And We’re Off (Again)!

We have spent the last little while around Banff and Calgary, getting ready for the “final push” to the US border. Sorting food drops (its damn hard planning 25 days of eating, especially for “foodies”), getting some new gear, and working on the route. Thankfully it is all done (or at least close enough). And so – with our packs filled with delicatessens (Another birthday approaching…Blast it all! Perhaps we should just chew on willows instead…) and wool for knitting (Do your worst Mother Nature!), we head off into the mountains. Talk soon(ish)!

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Thank you Patrick, Julia, and Laurens for hosting us in Banff. It was most tremendous!

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Thank you Yael for letting us stay in your humble abode in Calgary. And not minding while we took over your house with boxes and boxes of food…(Sorry).

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25 Days of food. Liam is already counting down the days to Spam (Dont.Judge.Him! He has to spend all his time with a vegetarian! We hardly gets any bacon fat! Er!)!

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A small side trip with friends up Yamnuska.

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Nothing better than a slice of Russian rye with Cheshire cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, mushrooms, fresh dill, and sun chips. Eh?

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With friends (Vishnu and Armi) on the summit of Yamnuska. Thank you for an awesome day!

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Mustache trimming time!

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With more friends (Raf and Laurens) on the summit of Little Lougheed. Another tremendous day!

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Jake’s dad and Janet came to visit us in Banff as well! They took us out for dinner and a lift to Calgary! Thanks guys!

 

 

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Almost Half Way to the USA (Oh Dear…) – Banff!

Brick by Brick dear citizens we are working our way South. Yesterday in the rain and mist we walked down the Norquay ski hill road and tromped into Banff. Thankfully it wasn’t raining when we woke up in our tent, we had a few mornings like that, and they all ended quite similar this. We didn’t leave the tent…We don’t like rain either, Newman:    It was sardine packed with people and overwhelming. The solitude of the mountains and forests were gone, replaced by cars and troops of Japanese tourists looking for postcards and ice cream. People stared at our large packs, snow shoes, and sweat stained shirts.  At least Banff has poutine and apple cider – Thank Goodness! Overall we thoroughly enjoyed this section. Here are some more pictures and stories. Enjoy!

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Camping by Boulder Pass into Skoki. What a view!

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On our way up Mt. Redoubt. It was a spectacular summit and quite enjoyable with snow/ice and lots of scrambling. Yeehaw!

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The Summit ridge of Anthozoan Mountain.

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On the Summit of Brachiopod with Mt. Redoubt on the Left and Ptarmigan Peak on the Right.

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Clouds of Darkness above Ptarmigan Peak.

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At camp on the Second Day with Brachiopod Mountain in the Background.

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Jake celebrated his 25th Birthday on this section. We decided to make “surprise” meals for each other on our birthdays. So I spent over 2 hours outside in the wind, with a poor excuse for a frying pan, making Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf French Toast, with Pineapple Greek Yogurt and Caramel. It tasted Amazing (despite the look)!

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More Candy from Norway! Thank You Andreas!

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Birthday Apple Cider on the Summit of Tilted Mountain.

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Summit of Tilted Mountain.

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The Birthday meals continue! For Dinner we had 2L of wine (which partly explains why Liam’s backpack was dreadful), stuffed tomatoes with blue cheese, zucchini eggs benedict, and fire cooked cornbread.

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And for dessert – Hobnob crust with caramel, chocolate pudding, and whipped cream. Liam forgot candles, so we lit a pine branch instead.

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On the top of Pulsatilla Pass. Looks like a lot of snow down there…oh yes. Lots and lots of snow. Good things we left our skis in Lake Louise (Damn-It-All!).

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Oh-Dear-Goodness-The-Lid-Of-The-Parmesan-Cheese-Came-Off-Must-Lick-It-Up-Before-It-Makes-It-To-My-Dirty-Socks!

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We found a twenty (and new camera functions)! It was actually surprising how much money we have found. By Saskatchewan Crossing we found $0.50, $20.00 on the Johnston Creek Trail, and $13.75 at Norquay Ski-Hill. Big expectations for the next section. Big expectations…

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People tracks! The first we have seen during our entire trip.

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Going up Mystic Pass.

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A Warden’s cabin on 40 Mile Summit Trail.

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Going up Mt. Brewster.

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More Norwegian Candy on the top of Mt. Brewster!

