I have come to realize that mountain plans change just as fast as they are planned. Especially here in Alberta. If you’re unfamiliar with Alberta, our weather is extremely bio-polar. You can have all four seasons in the span of an hour! I am not kidding! That makes packing for adventures interesting and sometimes frustrating.
This adventure for example, plan was to leave around 5AM and head to BC and do a portion of Rockwall Trail. 30km I believe was the section we were going to do. We were advised to pack for winter conditions, even though – it was hot as hell here. Naturally, I am at home 3 days before this trip and panicking because I want to make sure I have everything. I bust out my over night pack so I can fit more. Sleeping bag, sleeping mat, and a few winter layers just in case. Had it all packed in nicely, snacks and lunch as well. Day before the hike – we are told plans are changing. Too much snow and ice as well as bears in the area. Here I go again, in-packing and re packing, this time – to my day pack.
So, morning of! I am picked up at 8AM , and given a hot Americano… mmm Thank you – don’t mind if I do! We make our way to Canmore and as we are staring down the clouds over the mountains on the way in, we are still not sure what we are climbing this day. Big Sister, or Cascade? We stop in Canmore at this little café/bakery to grab a small snack as I am told this is a MUST TRY place. We wait for one more person to join us and decide on Big Sister. If anything gets to crazy – we can always turn around. We drive out and make our way up between Ha Ling and East End of Rundle, and back along the Spray Lakes. When we parked, I look at this mountain, and am saying in my head – you’ve got to be kidding me?! I feel like I am going to be walking straight up a slab wall, and I should have brought my climbing gear. I read about this hike a little and do remember seeing a lot of comments about slab, wet slab, and skree. Wet slab with skree sounds.. Shitty! But – we put ourselves together with our packs and boots and headed off.
This started off as a calve burner big time! There was no flat, warm up walk into the hike, just a burner from the get go! Eventually, the legs got used to it. I absolutely love hikes along Spray Valley. Definitely some of the nicest views I have seen, and they never get old! It didn’t take us long to get out of the tree line, and it also didn’t take us to long to start confusing trails. Again, we had all read up on it a bit and figured we were along the right track, but it can happen. And it did, more than once.
We didn’t see anyone else on the mountain that day. That was until we got really off track and from where we were, we could see people coming down from the summit. We backed tracked for what felt like forever – and managed to meet them on the way. They gave us the run down on how they got up there and where we were supposed to do the down climb and so on. After that, we got back onto a better route and continued up again. We had to stay quite close together as it was just a slog up. Lots and lots of lose rock and if one person slid too much – a lot of rocks would start tumbling down. Its pretty scary seeing how fast rocks can fly down a mountain and just… smash! Definitely do not want to be in the path of that ever!
The climb up was just an ass kicking. I don’t know if I was just exhausted that day or if it actually really sucks as much as I felt that day. I broke one of my poles months ago and have no replaced them yet, so I spent a lot of my time climbing up the slab like an animal haha. on my hands and feet. I had a lot of fun doing it though! Totally throws me back to my childhood and climbing around on rocks outside. I loved it and it felt so nice gripping the rocks and running up them instead of sinking in the skree with the other guys. My back sure felt it the next day.
We made our way up to the false summit where the down climb was. One person in our party didn’t not have any interest in the down climb so we sat there and had lunch and took our photos. All in the span of about half an hour up there, we had sun, rain that turned to snow pellets and then back to sun. Told you – bipolar Alberta weather. That’s the mountains for you as well. It was beautiful watching the storm clouds roll through spray valley. It looked like a time lapse with how fast they were moving. When it started snowing on us, it went from beautiful sunny and clear to instant white out. We sat it out for a few and enjoyed our lunch, and then got packed up and headed back down.
The way down was kind of love hate. I loved the skree parts where I could just bounce down and let it carry me a ways and save my knees. We seemed to have missed a spot to get back up on the ridge though and eventually ended up going down in-between the ridge and mountain by the river bed. By this point, my knees and ankles are exhausted and I am slipping every ten steps. All I am thinking is seriously, if I fall again – I am napping here today!
We made it back to the car though! Only one whole in the butt of my pants and a few scrapes on my hands from slipping over and over again on the way down. A beautiful day of all seasons, wonderful views, great company, all finished with an amazing mouth watering elk burger and beer at the hogs head!
Till next time. . .