Special Articles

CORE Planned Summer Activities and Events

Below is a capture of the CURRENT planned hikes and other summer activities for July and August. These can change due to additions, date changes or cancellations due to weather, so members should always check the calendar.

….enjoy and see you on the trails…

Jun 28 Fri 19:30 – 20:30

MEC Bike Maintenance 101 – Fix a Flat

Jun 29 Sat 03:30 – 06:30

Booze, broads and brothels historical urban walk- 4 km – easy – Olympic Plaza

09:00 – 17:00

Hike High Noon Hills, Sheep River, 10kms, 250m, E/M

Jun 30 Sun 09:00 – 18:00

Scramble Doorjamb Mtn & Loder Peak – D (Canmore)

10:00 – 16:00

Bow Valley Wild land Provincial Park hikes middle lake; Montane and many springs trail Easy 10 km


Jul 1 Mon 15:00 – 21:00

Canada Day Celebration – Hike and BBQ, Edworthy Park

Jul 3 Wed 09:00 – 20:00

Lady MacDonald – slow and steady – Difficult, 9km, 900m

Jul 6 Sat 08:00 – 18:00

Hike to Pigeon Mtn summit (D).

Jul 7 Sun 09:00 – 16:00

Hike Rae Glacier, via Elbow Lake, Peter Lougheed PP, approx, 550m, 8.5kms, M/D

Jul 13 Sat 09:00 – 16:00

Ptarmigan Cirque Loop (4.5 km return – 300 m) and Arethusa Cirque (5 km return – 275 m) – Easy/Moderate

Jul 21 Sun 08:00 – 17:00

Arnica Lake Hike ~9.2 Km (M)

08:00 – 17:00

Hike to Arnica and Twin Lakes. (16km, 1065m = D)

Jul 25 Thu Healy/Simpson Pass – D
A jewel in the Rockies
Jul 27 Sat 08:30-18:30
Upper Kananaskis Lake day Hike (E-M)
Jul 28 Sun 09:00 – 16:00

Missing Link Mountain Hike – DETAILS TO BE ANNOUNCED


Aug 2 Fri 12:00 – 12:00

Civic Holiday hiking weekend in Crowsnest Pass.

14:30 – 16:00

Frank Slide Interpretive Trail, 1.5km loop, E

Aug 3 Sat 12:00 – 12:00

Civic Holiday hiking weekend in Crowsnest Pass.

10:00 – 15:30

Frank Slide Livingstone Range Migration viewpoint to Livingstone Range Chert Quarries (loop), ~8km, ~550 m elevation, M

Aug 4 Sun 12:00 – 12:00

Civic Holiday hiking weekend in Crowsnest Pass.

10:00 – 16:00

Phillipps Pass, Crowsnest, 14kms, 180m, E/M

Aug 5 Mon 12:00 – 12:00

Civic Holiday hiking weekend in Crowsnest Pass.

10:00 – 12:00

Hike Star Creek Falls, Crowsnest, 4kms, 95m, E

Aug 11 Sun 09:00 – 22:00

Four Days in Jasper – August 11-15 Hiking/Scrambling

Aug 12 Mon 09:00 – 22:00

Four Days in Jasper – Hiking/Scrambling Aug. 11-15

Aug 13 Tue 09:00 – 22:00

Four Days in Jasper – Hiking Scrambling Aug. 11-15

Aug 14 Wed 09:00 – 22:00

Four Days in Jasper – Aug. 11-15 – Hiking/Scrambling

Aug 17 Sat 09:00 – 16:00

West Wind Pass 380m 6km M

Aug 25 Sun 09:00 – 17:00

Hailstone Butte – details to follow


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CORE’s Summer Calendar

CORE event leaders have planned out a good selection of summer events, including hikes, urban walks, scrambles. bike trips and some tennis afternoons. There will no doubt some further events posted, so members, keep an eye on the calendar.

