Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ford Knoll -- November 11, 2007

Only 3 days after the Diamond T hike mentioned in the previous post, N and I drove out to Ford Knoll for a quick hike. By the time we got to the campground, the roads were pretty sketchy. This was the long weekend and the day of the crazy winds in Elbow Valley.

We literally seemed to have the place to ourselves since the campground was closed and the rock blocked. It was a peaceful, windy, fun hike -- finally getting to hike in the snow, but it was still wasn't too cold.

Ford Knoll has a number of different ways to complete the loop, the longest stretches close to the Nihani Ridge turnoff. We opted not to take that route though when we said the "Bear in Area" sign posted to a tree. It looked old, but one can never been too safe...

Otherwise, a beautiful day for hiking.

Diamond T -- November 8, 2007

Diamond T less that three weeks ago. Can you believe how green it looks?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Johnston's Canyon -- October 31, 2007

Johnston's Canyon's popularity and proximity to Banff makes it nearly impossible to get to during the summer. Even on weekdays, the large parking area overflows with every type of car and the highway is usually lined with parked vehicles for at least a kilometer. Summer weekends -- I don't even want to think about it. For the Ink Pots, there's always the option to drive a little further down the highway, park at the Moose Meadows trailhead and hike in from there, but you miss the views of the canyon itself.

With all of this is mind, N and I figured a late-fall trek to Johnston's Canyon and beyond to the Ink Pots would be a nice diversion, since we'd missed getting out there all summer long.

Directions to the Johnston's Canyon trailhead are here.

My previous hikes in Johnston Canyon this season had both been in the spring, once in April, and before that in February. Both times there had been plenty of snow deep in the canyon, most of the falls were still frozen over and we did not venture beyond the Lower falls due to icy catwalks.

Happily, the entrance to the canyon was free of snow:

And look, running water! These mini-falls are on the way to the Lower falls. You can see part of the catwalk along the canyon walls on the rockface in the background:

As always, the deeper you get into the canyon, the more ice and snow you see. These logs were resting in the pool at the bottom of the Lower falls:

We were able to venture beyond the Lower falls, and from here everything had just a touch of ice. We passed a small creek beside the paved trail, and found the creek water just in the process of starting the freeze:

Yet the cliffs above the canyon were still covered in damp green moss:

One of the smaller falls between the Upper and Lower falls. Check out how it's just beginning to form ice on the surface:

At the end of the official trail, the catwalk descends right into the canyon at the base of the Upper falls. It ends right beside a giant orange rockface that is actually covered with a type of algae. And yes, this was just freezing over as well. There's some sort of cave at the top:

The Upper falls from the bottom. It's not frozen over, but it looks pretty cold to me:


Another shot of the algae wall freezing over:

From here there is a view from the top of the Upper falls, and then the Johnston's Canyon part of the hike ends. The path turns to a typical dirt trail and it's about a 4k hike to the Ink Pots, natural, coloured pools of water that collect near the river.

I originally did the Ink Pots hike one summer day many years ago. It was crowded and the "pools" were a disappointment because if they had a natural colour, it was the colour of mud.

This hike was much better. We had the trail to ourselves until we got to the, and even then, only a couple of other hikers were there. And the pools? Wow:

The valley itself was beautiful:

From here the trail continues on for hours. It's another 2k or so to a backcountry campground, and from there the trail forks into many backcountry options including Mystic Pass or Luellen Lake.

But, it was Halloween and N and I had other things to do, so we headed back through Johnston's Canyon and back out to civilization.


It's the time of year when warnings are everywhere, so I thought I'd pass a couple along:

The Kananaskis Country website has posted a cougar warning for the Canmore/Bow Valley Provincial Park area, particularly the Peaks of Grassi and Quarry Lake areas.

It's also not a bad idea to check out the avalanche warnings before heading out on any trail.

Finally, the Banff National Park website has some excellent warnings about hiking, skiing or boarding in the backcountry this time of year.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Wind storm in Elbow Valley, take two

According to trail reports from the Kananaskis web site , high winds blasted through Elbow Valley on November 13 -- the second time this week.

N and her hubby were hiking Fullerton Loop today and found the third bridge was blocked by a fallen tree:

Crews are removing trees as quickly as they can, but be careful until they've had a chance to get to them all.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Adventure Hiking

This is an incredible article about preparing for adventure hikes -- hikes in different parts of the world that last for days and might require more skills than just hiking (such as climbing, kayaking, etc). Especially interesting was this part of the article with the hikers' training regimen:

8-Week Training Program

Weeks 1-2: Getting Started: 3x/week
• Cardio: 2x/week 20-30 minutes each, 60-70% MHR (maximum heart rate).
• Crosstrain: Walking, jogging, stairs, treadmill or hill hiking
• Activity Specific: Weekend hike w/10# pack

Weeks 3-4: Develop a Fitness Foundation: 3-4x/week
• Cardio: 2x/week, 30-45 minutes each, 65-70% MHR
• Strength: 2x/week, full-body, 20 minutes, 2 sets of 12-15 reps, 6-8 major muscle group; specific to kayaking/hiking/scrambling
• Activity Specific: Weekend hike with 10-15-pound pack, gaining 1000-1200 feet elevation.