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Snow shoeing up Mt. Cockscomb. Darn things! Jake and Liam had done little snowshoeing before this. They found them generally awkward (felt like their pants were around their ankles), and constantly worried that they would break their ankles. Why anyone would snowshoe instead of ski we cannot imagine…

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On the Summit of Mt. Cockscomb.

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Likewise.

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Looking towards Banff with Mt. Louise and Fifi in front and Rundle in the background.

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Whatever you do, don’t look down (too late!) – it’s more than one Liam deep!

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We had a splendid day on Mt. Norquay, as you can tell by the rain and mist. However, the weather soon greatly improved, with pouring rain and thicker fog. At least we found enough change on the ski-hill slopes for beers in Banff! 🙂

 

 

Cheers to All!

Cheers to the adventure thus far – the good, the bad, the hard, and the easy. To fire-starter tainted food, to rationing, to gluttony. To over-packing, bushwhacking, trail breaking, falling in tree wells, stinking socks, and lingering bad smells. To highway marching, river fording, rain and sunshine. To crevasses, avalanches, early mornings, and noon naps. To bickering, laughter, and frustration. And of course, to ski boot tromping and grass/mud skiing. And cheers to the adventures yet to come…

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The Wonderful Alpine Club of Canada

On the Great Divide Ski Traverse, you pass by a few Alpine Club of Canada Huts. We had the luxury of staying in each and every one. Here are some pictures and stories from our stays:

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The First Night we made it to the Wates Gibson Hut in the Tonquin Valley. It is well equipped, with a wood burning stove, propane stoves, lighting, and even ovens! We even made Creme Broule – not bad for an expedition eh? 🙂

The Wates Gibson is a fantastic destination for both summer and winter. Being a rather large hut, it sleeps 26 in the summer and 24 in the winter. It makes a perfect base for climbing, skiing, and hiking. There are many mountains of varying difficulty nearby (Ramparts, Thunderbolt Peak, Old Horn, Clithero, Mount Fraser). I look forward to returning and trying to tackle some of the peaks by Mount Fraser. The only thing is it can be rather tricky to find the location in the winter, it could be very helpful taking a GPS.

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I loved the stone fireplace. It added class.

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Sadly we only stayed at Wates Gibson for one night. Since it is rather a long approach, especially in the winter (over 20km) it is well worth staying longer.

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35 Nights Later we reached the next hut – Peyto (also known as the Peter and Catharine Whyte Hut). The view from the hut is outstanding. The hut has large windows, so even though it is not heated, the sun soon makes it cosy. This is also a fantastic hut to use as a climbing/skiing base. There are many moderate climbing summit nearby, such as Peyto Peak, Mount Baker, Habel, Thompson, Rhonda, and Trapper. I would love to come here and spend a New Years. And being only 10 km from the Icefields Parkway, it is a comfortable distance for a day ski in. It fits 18 in the summer, 16 in the winter.

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Enjoying tea and the scenery from Peyto Hut.

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Peyto Hut is perched on a small rock outcrop. You can see Peyto Peak in the background.

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Descending to Bow Hut – the most luxurious of the Wapta Huts. It has a wood burning stove and even a small oven, which we thoroughly enjoyed. It also makes a tremendous base, with nearby climbing objectives such as St. Nick, Olive, Collie, and Ayesha. Being only a few kilometers from the highway, you can usually reach it in just a few hours. It is a great and comfortable hut – perfect for family trips and big bashes.

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We cooked cinnamon buns in the oven. They. Were. Amazing!

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We also cooked pizza on top of the Wood Stove. Not bad, eh? 🙂

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The view from Balfour hut is breathtaking. It is located right below the crux of the Wapta Traverse – Balfour High Col. This was probably our favorite hut, as it was small and cosy, with an amazing view. It sleeps 18 in the summer, 16 in the winter.

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Making burritos with a million dollar view.

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The most southerly Wapta Hut – Scott Duncan. It is also the highest at –  2773 m. It was originally built so parties would not have to descend steep ski slopes late in the day. Instead they can enjoy the comfort of the hut and leave early in the morning. While Scott Duncan may have been the most basic, the view was the best, esp from the outhouse. It also catches the evening sun far later than all the others. The hut also serves as an excellent climbing base for nearby Mt. Balfour. It sleeps 12 both in the summer and winter.

