Stanley Mitchell Family Section Trip - By Forrest BG

My daughter and I recently had the pleasure of sharing 3 nights in the Stanley Mitchell hut with the Edmonton ACC Junior section. In the beautiful Yoho valley. We set off from the Takakkaw falls parking lot around 1100AM, amidst a light sprinkle of rain. Only an hour after we'd planned to get started. In family hiking this counts as an early start. The junior hikers ranged in age from 5 to 9 and the parents ages ranged from "I don't know" to "I didn't ask."


The youngest little boy (5) did a super job. In fact at one point along the hike; the steep section after Laughing falls, as I sat admiring nature (see: catching my breath), he went streaking by me calling, "feel my hair, feel my hair, my hair is all wet!" I think he might have run the entire hill! I certainly couldn't catch up with him to feel his hair, wet or not. In fact, if it wasn't for his charming tendency to run around without any pants, I would have thought him a hiker of twice his age.


During the hike, requests came for stories, and I obliged by telling our small crew all of the ancient Greek mythology that I could remember. Unfortunately it's been a long time since I read the classics and I could only remember 8 or 9 of the 12 tasks of Hercules. Therefore, at one point Hercules may have been battling man-eating venus fly traps (á la Mario Brothers) and for his 11th task, by request, Hercules barely escaped death at the hands (or tentacles?) of a "booger monster"! (I'm not saying who suggested this idea, but I'm sure her parents recognize the narrative style.) The purists among you are shuddering, but you try recalling something you read in school 20 years ago, while hiking up a 30 degree slope, with an 80lbs pack, and 3 young children firing questions from all angles!


Needless to say I wasn't the first to arrive at the hut.
By the time I did arrive, the faster hikers of our group had already politely evicted a group of three 20something hikers who were hanging around the hut hoping to jackle an open bed. (The rain had gotten heavier). We later realised our error, as a dry bed could have been bartered for a considerable amount of free child care.


Everyone settled in quickly and I only had to move my daughter's sleeping bag 3 times based on her changing notions of who she wanted to sleep beside.


Food was prepared, I don't remember much of the details except everyone seemed to be concocting more elaborate, and better smelling dishes then what I'd brought (my daughter agreed, and refused to consume my meger offerings). The crew slowly settled down to sleep... and that's all I remember. I'm sure good times were had by the parents once the children were off to bed, but honestly, I fell asleep while putting my daughter to bed. Us old people need our rest.


The next day dawned bright and early, somewhat earlier then normal for a few of the group. Three of the more ambitious fathers had decided to get up at 4:00AM in order to scurry up the near-by peaks of the President and Vice-president and return in time for the family centered events planned for the afternoon. The rest of us awoke at a more civilized hour and, after a leisurely breakfast, moseyed up to the Isolated meadows behind the cabin. This turned out to be a serendipitous choice as, from the comfort of the meadows, we were able to watch the three black ants (the ambitious dads) zip down President to the col and then up Vice-president. Not sure if you could hear us calling to you from across the valley, but I assure you it was all positive support. There were absolutely no sarcastic wife comments.


The kids played, as kids do. Climbing rocks, throwing rocks, putting rocks down gopher holes, and adding rocks to unsuspecting parents packs. One child, who shall not be named, decided that water directly off the glacier was an ideal swimming temperature. Her father, anticipating this insanity, had a change of clothes near to hand.


On returning to the cabin a pickup game of baseball commenced using a tennis ball, a quarter round of firewood and a field liberally sprinkled with gopher holes... Surprisingly few injuries occurred.
In fact the closest thing to an injury occurred when a mom accidentally launched the firewood bat into the outfield at an alarming velocity. I totally believe her that it was coincidental that the bat impacted the ground 2 inches from her oldest child feet. Not at all a passive-aggressive attack.


After baseball came the Olympics, a decathlon style event including javalin, discus, rock throw and...butt darts ?!? Actually butt darts was my best event, I seemed to have a talent for the clenching. All events were performed in a sporting arena liberally decorated with gopher holes... Injuries occured; in the final event of the afternoon a young hiker was pile driven into a gopher den, nose first, by his mother in a valiant attempt to win the wheelbarrow race. It's all good though because the judges awarded our team extra sympathy points, and I think the kid was okay too. A moving awards ceremony ensued, with beautiful handmade medals for all participants.


