Sunday, December 16, 2007

Malakwa

After Brenda's exam on Saturday we drove to Salmon Arm in time to see the CPR Holiday Train.

The train is decorated with thousands of Christmas lights and makes stops all across the US and Canada where entertainers and musicians perform from an open-sided box car. There were two huge bonfires and bleachers set up to watch the show. Classic Canadiana. More on the train at the CPR website.

On Sunday we put the chains on to get Steve's van up the road. Actually we got up the road just fine but got bogged down in the soft snow when we parked. Chains are cool.


This is the parking area at km 15 which I often refer to.

Lots of people out today. Enormous 4x4's are de rigueur and we're usually the exception to the rule in Brenda's CRV or Steve's all-wheel drive van.

We were lucky enough to come across a rare and elusive British Columbia Snow Elephant.

They're very shy and are rarely caught on film so we were very lucky to get this shot. This is why you should carry peanuts when traveling in the backcountry.

Today we again did a bit if exploring. Rather taking off the skins and heading down at the first opportunity we instead traveled up and over the 17km summit and followed a saddle over to the next ridge to the southwest. We've often looked at this feature from 17 and from that vantage point it appears to be quite steep. It turned out to be a fairly mild slope and we enjoyed the ski down into the valley.

Thankfully there was a skin track in place and we didn't have to break trail back up to the top of 17. From there we could see the parking area and we basically just made a beeline straight down to the car. Steve and Brenda chose a more adventurous route that left them temporarily cliffed. Fred, Junko and I and couldn't see them above us but we could follow their progress by the steady stream of snow they were knocking down and by the general thrashing about and cursing until they eventually popped out of the trees.

A bit of crappy video from the day...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Malakwa

There was a big storm in the forecast for Sunday so we again opted for a day trip to The Gorge. We drove up to Salmon Arm on Saturday evening, stayed at Fred's, and had dinner at an excellent Thai restaurant right across the street. I like Salmon Arm. It's got a nice small town feel.

On Sunday we made a few runs at km 17 and did a bit of exploring. I tried to shoot some video but with the heavy snow there wasn't much light and the aging digital camera that I use just wasn't up to the task. I'd like to upgrade to a real video camera one day but then I'd need to upgrade my computer to edit the video. Then I'd want to get some decent video editing software. Then I'd need...urk. It's a slippery slope.

Here's Fred doing what he does best.



At the end of the day we came across this rascal who had just cut down a small tree to take home for Christmas.



We talked with him for a while but he was reluctant to show us his face. When we asked if he had a tree cutting permit he quickly skied off. I snapped a photo of him as he sped away. He seemed like a nice guy so I've blocked out his face so as not to reveal his identity. I think he was Norwegian...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Malakwa

Forgot the camera! Is it worth posting? Is it even worth skiing? :)

We were at Malakwa on Saturday for the first time this season with Fred, Steve, and Junko. Brenda and I spent Friday night camping in the van where we tested our new catalytic heater. It worked well except when Brenda tried to light it. There was a bit of a flair-up and she singed all the hair off the back of her hand. She has a similar effect on the camp stove. It's a real skill.

Did I ever mention the time she tried to burn down the Sapphire Col hut? Remind me to tell you that story one day.

We also ran out of propane in both the van and in the backup stove. To steal a phrase from our friend Louis, say the following with a thick Quebecois accent...

"Catastrophe!"

There wasn't an single flake of snow at the start of the logging road but by the time we reached kilometer 17 the snowbanks were a few feet high. There isn't as much snow as last year but good enough for us!

We made a few runs and had a good time. We also met Steve's dog Jasper, a young German Shepherd. This was her first ski trip but she quickly got the hang of things by learning not to step on the tails of your skis when she was behind you and to keep moving when she was in the lead. I wish I had some photos of her "porpoising" through the deep snow. She was one tired pooch at the end of the day.