8-Jun Sat
09:00 – 14:00
9-Jun Sun 10:00 – 15:00
Bike ride, Cgy to Chestermere via irrigation canal 33kms, (E/M)
12-Jun Wed 18:30 – 20:00
Confederation Park (easy)
15-Jun Sat 09:00 – 17:00
Karst Spring Hike – Mt. Shark area – E (10 km, 300 metres)
16-Jun Sun 11:00 – 13:00
Tennis – Canmore Park tennis courts – 19th Street & Chicoutimi Drive N.W. (weather permitting).
20-Jun Thu 18:30 – 22:00
Summer Solstice Urban Hike – Glenmore Reservoir (15 km., limited elevation, approx. 2.5 hours)
22-Jun Sat 08:30 – 18:00
Yamnuska Circuit 12km 850m M/D
23-Jun Sun 10:00 – 13:00
Bike Ride – Rocky Ridge and Bearspaw Estate Tour (E)
29-Jun Sat 03:30 – 06:30
Booze, broads and brothels historical urban walk- 4 km – easy – Olympic Plaza
7-Jul Sun 10:00 – 15:00
CORE Bike Ride
13-Jul Sat 08:30 – 17:30
Rawson Lake/Sarrail Ridge PICNIC HIKE – Peter Lougheed Provincial Park – Moderate/Difficult (depending on whether you stop at the lake, or continue up the ridge)
21-Jul Sun 08:00 – 17:00
Arnica Lake Hike ~9.2 Km (M)
08:00 – 17:00
Hike to Arnica and Twin Lakes. (16km, 1065m = D)
27-Jul Sat 08:30-18:30
Upper Kananaskis Lake day Hike (E-M)
2-Aug Fri 12:00 – 12:00
Civic Holiday hiking weekend in Crowsnest Pass.
3-Aug Sat 12:00 – 12:00
Civic Holiday hiking weekend in Crowsnest Pass.
10:00 – 15:30
Frank Slide
Livingstone Range Migration viewpoint to Livingstone Range Chert Quarries (loop)
~550 m
4-Aug Sun 12:00 – 12:00
Civic Holiday hiking weekend in Crowsnest Pass.
5-Aug Mon 12:00 – 12:00
Civic Holiday hiking weekend in Crowsnest Pass.
11-Aug Sun 09:00 – 22:00
Four Days in Jasper – August 11-15 Hiking/Scrambling
12-Aug Mon 09:00 – 22:00
Four Days in Jasper – Hiking/Scrambling Aug. 11-15
13-Aug Tue 09:00 – 22:00
Four Days in Jasper – Hiking Scrambling Aug. 11-15
14-Aug Wed 09:00 – 22:00
Four Days in Jasper – Aug. 11-15 – Hiking/Scrambling
17-Aug Sat 09:00 – 16:00
West Wind Pass 380m 6km M
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CORE 2018-2019 Winter Schedule

CORE’s event coordinators have done some pre-planing for activities this winter. These of course will depend on weather and the amount of snowfall. And more trips will be posted sometimes on short notice, so, members, please please keep an eye on the CORE Activities Event Calendar for updates. CORE members are encouraged to participate in organizing and leading events, whether they be forays into mountain or prairie, cycling trips, urban walks or outdoor activities around town such as tennis or lawn bowling. Anything that is fun outside. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact the CORE executive at mailbox@corehike.org.

Dec 1 Sat
16:00 – 17:00

CORE Annual Christmas Weekend
Inns of the Rockies (Harvie Heights/ Canmore)

10:00 – 17:00

Snowshoeing day – part of the CORE weekend trip

Dec 2 Sun
16:00 – 17:00

CORE Annual Christmas Weekend
Inns of the Rockies (Harvie Heights/ Canmore)

09:30 – 14:00

Sawmill, snowshoeing, easy

10:00 – 17:00

Cross-country skiing, moderate rating but location is still TBD – part of CORE weekend trip

Dec 8 Sat 08:00 – 16:00

Backcountry Ski (Difficult rating, avalanche gear required)

19:15 – 21:30

Magnificat: A Christmas Celebration -concert by Festival Chorus

Dec 16 Sun 10:00 – 16:00

West Bragg Creek XC Ski (M)

Dec 18 Tue 19:00 – 20:30

Calgary Christmas Lights Walk (easy to moderate)

Dec 22 Sat 09:00 – 18:00

Chester Lake, mod, snowshoeing

Dec 27 Thu 09:00 – 14:00

West Crystal Line/Snowy Owl, West Bragg Creek, easy, snowshoe

Jan 6 Sun 09:00 – 18:00

Rummel Lake, mod, snowshoe

Jan 12 Sat 07:00 – 16:00

Backcountry Ski Day (Difficult rating, avalanche gear required)

Jan 12 Sat 09:00 – 16:00

Snowshoe – Frost Heave Trail/Snowdrift Trail – Chester Lake area (M)

Jan 20 Sun 09:00 – 18:00

Rawson Lake, mod, snowshoeing

Jan 26 Sat 07:00 – 16:00

Backcountry Ski Day (Difficult rating, avalanche gear required)

Jan 29 Tue 19:00 – 21:00

CORE Monthly Meeting. Presentation by a member of the Alberta Wilderness Association. “Wilderness Road Show”

Feb 3 Sun 09:00 – 18:00

Marushka Lake, easy/mod, snowshoeing

Feb 10 Sun 09:00 – 17:00

Ranger Ridge snowshoeing (moderate rating)

Feb 16 Sat 08:00 – 17:00

X country Ski, PLP. Moderate, full day

Feb 23 Sat 09:30 – 16:30

X-C Ski – Bill Milne Trail – Kananaskis Village area

Feb 24 Sun 09:00 – 18:00

Mt. Murray, easy, snowshoeing

Mar 3 Sun 09:00 – 18:00

Louise Creek, mod, snowshoeing



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Pat’s Awesome Ice Climbing Adventure

After seeing a Calgary Mountain Club ice climbing presentation with Will Gadd (awesome mountaineer/ice climber/nice man), Harvey and I thought it would be a great idea to take an ice climbing course.  I had no climbing experience at all, but what the hey? Soooo I posted a class from the U of C on the CORE calendar and had 2 other people sign up.  Yes!”