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Jake looking back towards Mt Balfour (to his left). Balfour hut is just on the other side.

 

The ACC Huts added both luxury and enjoyment to our traverse. It was a fantastic way to end the Great Divide Traverse. Thank You ACC for providing such tremendous huts to such humble travelers. We would highly recommend them and if anyone reading this is interested you can get more information from their website: http://www.alpineclubofcanada.ca/

Our Finest Hour

The day we left the Blaeberry River and headed up to Mistaya Lodge we had no idea it would be so wet. Before the bridge over the Blaeberry we fell into Cairns Creek. Our ski boots were soaked. After the bridge it started to rain. And it didn’t stop. When we reached snow again, Liam’s skins just had had enough – they fell off. So he tumbled, slid, and back rolled all the way down the steep slope into a tree well. With nothing else to do, Liam packed them into his backpack. When putting on his skis again, he fell through the snow, was thrown off balance, and tumbled, slid, and back rolled all the way down the steep slope into a tree well. He stayed there for a few moments. Upside down. Watching Jake plod up the slope…he hadn’t even noticed.

The trail to Mistaya got wetter and wetter. We passed through BC forest – long trees, with few branches. They would be terrible to make a fire from…

On the final head wall the snow got sticky and the mist rolled in. It continued to rain. We almost didn’t go to the lodge. What would have been the point? No-one would be there and it would be all locked up. Nevertheless we wondered what it looked like, so we went. And Thank Goodness we did.

This is what awaited us:

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We were cold and extremely wet. A sauna was beyond what we imagined. At best, we imagined we would have gotten an unlocked outhouse. We thought maybe it was a joke…but we looked for the building anyways…

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And we found it and fired that puppy up. It. Was. Amazing. Thank You Mistaya! You restored our Souls.

The Great Divide Ski Traverse (ish) – The Southern Rockies

Finally we reached the last section of the ski portion. However, it did not quite go as planned. Also from the Columbia Icefields it was just Liam and Jake. Once again, here are some pictures and stories.

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The Amazing Waxers and their friend Andrea! They brought us the spare skis and most importantly FOOD! We can still taste the strawberries and apple cider…Mmmm. Thank You So Much!

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Liam’s Dad also came by with Apple Pie and some beer. Sometime at night, Liam still dreams of that Apple Pie…Thanks Dad!

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Jake’s Mom also supplied Food and Beer. It was most wonderful…:) She also met us at the end in Lake Louise with our summer gear. Thank you Nancy!

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Once again we tried to return onto the Columbia Icefields. However – it just was not our luck…Jake’s binding broke. Again. We did not want to spend the time waiting for another spare piece, so we decided to walk along the highway to Saskatchewan Crossing. Fun Times.

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Walking along the Highway. We actually got a lot of waves and thumbs up. Sometimes people would stop to see if we wanted a ride. They didn’t understand when we refused and simply said, “No Thanks, We’re Walking…” People would even stop to see what we were doing. I think skiing excites people. If we had just had climbing stuff, I doubt people would have stopped or cared.

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A delish sandwich from a passing Ben Waxer and his girlfriend- it was the most amazing thing! Thank You!

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A nice little camp spot, eh?

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Jake eating a hot sauce package at Saskatchewan Crossing. So what?

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Liam’s dad joined us for a few days. He brought the replacement part for the ski binding from the Norseman Ski Shop in Calgary (Thank you Dave & Anthony for your speedy delivery to Jasper! 🙂 ). We left the highway at Mistaya Canyon and followed the Howse River to Howse Pass, where we hoped to reach snow again. Dad of course brought some goodies – including beer donated from Jill Seaton, he even offered to carry it in…A Huge Thanks to both Jill and Liam’s Dad!

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The trail up the Howse River is no longer maintained. There were many blow downs. The going was slow.

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And Painful. The skis made everything frustrating.If I don’t have skis on my backpack, I will never complain about bushwhacking again…(At least for the moment).

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Our Backpacks were still heavy. First Liam fell and then his Dad went down. They remained in that position for quite sometime…

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Crossing a beaver Dam.

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Dinner. Not bad, eh? Cheese. Wonderful wonderful cheese.

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The Howse River Food Cache was still there! Huzzah!