After the medal presentations, it was time for chores. A terrifying number of young, soft, unscarred little hikers decided to help with chopping wood...Injuries, except for mental anguish on the part of the supervising dads, were once again absent. In fact one young blond boy showed a considerable amount of skill with the axe. Given his Viking ancestry this should not be surprising. We were just lucky he didn't don the horned helm and set fire to the cabin.


Evening rolled slowly in and once again the young hikers played musical bunks, based on some sort of complex formula parents were not capable of understanding.


The next morning dawned bright and fair. The majority of the group headed out to the toe of the President glacier for some waterfall gazing. Being as we are a equal opportunity group, two moms took this opportunity to go back up to the Isolated col and traverse across to the Whaleback ridge. However, on this occasion, there was no visual confirmation from the remainder of the group. Therefore, for all we know, these two ambitious moms could have marched briskly up, out of sight of the cabin, then sat down with a bottle of wine to enjoy a much deserved child free afternoon.


The rest of the group arrived at the foot of the President glacier without incident. Once there, because apparently insanity is contagious, a whole bunch of the young hikers decided a glacial melt pool was the perfect swimming spot. Only one parent was foolish enough to join them.


After a refreshing swim, and a short break for lunch, "Ice School" was in session. The young hikers were all issued ice axes and roped togather in what one father described as "a midget chain gang, on their way up to the mines".


Off they went, axe in hand, onto the snow field. "Step, step, stab. Step, step, stab." Or as one young hiker ("Shades") interpreted it... "Step, step, Dab. Step, step, Dab."


After ice school, the young criminals escaped the chain gang and assaulted the unsuspecting fathers with snow. The fathers beat a hasty retreat, leaving the 18 year old nephew to hold rear guard. He was summarily executed by firing squad.


The afternoon produced scattered rain showers, but the kids enjoyed some craft time indoors. One of the younger hikers, with all the charm and dainty size of a cabbage patch doll, asked if I could supervize her carving with her knife, and soon we had three, wee little angels hacking away at sticks with an unnerving intensity. Girls with pocket knives, my Grandmother would faint! To be fair, they also had ribbons in their hair, woven bracelets and were carving their ribbon batons. But they also had knives!


Later in the afternoon two of the more senior, less ambitious dads, decided that they'd had enough of the younger crew showing them up. So they decided to scramble up to the Isolated col during a break in the rain. This accomplishment was also not witnessed by the larger group, so it is entirely possible these two tired dads simply hiked back up to the meadows and had a nice long nap.


I heard a rumor later that one of the ambitious dads decided to run up Isolated peak in the evening, this smacks of showing off, but color me impressed!


Later that evening, after the wee ones were tucked snug into their sleeping bags the parents again enjoyed the comaraderie of a beverage and a game of... I don't know what. See I was upstairs, once again fallin asleep with the kids (remember, the old guys need more sleep then the young folk). Later in the night I was woken by my daughter who was sobbing from a nightmare; in which the other kids were all crafting amazing projects without her. Oh to have the problems of a 9 year old.


The next day was chilly and overcast. After a quick, but thorough, cleaning of the hut, the crew fragmented. Some returning down the main trail and others straggling up over the snowbound Iceline trail. And so, we bid a fond farewell to our new friends and old. Hoping in grace that we might all come togather again to share in the joy of allowing our kids to run around playing with knives and hatchets, enjoy a quick round of butt darts, and hike insane distances carrying heavy packs. As a friend once said, "It's best not to think too deeply about anything you really enjoy doing, least it turn out to be totally ridiculous."