Pat kitted up for Ice Climbing

On the day of the practical climb it was super early in the morning as we met near Canmore at 7:15. It was pitch black out, really windy and cold and we all wondered what we were thinking when we agreed to do this.

After CORE members Uszula, Kevin, Harv and Pat met the rest of our group, 11 in total, we drove on to King’s Creek in Kananaskis Park where we proceeded to get ready for our adventure.  It was still early, still pitch black outside and a fairly nippy -10 C.

We then proceeded to hike over fallen trees and icy streams to our destination.  Once there we had a chat about where to go to the bathroom (men on one side of the falls, women on the other).  We put on our harness, crampons and helmets – some of us were better as this than others – yes, I admit I had trouble with getting the equipment on, like, a lot. We did a few practice runs on footing and how to use an ice pick. Then it was time to get climbing.

Harv chipping his way up the icecycle

We had two instructors from the U of C – Patrick and Larry.  Both were really helpful, and very knowledgeable. We practiced throughout the day, the only real issue being that it was fairly chilly but most of us had dressed appropriately so that wasn’t too much of a problem.  I took a spill on the falls but that’s why you have ropes, so it was no big deal. It was a bit like going down a long slide and actually quite fun.  One person got hit in the face with a bit of ice but otherwise there were no injuries, not even an ice pick dropped on someone’s head, which was a distinct possibility.

Around 4:30 it was time to pack up and I have to confess I was ready to depart, since I was a bit chilled and definitely getting tired and we still had to hike back to the cars.  The way back seemed to be much harder for some reason, but luckily I had a few helping hands to get me over the icy parts.  I also got a chance to talk with Patrick who shared with me his love of the mountains and stories about some of his adventures. Then it was time to say goodbye which is always a bit sad – got hugs from Larry and Patrick – and got gratefully into the warm car.

If anyone is interested in taking this course I can highly recommend it, even if you have no previous experience it was well worth it.

By Pat Ranger

CORE Member Extraordinaire


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Backcountry Greenhorns

Backcountry greenhorns keep rescuers scrambling in Kananaskis (Reprinted from the Kananaskis Country Facebook Public Safety Section, Aug 25, 2017). Inexperienced backcountry hikers have K-Country rescuers hopping, with an astonishing 19 people needing to be retrieved from Bow Valley mountains in the last week alone. Kananaskis Country Public Safety Section said that “luckily” none of the incidents involved any injuries but the calls have nonetheless tied up staff until the early hours of the morning on multiple nights.

Southwest ridge of Mount Cline looking towards Banff and the White Goat Wilderness area. K-Country Public Safety

“We can’t help but notice a pattern developing in our local Bow Valley mountains,” said an official post on the organization’s Facebook page on Friday.

“Yamnuska, EEOR, and Ha Ling have all managed to stump new hikers and cause a rash of 911 calls.”

Officials have some advice for anyone thinking about heading into the mountains:

• Take a headlamp or flashlight as days are getting shorter.

• Start your hikes early. “Late afternoon/early evening is too late to start an alpine scramble!”

• A fully charged phone battery is essential. “The light on the phone is fine if you are trying to find your keys underneath the car seat, but it is not enough to navigate through the hills. Aside from that, the phone is a critical link for communication.”

Safety officials are also asking experienced hikers to share their knowledge (and the Facebook post) with newbies, adding wryly that “the novelty of 2 am hikes wears off after 3 in a week.”


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The Perfect Pine Tree Pollen Storm

Pine Tree Pollen StormA group of CORE hikers, myself included, headed out to the Bragg Creek area of Kananaskis Country this week to do a a little exploring around the Fullerton Loop trails. As we drove up the valley towards Allen Pond, we noticed that the air seem awfully hazy, and assumed that there must be logging trucks in the area, or maybe just the gusty wind that was kicking up dust on some back country roads.

As we climbed the trail along Fullerton Loop, we could see more of this fine dust being driven by the wind, moving up the valley and gathering in hollows between the hills. What could this be!

And then one of our group touched one of the pine trees that guard the trail, and indeed proliferate throughout the valley. POOF! An explosion of dust emanated from the tree and was swept away on the wind. With the thousands of pine trees on all the hills surrounding us, no wonder the valley was dusty.

That mystery solved we continued our circuit up Fullerton, onto Bobcat and finally returning on Sugar Momma trail, choking from the pollen and wishing that we had added dust masks to our list of trail essentials to carry in our packs. Little did we know that we were in the midst of a health benefit bonanza.

Pines, the most dominant group of trees in the park, begin to produce pollen in their annual reproductive cycle. Pines are especially interesting because they produce separate male and female cones. The pollen produced by male cones is carried to female cones by the wind.

Traditionally harvested throughout Asia for thousands of years, pine pollen has a long history of being used in Chinese medicine for its numerous health benefits. Containing over 20 amino acids and 8 essential amino acids, pine pollen is a natural, complete protein, rich with vitamins, folic acid and minerals. In addition to being superfood, pine pollen is also a rich source of phyto-androgens (plant based hormones). Harvested from pine trees with male flowers, the pine pollen can help to restore hormone levels in both women and men.

