Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Yamnuska Revisited -- October 14, 2007

Nearly a month after my first Yamnuska hike of the season, I found myself back on the trail, this time with N for a late-season hike. It had snowed between visits and this hike was worth the revisit. The fall colours were still lingering and there was a lot more of the picturesque snow covering the Rocky Mountains. This hike is nice because you work hard right away, but you get a payoff almost immediately:

We encountered much less snow that we expected, considering the snow that week (in fact when I drove by Yamnuska last weekend, the mountain was still relatively free of the white stuff). Most of the snow was around the approach to the rockface:

We made it up in nearly record time, but didn't summit due to the snow, and lack of planning on my part. Next spring for sure.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fullerton Loop - Sept 30, 2007

We'd taken a couple of weeks off from hiking -- vacations, birthdays, so many other things going on. When we returned to this old favorite, fall had hit and made this hike a whole new experience.

I think fall is my favorite time of year.

Soon enough, snow on the trail won't be such a novelty:

The viewpoint was spectacular:

After the hike I drove down the highway toward Elbow Falls. I wound up stopping on the hill just before Canyon Creek road to take this shot:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What will they think of next?

I can't get over how completely cool this is:

The stress and strain absorbed by your backpack could one day recharge your cell phone.

Researchers at Michigan Technological University have designed a strap that will capture the energy generated by the up-and-down movement of a hiker's pack and turn it into enough voltage to power small electrical devices.

Read the rest of the article at ScienceDaily.com: Hiking: A Backpack That Charges Your iPod?.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Trail Advisory -- Marsh Loop Trail

The Banff National Park Warden has shut Marsh Loop Trail due to a cougar in the area. The Banff National Park website has more information about the closure.

Marsh Loop is very close to the popular Cave & Basin attraction in Banff townsite, so use caution if you're hiking in that area.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Yamnuska - September 15, 2007

Yamnuska Mountain (also known as John Laurie Mountain) - Take the Trans-Canada west from Calgary until the 1X turnoff to the 1A (towards Exshaw). Look to the left of the road for a turnoff to the Yamnuska trailhead.

There are few hikes as exhilarating as Yamnuska. The mountain is visible from the Trans-Canada highway as you enter the Rockies from the east and is one of the most recognizable mountains in the area. It's a fantastic hike because as you climb to the rockface, you can look eastward onto the foothills and see for kilometers. It also gives an excellent view of the Bow Valley to the immediate south. As you climb higher, there are also dramatic views of the Rockies to the north and west.

The next time you drive down the TCH, you will never look at the mountain the same way.

Yamnuska is a popular hike for both hikers and climbers, so arrive early!

I had hiked Yamnuska once before -- October of 2004 -- and that day out we weren't so lucky. The hike up was great... but the higher we got, the faster the clouds moving in from the west closed on us. The hike down was completed in record time through the first snowstorm of the season. Not well planned, but fun. The beer afterward tastes that much better.

The weather forecast looked much more promising this time out:

Most of the hike is up the east side of Yamnuska and approaches the rockface from the side. There is also a more direct hike up for the climbers, but for us hikers, the hikers' route is more fun, though certainly not an easy hike.

And it doesn't take long to get to the first of many great views. From this angle, the lake even has a heart-shape:

Looking west. Mid-September the leaves were just starting to turn:

As you get closer to the top, you're rewarded with a great view of the north side of the mountain -- the side of Yamnuska you don't get to see from the highway:

Once you arrive at the rockface at the top, there are a number of different things to do. The trail leads both to the southside of the mountain along the rockface and to a scree slope, as well as north behind the mountain. With a little scrambling and climbing that trail can take you to the top of Yamnuska.