Edith Cavel East Ridge

August 12th, 2017

Author: Steven Rockarts

In early spring I was contacted by Craig Hartmetz asking me if I’d like to help co-lead a trip up Edith Cavel. I’d wanted to climb Cavel for quite awhile but usually in mid-August I’m climbing in the Bugaboos and hadn’t had the chance to attempt Cavel. I decided to take a break from the Bugs and give Cavel a shot, as an Edmontonian that visits Jasper on the regular it’s the mountain you stare at every time you visit. How cool would it be to say I’d made it to the top?

We headed out after work on Friday and made it to the Edith Cavel hostel fairly late. We all cooked some pasta before heading to bed and woke up at 3am and were at the trailhead by 4am. We left the parking lot at a fairly quick pace and reached an awful scree slope. As a group we snaked up the scree slope and it proved to be a bit too much for one member of our party. He got sick and unfortunately had to turn around.

Cavel Moonlight Silhouete

Cavel Moonlight Silhouete

After some reshuffling of our group we decided to keep going and reached the steeper scrambling. At least the scree was a thing of the past at this point and the scrambling was straight forward. We kept heading up the ridge and reached the first snow slope. Luckily the slope wasn’t too bad and we were able to get up it without crampons by kicking some good steps in the snow. By this point Craig’s group was way ahead of mine.

The first snowslope

The first snowslope

After quite a lot of ridge walking we arrived at the rock climbing portion of the climb. The rock was quite good we decided to rope up and proceeded to pitch out the route. It got a bit bizarre on these pitches as we were passed by a soloist in a wizard hat. Then a couple pitches later, I’d just built an anchor in the rock and yelled out “On belay!” to my second when he yelled up “uhhh, I need to untie and go to the bathroom”. It turns out Kraft Diner from a gas station in Hinton is not the best thing to have the night before an 11,000er. After waiting for my second’s stomach to settle, we continued up the rock. I started to get radio calls from Craig proclaiming that his group was proudly on the summit and asking where we were. At this point we were quite far behind so I decided that the best way for us to speed up was to start simul-climbing on the easier terrain. Placing intermediate protection in good rock really helped speed us up and before we knew it we were making our way up the ridge to the summit

Some of the steeper climbing

Some of the steeper climbing

Most times when I go mountaineering when I get to the summit I don’t take it in or enjoy it as much as I should. On the walk up the ridge to the summit I could feel the smile growing on my face and when I reached the summit I was grinning ear to ear. I’d never been happier to be on the top of a mountain!

Group on the summit

Group on the summit

We soaked in the summit as a group and signed the summit register, then made our way down the west ridge. If you hate scree, this isn’t the place for you. If the west ridge wasn’t the scree covered hellscape that it is, it would be one of the most popular scrambles in the Rockies! The scattered snow slopes across the scree was a welcome sight to break up the rocky knee punishing descent.

The awful scree slope descent

The awful scree slope descent

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At the bottom of the scree we refilled our water bottles in one of the creeks and made our way to the path out to the Tonquin trail. We came across a grouse “camoflagued” with her chicks on the path, we stepped around them carefully and carried on.

A few of us who were in the slower half of the group came up with the term “mall walking” to describe the pace we were moving at. At this point we were motivated by some of the cold beers and desserts that awaited us back at the hostel. Just before you get back to the hostel you come out at Cavel Lake. I dipped my head in the lake to cool off and then just sat on the bridge for awhile to take in what we had accomplished. It was a perfect ending to a great day out.

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Winter TNF 2019

Author: Jarett Stastny

Jessica Ferguson and I (Jarett Stastny) had the privilege of being endorsed by the Edmonton section to attend ACC national’s The North Face leadership course this winter.  We quickly had a chance to meet our eight companions from various sections (the most distant hailing from the Montreal section) and our two expert ACMG guides Cyril Shokoples and Matt Reynolds.

We called the Lake Louise Alpine Centre our base camp and we steeled ourselves for the -30C average temperatures for the week.  This was a particularly bitter thought having just enjoyed not so long before an unusual +8C weekend in Edmonton’s January.  Despite the frigid and enduring cold, Cyril and Matt kept our brains burning with thoughtful and challenging teachings.  We applied our learning straight away and all through the course by breaking into smaller groups to take turns completing morning briefings on weather and avalanche conditions, as well as with evening MIN writing and trip planning. 