And pine pollen is collected and sold as a health food supplement. We should have brought some zip lock baggies with us.

Here are a couple of links with pine pollen information.

How I Eat/Drink/Use Pine Pollen

Canadian Pine Pollen

Pine pollen smoothie, anyone?

….see you on the trails….


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Wilderness Emergencies

What’s in your pack?  What’s in your plan? Takeaways from CORE’S Wilderness Safety Workshop at Bragg Creek Community Center, April 22, 2017.

Contributors: Ron Gamp, David vanden Eikhov, Mindy Woolcott

Backpack First Aid Kit Emergency-Survival Blanket Triangular Bandage

It’s a mountain hike. Something goes wrong. Could be caused by weather, or an accident on the trail, or a hiker’s asthma attack. Could be caused by a bear. A lightning strike. A landslide. Someone gets lost.

How prepared are we hikers and what do we do in an emergency? Stay…Go? Split up the group or remain together?

“Getting to the top is optional, but coming home is not!”

Hikers need to quickly assess situations, adapt materials they have with them, and act in the best interests of both the injured hiker and the group at large.

Here are a few takeaways from CORE’s workshop.

1.) In an emergency, a ‘victim’ will likely be in shock. Know the signs of shock and act accordingly.

A  B  C

Airway. Make sure the person is breathing and facilitate that by loosening tight clothing at the neck, assessing breath, turning the person over on their side…

Body Temperature. Put layers of insulating material (clothes, leaves, jackets) under the person so that they don’t lose all their body heat from their backs. Cover them up if possible.

Circulation. Stop the bleeding

2.) In an emergency, decide if someone must go and seek help while another stays with the injured person. Assessing is difficult. Decide: will what I do cause harm? If not, will what I do help? How much time will pass before professional interventions can occur? Decide what to do, then live with the decision.

3.) Before an emergency, at the hike’s start, decide WHO has the phone number for the nearest INFO center (or emergency number for the area where you are traveling), and make sure the group has been registered. Who will take responsibility for contacting the center in an emergency?

All hikers should have personal health concerns, medication lists and contact numbers written and attached on their backpacks.

So, what’s in the backpack?

                    Some suggestions… basic.

Reflector blanket, Triangular cloth for sling. Duct tape and scissor. Bandaids. Water purifying tablets (optional), Aspirin, Ibuprofin, Tylenol for pain, Enough water, food, gloves, hat.

Canadian Red Cross APP

How about the Red Cross App on one’s phone?



Planned route. Phone number of nearest Information center or emergency number for the area you are hiking in.


When lost, hug a tree and shelter in.

                                                     Don’t move!

P.S. Enjoy the hike!


A few more details

Emergencies in the wilderness can and do happen. Following is a list of things to consider both when you are preparing for a trip and when something unforeseen happens.

  • YOU are 100% responsible.  Don’t expect if you get in trouble that someone will rescue you.
  • Preparation preparation preparation. Do your trip planning.
  • Know the emergency numbers in the area you are going to. You can look these up on the various park websites and keep them in a note book in your pack.
  • Let people know (friend, family etc. – someone who will be checking on your return) where you are going including a timeline, and who you are going with.
  • How you prepare will vary for each outing.  Factors include – length of the trip, difficultly, remoteness, communications, weather, group make up and skills, etc. etc. – there is no one recipe.  Prepare appropriately.
  • Do not expect cell coverage! (That said –the Canadian Red Cross App on your phone is a useful tool (although not geared to wilderness conditions)

Emergencies in the wilderness present extra factors to consider when doing first aid:

  • Immediate safety (of patient and rescuers): Move a patient even before any treatment if there’s EXTREME danger like avalanche, falling rock, cliff hazards, or nearby predators.
  • Assessment: Note Medic Alerts, membership card health conditions, forewarnings of medical conditions to coordinator as well as signs of injury causes.
  • Weather conditions: As soon as a patient assessment is done you should also assess the need to keep dry and avoid either hypothermia or heat stroke. You frequently need to get the patient in a comfortable position insulated from the ground even if movement would not otherwise be recommended. In such cases get everything you want to go under the patient arranged next to their body and rehearse coordination of all hands before lifting or rocking their body and positioning insulation to avoid or limit further injury.
  • Emergency numbers: Call the local park emergency number or else 911 if you are able to.
  • If out of contact: You need to estimate the delay before help can arrive. This may affect a decision to assist the injured party back to the trailhead. If that isn’t an option, it may even be necessary to prepare as best as possible for an overnight stay.
  • Rescue safety: Assuming you’re in a minimum group of four, nobody should be left alone. Send two or more for help, assuring that some second accident doesn’t leave everyone out of contact. Leave at least one person with the injured party. Estimate how long you’ll wait.

