20150515: Taper Week! Mt Baldy West, Wind Pass, Akamina Ridge & Forum Peak

It’s taper time, having finished my first/last/only long run last Saturday, which saw me bringing up the rear of a fat-ass style event on the West Bragg Creek and east Kananaskis trails. I don’t know what it is about Telephone Loop trail; it’s my nemesis-mental block. Every time I hit a certain series of 3 little hills my legs completely shut down. I did 68k and my feet decided it was enough. Trails were in great condition, no mud, and it was a nice relaxed opportunity to see people I haven’t seen in a while. I am still worried about my next race, the Comrades Ultra 87.7k “up” run.

So again, taper time. I meant to rest up this week and then spend the last two weeks before the run building up a bit, but some very enticing Mountaineering & Scrambling Club (CMSC) trips were being posted…

Wednesday after work I joined A, G, and C on Mt. Baldy West Ridge. I’ve ice climbed with A and G before and a few months ago did the Yamnuska sled pull thing with G. I hadn’t met C before but I’d seen his name around; he had a rep of being a speed goat… Plus he’d already done this route three times… I hoped he wasn’t going to be one of those impatient kind of guys. Anyway, great night and dry conditions with enough snow to bum slide (grainy sugar means lots of friction!) on the way down between South and West summits. What a relief, the scramble wasn’t as bad as I’d feared based on the Explor8ion report. It took us a mere 3:30 car to car, even taking our time. Now we know what the West Ridge fuss is all about. We finished feeling elated and rejuvenated for work the next day (!).

Heading up the airy crux of Baldy West ridge
Heading up the airy crux of Baldy West ridge – me in blue

Thursday it rained…

Friday I headed out to Spray Lake to do Wind Pass. It showed 10k return distance to Wind Tower and topo didn’t look bad but I ran into some snow. It was ok, other than the creepy forest. Ask me about that later. The patches of snow gave way to a long rubble slog…. There seems to be a well defined trail up there but I didn’t have time to do the summit and still get home at a decent hour so just went partway up. Sleep deprivation is not my thing. Last time I tried Windtower was with the Outdoor Nuts (CONS) group in winter 2013 during a snowfall warning; at least with no visibility you can’t see the uninviting endless slope up ahead. We didn’t make it to the top that day either. I’d like to say that one of these days I’ll try it again – but that forest really was creepy. I don’t think you could pay me to go back in there. Spotted: 1 goat, 1 deer, a group of sheep, 1 grouse.

Victoria Day Monday I joined a group headed to the Waterton National Park area. Multiple sources indicated it’s a must-do. The weather forecast looked very promising, sunny/ overcast 13C in town. 4:30am wakeup call. The trip was billed as a long hike with easy scrambling at a medium-fast pace, for a group of 8; somehow we ended up as 10. Plus two guys we saw at the parking lot, who followed us to the first rock band above Forum Lake, where they turned around.

The formations of the Akamina-Kishinena are made of the oldest exposed rock in the Canadian Rockies. The shore of Forum Lake is paved with colourful limestone estimated to be 1.3 billion years old… The spectacular southeast corner of the province [of British Columbia] was recommended for preservation as early as 1917. In 1995 Akamina-Kishinena became a class A provincial park.

Truth be told, the rock band looked daunting with not many options. We convened and everybody agreed to proceed.

Group heading up the rock band
Group heading up the rock band
Managing the rock bands
After a couple distinct sections like this, we reached the top of the rock band.
Mike led the way and we had the good fortune of mostly solid-ish but slippery-ish snow that mostly held bucket steps. Sometimes I’d fall through to the next hard layer up to my thigh or waist, at which point I’d have to physically reach down behind my ham to pick up my knee and do a side-step up onto a fresh area and hope it would hold. I don’t know how some of the bigger guys managed. Mind you I’m not that light myself.
Mike led the way and we had the good fortune of mostly solid-ish but slippery-ish snow that mostly held bucket steps. Sometimes I’d fall through to the next hard layer up to my thigh or waist, at which point I’d have to physically reach down behind my ham to pick up my knee and do a side-step up onto a fresh area and hope it would hold. I don’t know how some of the bigger guys managed. Mind you I’m not that light myself.
View of the ridgeline
View of the ridgeline

Seven of us headed to a side trip Forum Peak while the other 3 continued the out route onto Akamina Ridge with the plan for us to catch up with them. We still had about 15k to do at this point with some serious snow ahead, and it was already 1:30pm. If I’d been by myself I would have skipped Forum (3k of potential postholing). But since it would take the same amount of time, i.e. I wouldn’t be getting home any earlier, I decided to try Forum with the second group.

Forum Peak: WOW to the views of lakes and glaciers and stunted slanted gargoyle trees covered in icy blast. The snow was like walking on a thin layer of foam. It only took us 45min even with lots of tourist photos.
Forum Peak: WOW to the views of lakes and glaciers and stunted slanted gargoyle trees covered in icy blast. The snow was like walking on a thin layer of foam. It only took us 45min even with lots of tourist photos.
Snow covered trees, looking into Glacier NP, Montana
Snow covered trees, looking into Glacier NP, Montana
 Then we continued on to Akamina Ridge, where the first group had made a path up. We would run into them again just below tree line, and a bit beyond where we saw fresh bear tracks in the snow...

Then we continued on to Akamina Ridge, where the first group had made a path up. We would run into them again just below tree line, and a bit beyond where we saw fresh bear tracks in the snow…
Topping out on the first major push
Topping out on the first major push of Akamina Ridge
Major cornice blocked the view down the lake side, but not a bad view on the other!
Major cornice blocked the view down the lake side, but not a bad view on the other!

Slid off the snow into a trickle of a creek/waterfall, snapped the pole I was trying to use to self arrest, banged my shin on a small fallen tree hidden under the snow. Otherwise, a super day. Coming off the ridge, the last 7k from Wall Lake was pretty quiet; we bore down with the taste of the parking lot in mind at 6kph, finishing the 21k horseshoe including Forum Peak in a bit over 8 hours.

I would do this again when the snow on the lakes has melted and there isn’t giant cornice in the way of the views down the headwall. Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner: Timmy’s (Tim Horton’s fast food, to the non-Canadians). Spotted: 1 black bear, 1 brown bear, 1 moose, a group of deer, 2 rock ptarmigan.

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