Weeks 5-6: Build muscular strength: 4-5x/week
• Cardio: 3x/week, 45 minutes, 65-75% MHR; one-day city hill hike with 15-20-pound pack
• Strength: 2x/week, 20-30 min, 2-3x8-10 reps, full body strength, added weight
• Activity Specific: Weekend hike with15-20-pound pack, gaining 1200-1500 feet elevation or 2-3 miles kayaking

Weeks 7-8: Increase Muscular Endurance: 4-5x/week
• Cardio: 3x/week, 45-60 minutes, 60-75% MHR; 1 of 3: hill intervals or stairs with 20-pound pack
• Strength: 2x/week, 30-45 minutes, 3x12-15 reps; vary exercises from weeks 3-6
• Activity Specific: Weekend hike with 20-poun pack; 1500-2000’ elevation gain or 3-4 miles kayaking

*Note: Stretch for 15 minutes after every workout.

From: Competitor Magazine - Preparing for your Adventure. This is a must-read article.

The companies web site is here: TSTAdventure.com, and they list a number of "adventure" hikes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Elbow Valley Winds

D and I were planning on doing Moose Mountain on Monday, but were turned back at the access road by a kind gentleman who let us know there were trees down across the road about 1 km up.. the winds were that bad. We'd planned on setting out earlier.. I guess for once sleeping in was a good thing!

N and her hubby had planned a hike near Canmore, but turned back and hiked Grotto instead. Smart move -- they avoided the winds by hanging out in the canyon.

The winds were bad all weekend, but N and I seemed to luck out on Sunday. We hiked Ford Knoll and while it was windier than usual, we seemed to be sheltered enough to not notice. That hike will be posted soon.

Some photos of the Elbow Valley wind storm are at Hike Alberta.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Kindergartener kicks my ass

This is unbelievable:

Isabelle ascended five 14,000-foot summits this past hiking season, a true accomplishment for any outdoor enthusiast in Colorado. What makes it all the more impressive is Isabelle Currat was only 5 years old.

From: Kindergartener Conquers Peaks -- Douglas County News Press

Moose Mountain is 7995 ft.... half points?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Nihani Ridge - October 28, 2007

Final ascent of the season. We met a lot of great people on this hike. Even in the last week of October, this has to be one of the most popular hikes in the area.

Little to no snow, surprisingly....

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Moose Mountain - October 21, 2007

Elbow Valley -Moose Mountain. Trail Details: Take Highway 66 west, go past Station Flats. Look for Paddy's Flat campground on the left side of the road, the road to Moose Mountain is the next right immediately after that. Take the dirt road up. Up. Up. Parking for the trailhead is well marked and access beyond that is limited. The trail begins off the old forestry road (blocked by a gate from the main road).

We were totally pumped for Moose Mountain, and we suspected this might be one of the last new hikes of the year. We had no idea how great Moose Mountain would be.

We started out ridiculously early, but it was the right thing to do, even in the third week of October, Moose Mountain was very popular. We didn't run into anyone on the way up, but plenty of people on the way down.

Surprisingly, we didn't see a lot of snow along the early part of the trail, this was about as deep as it got:

Eventually, the trail opens up a bit and you're given just a taste of the amazing scenery ahead. It's hard to believe this is only minutes from Bragg Creek:

After the clearing, the trail starts to lead uphill just a little bit, and that's when the snow really started to show up on the trail, but even this didn't last long:

The trail isn't really a sharp incline until you are close to Moose Mountain itself, but then it rises sharply -- there's no mistaking it. Amazingly, before you even start to tackle the steeper incline, you can see downtown Calgary from the trail:

Can't see it? Well, it's much more visible from the trail. For a much better look, check out this incredibly magnified shot (this is a very large file size!).

The approach to Moose Mountain was nice, but when you hit the base -- nothing but rock and snow. The trail is a series of switchbacks up the hill. We called this part of the trail "hiking in Afghanistan. Can you tell why?

But the view just kept getting more amazing:

The eastern edge of the Rockies:

After a long series of switchbacks, we made it to the top of the mountain... or more like a plateau. The real peak was on the next part of the mountain. You can see the lookout at the top:

We hiked until the trail was just too covered in snow (and too windy) to continue safely. We made it within spitting distance of the top:

Can't wait for spring....

Friday, November 2, 2007

Tunnel Mountain -- October 19, 2007

Snuck out of the city on a Friday to hike around Banff. I even got to call it work-related. Beautiful day on the trail.

(Click here for trail information)