Classroom sessions in the Alpine Centre’s guide’s room, which is seeping with history and adorned with vintage mountaineering equipment and ACC paraphernalia, were a real treat.  Readings and lessons I completed about outdoor leadership were revelatory to some of the complex thinking my own outdoor mentors must have been applying at times when I admittedly didn’t fully understand it.  I proudly remembered past trips where I demonstrated sound leadership but also sheepishly reflected on times where I acted selfishly or emotionally and could have been a better trip leader or trip participant.  Whoa. This was an “intensive, thought-provoking course” just as advertised!

As much as I enjoyed the classroom, nothing beats learning directly from experienced guides while out on the trail!  When I applied for the course I had already identified trail skills I knew I wanted to improve.  From tweaking trail breaking and group spacing to navigation and managing a group, I found these skills were tested during the course and I was given the guidance to help work them into shape and the confidence to continue working at it.  The class of ACC TNF Winter 2019 completed trips that included visits to the Onion/Bow Hut, the Ferris Glacier/Little Crowfoot, Helen Shoulder, Observation Peak, Chickadee Valley, Pulpit Knob, and the Dolomite Circuit.

Our cohort enjoyed relatively stable conditions with low-low-low avalanche ratings for the majority of our time out.  We were still able to seek and find interesting localized instabilities to test safely.  Beyond that we also found sunny slopes to ski, stories to tell, and new friendships to enjoy.

 

 

Parkway Ice. January 18-20, 2019

Trip Report Author:  Gord Matthies

Participants: Rob Denson (Leader), Jessica Ambler, Gord Matthies

Friday evening started with Rob and Jessica rolling through Red Deer to pick up Gord on the way to Beauty Creek Hostel.  We ended up being the only three people there all weekend.  After a couple of false starts on the heaters due to the last occupants turning the propane off at the tank, we settled in for a fantastic weekend.

Shades of Beauty looking very beautiful indeed!

Shades of Beauty looking very beautiful indeed!

Anyone who has climbed with Rob knows we get an early start so Saturday morning we headed up towards Shades of Beauty with our headlamps leading the way.  Rob lead up some fantastic ice and three pitches.

Jessica coming over the top

Jessica coming over the top

Obligatory post-climb group selfie

Obligatory post-climb group selfie

The Anna Clare Smith memorial greeted us at the top, as well as a view of Stanley Falls across the valley and a view down the Athabasca River.

The Anna Clare Smith memorial greeted us at the top, as well as a view of Stanley Falls across the valley and a view down the Athabasca River.

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Back to the hostel for cheese, meat, and cracker appetizers followed by a delicious curry chicken.  A little wine and lemon meringue pie for dessert, lots of laughs and discussion solving the world’s problems and there goes four hours!  We even spent some time learning improvisation techniques… a very full evening!

Up even earlier (!) on Sunday to head to Nothing But the Breast which was one of the few climbs in the area that Rob had not done before. It was a beautiful sunny and warm day.

Up even earlier (!) on Sunday to head to Nothing But the Breast which was one of the few climbs in the area that Rob had not done before. It was a beautiful sunny and warm day.

The first pitch is a rambling grade 2 however it was so thin it was a pretty sketchy start to the day!  A little rope stretch was needed to find a decent place for Rob to build an anchor.

Rob sets up the next pitch. The sun was nice however it was starting to rain from those icicles above.

Rob sets up the next pitch. The sun was nice however it was starting to rain from those icicles above.

Jessica half way up the last pitch of Nothing But the Breast

Jessica half way up the last pitch of Nothing But the Breast

Unfortunately, conditions warranted that we did not ascend the very final piece of this climb.

The drive home was punctuated with that amazing blood moon!

The drive home was punctuated with that amazing blood moon!

Another great weekend reuniting these three climbers from a December trip.  Rob did a stellar job placing safe screws … and may spend this week sharpening a few that hit rock on that first pitch on Sunday!   Looking forward to more fun and challenging trips to come!