Useful things to have with you when you head out in the backcountry – very trip dependant

  1. Water proof matches and fire starter (Take a small zip lock bag of dryer lint – excellent fire starter)
  2. Emergency blanket (take 2 since they are so small and light)
  3. A “pill” kit – aspirin, Ibuprofen, water purifying tablets
  4. A tarp-  with size dependent on trip
  5. Rope or strapping of some type
  6. Flexible splint (SAM splint)
  7. Basic first aid kit with triangular bandages and/or tensor bandages, surgical gloves
  8. Foam mat
  9. Flagging tape and permanent marker (so you can mark your way if you have to go for help)
  10. Whistle, signalling tool, bear spray – as required
  11. Tourniquet
  12. Bivvy sack
  13. List of emergency numbers in the area where you will be venturing

Preparation—Every participant’s safety is their own responsibility: Carry your own first aid kit with things (like medications) that you regularly count on or may need. It’s not a coordinator’s responsibility to provide either first aid kit or expertise. Many lists of kit essentials can be found. It may be best if all of us don’t use the same one, providing a group with a variety of resources.

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Waterton’s Rowe Lakes/Lineham Ridge Trail

Waterton’s Rowe Lakes/Lineham Ridge Trail

A Must-Do for Calgary Hikers and Scramblers

By Carol Miyagawa

Lineham Ridge - Scramble Group

Lineham Ridge – Scramble Group

Looking for a hike that has almost everything? Outstanding views, incredible flowers, spectacular glacier-fed lakes, lush greenery, and dramatic natural beauty? Then the Rowe Lakes/Lineham Ridge Trail in Waterton Lakes National Park is a must-do hike for you.

Lineham Ridge - CORE hikers side trip

Lineham Ridge – CORE hikers side trip

Members of my hiking club, the Calgary Outdoor Recreation Enthusiasts (CORE), did this hike several years ago during a weekend trip to Waterton. After doing the hike, it became my favourite hike of all time. To get there, we drove south from Calgary on Hwy 2 and cut over to Pincher Creek along Hwy 3, then headed south on Hwy 6. An alternative route would have been to take Hwy 22 past Chain Lakes, turn east on Hwy 3 and then turn south. This drive should take just under three hours. You either need to leave Calgary early in the morning or stay overnight in Waterton. Whatever your preference, to find the Rowe Lakes trailhead parking, you must hit the junction just north of the town site and drive the Akimina Parkway for approximately 10 kilometres.

Before starting out on this 17-kilometres adventure, make sure you’re reasonably fit, and allow roughly six hours to complete the hike (longer if you want to stop and soak up the scenery – often). This is a photographer’s dream hike, so you won’t want to leave your camera behind. Be sure you have sturdy footwear because, even in mid-summer, there can be snow on the trail leading up the headwall.

Lineham Ridge - Wildflowers

Lineham Ridge – Wildflowers

If you have never been to Waterton, you’ll be amazed by the prevalence of red rock. Just metres from the trailhead, you’ll encounter a streambed of glistening red argillite, as Rowe Creek cascades noisily over it. It’s enough to take your breath away! Soon you’ll pass lush green growth along a sparsely treed slope, leading to a grand view of Rowe and Cameron Creek valleys. If you’re a wildflower lover, you’ll be in heaven. Bear grass, glacier lilies, and Indian paintbrush – in all its varieties and colours – normally line the trail for many kilometres. (Every summer the Waterton Wildflower Festival, this year happening from June 15-20, attracts people from around the globe. In fact Waterton is considered the wildflower capital of Canada!)

Lineham Ridge - Nature's Rock Garden

Lineham Ridge – Nature’s Rock Garden

At kilometre 4, you’ll reach the junction of Lower Rowe Lake. (A 200-metre side trip will get you a glimpse of the lake.) Then, in just over a kilometre, you’ll arrive at beautiful Rowe Meadows and the junction for Upper Rowe Lake. You may be tempted to stop here, but the best is yet to come. You won’t want to miss the magnificent view from the ridge, and the dramatic contrast of mauve and red talus slopes against patches of pure white snow! After the junction, the trail steepens and sweeps elegantly up the ridge for just over three kilometres. You’re now on the Lineham Ridge Trail.

With perseverance and determination, you’ll soon reach your destination, and be blown away by the panoramic view – in every direction, an endless sea of craggy peaks. Here’s where you might want to take out your map to see how many peaks you can name: Mount Rowe to the south, Mount

Blakiston to the northeast, and Akimina Ridge in the far distance. Below the peaks, to the south, lie Upper and Lower Rowe Lakes, and to the north, deep blue Lineham Lakes.

Lineham Ridge - Scramblers and Ridge Walkers

Lineham Ridge – Scramblers and Ridge Walkers

If you have a mix of scramblers and hikers in your group, you can start out together at the trailhead, as my group did on this trip. The scramblers split off at the first avalanche slope to scramble up Mount Lineham, while the hikers headed to Lineham Ridge via the route described above. Since the ridge is connected with the summit of Mount Lineham, we all met somewhere along the ridge and enjoyed the beautiful views together.

On the return trip, we made sure to make a lot of noise, especially in the mature forest area, as Waterton is home to more bears per square foot than any other national park.

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Chilkoot Trail Adventure

By Longtime CORE Member Carol Miyagawa

Chilkoot Day1

Chilkoot Day 1

A trail full of contrasts and contradictions, the Chilkoot in Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park straddles two countries, three eco-systems, and thousands of years of human history. Its flat, undemanding stretches have little resemblance to its challenging boulder pitches. Its rain-prone sections are far removed from the stretches of semi-arid landscape. Travel along its route can involve short, effortless days and excruciatingly long ones.

