15km, 3:15hrs, 950m+ elevation gain
Was looking for a weekday run; that’s how Folding Mountain came onto my radar. Every time I drove into Jasper N.P. from Hinton I’d be looking for the mountain. Which one is it, I’d wonder while looking out the window at the ridges to the East. I couldn’t tell.
Online posts seemed to indicate that someone’s 8-year old did it in 7 hours, and someone else’s 8-year old did it in 10 hrs, or something like that. Of course, who knows if those 8 year olds were abnormally energetic. And one person’s 15km could be another person’s 19km. Nonetheless I decided to try the round trip to Folding Mountain as a run-hike after work. I gave myself 3 to 3.5 hrs based on sun set, not totally confident given the limited info online that this would be reasonable. There’s a trail, I knew, and it started from a parking lot of a tourist destination. Couldn’t be too bad…
I started off from Folding Mountain Brewing/ Jasper Gates Resort at 5:45pm under blue skies filled with fluffy white clouds. Rain was forecast. Skies don’t look bad, I thought. Cue ominous music.
From Folding Mountain Brewing, walk 300m on the grass doubletrack along the highway ditch towards Jasper, then turn left into the woods at the hiker sign. Ugh, the trail was not technical, but pretty steep for a trail made by people. My calves protested. My heart pounded. Gradually the trail leveled out, overlooking the Athabasca River and the Fiddle Range.
A bit of fast flowy up and down made for good running, and led out of the trees to the last push to the summit. People have wondered how horses get up the steep slope; this trail was historically used as a pack route to Miette Hot Springs in Jasper NP. There were a few animal prints that I followed up, though there’s a bit of a trail too. It was pea rubble over hardpack, which made it slippery.
What happened then is that the wind picked up in an instant blowing in a fog from the north that covered the summit, and the skies darkened. There’s nothing like being out there in worsening conditions to highlight how solitary and small a person is. I got off the summit just in time, the fog chasing me down down down. The thunder started for real, with lightning, and rain started pelting down hard.
I ran past the remnants of a campfire – okay, 5km to go. Through the forested flowy ups and downs – okay, 4km to go. Past the meadows – okay, 3km to go. Rocky singletrack – okay, 2km to go. I can hear the highway now; I’m close. I slipped and slid and my backside was covered in mud. Rainwater collected in the groove of the trail. Squish, slop, soaked socks. I didn’t bother to put on my raincoat; the rain was warm. I didn’t get out my headlamp; only a short ways to go now.
A couple of tourists back at the Folding Mountain Brewing parking lot stared at my mud-streaked, soaked, and no doubt stinky presence as I stood by my car peeling off wet socks. Oh well. I just summited a mountain. That’s my excuse!
As I drove home Northwards, the skies cleared somewhat and under the clouds glowed a layer of brilliant pinks and orange from the forest fires in British Columbia.