Monday, 20 July 2009

West Wind Ridge: Flies Biting while on a StairMaster

Sitting square in the view of the window of the master bedroom at the West Wing is West Wind Ridge. And while we had planned on heading up the Tent Ridge Horseshoe, the Ridge called to us.

The first 3 km of this hike is a beautiful wander through a lush forest crossing Pigeon & West Wind Creeks.

What did not occur to me until afterwards was that the hike was 15 km round trip, and 740 m height gain -- except that virtually none of that height gain happens in the first 3.3 km. So the (post hike) math said that you gained 157 m per km of trail when the climbing starts. And a steep, grueling uphill was what this hike was all about.

In fact, the height gain in the last kilometer we hiked was 300 m. This is steeper than any staircase you normally climb, and you get to do it for a solid hour or more.

On its own, that may not have been bad. But the flies in the meadow were plentiful. And they bite. So in addition to trying to keep your balance while climbing a ladder, you have to swat the flies continuously. Not fun.

And then, after all that climbing, you hit what is affectionately referred to as "the rock step". When I was in my late teens, I used to rock climb. "Step" my butt. This was a climb. The "easy route" is over KC's right shoulder in this photo.

We chose not to climb this, so never made the full 740 m up, or the full 15 km round trip. We made it a mere 660 m, and 12.8 km. Darn.

Was it worth it? Sort of. Some of the views at the place where we stopped were indeed fine, including the view back to West Wind Pass (one of our favourite hikes).

But about half way up, you can stop at Windy Point, the first knoll on the mountain. The views from there are almost as good, and a heck of a lot less work.

You can even see the route upwards, that fools like us actually climbed.

And you can see the West Wing.

We were also a bit surprised (and possibly relieved) to virtually no wildlife on the trail, other than Columbian Ground Squirrels and Red Squirrels. Wind Valley is a grizzly, black bear, sheep and elk hotspot. We saw cougar poop and wolf tracks...

Was it worth it? I don't think we will try getting to the ridge again; it almost killed the both of us, and we didn't even try to scramble. But Windy Point was nice, and knowing what we know now, we could bike part way there. In the meantime, I think we will be content looking at the valley and the route up the ridge from the safe and easy confines of the West Wind Pass trail instead.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Hummingbird Babies

Our hummingbirds have had babies, and now we have swarms of them. Current count is at LEAST:

2 adult males
3 adult females
3 juvenile males and
3 juvenile females

And are they ever fun to watch...

Chester, not Rummel, and too many tourists

The plan for today was to hike to Rummel Lake. We got to the trailhead just in time to find a school bus full of Japanese tourists starting the hike. I come to the mountains to avoid crowds, so the idea of hiking with 45 tourists marching as a pack all yapping wasn't my idea of a good time. Trouble is, the Rummel trailhead is way down the Spray Lakes road, so given that we were down there already, we were kinda stuck for alternatives. So we went to Chester Lake, which has to rank as the single most popular trail in all of Kananaskis, figuring that 45 other hikers were fine so long as they were not in a group.

We were wrong.

I think the bus first dropped off a load at Chester before going to Rummel. Chester lake itself is an "OK" hike in my books. The lake is nice, but the hike up is kinda blah.

So when we go to Chester, we always add on the Three Lakes Valley for the spectacular rock formations, great fossils and beautiful vistas.

And a group of 25 Japanese followed us the whole way. So much for solitude. They chased away the critters, stepped in the animal tracks, and made enough noise to make sure every bear in Alberta would run away. So we were fortunate to stop them from stepping in wolf tracks... find marmots, chipmunks and Columbian Ground Squirrels.

The Robertson Glacier & Mt. Sir Douglas were pretty cool today, too.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Bike & Hike to Ribbon Falls

Our second "bike & hike" trip this year led us up to Ribbon Falls. This is a long 22 km trek, but 8 km of that can be biked on a fire road, so we grunted our way up on the bikes and really enjoyed the coast on the way down. Nicely, they provide a bike rack at the end of the fire road.

The hike follows Ribbon creek, which initially is fairly wide...

...past some ruins of old logging cabins...

...until the creek heads into a slot canyon full of rapids & waterfalls.

The prize at the end is Ribbon Falls itself, which is pretty -- and popular.

Along the way we saw some VERY fresh bear poop, and two trees being destroyed by carpenter ants.

All in all, a popular hike that is worth doing, but is indeed best done as a bike/hike.

Stampede 2009

Had the privilege of going to the Stampede Rodeo this year with the folks from Blake's, and sitting in the infield grandstand, where the view is GREAT.

On top of that, we were treated like royalty by a friend of ours who is the Chairman of the Courtesy Car committee, getting a ride onto the grounds right up to our grandstand, and the wonders of a chute tour (where you find out up close and personal that these folks are well and truly nuts for wanting to ride wild livestock for a living).

You have to admire people who are willing to do this. They bull rider with the fractured disc, the saddle bronc rider with the broken leg -- I'm sure their doctors approve of this as physiotherapy.

Even the less death defying events are fun to watch.

But I root for the animal, and it's most fun when it wins.

Once again, thanks to my friends David & Gavin at Blake's for inviting us this year.