The word is that the logging road will be plowed until Christmas and we'll try to get a few more trips here before the road becomes impassable.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Asulkan Cabin

Last weekend was the third annual November 11th trip to the Asulkan Cabin. This year there wasn't space available in the cabin on Saturday so we spent Saturday night at the Wheeler Hut and then skied up to the Asulkan on Sunday morning.

The Wheeler Hut is fully 1km from the road so it's very important to pack the necessary supplies with you.



We arrived to find the hut overrun with 4 families from Canmore with a total of 9 children. Thankfully it's a big hut. Both the parents and the kids were a lot of fun though. We got cake.

The highlight of the evening came when all of the kids were lining up at the door to go to the outhouse. They were all a little nervous of the dark and must have figured that there was safety in numbers. We overheard one little girl whisper advice to a sibling...

"Don't be the first one out and don't be the last one back".

Smart kid. Here are Brenda and Steve at the Wheeler...





The Asulkan hut is equipped with propane for lighting, heating, and cooking. It's pretty swank -- when there's propane. A couple of years ago we were at the hut when the propane ran out. It got a little miserable in the dark and cold with nothing to eat and nothing to drink. This time we'd been warned in advance that there was no propane so we packed fuel, stoves, candles, and warm sleeping bags. In the end there was propane and only the furnace didn't work. Oh well.



It's always windy at the Asulkan but this weekend took the cake. It was seriously, seriously windy. The hut, built with enormous 18" beams, actually shuddered on it's foundations. It was like experiencing airplane turbulence. Everything just kind of shakes and then you give your neighbour a little nervous smile. When we got home we learned that there had been power failures over much of southern BC.

Other than that it was yer typical weekend at the hut -- clagged in, tons of snow, and a bit of decent skiing.

Here's a video of the stormy weather (the audio is worth hearing).

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Apex

Only about twenty turns but after five months without skiing it still counts!

Anyway it was a worthy outing because it's now been exactly one year since the very first post on this blog.

We were at Apex near Penticton for the ACC Okanagan Section's annual general meeting. There's much less snow than there was this time last year but it was above freezing so what little snow that there was actually made for some decent skiing.

Here are a few photos of Brenda. Check out the early season hazard in the first one.





Monday, September 24, 2007

The Bike to Work

I haven't had much trip report material lately. Strangely I find myself visiting stores with daft names like "The Urban Barn" (barf!) and checking out websites like hammerzone.com ("Better Living Through Handymanlyness!").

I guess buying a house will do that. Thank goodness the ski season hasn't started.

In the interim this is a post about a trip that I make every day -- my daily bicycle commute to work.

The idea for this came about because I realized that I was starting to view the ride as a major hurdle in my day -- something to be overcome and endured -- rather than appreciating the fact that I could ride to work at all. Not needing a motorized vehicle to get to work every day is really important to me. Weather, health and a host of other reasons could take that option away instantly.

Sometimes I need to make myself slow down and smell the proverbial roses.

So one day last week I brought my camera along. I rode slowly with my head up looking around at the sights rather than with my head down pedaling as fast as I could. Here's my ride and some of the sights along the way. You can click the icons to see the photos and click on the photos to see bigger versions.


View Larger Map

Monday, September 10, 2007

Mission Creek

Didn't do much on the weekend. We met with the "house lawyer" late on Friday afternoon and this preempted our normal Friday night departure. It was downhill from there. Heck we even bought a washing machine on Saturday. How domestic.

We did manage a short canoe paddle on Sunday evening. We put in at one of the local beaches and then paddled part way up Mission Creek. It was really shallow and we didn't get very far. Saw a few salmon making their way upstream and a huge flock of mergansers.

Here's a map of the "expedition"...


View Larger Map

Monday, September 03, 2007

Jade Lakes

We left town on Friday evening and drove in the rain to Revelstoke. We spent the night at a forest service campsite just outside of town. How did we ever do this before we owned a VW van? Next morning we drove the rest of the way to Revelstoke National Park and started the hike into Jade Lakes.

