elise had a fantastic time, of course, and few days later she got to do her second activity when she and I went to the Kananaskis to ride horses. I'd NEVER been on a horse before, so this was new for me, too.

Here we are posing in front of the stable after the ride. Note the blue bubblegum ice cream.

The briefing before the ride was.....brief. They basically threw us onto the horses and said "pull left to go left, pull right to go right". Here, they ready Elise's horse, Major, for the one-hour ride.

The ride went well. It was one hour of forest walking and we had three minor incidents: one of the horses decided to go rogue and took off into the forest with tourist in tow, I dropped my reign and we had to stop to retrieve it, and Elise's saddle kind of fell off her horse which caused a third delay. Just before this happened, I looked up ahead and saw Elise slowly drifting off the edge of her horse as the saddle slumped to the side. Luckily, the guide jumped down and grabbed her before she dropped off completely. In the end, a good time was had by all.

We hiked Ptarmigan Cirque off Highwood Pass. It's a beautiful alpine meadow surrounded by rocky peaks. The flowers were in full bloom and we saw mountain sheep.

At the far end of the cirque we found a snowfield. At first it looked rather shallow, but when I hiked to the far end I realized we were on thick ice and snow. Here Elise and I explore the toe of the ice field.

As we were about to leave, a family appeared over the moraine with crazy carpets (sleds). This caused all sorts of excitement and we spent the next half hour sledding and watching each other crash on the snowfield.

On the way down, we stopped by the creek and found a great fossil bed. We collected a number of specimens to bring home, but the embedded fossils were the best.

One hot afternoon we ventured into the Jura Creek drainage east of Canmore. This is a popular short hike that leads into a narrow slot canyon. Elise was joined by two friends, Issac and Elle, and the kids had a wonderful time scrambling in the narrow, water-filled corridor, wading and sliding down rocky chutes in the water.

From left to right: Elle, Elise and Isaac. Elise really likes playing with Isaac - he's crazy! They'll miss each other...

Pam and Elise repeated the Johnson Canyon hike we did a couple of years ago, but this time they hiked all the way to the ink pots, pools of water the bubble up from underground springs. The hike was an 11 km round trip, a big journey for Elise. Pam said she did really well and was rewarded with ice cream at the end of the day.

Pam and Elise also joined Nancy and Isaac for an 11 km bike ride from the Nakiska ski area to Wedge Pond. This area has amazing biking trails, and this one was paved the entire way. Elise is doing well with her new bike and her confidence grows after each ride.

On our final weekend, we split up. Pam went hiking with Michelle and her friend, Diamond, to the Memorial Lakes. It was a hot day, but the girls had a great time and the weather was spectacular.

Elise and I headed out to Lake Louise where she did her biggest day of walking yet. We hiked to the Plain of Six Glaciers tea house, went across the Highline Trail, over the Big Beehive to Lake Agnus and then back down to the Chateau Lake Louise. All told, I think it was between 14 and 15 km!

The morning was chilly. Here's Elise on the dock at Lake Louise with the glaciers (our destination) in the background.

Hiking toward the glaciers. The trail was beautiful and the scenery spectacular.

The tea house was very European. We enjoyed resting and sitting on the deck.

Michelle had made us some brownies and these fueled our hike, much to Elise's delight. Here, Elise enjoys lemonade on the tea house deck along with a piece of brownie.

Heading back down toward the Highline Trail with Lake Louise in the background. A hand line had been installed for extra security along this steep section of trail.

As we entered the forest, Elise scared a number of large birds on the trail. Elise went running ahead yelling "seagulls"! I said, "no honey, those are grouse". It was a family and we had startled them crossing the trail.

The most amusing moment on the hike occurred when Elise decided she had to relieve herself in the woods. She found a fallen log and used it as a "seat". I was on the trail while this was going on and heard a "crack". Elise had fallen off the back of the log and down the slope into the branches with her shorts and panties around her ankles! Luckily, she wasn't hurt and we had a good laugh as I dashed down to rescue her.

We continued to Lake Agnus where we relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful lake and scenery. After a rest, we hiked the final few kilometres back to the car, both thoroughly exhausted. It was a great day, a memorable way to finish our trip.

We hope you've all survived the warm month well and had an enjoyable summer.
Marc, Pam and Elise

Friday, August 10, 2012


We're about halfway through our summer trip to the Rockies. It's been quite warm, but that seems to be the case anywhere out west right now. We've enjoyed hiking, climbing and socializing with friends. Pam had her birthday here, and we went climbing at Grassi Lakes (a nice spot for Pam and Elise) and then had dinner out with friends. Elise gets a lot of comments when she climbs by a busy trail. Most tourists have never seen rock climbing, let alone a young girl scaling the wall. They're easily impressed...

We are staying in the same house as before, house-sitting and caring for a cat named "Pine Cone". Elise love him. He sleeps on her bed and lets her carry him around. We had a scare the other night when he dashed out and we couldn't find him. This area is lush with coyotes and cats go missing at night regularly. Luckily he appeared at the back door around 10:00 pm. Elise was worried, and so were we.

Like last year, the berries behind the house are thick. This haul is mostly raspberries, but contains some wild strawberries as well.

We hiked up to West Wind Pass, beside the Windtower (a huge limestone wall) near the Spray Lakes. It was a cool day and we enjoyed the exercise and views from the pass. Here, Elise examines a curious stone pattern on the trail. Once again, she spotted this, not us. A fossil, perhaps? She was quite pleased with herself.

The views from the pass. It was a stunning setting.

Hiking down the trail. Elise is doing very well with her hiking on this trip. She walks the one-hour uphill approach to Acephale (a climbing area) with nary a whimper.

Our best hike so far was to the Picklejar Lakes in the Kananaskis. It was a hot day and the hike was long (4.5 km one way, all uphill), but the destination was worth it. We arrived at four, small alpine lakes full of cutthroat trout. We enjoyed fishing, picnicking and swimming in very cold water. The trail wove through groves of aspen and across grassy meadows.

The wildflowers were in full bloom.

This mushroom was as big as my face!

As we approached the fist lake, the scenery became quite dramatic. Jagged peaks rose out of a shallow valley thick with spruce trees.

A kind fisherman let Elise pull in two trout! This was a highlight of the day. The fish struck the line the second the float hit the water!

We hiked to all four lakes, and the third was the most scenic. It was deep and green, and framed by talus from the adjacent mountain.

Pam and I swam, and the water was icy! See that snow in the background? Elise didn't brave it, but did decide to wade.

Here I am, attempting to teach Elise how to skip a stone. No dice. That wrist action is hard to teach!

After spending a couple of hours enjoying the environment, we hiked back to the car. Once in the parking lot, we saw a herd of sheep. No day in the Rockies would be complete without an animal sighting.

The weather looks a little showery next week, but hopefully we still get some dry days before we leave for the Kootenays.

Our dates for our trip to Spain are set. We leave September 25th and return November 26th. We've booked a small cottage in a village (Campanet) on the island of Mallorca for five weeks. It's centrally located so we should be able to access most areas on the north side of the island quite easily. We're looking forward to a great adventure!