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Sunday, 9 July 2017

3 Days in Jasper: Waterfalls, glaciers and the trip home

Our initial plan for our last day was to do the Cavell Meadows hike, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, that hike is closed due to a bear frequenting the area. So instead we decided to play tourist and poke at some view hotspots while heading home.

After a leisurely breakfast with, and goodbye to, my daughter, stop 1 was Pyramid Island about 2 km from Pyramid Lake Resort. Pyramid Mountain, and the other mountains in the area, were nicely reflected in the still morning water.
The island on the right 
Symmetry 
The Whistlers, Muhigan Mountain and others
While we were waiting for my daughter to go hiking the previous day, we heard but didn't see loons. A mom and dad and two chicks were, this morning, hanging around Pyramid Island.
Mom and the kids 
Dad about to dive 
Mom in the sun 
Hanging around 
Colourful reflections
The family that swims together...
After a quick stop in Jasper, we puttered down the 93A (which REALLY needs re-paving) to Athabasca Falls.
Mt Kerkeslin and the Athabasca River 
The lip of the falls 
Looking downstream through the slot canyon 
The falls were churnin' 
A lot of water, from the other side 
"Somewhere, over the rainbow..." 
The 93A and footbridges cross the canyon 
Just downstream of the falls. All that water came through the slot 
The colourful peak of Kerkeslin.
We saw American Dippers and Myrtle Warblers getting at the bugs near the lip of the falls.
Mr. Warbler after a successful bug hunt
We stopped at the Goats and Glaciers viewpoint but there were no goats. There were really no glaciers, either, but lots of evidence of past glaciation.
Aretes, moraines and hanging valleys on Mt. Geraldine
We then stopped at Sunwapta Falls.
Not at big but just as much fun 
Yet another slot canyon that leads to another falls
At this point it was lunch time, so we wanted to picnic somewhere on our way south. A picnic area marked on our map (Bubbling Springs) has been decommissioned, though we should have stopped to see the now unmarked springs. Getting hungrier and hungrier, it tuns out there's basically no place to stop for a picnic between Sunwapta Falls and the Columbia Icefield. We finally pulled off at the Stutfield Glacier viewpoint which was marked as a picnic spot; there was one table and hoards of tourists.
The Stutfield, which comes off the Columbia Ice Sheet at the top
The left side
The Stutfield is interesting because as ice comes down it and falls off, it re-connects with ice below and re-forms as another glacier that's ~1.5 km long in the valley below.

We pause at an unnamed pullout to gawk at the various glaciers around the icefield, and watch the throngs of tourists without entering the parking lot.
Dome Glacier
Close up of the Dome 
The unnamed glacier on Mt. Athabasca  
The Sunwapta River comes off the Athabasca Glacier 
Two groups out for guided walks on the Athabasca glacier 
Closeup of one group 
The famous snowcoaches load and unload 
Unnamed glaciers on Mt. Andromeda 
A closeup 
The start of the Athabasca Glacier 
The Athabasca Glacier
Stats & facts on the Athabasca Glacier:
  • It's about 6 km long back to the Columbia Icefield, up to 320 m thick and up to 1.3 km wide
  • Being a glacier, it's always moving forward, about 120 m/yr or 30 cm/day at it's fastest spot (at the base of the icefall in the photo) and 15 m/yr or 4 cm/day at the toe
  • But it's also always melting. The current retreat rate of the toe is about 20 m/yr, meaning that it's melting at the rate of 35 m/yr or 10 cm/day (advance rate less retreat rate) at the toe
  • The Athabasca glacier does not source the Athabasca River. It sources the Sunwapta River. The Athabasca River is sourced by the Columbia Glacier from one of several lakes called Columbia Lake. 
  • The Athabasca Glacier is not on Mt. Athabasca; it's between Mt. Andromeda and Snow Dome.
We started to head home from here and soon ran into a bear jam, half way between the Rampart Creek Hostel and Saskatchewan River Crossing.
Maybe 50 cars?
The bear is visible in the photo, just. He's that small, shadow-like black spot next to the lead blue car on the shoulder on the left. The bear was working his way towards us eating in the ditch right next to the road. A car would pull over next to the bear and park, and then the next car would leapfrog and park, and the bear would just continue to walk by car after car. One idiot in a white SUV pulled over and then crept forward at bear-walking speed, paralleling the bear for at least a minute.
And you wonder why bears get mad
On the bright side, no one was out of their car.

We passed by Bow Lake and saw Bow Falls was in full tilt flow, the Bow Glacier above it. The view made me want to go hike there again, as we did here and here and a bunch of other times.
Getting to the base of the falls is one of my favourite walks
Karen was tempted to take the 1A from Lake Louise to Banff, but I had had my fill of tourist drivers for the day.

