Height of the Rockies and Kananaskis Hiking High

I’d like to start my journal entry with a thank you to my lovely wife Nancy who supports my summer excursions with an insight possessed by just a few.  Thank you! Without her support, I could not enjoy the marvelous expeditions collected over the years nor re-calibrate the compass of my soul.  After a lifetime of outdoor activity with Nancy, she knows and accepts that I need the challenges of these expeditions.  Without the past 15 years of outdoors adventures, I’d certainly be less prepared to confront the assorted tribulations of our modern life.  My list of male friends who participate in these wondrous wilderness treks throughout the northwest have been a huge benefit in my personal growth. Thank you guys!

After some previous planning my friends(Roger, Pierre, John, Jack) and I were off for another summer mountain adventure.  Our trip was delayed at the Rogers Pass by a serious auto fatality but shooting the breeze under the shadow of Mount Sir Donald isn’t much hardship. No school bell to make us rush on this day. Can you spell tailgate party?

Gallery: http://www.flickr.com/photos/okflyfisher/sets/72157624598596354/

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As you drive the trans-canada highway from British Columbia east into Alberta, travellers are justly overwhelmed by the magnificent natural wonders.  The Rockies are simply beautiful in their majesty. The spectacle before you as you drive into the young and funky Canmore teases you into staying for a closer look. We had planned a serious hiking adventure into Bc’s Height of the Rockies Park, but ironically needed Alberta parks to access it. By the way, the maintenance and organization of the Alberta Parks system we experienced was superior. BC trails and signage, etc was certainly inferior this trip.

Departure was the Peter Lougheed Park at Upper Kananaskis Lake was sunny and bright but perfect hiking conditions soon changed to pouring rain and cloud as we approached the large headwall climb up to Three Isle Lake.  Waiting a storm out in the wilderness isn’t so bad. In fact, with a good friend, the subsequent patient banter can be a delight in contrast to the rapid demands of urban life. Nature has a way of providing hikers a sense of stillness why storms rage all around. The rain settled to a drizzle so we continued our last grunt of the day uphill to the wilderness campground. My challenge on these journeys is always a personal one as my mates are usually far ahead on the trail.  Seeing my saviour Pierre, a welcome greeting company,  is a sign I’ve almost reached the terminus of another hard assent. The beauty of my friends is not in their superior fitness and climbing skills but in their willingness and patience to accept my slowness and plodding. Fast or slow, these guys leave no man behind!

The Alberta camping area was very clear and well maintained.  After a hike almost beyond my limits, I was so thankful to see my friends at the trail end. I was surprised but delighted to see the good camping site with tent pads, metal picnic tables and bear caches.  It was heartening to experience an alpine park with amenities that not only help campers but protect the very wilderness we all should cherish.

Day 3 was spectacular. All the work to get vertical provided us with the opportunity to hike higher and witness the awesome vista of the Rockies. The hike up to the north ridge was simply breathtaking!

Check out my photos at:
Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/okflyfisher/sets/72157624598596354/

The hike from Three Isle lake to the Great Divide ridge was such a spectacle.  After an arduous trek up the valley through classic Grizz country and then get to straddle the invisible boundary between Alberta and British Columbia was a cool bonus. Holy Shit! moment! – as you walk up the divide and witness the massive abyss of rock and ice west into BC.

Our hiking itinerary continued with a glorious but eventful trek to the hidden North Kananaskis Pass via the Beady col. The hike up the valley to the Beady meadows was wonderful.  The alpine meadows, grizzly scat and ancient glaciation focused your mind on the long term wonder of this wild region.

The 14.8 km walk out seemed matter of fact after so many exhaustive but extreme alpine joys.  The trail back to the parking lot is varied, dipping into cool shaded creeks and hot rocky scree. The Alberta trails were particularly in great shape.

The entire Kananaskis and Height of the Rockies area is simply profound! Wow! Holy shit! Thank God! is all I can say….

More:

  • Established as a Forest Service Wilderness Area in 1987 at the culmination of 12 years of dedicated work by naturalists, guide outfitters, the forest industry and government, this area became a provincial park in 1995.
  • Cultural Heritage – The park includes Kootenai Indian routes to the plains over North Kananaskis and Palliser passes. Preliminary archaeological surveys have located two archaeological sites at the Middle Fork of the White River. There was also early European exploration over North Kananaskis Pass and down the Palliser River by Warre and Vavasour (1845), the Sinclair Settlers (1854), and the Palliser Expedition (1858-59).
  • Conservation – Height of the Rockies Park contributes to the ecological integrity and viability of the large block of national and provincial parks extending along the spine of the Rocky Mountains There are numerous small lakes and outstanding natural features, including the Palliser River, the Middle Fork of the White River, the Limestone Lakes plateau, Conner Lakes, and the Royal Group of mountains.
  • Wildlife – The Height of Rockies contains high concentrations of elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, moose, cougar, black and grizzly bears and exceptional numbers of mountain goats. The Connor Lakes are a significant source of eggs for the Kootenay Hatchery’s native cutthroat stocking program.
  • Finally, in 1987 Height of the Rockies was established as BC’s first Provincial Forest Wilderness Area. The area was closed to logging, mining, and other resource uses. Existing grazing, guide-outfitting and trapping activities were permitted to continue at established levels. At the recommendation of BC’s Commission on Resources and the Environment (CORE) Report, Height of the Rockies was upgraded to a Class A Provincial Park in 1995.
Height of the Rockies has an extensive history. The area was first used by the Kootenai people, to access the Albertan plains, by way of Kananaskis and Palliser mountain passes. Trails and several archeological sites in the park date back over 8000 years.
Later, Height of the Rockies was visited by the several of the first European explorers to reach British Columbia, including Warre and Vavasour (1845), the Sinclair Settlers (1854), and the Palliser Expedition (1858-59).
As early as the 1900s the area was proposed for a national park, but no formal protection was established. The extraordinary wildlife values of the area were recognized with the establishment of the White River Game Reserve in the area in 1936. In the years that followed the area came under extreme threat. Roading and resource extraction became so extensive in the southern Rockies that Height of the Rockies was soon the most important remaining wildlife and wilderness refuge. Still protection was elusive. By 1986 clearcuts surrounded the wilderness area, and more were planned for within the pristine valleys. The campaign to protect the area, led by BC Spaces for Nature and the Palliser Wilderness Society, was stepped up.
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