 

The Brazeau Loop Hike in Jasper National Park

The Brazeau Loop Hike in Jasper National Park

The 81 km Brazeau Loop hike in Jasper National Park is a serious hike that encompasses stunning
country in the eastern Rockies of Alberta. According to the Park’s website: “The grand tour of the
southern ranges, this circuit includes one of the park’s largest backcountry lakes and an extraordinary alpine traverse with glaciated peaks, lush wildflowers and a variety of wildlife. The trail passes through extensive alpine meadows and several passes.” Listed as an ACC Edmonton Section trip for August 2017, the standard hike features five passes for a distance of 81 km; however, our seasoned but motley group of five decided to add one scramble and one day-hike for a total distance of about 120 km in seven days.

Winter Camping in Mosquito Creek

Winter Camping in Mosquito Creek

Nathan Rider

The morning dawned bright and early. Well actually, it was not dawn, and it was not bright. Instead, it was pitch black when Brian, Paul, and I left Edmonton for Mosquito Creek – 4:00 AM to be exact. Due to some work-related delays, the three of us had left on Saturday morning instead of Friday night. Undaunted, Brian bravely drove through fog and over hill to arrive in our beloved mountains at 8:30 AM and meet up with Craig, Jake, and Erin at trailhead. After a short discussion about the route, we headed up the creek.

Jake adjusts his skins on the way up the creek. Erin ravenously devours some of the delicious marshmallows you can see all over the ground in the photo. Who knew there could be so much gelatin and sugar in one place?!

Jake adjusts his skins on the way up the creek. Erin ravenously devours some of the delicious marshmallows you can see all over the ground in the photo. Who knew there could be so much gelatin and sugar in one place?!

Arriving at our campsite, we set to work piling snow for a quinzhee, digging a cooking and sitting trench, erecting our tent and tarp shelter, and enjoying the views from our campsite. Then we headed off to enjoy some tree skiing on a nearby ridge to the northeast near Quartzite Peak.

Our camp. Photos were taken at dinner time – hence why you can see Paul acting as group chef. His homemade pasta sauce was pretty delicious! Thanks Paul! In the bottom right, you can see Noseeum Peak through the trees from our camp.

After dinner, it was time for bed. Three of us slept in the quinzhee while three others braved the cold in our tent or tarp shelter. After what was a cold night for some, we awoke around 7:30 AM for breakfast and packed up the camp.

Brian lounges in the quinzhee entrance. It should be noted that he opted to not sleep here for fear his white ball cap would be lost in the white snow. Photo by Brian.

Brian lounges in the quinzhee entrance. It should be noted that he opted to not sleep here for fear his white ball cap would be lost in the white snow. Photo by Brian.

Sad to leave our luxury palace, we were determined to get in a few more runs in order to console ourselves. Therefore, we headed up once again towards Quartzite Peak, this time venturing into the alpine. Carefully taking a ridge to minimize exposure to avalanche terrain, we inched higher and higher. The weather was gorgeous and it was quite warm.

Our ascent tracks from the top of an unnamed rise.

Our ascent tracks from the top of an unnamed rise.

Group photo, minus me. Noseeum Peak looms to the south in the background. From left to right: Brian, Jake, Paul, Erin, and Craig.  

Group photo, minus me. Noseeum Peak looms to the south in the background. From left to right: Brian, Jake, Paul, Erin, and Craig.  

Paul and Craig look out over the frozen wasteland and wonder why they ever bother coming out here. Nothing to see anyway…they look like they wish they were watching Netflix.

Paul and Craig look out over the frozen wasteland and wonder why they ever bother coming out here. Nothing to see anyway…they look like they wish they were watching Netflix.

The party skiing down the ridge opposite the one we came up. Noseeum Peak in the background. Photo by Craig.

The party skiing down the ridge opposite the one we came up. Noseeum Peak in the background. Photo by Craig.

After a lovely run down, we powered through the half-dozen or so kilometers back to the parking lot. The snow was sticking to our skis, so we hurried to reduce that problem! Overall a fantastic trip with good snow and company. Thank you again to Craig and Paul for organizing!