This is the trail that created a living hell for the Klondike gold seekers. Today it’s a backpacker’s paradise; a trail that intrigued my husband Harvey so much that he was motivated to organize a CORE trip there in 2003. Ten of us went, along with my son Mitch who was living in the Yukon at the time.

As members of a hiking club, we were used to hiking in the Rockies where conditions and terrain were more homogenous than along the 53-kilometre Chilkoot Trail. Lured by the prospect of adventure and the sheer beauty of coastal Alaska and northern British Columbia, we would discover rewards along the trail far more precious than gold. These treasures, however, came with the price of hard work. Over five days in the summer of 2003, we hauled ourselves up steep slopes, through water-logged rain forests, across sandy shorelines and past barren landscapes so inhospitable we dared not stop to admire them. We travelled through drenching rain, dense fog and bone-chilling wind. But we were also compensated by dazzling sunshine and spectacular Northern Lights.

Isabelle and CarolI trudging over rocks and roots

Isabelle and Carol trudging over rocks and roots

Each day along this historic route, changes in weather and landscape waited to catch us off guard or test our mental and physical mettle. We first hiked through the Pacific Coastal Rain Forest which offered stands of alder, cottonwood, aspen, western hemlock and Sitka spruce. Plants such as bunchberry, lady fern and devil’s claw flourished in this mild marine climate. Next we hiked into the Alpine Tundra Zone where the climate became sub-arctic and the risk of hypothermia increased. Finally, we crossed the Boreal Forest Zone, a drier region of less-dense forest and acres of rock.

Our first day began with a steep climb up a narrow, rocky path (a taste of what lay ahead), but soon we were on a wide, flat wagon trail that hugged the Taiya River all the way to Canyon City campground, our destination. Hiking was easy, the weather perfect, and the sighting of a grizzly catching salmon in the river put us in a good mood. We ambled into camp around 3:00 p.m. and settled in, anticipating an easy, eight-kilometre jaunt the following day.

Then the rain started.

The following morning we awoke to a transformed world; a very wet and misty world. We were grateful for the old log cabin that served as a warming shelter for the campground. Few were brave enough to cook outdoors nor eat at the one and only picnic table on the site.

Canyon City ruins suspension bridge

Canyon City ruins suspension bridge

After a soggy side trip to the Canyon City ruins, bouncing over a swaying suspension bridge, we were back on the wide, flat trail of Day 1, which quickly gave way to an undulating trail, full of ankle-busting rocks and roots. All day, we ascended and descended short, steep grades lined with an abundance of green growth, the rain our constant companion. As lunchtime approached, we were nearing Pleasant Camp, so pushed on until we saw the sign announcing it.

We chuckled at the irony of the name, as nothing could be farther from the truth; only rain-soaked trees and a swelling river greeted us. With no warming cabin in sight, we hunkered down amongst the trees, but not even the dense forest offered protection from the deluge. After a gulped lunch, we pressed on to Sheep Camp, encountering a shelter where we should have stopped for lunch out of the rain. We wondered how many others over the years had stopped short of its welcoming arms.

About four in the afternoon, the last of our group staggered into camp, completely drenched, despite their well-intentioned rain gear. The prime sites on wooden platforms were taken and the latecomers had to camp on wet ground, not far from the fast-rising river. The camp had two small shelters that rapidly filled with dripping clothes, hissing stoves and campers crammed together like too much gear in a backpack.

The rain continued all night, and we slept nervously, anticipating that some of our tents may be swept down-river by morning. Luckily we were still in one piece when we rose at 5 a.m. to get an early start on summit-day, the day we would go over the Chilkoot Pass. Later that day, we learned that the trail we had hiked over the previous two days was now closed because of rising flood waters.

Struggling up the Chilkoot Pass on Day 3

Struggling up the Chilkoot Pass on Day 3

“Day 3, baby” had become our mantra for undoubtedly the hardest day of the trip. Before we could snuggle into warm sleeping bags that night we had to reach the 3,200-metre summit of the Chilkoot Pass and trek many kilometres to Happy Camp, our destination for the night.

To reach the top, we had to navigate 800 metres of near-vertical rock fields, in extreme weather conditions. In summer, the Golden Steps made famous during the Klondike Gold Rush, are neither golden, nor are they steps. The Klondikers went over the pass in winter, when the giant-sized boulders were buried by deep snow into which they kicked steps up the steep incline. Of course, they were carrying excruciatingly-heavy packs and made upwards of 30 trips with all their gear and food.

We left Sheep camp around 7 a.m. in the rain. But as we hit the first of the rocks, the rain stopped for a brief time. It was a welcome break from feeling drenched and soaked to the skin. Our group became spread out and the terrain got more and more challenging as we ascended up into the Alpine Tundra zone.

