Saturday, 3 June 2017

Helicopters on mountaintops

I may be retired, but I'm sure busy, so even though hiking season has started, it's time for the first hiking post, as we climbed Jumpingpound Mountain yesterday.

We actually started hiking this year on the long weekend in May with a hike out to LM8 (Lake Minnewanka trail campground, 8 km mark -- as opposed to the LM9, LM11, LM20 or LM 22 campgrounds) along the Lake Minnewanka shoreline. This jaunt was long -- an 18.2 km round trip -- but had little in the way of elevation change. It was mostly just a walk along the lake's edge in the forest with one grunty 60 m climb over a ridge (that you had to do on the way in and out).
Looking back from near LM8. We started way back at the bump in the middle
As we rise up. Town of Banff hiding at the base of Mt. Rundle on the left.
This is not a particularly thrilling hike, but it's a good early season long distance conditioning walk because there's no snow down low. On the long weekend, it was a REALLY busy hike (never mind the madhouse of the Lake Minnewanka day use area at the end of the day), and I was almost run over by a few of the many mountain bikers who ride it. As I type this, this trail is now closed because a bear was bothering campers at LM20.

The other one we did is hard to call a regular hike; we were out servicing cameras, almost all on trail. But this particular group features a bit of height gain. We only walked 7.1 km but we climbed 520 m in the process (up 300 m, down 200 m, up 200 m, down), getting stellar views of the Bow Valley in the process.
Straight across to the Three Sisters. Ha Ling on the right 
From Ha Ling down the length of Mt. Rundle.
On one of these two hikes, I injured one of my toes, jamming it and bruising the nail (not sure which; it kinda hurt on both), so I took 10 days off consequential walking to heal. The only thing I did in that window was help plant trees to reclaim a trail in the wildlife corridor which entailed all of 1 km of walking. The weather for almost all of those 10 days was pretty nice, and I was neither healing particularly well nor happy about not being out in the wilderness.

So yesterday, we said "screw my toe" and went out for a short but favourite jaunt. We have been up Jumpingpound Mountain a half a dozen times, have taken friends up there on several occasions, and it's a favourite of our nearby hikes.

The day got off to an inauspicious start. We were 20 min down the road towards the trailhead when Karen noted she had forgotten her hiking boots, necessitating a return home -- an hour delay to start the hike. For this hike, though, that's inconsequential, and only meant lunch at 1 PM instead of 12 PM.

As I've posted before there's not a lot a views on the way up, but the few there are are sweet, especially at this time of year when there's still a lot of snow up high.
Peaks of the Fisher Range
At this point, about half way up, a helicopter flew overhead.
We found where he was off to later
About 150 m below the summit, snow patches started appearing in the trees. This was not surprising; snow still socks in most of the higher altitude hikes around here, which is part of the reason we were out at Jumpingpound. As we got higher, snow (and ice) covered the trail in spots.
Muddy, but nothing consequential
It was quite windy at the top (which made the otherwise pleasant 17° temps feel rather chilly), but the views were stunning as always.
South down Nihahi Ridge 
Northwest over the Fisher Range
Moose looms to the east
The summit was "occupied". That helicopter had landed, and disgorged 2 people to have a birthday and anniversary picnic.
Whatever floats your boat. Nice helicopter.
They left not long after we arrived, then two nice young ladies on the first ever hike of their lives joined us, proud of their accomplishment. They stayed with us for lunch for a while as we hunkered down behind the only clump of trees that act as a windbreak at the top. Hiding behind the trees facing east, we failed to notice weather rolling out of the mountains to the west, until suddenly it got cloudy.
Who took the mountains?
We have been up here before when the weather turned south, and we got caught in a thunderstorm with hail and lightning. Didn't want that happening again. But... I also learned in my days as a glider pilot that being at cloud base sometimes screws up your perspective of the clouds; they may not have been as bad as they looked. We headed off the mountain anyway, walked through a 2 min light rainshower and emerged back in lovely sunshine for the remainder of the walk down.

On our way home we stopped at Sibbald Meadows Pond. One of our recent volunteer projects was cutting wire tree wraps to protect trees from beavers at that pond.
The culprits's home 
Just one of the dams in the area
All in all, it was a wonderful day, though basically wildlife free.

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