The odd thing about Revelstoke Park is that there was a road built in the 1930's which leads right to the very top of Mount Revelstoke. At 1900 meters just about everywhere else is downhill from there. So after 4.5 hours and 10km of hiking we arrived at upper Jade Lake a full 100 meters below the elevation that we started at.

We had the place to ourselves, took it easy for a couple of days, explored the area a bit, and generally just enjoyed being outside. Mark (bless his heart) hauled in a bottle of wine and was the only one who managed to get in for a swim. Definitely the hero of the weekend.

More photos here.





And one more thing happened this weekend that I can't resist posting...



Yesss!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Mount Abbott

We escaped from town on Friday evening and spent the night at the Loop Brook campsite in Rogers Pass. We didn't really have any objectives in mind for the next day and the weather forecast was a bit dodgy. We decided on Mount Abbott and perhaps the traverse over to Mount Afton. I'd been up that way a few times before but Brenda had yet to climb either peak. So, a worthy objective!

Abbott is mainly a scramble but it still took us a few hours to reach the top. Combined with our usual leisurely departure time meant that it was well after midday when we ate lunch on the summit. During the week we'd been exchanging email with Bruno and Sheri, friends of ours who live in Connecticut. It was nice to think that they had been at this very spot a few years earlier on one of the Montreal Section's summer camps. Alas, we searched the cairn in vain for a register.



Abbott provided us with a great view towards Sapphire Col. We had been there two weeks earlier with Fred and Junko. In one photo I could get all three of the peaks that we had climbed.



With the weather starting to move in we decided to give up on the idea of continuing over Mount Afton. As we started down I was a bit miffed and declared "You know we probably could have made it. The clouds are still really high and it probably won't rain for at least a couple of hours -- if it even rains at all."

Of course it was bucketing down within moments.

Partway down the ridge a ski pole that was attached to my pack started buzzing. I'll leave it up to this video and photo tell the rest of the story. It was a hair-raising descent.



Sunday, August 12, 2007

Eagle River

A change of pace on Sunday -- we canoed the Eagle River from Malakawa to Sicamous. The Eagle runs from east to west along the Trans-Canada Highway from Revelstoke (roughly) and into Shushwap Lake. Fred and Junko used our canoe and we borrowed our neighbour's Clipper.

Click to see the GPS track


It's a nice easy paddle -- mostly flat, flowing water with the occasional small drop and the odd sweeper thrown in to keep you on your toes. The river plays hide-and-seek with both the Trans Canada and the main CP Rail line that runs through Rogers Pass. We saw several trains and each one gave us a quick couple of blows on the horn. The first time it startled me so much I almost fell out of the canoe.



The river runs through a mix of forest and agricultural land. Inevitably we came across some cattle as we got closer to Sicamous. Another good reason to be a vegetarian in my opinion -- it reduces the number of cattle crapping in our rivers.



The flow of the river kept us moving along at a consistent 6-7km/h but it still took us 7 hours to reach Sicamous (the "Houseboat Capitol of Canada"!). A good day, we had fun, but we'd had enough by the end. We saw several bald eagles along the way. No salmon yet. Perhaps in a few weeks?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Sapphire Col

Three peaks in three days - a new record for the "B" group!

With a whole three days available to us this weekend, we decided to make the trip up to Sapphire Col. Using the SuperBus, we camped at the pass on Friday night, and on Saturday morning, Andrew, Brenda (your guest blogger today), Fred and Junco all set off in fine weather for the long and adventurous route to the humble yet beautiful (like your guest blogger) Sapphire Col Hut.
After an hour or two on the trail, we encounter the first obstacle of the day - crossing the raging river coming off the Asulkan glacier. One misstep would lead to soggy feet! Not to be daunted, we collected nearby branches and logs to create makeshift bridges. Obstacle 1 surpassed!



The next test of mettle was a miserable bushwhack through alder and scrubby cedar, which happily did not last long (though it couldn't have been too short). This was followed by a good hour of walking through a rocky meadow between two moraines, which led us to the fourth and most pleasant obstacle - a series of bedrock steps interspersed with small (and not so small) streams. This zen-like landscape took us to the toe of the Asulkan glacier, the fifth and final obstacle!



The final leg of our journey had ups and downs. The down was, as you can see in the photo, a sprinkling of rain. The upside was the sweet anticipation brought on by a helicopter making multiple passes above us long-lining... yes it's true... FRESH BARRELS! Arriving at the Sapphire Col Hut is always a great feeling, but never so great as when we know that clean facilities await.



That evening we made the easy trip up to Mt. Castor.



The following day saw us atop the broad slushy summit of Mt Swanzy via the SE Couloir - a longish grind up a steepish snow slope, which would make a helluva ski in springtime. Along the way we met with a graupel-and-snow storm - normal August weather.



Finally, on Monday, we went up The Dome, by far the most interesting and fun climb of the trip.



The trip out was long and unremarkable - the reverse of the trip in, except that it seemed an awful lot longer. Ice cream on the way home was the perfect end to one of the best trips to be had in Rogers Pass.

More photos here.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Eagle Peak SW Ridge

Been there, done that, thank goodness it's done. Oh man what a tedious route. The SW ridge isn't a technical climb by any measure but we still hoped for a few moments throughout the day where we would think "Whoah, cool. What a place to be!". Unfortunately those moments were few and very far between!





We were tired and dispirited when we finally returned to the Illecillewaet parking at 7:00PM. But look who we found to brighten our day...



Simon Mason! We hadn't spoken with Simon since leaving Montreal two years ago and there he was standing before us like it was the most normal thing in the world. It was surreal. He'd been on vacation with the family in the Calgary area and now had a few days to do a bit of climbing. The next morning he was heading to Sir Donald with Bob, Alena, and Diane who we also knew from back east.

It was great to those guys but I must admit that the encounter left me feeling slightly melancholy. It reminded me of all the great people we left behind when we moved to Kelowna.

We were knackered on Sunday and spent the day visiting some of the points of interest along the highway. The "Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk" was interesting. As the name implies it's a narrow raised pathway that allows you to walk through a low-lying swampy area. Apparently these wetlands are extremely rare in the Columbia valley and provide important habitat for migrating birds.

Anyway the best part was coming across a huge pile of bear scat right in the middle of the boardwalk.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Mount Begbie

Over the weekend Brenda and I lead an Alpine Club trip to Mount Begbie which is just south of Revelstoke in the Gold Range. We had climbed Begbie a couple of years ago and felt it would be within our powers to lead (and I use the term loosely) a group up the normal route since it's mostly a scramble with a few interesting bits. The trip generated a fair amount of interest and in the end we were a group of seven with a number of people still on a waiting list.

The elevation difference from the trailhead to the summit is around 2000 meters (ouch!) so we broke it up by hiking part way up on Saturday and camping. Even this was a grunt of 1300m with the added burden of overnight packs. It's hard to know which is the best approach, either doing it all in one day or breaking it up, but it was nice to spend a night camping out high above Revelstoke. Thankfully the campsite was mostly free of snow and we didn't have a repeat of last weekend's shoveling marathon. It was also nice to actually feel chilly for a change! It's been blistering hot in the Okanagan lately. Temperatures have been as high as 40C in some places.

The route crosses the toe of a small glacier and then gains a ledge that can then be traversed to gain the north ridge. You can see the ledge just above Trent's noggin in this photo.


This photo gives a better idea of the scale - the ledge starts at that little finger of snow just above the highest figure.


There was a bit of messing about getting onto the ledge from the glacier.


The ledge itself is actually several meters wide for most of it's length except for one narrow part with an awkward step where we set up a rope to get everyone across quickly.


Once on the ridge it's an easy scramble with a few slightly more technical parts. This is Astrid taking it all very seriously.


And here we are on the top.


It's hard to avoid making these summit photos looking like bad album covers. We look like some oddball folk band about to launch into a rendition of our latest cheesy hit. Except for me, I just look like a goof.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Hermit Meadows

We were at Hermit Meadows over the long weekend with Mark, a former colleague of mine. We didn't really have any specific objectives in mind and just wanted to spend a couple of nights out and perhaps get up onto the glacier below Mount Rogers.

Brenda and I made the same trip last year and have fond memories of being forced to dig out a tent platform with a pot from our cook set. With the big snow pack this year we made sure to bring a shovel this time. In the end we could have used two or three. There was still 2-3 meters of snow in places. It took hours of digging but it was well worth it to have a nice dry (albeit cramped) platform to pitch the tents on.



We had a good dinner, drank lots of tea, and watched the sun set on the mountains across the valley, but we were soon chased into our tents by the cold wind.

We woke to a nice morning with a mix of sun and cloud and made our way over Tupper Ridge and onto the glacier.



Just for kicks we climbed a steep snow slope to reach the top of a sub-peak beside Mount Rogers. It's the double humped feature in the center left of this photo:


Here's Mark trying to decide whether or not he's having fun (he was):


Another night out and then back down to the car where we found one of Brenda's most favourite things in the world...a cool bug!


Leave a comment if you can you help us identify him. I should have put something else in the photo for comparison because he looks tiny. Actually his body alone was about 2-3cms long.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Bowron Lakes Canoe Circuit

Just back from a 6 day canoe trip to the Bowron Lakes. The trip was organized by a great group of guys from Edmonton. My connection to them was through Ross McEwen. I know Ross from the time when we both lived in Montreal. The timing was perfect since I was leaving the company that I was working for and starting a new position elsewhere. The trip fell in between nicely.

The park is situated on the western slopes of the Cariboo Mountain Range about 700km north of Kelowna. It was a loooong drive and I took the opportunity to christen the new (old) VW van by sleeping in it on the night that I drove up.



I arrived on a sunny Friday morning to find the happy pre-trip chaos of Ross, Darcy, Gary, Daryl and Mario mixing equal parts of packing, drinking, and general hilarity.

There is an unreal amount of administrative bureaucracy to go through before being allowed to depart from the staging area. There are information sessions, videos, and gear weigh-ins ad nauseam. Looking at this map, the trip begins in the top left corner and then travels clockwise from there. The places we camped are circled in red.



The circuit itself is 110km long with about 10kms of that being portages. It's very much like a canoe trip in Algonquin Park except that the mountains are...well, mountains...with snow capped peaks, avalanche runouts, and weather that changes in an instant. The portages are also much easier with well maintained trails that are designed to be used with canoe carts. This makes a huge difference in the amount of weight that you can carry (think giant smoked hams for the non-veggies and lots of booze). We saw moose, baby moose, eagles, ospreys, and bear. Got cold, hot, wet, and very dirty. So overall a great trip!







On the drive out Darcy and I passed two grizzly bears playing in a meadow near the road just outside of Wells. We pulled off onto a side road to watch from the van. We were amazed as they made their way directly towards us, play-fighting and running and loping around. Eventually they were within about 20 metres of us when all of a sudden an RCMP truck pulled up behind us, blasted its siren, and then parked directly between us and the bears. An officer jumped out with a rifle and started throwing rocks at the bears and yelling "Go on! Get out of here you stupid bears! Yargh!!". The bears stood up on their hind legs, hesitated a moment, and ran off in the other direction.

It was pretty dramatic. He explained afterwards that the bears are a real menace so they actively deter them when they get near the edge of town. The rifle was loaded with rubber bullets.

We had a fantastic meal at a little restaurant in Wells and then a highly entertaining evening in the slightly larger town of Quesnel. It gets a bit foggy from here but I do believe that we made quite an impression on the local populace. Highlights include karaoke in the Caribou Bar, endless sambuca shots courtesy of Daryl, and a new dance invented by Mario in the Quesnel Bar that features several people forming a line and paddling around the dance floor to heavy dance music.

I slept in the van parked in the Ramada parking lot.

More photos from Darcy:
http://picasaweb.google.com/darcy.lalor/BowronLakesJune2007