Friday, 7 July 2017

3 Days in Jasper: The Hike, a bear, and a crash

You can't say that the Pyramid Lake Lodge is not a photogenic place. Waiting for my daughter to appear to go hiking, we just had to take some pictures.
The lake is calm and quiet in the morning 
Reflective boats 
All for rent 
Not fall. Bad pine beetle infestation killing all the trees 
Pyramid Mountain towers over the lake
For various reasons, my daughter was late, so we went to town to grab breakfast, and along the way, saw this guy.
"He wore brown velvet..."
The plan for the day was to hike the Bald Hills. The hike starts at the end of Maligne Lake, an hour up the road. We headed straight there without stopping, and along the way saw a grizzly in the ditch. Folks were staying in their cars but were standing up through the sunroof to get pictures, which I thought was OK.

The Bald Hills hike climbs ~450 m in ~5.5 km to an old fire lookout location via an old fire road. A long, boring, dreary 2 hr trudge up a gravel road that is relentlessly steep and straight. The only things of interest along the way was a Spruce Grouse mom and 2 chicks. For the first 90 minutes, there are no views at all, just hard gravel and a steady grade.
Wow. A mountain.
After 90 min, there start to be some vistas through the trees, but generally, you're looking for shade -- any shade -- to get a break from the relentless climb.
The "view"
There's a "short cut" which we took on the way down and were glad we didn't take on the way up. More on that later.

Eventually, you get to the old lookout sight which is just about at treeline. The lookout was built in 1954 and removed in the early 1980's. In the last 30 years, the trees have grown up somewhat and the views are less than they were.
The old site
But the lookout site is not the objective. Another grunty, switchback-filled, 130 m climb in less than a kilometer (nearly straight up) gets you well above treeline, and the vistas (and reason for the hike) become obvious.
The steep grind up. The lookout is in the trees almost where the pond is left centre 
The view up Maligne Lake from the same spot 
My daughter on the mountain
We gained the first summit, but then backtracked to have lunch in the lee of some small kruppleholtz trees.
Our lunch view
For kicks and giggles, I set my iPhone to time-lapse, and made a movie of the world going by. It's a 30 second view that actually lasted about 15 minutes.
video

After lunch and a rest, it was time to continue upward another 90 m. This ridge beckoned.
Looks fun, and not like a hard climb
The ridge itself is basically a knife edge with a 1,000 m drop on the far side. But the path up it is good.
Lunch spot extreme right.
We were greeted on the top by a marmot, a pika and a golden mantled ground squirrel, our first (and only non-feathered) wildlife of the day. The pika would not, of course, stay still for a photo. The marmot, of course, barely moved, and the squirrel has obviously been hand fed and was begging.
Checking out his territory 
Skulking in the shadows
The view from the top across the meadow and back to the lake was pretty stellar.
That's a wow
My daughter insisted on a photo on the very top.
On her left is a 1,100 m straight drop down
The back side of the ridge is the Evelyn Creek valley.
Apparently you can walk that
From here we descended into the meadow.
Peak on the left. Lunch spot on the hill right centre
The meadow was a peaceful and quiet place, with little bits of running water here and there and evidence of Columbian ground squirrels.
A great meadow walk 
The lake comes back into view 
The trail crossed a few snow patches
Wrapping around the hill, we found that there's an actual trail up the backside that would have avoided the steepness of the straight-up, 130 m grunt switchback climb up the face with a trade off for a longer route.

Alas, it was time to descend. We took the "shortcut" I mentioned earlier. It cuts off a kilometre, but is rooty, rugged and stair-like. There were some folks coming up it, but I am glad we didn't.
The start at the top 
A little farther down
You eventually connect back to the depressing fire road for the remaining 2.5 km trudge to the car... and the lake.
Dreary. And hard on the feet. 
But you can dip your feet in the lake when you're done.
Maligne Lake is home to a very popular cruise boat fleet, and you can rent canoes and kayaks, too.
The main docks 
From the historic Maligne Lake Chalet
Warning: THERE IS NO ICE CREAM AVAILABLE HERE. Which kinda blew my mind, given there is a full cafeteria, and a gazillion tourists.

Desperate for post-hike sustenance, we headed down the road. We paused to gawk at Medicine Lake and a bald eagles next along the way.
About half way between Jasper and Maligne 
My daughter explores the shoreline

Eagle in her nest 
Arty photo of an invasive weed, the Tall Buttercup
Part the way back, we saw a bear jam, with folks safely in their cars watching this black bear. Our photos of roadside bears are rarely great, as we slow down but don't stop.
Kinda cute
We got back to Pyramid, then headed out for dinner.
A couple enjoying the solitude
On our way home from dinner, we were driving uphill back to Pyramid. There was a car about 100 m in front of me. As we rounded a curve, I saw two bicycles blasting down the road with another car following them a safe distance behind. The lead cyclist lost it; not sure why or how, though she might have been startled by the car in front of me. But she sure had a pretty nasty crash, severely bending the bike's front tire in the process. We pulled over and went into "SnowHost accident scene" mode. We identified ourselves as first aid trained, got permission to call 9-1-1, protected the scene, and assessed the young lady. She was not wearing a helmet, but landed (and slid) squarely on her shoulder. Pretty nasty road rash, and so we pulled out the emergency kit, wrapped her in a blanket, and waited until EMS arrived. Her boyfriend was fine; both, it turned out, were CN employees who live in Jasper and also first aid trained. So all turned out well, though we were held up for about 45 min.