In the fog and mist on our way to the summit of the pass

In the fog and mist on our way to the summit of the pass

To get to the Chilkoot Pass, we had to “climb” giant, angular, unstable boulders, piled on top of each other for as far as the eye could see ­­­­– a difficult feat even without a heavy backpack. The pitch of the slope steepened as we got higher and higher. From the infamous Scales, where Klondikers had to stop to have their gear weighed, to the summit of the pass, the slope is 45 degrees. We found ourselves scrambling up and over slippery boulders, some the size of a small car, in the torrential rain.

There were large numbers of gold rush artifacts strewn over the slope to the pass; cables and fallen towers that once provided a tram-line for the men and women of the gold rush, old shoes, tin cans and shovels. However, in the rain and deteriorating weather conditions, we had no time to stop and soak up their historical significance.

The higher we went, the lower the temperature became. The wind picked up and a thick fog settled over the pass. The potential for hypothermia now added to the danger of slipping on the rocks. Fortunately, we all made it to the warming hut at the summit without injury, albeit some of us were close to hypothermic by that time.

The summit hut is on the Canadian side of the pass and is administered by Parks Canada. The warden on duty had thermoses of boiling water ready for us when we arrived for making a much-needed hot beverage. I, Harvey and my son Mitch were the last to reach the hut because I had struggled a lot on the rocks, partly due to an unbalanced backpack, the result of having to pack up very quickly in the morning downpour. I was so exhausted when we reached the hut, that we asked if we could stay the night there. The warden discouraged us, saying the trail flattened out and became much easier on the way to Happy Camp.

Ascent through the Mist - Day three going up the Chilkoot Pass summit

Ascent through the Mist – Day three going up the Chilkoot Pass summit

We soon found that his version of ‘easier’ was grossly exaggerated. After leaving the hut, we had to cross an unending rock field that seemed to go on forever and ever. I thought to myself, “I never want to see another rock for as long as I live.” My son Mitch went on ahead to set up our tents and let the others know that Harvey and I were going to be late arriving, because I wasn’t moving very quickly. For what seemed like hours, we slogged across swollen creeks and streams and were pelted by rain. We were hungry, tired, and had to keep moving or risk hypothermia. Soon it was dark and we were well overdue at Happy Camp. Miraculously, two fellows from the camp came out to greet us about a kilometre from our destination, a mighty welcoming sight!

For us, Happy Camp was definitely a misnomer. A miserable night was spent in sodden tents, trying to get warm in wet sleeping bags. I remember shivering severely for about an hour, before finally falling asleep. A couple of members of the CORE group slept in the warming hut, lucky them! The next morning, we put on our few remaining bits of dry clothing and headed for Lake Lindeman, our next campsite. Fortunately, the weather on the other side of the pass tends to be drier so, before long, we were basking in sunshine and our spirits began to soar.

Lindeman Lake campground - Drying out

Lindeman Lake campground – Drying out

Day 4 on the Chilkoot Trail is a relatively easy trek over level ground but the strain and demand of the previous day had been draining, so, for me, the going was slow. We passed the remains of an old metal-framed boat and other artifacts of the Klondike Gold Rush. We arrived at the lake about 4 p.m. and quickly set up our tents. Soon the camp was strewn with soggy gear, as we attempted to dry sleeping bags, jackets and sodden socks, using the warmth of the sun and a light breeze off the lake.

Relieved that the worst was over, we celebrated in the roomy log cabin that served as the warming hut at Lake Lindeman. In the evening, most of us strolled over to the Parks Canada tent to receive our official certificates for doing the 53-kilometre trek. We visited an old cemetery where some of the Klondike gold rushers were buried.

Lake Benett on Day 6

Lake Bennett on Day 6

Tired but feeling jubilant that Day 5 was our last, the next morning we trudged slowly toward Bennett Lake and the ghost town of Bennett under clear skies and sunshine. Bennett, located in the far northwest corner of British Columbia, and pinched between Yukon and Alaska, was the site of a large tent city from 1897-1900 where the men and women of the Klondike built boats to carry them across Bennett Lake to the Yukon River, and then on to Dawson City. We had lunch at Loon Lake where two islands in the lake resembled the body and head of a loon. Believe it or not, we ended the day by crossing a desert in the middle of nowhere. For a few pleasant kilometres we hiked along sandy trail, much preferring the sand under our feet to the giant boulders of Day 3.

At Lake Bennett, the gods of the sky rewarded our tribulations along the trail with a spectacular display of Northern Lights! A fitting ending to our Alaska-Yukon-B.C. adventure.

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West face of Manaslu as seen from just below Larkye La (5140m)

West face of Manaslu as seen from just below Larkye La (5140 m.)

Mike Galbraith, mountain safety guru and a long time member of CORE, was the leader of the Canadian Manaslu Expedition in the summer of 1992 – here is his story.

Manaslu is number eight in the world of peaks over 8000 meters, which means it’s the eighth highest peak in the world. It is in fact 8165 m. (26,788 feet). In terms of oxygen content, the top of Manaslu has roughly 30% of what you’d find on any average beach, which is where you’d rather be when you’re near the top of Manaslu.

And before I go any further, we didn’t quite make the summit, but we had a lot of fun along the way, so read on!