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The Food. Originally Meghan and Ben were still suppose to be skiing with us, so there were rations for 4. Now there was only Liam and Jake, with Liam’s Dad for a few days. We entered a bizarro world. The first half of the trip, we rationed, we got hungry. We bickered over who got to lick the pot clean. Now we gorged and ate and ate. We bickered over who had to finish the food left in the pot. I think during this portion, we actually gained weight. I mean, we were eating five chocolate bars a day.

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Here we are heading off to climb Mount David. Unfortunately this involved two large creek crossings…Jake and Liam decided to tackle the frosty beasts in their undies.

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They were remarkably unpleasant.

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A view looking towards Howse Pass and the Wapta beyond. Our Road.

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Liam’s Dad leading the way up Mount David. You can see the route to the Freshfields Icefield in the background, over the lake.

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The three adventurers on the summit of Mount David. Incidentally, Liam’s Dad is also named David. So of course this was “his” mountain. Well Done Dad! Liam also got to leave a register here – instead of hurling it into a crevasse after carrying it for 300 km…He. Was. So. Stoked!

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Howse Pass. Now it was just Liam and Jake to Lake Louise.

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The trail coming down the Blaeberry River was much better than the one on Howse. However, it was still rough and maintained little.

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We’re skiing! Huzzah! Just have to avoid the puddles and bare patches…

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It was rather unsettling skiing past flowers (Glacier Lillies). WeDidNotApprove!

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The trail down the Blaeberry was not all Sunshine and Lollipops.

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—“What do we say to the River Jake?…Not Today”.

DSC01057 Candy sent to us from Norway – Thank You Andreas! We enjoyed it on the summit of Mount Baker, located on the Wapta Icefield. Yum Yum!

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The ridge on Mt. Baker. It was a tad steep!

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Liam all tuckered out at Peyto Hut on the Wapta. This is what happens when he thinks his skin has “toughened” and he doesn’t need sunscreen anymore. When in fact he really does…He got so hot and bothered then very very sleepy.

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The Food Cache at Bow Hut! Huzzah!

DSC01133The summit ridge up to St. Nick. It also was a tad steep…

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The summit ridge on Mt. Balfour. What a beauty!

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The Summit of Balfour on the Wapta Traverse.

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The Summit ridge on Mt. Lilliput. We did a few peaks while on the Wapta…When your end goal is 6000 km away, it is hard to rush. 🙂

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The last day to Lake Louise. Looking towards lofty summits.

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The skiing to the Trans Canada was excellent. There still is a lot of snow and we could ski to within sight of the highway.

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The final 15 km to Lake Louise. Some of it was along the railway.

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The old Highway 1A – Cool eh?

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The final bend-over with skis before the hostel…Thank Goodness.

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Huzzah! Lake Louise! Only 40 Days for a 3 hour car ride…

Soon after this picture was taken we went into the hostel to get a room. They had lots of room. And we had money. However, we did not have any ID. The hostel’s policy is that you HAVE to have ID to get a room. They were unbending on this. It didn’t matter that we had skied there. It didn’t matter that we hadn’t showed in 40 days. And it didn’t matter that it was BLISTERING HOT and all we had were ski-boots that we wouldn’t dare to take off. Of course in retrospect, maybe we should have and gassed the stupid staff to death. Maybe then they would have re-considered. So in our misery, we got some beers while we waited for Jake’s mom to drive to Lake Louise with our summer stuff (and ID). However, we soon were told that we couldn’t drink on their property. I don’t think I like the hostel in Lake Louise. If this is what society is like – Thank Goodness we are going back into the Bushes!

 

 

The Great Divide Ski Traverse (ish) – The Central Rockies

From Fortress we began the Central Rockies Traverse. It really had a mixture of everything. Here are some more pics.

 

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This part was fun along the Wood River. Really. So much Fun. We loved traversing steep slopes for kilometers with little snow through thick bush. We needed a chain saw gosh darn it!

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Going up Clemenceau Creek. This was another unpleasant part -the moraine below the Clemenceau Icefield. It had little snow, and there was lots of mud. It was also hot. We had to carry our skis in many places, and we also got covered in mud. Yuck!

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Camping below Mt. Clemeceau with Tusk in the background. This was our favorite camp. The view was just tremendous! Tusk is such an amazing peak. So amazing, Liam may even consider going along the Wood River again to try and climb it…maybe. There would have to be lots of candy on the trip for him to make it…

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The morning we try for the summit of Clemenceau. It was blue bird. Tusk is on the left.