But first, D and I decided to have a snack and enjoy the view:

Then we worked around to the south side of the mountain (yes, there's a trail there. Really):

The view just gets better as you wind along the southside:

And finally, view from the trailhead (a very FULL parking lot), about 4 hours later as we finished our hike. Amazing mountain, amazing hike:

Friday, October 5, 2007

Tunnel Mountain - Banff - September 9, 2007

The weather around here has taken a turn for the winter. It's not snowing in the city yet, but all my weather reports have been talking about 35 cm of snow for the Kananaskis/Canmore areas. I think my next hike will likely include packing my Yak-Traks in case we run into snow (I'm aiming for a hike up Sulphur Mountain sometime this weekend, but Stoney Squaw or the Cascade Amphitheatre work for me too, if we're feeling adventurous. I just like Sulphur because it finishes near the Hot Springs and that gives me a chance to try to talk D into going again -- hint hint).

The cooler weather isn't surprising considering the time of year, and we've had signs the fall weather is coming for about a month now, especially during the second Tunnel Mountain hike.

I'd raved about it so much to N, we wound up heading out one September morning. This might have been the morning of some of the most unusual weather I've ever seen. The drive from Calgary to Cochrane was normal. I could see pockets of clouds in the valley, but I figured they'd burn off as the sun got stronger.

As we hit the edge of the mountain by the turn off to Hwy 40, the clouds took on a whole new look. They were hanging low to the ground, but there was only a thin layer. Above the clouds there was still clear blue sky:

Even this wasn't terribly weird, but as we entered the rockies and passed the first corner, the most bizarre sight greeted us. The clouds were falling over the edge of the peak like a waterfall. It's the only possible description -- the clouds were moving like water spilling over the peak of the mountain down to the base:

After the highway wound around the other side of this mountain visibility dropped to zero. Nevermind the blue sky, we couldn't even tell we were driving through mountains.

When we arrived at the trailhead, there wasn't much to see, but we figured we'd hike it anyway. It didn't take long before we were lost in the mist:

I felt bad for N since she missed out on the amazing views from Tunnel Mountain, but like our hike to Grassi Lakes , the weather made this hike as memorable as any view could. Despite the fact we saw some ice at the top, we didn't even get cold. Another great day.

Get in hiking shape without hiking

Have you wanted to try out hiking but feel you need to get into shape before you hit the trail? Newsday.com has a pre-hiking workout just in time for fall hiking.

In the city, it can be easy to forget what real hiking is like. (Hint: It is not an exercise in climbing subway stairs.)

If you need your memory jogged, take a day trip outside the city, where you should find ambling through throngs of trees rather relaxing -- that is, if your body is ready for it.

"Hiking can be a lot of fun if your legs are in the right shape," says Rob Pella, a trainer at Crunch Fitness.

Personally, I think it's a lot more fun to just get out there, try out the easier, shorter trails and work your way up, but those unfamiliar with mountains, or who have leg injuries might see some benefits in these workouts before hiking.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Nihahi Creek - Sept 2, 2007

N and I wanted to take it a little easier this week out and thought we'd try Nihahi Creek, which runs, not surprisingly, along the base of Nihahi Ridge. The directions to the trailhead are the same as Nihahi Ridge, except the trail continues along the forestry road instead of turning uphill to the ridge.

The mornings were definitely getting cooler, and while it wasn't jacket weather yet, the changing conditions brought about a different look at our meeting place at Station Flats:

Nihahi Creek is supposed to an excellent hike for rainy days in the spring. Considering this was a sunny morning in September, we were a little off, but we found the trail to be quiet and beautiful. Since this part of Elbow Valley is right on the edge of the rockies, there are some amazing views for very little walking:

There's also a nice view of Nihahi itself, and a chance to look at the peak we scaled a few weeks back:

The hike itself is fairly nondescript and follows along the creek without many inclines. The pleasant surprise is near the end of the hike when the creek merges into a canyon that runs below the trail. The canyon is too deep to reach when you first see it, but eventually the trail leads to the mouth of the canyon:

It was dry enough to walk along the bottom for a while (so maybe this IS the right time of year for this trail), but eventually there is a narrow section where it becomes risky to drop down -- and you run the risk of not being able to climb out. So we turned back and enjoyed the silence and confines of the canyon and the mossy walls that surrounded it:

It was a mostly pleasant and casual hike. There was only one steep uphill that took about 15 minutes to navigate (and gave us our workout for the day). I think springtime would be a great time for wildflower viewing, but late in the fall gives the best chance to check out the canyon!