Kathmandu is full of Nepalese in August – as opposed to October when it’s full of tourists. True, the odd European and Japanese shows up, but nobody told them about the Monsoon, so I guess they’re excused. The Monsoon means that it rains most days. So when we arrived in mid-August, our shiny new golf umbrellas were put to the test right away. Golf umbrellas are de rigueur on a walk like we did. They not only cover you, but your pack, your camera and your lunch when you stop for it. They also provide great comfort while you are in the traditional squatting position but this is a family publication, so we won’t dwell on that.

There were 6 of us – all from Western Canada – all experienced climbers with previous Himalayan adventures of various sorts under our belts. Your reporter had just come from Moscow and two weeks in India without exercise and had more under his belt than the others, who joked mercilessly as the belt tightened over the next few weeks. I should explain that I have a mild case of MS and therefore walk with two ski poles for balance – not to assist in the transport of a large waistline, as was suggested.

Buri Gandaki Gorge

Buri Gandaki Gorge

The preliminaries lasted a week in Kathmandu, as we went our various ways in search of kitchen equipment, tarpaulins, radio permits and various other peak and trekking permits. Each permit was acquired after the soon to become familiar ceremony of outrageous price asking, vehement complaints and Nepalese compromise (we were always the ones who were compromised). There is a saying that “Nepal is there to change you, not you to change Nepal.” We concluded that Nepal was there to take our change!

Finally we were ready. The bus arrived. Porters and Sherpas appeared. Gear was tied on and we were off – on the scariest bus ride I’ve ever had. When the rocks along the roadside broke through a window, and we stared out the other side at a 1000-foot drop, we were more than ready to start walking. And walk we did. For two weeks. Through some of the loveliest country I’d seen in Nepal.

Village of Jagat

Village of Jagat

Hot days, rainy days, through the rice paddies, then up the steep-sided valley of the Buri Gandaki, a large river in full monsoon flood. The path was often a small river itself, filled by the streams rushing down the steep flower-filled hillsides. Denis, the doctor, probed, cut, sutured, dispensed and treated the regular lineup of local people each morning and evening. We walked, swam with the village children, sunbathed, sorted out our porter strikes, ate well, drank and were generally merry.

On the fourteenth day we reached base camp at 4800 m. (16,000 feet) where a Korean group had arrived a week before. The local Lama offered the appropriate Buddhist prayers. Yours truly delivered a “come back with everything you have now” lecture. And my job as leader became more sedentary as our climbers filled their packs and slowly cramponed their way up the hill.

Manaslu Base Camp – 4895m

Manaslu Base Camp – 4895 m.

Camp 1 at 5600m on Naike Col, Camp 2 at 6100 m., and Camp 3 at 6500 m. – 12 days flew by and our climbers were doing well. Then a gas cylinder at Camp 2 leaked. Geoff got two lungfuls of butane and coughed his way back to base camp. Denis and Dave were ready for a summit attempt from Camp 3, when two members of a Bulgarian/Italian expedition arrived late in the day, unable to find their tents (which were about another hour or two up the mountain). So after two or three hours of foot warming and other treatments for hypothermia, Denis and Dave enjoyed a cold night, having donated sleeping bags to the unequipped, unexpected guests.

A day’s rest at 22,000 feet is not really a rest. Denis reached the summit plateau at 25,000 feet the next day, but succumbed to a full blown case of pneumonia and was helped back to base camp. Soon everyone arrived for a shower, good food, all day card games and general conviviality.

Manaslu Peak (8163m) from Base Camp

Manaslu Peak (8163 m.) from Base Camp

The Koreans were on a tight schedule, so sent their summit team off the next day. Around 7:00 pm, two evenings later, the Korean and his Sherpa radioed to base camp with the news they’d reached the summit. Much Korean whisky was consumed while we wondered how well they would sleep at 26,000 feet. Late next day we found out when they walked awkwardly into base camp. They didn’t have a doctor so ten minutes later, with the Korean’s boots off, we were looking at the worst case of frostbite any of us had ever seen. There was nothing to do, except gentle warming, bandaging and radioing for a helicopter. Two porters arrived to carry him down to the village next day – helicopters couldn’t land at base camp.

Climber near Camp 3 (6800m)

Climber near Camp 3 (6800 m.)

Our final attempt with Dave and two Sherpas was a moderate success. We gained an altitude of 8000 m. – about 2 hours from the summit. The exhaustion of our members and the late hour meant it was time to go down. Meanwhile Geoff and Peter had taken a right turn at the North Col and made what we think is the third or fourth ascent of the North Peak of Manaslu (7300 m. – 24,000 feet).

The final episode on Manaslu was unfortunately the death of two members of the Bulgarian/Italian expedition between Camp 3 and Camp 4.   As in life, one person’s triumph can happen at the same time as another’s tragedy and ironically those two people died on the day we walked down from base camp on our long way back to Kathmandu.

So we came home. We’d put two members within two hours of the summit, climbed a 7300 m. peak, all of us were still friends, and we’d suffered no injuries. We’d learned a lot too – the kind that comes out years later – and usually far from the mountains that taught us.


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