Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Trail care at Ptarmigan Cirque

On Saturday, we volunteered with the Friends of Kananaskis to help fix a section of the popular Ptarmigan Cirque trail near the Highwood Pass. Really high trail use plus water have eroded a 100 m section of the trail so badly that it was almost knee deep.
A portion of the wrecked trail
This trail sits at the top of the highest car-accessible pass in Canada. At 2,206 m (7,238 ft) ASL, it's a delicate place where there can be 3' of snow on the road here in June.

Our job was to dig up huge rocks that could be moved in to stabilize the trail, then dig a whole pile of dirt and gravel up to fill the trail. All of this had to be done while working on a 20° slope. And it was reasonably hard work, as the rocks -- which were the size of microwave ovens -- had to be carried or dragged down the mountain, the dirt had to be put in wheelbarrows or buckets and carried up and down, and the gravel beds we sourced were across a steep, slippery uneven slope full of ground squirrel holes.
The crew at work. Looking south down the pass.
We also had to haul the tools, equipment, buckets and wheelbarrows up the hill a ways.
The parking lot in the background, over 200 m below
Still, the worksite is beautiful, and aside from a bit of rain in the morning and lunch, the weather was perfect for heavy lifting.
The crew. Pocaterra Cirque in the background
Pocaterra Ridge, an excellent ridgewalk
After we were done for the day, a bunch of the crew went for a walk in the cirque itself.
Into the cirque 
Looking back. Worksite just over the ridge by the trees 
The creek in the cirque forms a chasm 
The chasm in the lip of the hanging valley
The creek exiting the valley. Highwood Ridge on the right
We were really glad we went and did this work. For starters, I always thought that the Highwood Pass was farther away, and it's only an hour's drive from home. There's a lot of excellent trails and ridgewalks I have wanted to do down there, like Pocaterra Ridge, Highwood Ridge, the Grizzly Col, Elbow Lake and the Rae Glacier, that I always though would be just too far away and thus too long a day. Now, they are all on my radar screen.

But we also made a big difference (granted, only to a small section of trail). At least 100 people were out hiking it that nice Saturday. All thanked us for your hard work. Fun, that.

No comments: