Monday, July 27, 2020

Neowise and the Milky Way

The comet, Neowise. The galaxy, Milky Way. Too bad they were in opposite parts of the sky so I couldn't get them together in one single photo... but both were still cool to see. The comet was very hard to see with the naked eye, but was fairly obvious in long exposures in camera. Enjoy!

Neowise and Milky Way - Blog-4
The Milky Way, looking south. Trees in foreground lit up by a passing car.

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The comet Neowise, visible to the north, rapidly fading as its trajectory pulls it further and further away from Earth.

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See ya in another 6000 years or so, space rock.

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Neowise and Milky Way - Blog-3

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Serendipity Peak, aka "Operation: Eat all the Robax and Advil"

If your friends drive 4.5hrs bright and early on a Monday morning to get to a trailhead, but then upon arrival, you pull a muscle in your back while tying up your laces, do you: A) call it a day and disappoint everyone? or B) tough it out and hike for 11 hours on a steep mountain, and hope it doesn't seize up more on you during an inopportune moment? Asking for a friend. (Me. I'm asking for me. I'm your friend.)

So anyways, I managed to reinjure my wonky back before the hike even started. Naturally I went with option B, Operation: Eat all the Robax and Advil, and maybe wash them down with a beer on the summit after 6 hours of struggling up the mountain. I'm no pharmacist, but I'm guessing this is not the recommended course of treatment for lower back strains.  (Yup, consulted Dr. Google.  It's not.)

I'll spare you the details, but I will say this mountain broke me. I don't often have thoughts of turning around when the summit is in sight, but if Jas or Jill had hinted they wanted to stop, I would have happily obliged. But since all three of us are stubborn AF and refuse to be the one to admit defeat, we soldiered on all the way to the top. If you're looking for a recommendation for a pleasant hike, stay the heck away from Serendipity Peak. You'll get some awesome shots along the ridge to the false summit, but it's not worth it.  10/10 would not do again. The end.

Scrambles - Serendipity Peak - July 2020-39
On our descent, the sun lowering towards the horizon set this field of wildflowers aglow.

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I climbed over the prominent bump in the left, and then downclimbed it to get here, rather than continue to traverse across the rubble slopes. It doesn't look too bad here, but there's a section with two smooth slabs with no handholds on it...

Scrambles - Serendipity Peak - July 2020-7

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That smile would not last...

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Some steep loose terrain.

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Smiles briefly returned when we finally hit the summit ridge.

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Unenthused? Defeated? Resigned? Concerned about the descent? Likely all of the above.

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Summit Brew: Situation Brewing Page Turner IPA.

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Beginning the descent.

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What you don't see in this photo are the curses, the 'stop your faacking singing', and bans on us saying 'We're almost there.'

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The sun peaked through the forest to just perfectly strike this one single flower.

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A riot of colour as we made our way back through vast fields of wildflowers.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Bites, Beers, Bears, and Badass Mountain Peeps

This past weekend was an interesting one.  In roughly chronolgical order, I:
  • Got bit by a dog (with full teethmarks and cuts on my forearm)
  • Drank beers to help a friend and my cousin celebrate turning 40
  • Drove out bright and early to Kananaskis the next morning
  • On said drive, Keith pointed out 'this is where we saw a bear yesterday', and seconds later, we spotted a mama grizzly and her cubs
  • Noticed an area closure sign adjacent to our ascent route due to bear activity
  • Forgot my bear spray
  • Nervously listened to thunder above us as we started our hike in
  • Scrambled up Gap Mountain in the Highwood area
  • Drank a beer on the summit, while waiting out a weather system
  • Got rained, hailed, and snowed on throughout the entirety of the day, making the steep scrambling even more technically demanding than it is when dry
Check out the photos to see Anita looking like a total badass. Gap Mountain involves some committed scrambling up near vertical rock faces, so be warned if you attempt it.  Even if you're comfortable climbing up, you still have to descend.  

Scrambles - Gap Mountain - July 2020-9

Scrambles - Gap Mountain - July 2020-24
Snow... because July in Canada.

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The initial hike in. 

  Scrambles - Gap Mountain - July 2020-3
Pretty sure this isn't the proper way to wear a helmet (over top of a ball cap).

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This is why the helmet is necessary. Scrambling up steep rock faces, with possbility of rockfall from people above.
  Scrambles - Gap Mountain - July 2020-5

Scrambles - Gap Mountain - July 2020-10

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This would be an ill advised place to stumble.

Scrambles - Gap Mountain - July 2020-15Summit selfie, while we waited out the passing wall of snow.

Scrambles - Gap Mountain - July 2020-16
Summit Brew: Collective Arts Brewing Mango Tangerine Sour.

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Kananaskis Lakes to the right.

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One of my favourite photos from the day.

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Scouting a safe route to downclimb.

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Monday, July 6, 2020

Mt. Hood, King Creek Ridge, and a WTF was I thinking moment

If you've followed me on this blog for any amount of time, you know I've made it my life mission to chase adventures at every opportunity. So when Friday was calling for perfect conditions, I took the day off and headed out to bag two peaks, because as a friend put it, adventure rarely comes looking for you. The TLDR version of this story is that we had an awesome day of scrambling, but got into a few precarious spots that could have ended very badly. Skip to the photos if you don't care for the details. 

The detailed version goes like this: We expected a straight forward day of hiking, but got a very technically demanding day of scrambling instead. Off we went hiking through a beautiful canyon alongside King Creek, having to cross the fast flowing waters repeatedly using whatever wet logs or rocks weren't submerged. One of us fell into the drink fairly early on, which in retrospect, set the tone for the type of day we were to have. After the twelve or so creek crossings, there was a couple kilometres of annoying bushwhacking that we cut short by taking an alternate ascent route that involved awkwardly scrambling across multiple cliff faces, to bypass steep snow runs. And when we finally got within site of the main face of Mt. Hood, we could see the normal ascent gully was socked in with that same steep snow that would send you sliding down the mountain if you slipped. So we needed to carefully pick our way up faces of choss (loose, crumbly, unstable, and unsupportive rock) to avoid snow patches. Ultimately, we would stop just shy of the summit, because we were already venturing into full climbing territory, and still had one bad snow patch to traverse. We had lunch perched atop a rocky highpoint, and readied ourselves to descend the same choss we just came up. For most people, this would have been a good day, and they'd have just retraced their steps back to the car. 

But we had no interest in crossing that stupid creek again multiple times, so we decided to climb up the backside of neighbouring peak, King Creek Ridge, to descend down it's frontside hiking trail. What should have been a straight forward hike and switchback up this, turned into one of the more precarious things I've done lately... we switchbacked a few meters too soon, and ended up on a difficult exposed ledge. I went further up to scout ahead, awkwardly squeezing through a steep chimney and hugging a rock face that angled away from the mountain, which is not a good feeling. This was clearly NOT the correct route, so I shouted back for Keith and Phil to go down and find the correct switchback. But I was already committed at this point, and downclimbing back to where they were wasn't an appealing option. I yelled to them that I would meet them up top, got my nerves together, and started the climb up, not knowing if I would end up cliffing myself out somewhere. There were a few solid minutes of me saying to myself, this is how you end up on the news. Scrambler gets separated from party, ends up in some bad terrain, and plummets to his death. So with each move, I repeated to myself, "Don't fuck this up, or you're done. Test each hold before even thinking about making the next move." It felt like eternity, but in reality was probably just a couple minutes of me climbing up two blind overhangs before I topped out on the summit of King Creek Ridge, to let out a loud "HOLY SHIT, that was a scary." (Pardon my French). Ten minutes later, Keith and Phil came leisurely hiking up the proper path, and we enjoyed some time up on this summit, before descending an easy trail down the front.

If you made it through all that, thank you for reading. I assure you, I am not one of those adrenaline thrill seekers with a death wish. I make very calculated decisions about safety, do my research on routes ahead of time, and generally don't bite off more than I can chew.   This was just one of those rare times where I had overcommitted in searching for a route, and then had to make the most of a bad situation.  

Almost as if in reward for surviving the day, we were treated to a view of a beautiful grizzly bear and her two cute chubby cubs on our way home. 
Scrambles - Mt. Hood - July 2020-25

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One of many creek crossings. The water was flowing fast, and it was fricking cold.

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Scrambles - Mt. Hood - July 2020-8 
 Scouting out our next move. The main ascent gully was buried in snow, so we had to take some detours.

  Scrambles - Mt. Hood - July 2020-9 
 To avoid the steep snow patches, we ended doing a lot of scrambling across these types of faces, with really rotten rock.

 Scrambles - Mt. Hood - July 2020-10 
 Keith goes scouting for another route up.

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Beere Brewing Co. Walkie Taco Double Dry Hopped IPA.

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Mt. Wintour.

Scrambles - Mt. Hood - July 2020-13Looking south towards the Kananaskis Lakes.

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Scrambles - Mt. Hood - July 2020-17

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Scrambles - Mt. Hood - July 2020-19 Taking a look at King Creek Ridge, which we would ascend after dropping back down from Hood.

Scrambles - Mt. Hood - July 2020-20Looking back up at Hood.

Scrambles - Mt. Hood - July 2020-21Standing atop King Creek Ridge, which would be a fine objective on it's own for a day, without having already gone up another mountain.

Scrambles - Mt. Hood - July 2020-22

Scrambles - Mt. Hood - July 2020-23 Tubby left us a year ago. I miss him everyday, but I still bring him along on each peak.