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Navigating through the crevasses on Clemenceau in the morning light. It was a maze!

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Liam and Ben on the Summit of Clemenceau (3658 m)- the fourth highest peak in the Canadian Rockies.

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Liam on top of the world. The view was completely 360 – no peak got in the way. 🙂

 

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Jake and Ben descending through some crevasse mazes on the way back to camp.

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This is taken the day after Clemenceau – on our way to Apex Mountain. Mount Tsar is on the far left. Tusk is the dark one on the right side.

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On the Summit of Apex Mountain. Mt. Clemenceau is on the far left.

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Skiing to the Chaba Icefield early in the morning.

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Skiing towards Chaba Peak, on the right.

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On the way up Chaba Peak – Jake’s binding broke…causing a whirl wind of trouble. Thus Jake and Liam would have to come out at the Columbia  Icefields to pick up a spare set of skis. Sigh. At least there was a buffet at the Icefields…Score! And free relish packages…:)

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The summit ridge on Chaba.

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Jake managed to “fix” the binding, at least to the Icefields Center with wire. Looks pretty good Jake!

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Rappelling down Chaba Col – one of the crux’s on the trip.

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The Columbia Bypass. We went above the cliffs to the Columbia Icefield. This was a difficult section – very crevassed and steep slopes. This was also the hottest day. We all got hot and very bothered.

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Going up the bypass with Mount King Edward in the background.

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Digging out the cache on the Columbia! It was deep! More than one Liam (and Meghan) in depth! 🙂

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We tried to go up Mt. Columbia in the morning. But soon the mountains became shrouded in clouds…after this picture was taken it soon became a whiteout and we had to navigate by compass and GPS to the road.

And once again – stay tuned for the third section: The Southern Rockies.

 

 

The Great Divide Ski Traverse (ish) – The Northern Rockies

At 5:33PM on June 3rd, two figures emerged from the woods. They wore ski boots and carried skis on their backs. They ignored the blooming flowers and budding leaves. After awhile they paused at the “Welcome to Lake Louise” sign. They smiled, slapped hands, and snapped a few pictures. Then they bolted to the hostel for beer, food, and comfort. They had only one thought of concern – the ski boots. Eventually they would have to come off…and the smell could very well close the hostel for health and safety concerns.

 

Huzzah! We made it to Lake Louise! Finally! It sure has been an adventure thus far folks! Over the next day or so, we will write a few posts. Here are some pictures of the last 40 days – over 400km on snow/ice/road/trail/and bush. For simplicity, we split the traverse into three parts: North, Central, and Southern. Here is the Northern section first.

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Liam leaving his DoorStep on April 25th

 

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This was Liam on April 25th. At least, him and his “burden” (aka Gestapo The Backpack). His pack was 92 pounds. He started to have second thoughts…and almost retreated back to his home where he could over indulge in tea and baths.  Damn Mexico!

 

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And this was Jake. His pack was 105 pounds. Maybe he should have taken that office job…it would have been air conditioned. And came with cookies during coffee breaks.

 

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On Jake’s DoorStep.

 

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Liam against Gestapo and Gravity. Take One.

 

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Take Two.

 

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Take Three. Success!

 

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The four of us at the start. Meghan, Liam, Ben, and Jake. Little did they know what adventure had in store for them…

 

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Having Creme Broule at Wates Gibson Hut in the Tonquin. Thank You Meghan!

 

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The Hooker Icefield. Our Road.

 

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The gravel flats by Scott Glacier. This area receives little snow and loses it quickly. It was also hot. Hot hot!

 

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Camped below the Hooker as the storm moved in.

 

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5 Days Later…

 

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Finally on the Hooker! Descending to Camp.

 

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Camping on the Hooker.

 

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Selfie. Most days Jake got a nosebleed. Whatever from remains a mystery…Liam and his110 SPF sunscreen. The greatest thing invented since Fire and Sliced Bread.

 

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Packing up Camp. And looking towards the Clemenceau Icefield.

 

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Looking towards Fortress Lake and our wonderful/delish food cache

 

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Digging out the Food Cache at Fortress. It was hard. The snow had turned to Ice…Oh well. At least it was still there. 🙂

 

And so concludes the Northern Rockies part of the Great Divide Ski Traverse. Stay Tuned for more!