Canadian Rockies - July 8th-25th 2003

Castle Mountain

This was a trip with two objectives: to visit Deirdre's friends Stan & Rosemary in Vancouver and to see a bit of Western Canada including scrambling up a few mountains in the Rockies.


Our flight took us from Manchester to Seattle via Philidelphia - in hindsight the direct flight from Leeds-Bradford to Vancouver would've been much better even though it cost more.
We stayed overnight in Seattle and then went over the border into Canada and Vancouver in our hired car.          (My past came back to haunt me when the officials insisted that I relinquish my Canadian "residency" status before allowing me to enter Canada!)


                            Capilano Suspension Bridge                                                          Shannon Falls     

Vancouver: Stan & Rosmary were really nice and showed us a great time. They took us to see the Capilano Suspension Bridge and to visit Grouse Mountain which has grand views overlooking the city of Vancouver.

Stawamus Chief

We also drove to Whistler, stopping to see the Shannon Falls waterfall, driving past the very impressive rockface of Stawamus Chief at Squamish. We also had a day in the city where we saw the famous 'steam clock' and visited the interesting 'Sea-Life' aquarium.

                   Grouse Mountain bear!

Monday 14th: Heading off to the Rockies we stopped overnight in a nice town called Revelstoke (at the "Same Sun" hostel) where after having dinner out we were drawn to the town Square by the incredible voice of a singer named "Sharon Shook" who sounded very much like Elaine Paige!
 

Sharon Shook Live in Revelstoke

We stayed all evening listening to her one-woman open air concert and was surprised when she came down amongst the audience afterwards and thanked everyone for supporting her. She singled us out and later we realised that we were probably the only people she didn't know, everyone else being her neighbours!
We discovered later that she just sang 'for fun' and worked in the local sawmill grading wood as her day job!
 

The Bell Annexe of the Alpine Club of Canada headquarters in Canmore

Wednesday 16th - Canmore: We decided to base ourselves in the hut at the headquarters of the Alpine Club of Canada in Canmore. They put us in their Bell Annexe hut which was very nice.
 

The view from the hut: Mount Lawrence Grassi, Miners Peak, Ha Link Peak

For our first outing we thought we would walk from the hut up the 'mountain' (hill?) directly behind the hut named Grotto Mountain (2706m, 1420mh of ascent)

Grotto Mountain

To cut a long story short after being savagely attacked by huge mosquitoes in the shady forest we were unimpressed with the path after we'd found it at the third attempt and there was no way we wanted to descend it at the end of a long day - it was just too steep and eroded.
"Grotto Mountain"? - we renamed it in our diaries! 

Heart Mountain

Thursday 17th: Another hot day but thankfully a more straightforward and quite pleasant circular route up Heart Mountain (2135m, 875mh) A cool breeze once we had gained some height and excellent views all round.

We met three reporters from the Calgary Herald, on the way up this and so we became the subjects of the article they were writing for their newspaper ( visit the photographer Marianne Helm's website ).  A fairly long day but no real difficulties and a good route.

Deirdre & Lake Louise

Friday 18th: A little tired from the day before we drove up to see Lake Louise and it was so hot we just took a short walk in the shady woods above it.

Morraine Lake

We also visited the impressive Morraine Lake and returned via a very scenic drive down by the Bow River and the Canadian Pacific railroad tracks. (That couloir in the background looks interesting!)

Saturday July 19th: Still desperately hot and a stiff haul up through the welcome shade of deep forest brought us to the popular Ha Ling Peak (2408m, 700mh) formerly known as Chinaman's Peak. (I've since found a video on YouTube about a rock climb on this peak, see: Rockies Classic - Chinaman's Peak - Rock Climb )

Ha Ling Peak

Once we left the shade of the forest the path became more eroded but the summit gave us a good view over Canmore township. We did a side trip to reach Miners Peak and went closer to the suggested Lawrence Grassi Peak but decided that continuing up that looked like a major expedition!

The Kananaskis Valley & Mount Baldy (from Heart Mountain)

Sunday 20th: Another very hot day and being tired from the day before we took advantage of the air-conditioning in the car to tour down the Kananaskis Valley calling in at all the visitor centres, as well as locating the starts of a couple more scrambles.

Mount Baldy from its South Ridge

Monday 21st: Yet another hot day and not such a good path... it was quite steep with much loose rock on the scrambly bits... took us up towards Mount Baldy (2192m, 800mh). A long way to the summit and beyond that there was a steep down-climbing section which led to a fabulous ridge.

This took me to the South Baldy summit and then down a steep scree slope to a ridge leading to the West Baldy summit. I was unsure whether it was possible to continue along the ridge back to the road so I backtracked and descended the scree slope (as mentioned in the guide).

Mount Chester

Tuesday 22nd: For our last day out in the Rockies we took a very nice and fairly level forest walk into the lake below Mount Chester (3054m, 1150mh) but the weather was still extremely hot!
A steep ascent up a remaining tongue of a snowfield to a col and then steep careful scrambling/climbing up fairly loose rock to the summit with fine views in all directions.
At the top was a chap who was staying at the same hut as us! Coming back down was tricky, especially downclimbing the scrambling section to reach the col.

Rick on top of Mount Chester

Wednesday 23rd: We drove to Kamloops and stayed overnight in a very nice air conditioned motel room after deciding not to stay at a quaint but rundown place in Squilax which didn't have any air conditioning!
After dumping our bags in the motel we went looking for a restaurant and it was so hot that even walking 50m across a car park was a very bad idea!

                                Totem Poles at the Capilano Bridge                                                                    The famous Steam Clock in Vancouver

      
 

And back to Vancouver; overnight with Rosemary and Stan and then back to Seattle airport to start the long journey home... and boy, were we ever glad to get home!

Andy & Rosemary in Vancouver

Summary: We were there during the middle of an unusually long period of hot weather - we were told that usually there were only at most two weeks of such weather most years. (There were forest fires raging in BC).

The freezing winters and scorching summers plus the height and steepness of these routes has led to the paths becoming very eroded and thus dangerous in descent. The scrambling sections were steep and having so much shattered and loose rock they were a serious proposition. Most of the year there would be snow on these routes and this would probably be the best time to do them.


However I recommend doing all four of the routes we succeeded on, (missing out Grotto Mountain), perhaps starting off with Ha Ling Peak as the easiest day.

The guidebook we used was 'Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies' by Alan Kane (Rocky Mountain Books).

A new edition has been printed since then and both editions can be obtained from Amazon fairly readily now, (including a 'Kindle' version).

On the front page of the Calgary Herald!

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