Special Articles

Pat’s Awesome Ice Climbing Adventure- December 2017

After seeing a Calgary Mountain Club ice climbing presentation with Will Gadd (awesome mountaineer/ice climber/nice man), another CORE member 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 R.

CORE Member Extraordinaire


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The Perfect Pine Tree Pollen Storm – June 2017

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 – May 2017

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 – April 2017

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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How to Choose the Right Snowshoes – November 2016

For those of you who are considering taking up snowshoeing this winter and are new to the sport, here are a few tips on what to look for when you go out to your local outdoor equipment store.

This video is by Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), an outdoor gear company based in New Hampshire. They have an excellent blog on Snowshoes: How to Choose which I would highly recommend. Summarized below are some key attributes to look for when choosing the gear best for you.

Type of Terrain: For the type of trails around Calgary, be sure to choose gear designed for hiking on rolling to steep terrain suitable for all but very steep or icy conditions (unless you are planning real hard-core back-country trips). Rolling-terrain snowshoes are designed with more aggressive crampons and beefier bindings. If you are planning on going into the back country or where there are steep and icy conditions, then choose Mountain-terrain snowshoes. They’re made with climbing-style crampons and rugged bindings that can withstand harsh conditions and terrain.

pair-of-womens-snowshoesSnowshoe Sizing: Snowshoe size is a key factor in getting the right amount of flotation. Generally, the heavier the person or the lighter and drier the snow, the more snowshoe surface area is required. Aluminum-frame snowshoes come in multiple sizes, usually 8″ x 25″, 9″ x 30″ and 10″ x 36″ or something similar. Typically, if you and the pack you are carrying weight less than 180 pounds, then a 22″ snowshoe is appropriate. Over that then a 25″ or more is recommended. Snowshoe size also depends on the type of activity you intend to do. For deep powder, you’l need a longer, wider snowshoe; conversely if you only want to do trail snowshoeing – following someone on a packed trail – you can use a smaller snowshoe – and narrower – much easier and less tiring.

Men’s vs Women’s Gear: Men’s snowshoes are designed to accommodate larger boots and heavier loads. Women’s snowshoes tend to feature narrower, more contoured frame designs and sizes down to 8″ x 21″. Their bindings are sized to fit women’s footwear.

snowshoe-bindingEasy to fasten bindings: Make sure the bindings fit the boots you are going to be wearing, and that the fasteners are heavy duty (so they won’t break) and easy to secure and adjust.


snowshoe-cramponSnowshoe Traction Devices: Snowshoes for rolling or mountain terrain will come with toe crampons that rotate under the  front of your foot to aid in climbing hills. Heel crampons are in a V shape and slow you down when descending hills. Look for both for casual snowshoeing in the Rockies. Some more rugged snowshoes may also have Side rails (also called traction bars) to prevent slipping when crossing steep slopes.


snowshoe-heel-liftHeel lifts: Also known as climbing bars, these are wire bails that can be flipped up under your heels to relieve calf strain on steep uphill sections and save energy on long ascents. This feature gives the feeling of walking up steps and prevents exaggerated calf and Achilles strain. These are highly recommended for the type of outings we do around Calgary.


snowshoe-top-3Closed back: Some snowshoes have a narrow webbing at the back that allows snow to collect on the platform and flip up on the back of your legs. Avoid this design. Look for a style that has a fully closed in back.



Footwear: Most snowshoe bindings are built to accept a variety of footwear, from hiking boots to snowboard boots. Generally, warm boots that are stiff enough to provide good ankle support work well for snowshoeing:

Poles: Generally, you can use any ski or hiking poles with baskets on them. If it is a rigid pole, you will want a pair that are longer than hiking or downhill ski poles to allow for sinking into the snow. You should also choose a pole with BIG baskets – so they don’t sink right in when you are treking in soft, deep snow

So this is a start. But before you go purchase your new set of snowshoes, do a little more research. Ask your friends who are already involved in the sport to find out what features they like. Join a club. Talk to a knowledgeable sales girl at your favorite outdoor store. And don’t go with the least expensive model. You get what you pay for, and equipment that breaks or is difficult to attach to your feet is no fun.

See you on the trails.


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Chilkoot Trail Adventure – Nov 2016

By Longtime CORE Member Carol 

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 so much that he was motivated to organize a CORE trip there in 2003. Ten of us went, along with my son 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. We 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.” M. 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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Tips for Hike Leaders and Participants – July 2016

Lets Get Organized

Lets Get Organized

The CORE Executive has had some feedback from coordinators and participants on how we can improve the hiking experience. Here are a few tips and guideline reminders you might consider incorporating into our forays into the mountains:

  • When responding to a coordinator that you would like to join their posted event, always provide your email address and (mobile) phone number, so they can contact you if there are last minute changes.
  • If you are bringing a guest, advise the coordinator, and download the Guest Waiver form from the CORE website, and have it all filled in by your guest before you arrive at the car pool location.
  • Participants: The meeting time is intended as a DEPARTURE time. Please arrive earlier to get the carpool loading arranged.
  • Coordinators: Remember when setting a departure time to allow for any stops on the way and trailhead preparation.
  • Coordinators, please think about starting earlier; an 8:30 start is not much different than a 9:00 start, but it will get you to the trail head parking lot before the heat of the day, often will catch the better weather window, and an earlier return time means less traffic.
Ridge to Gunnery Pass

Ridge to Gunnery Pass

If you have other suggestions for improving our club events, all members are invited to contact the Executive either directly via the Executive page or via email to mailbox@corehike.org.

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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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Canoeing the Land of the Voyageurs – January 2016


McLennan Lake ~ 500 Km North of Saskatoon

McLennan Lake ~ 500 Km North of Saskatoon

Cathie Newsome and John Hitt, long time CORE members, spent 5 days canoe camping in the McLennan Lake area of Northern Saskatchewan in the fall of 2015. Here they recount their experiences on that adventure.

Soft is the Song my Paddle Sings

Soft is the Song my Paddle Sings

If you like to paddle to experience true serenity and remoteness, have you ever considered Northern Saskatchewan? We’re talking north of La Ronge where the highway becomes a dirt road, and transportation is often by float plane.

We decided on the McLennan Lake area. To get there, you take the Louis Riel trail 380 Km north to La Ronge from Saskatoon. After that, you drive for 2 hours up the highway, (which has now become a dirt road), to McLennan Lake. If you reach Reindeer Lake, you’ve missed it.

As you go north the trees are all evergreens and they get smaller and smaller, and scrawnier and scrawnier. This area is part of the Canadian Shield so it’s pretty rocky, and a thick green spongy moss grows all over the place. There is more water than land up here, making the number of canoe routes endless. You can go for 4 days or a month.

There is a hotel in La Ronge, and you might want to check out the trading post in town where they sell things like dog sleds, and beautiful embroidered buckskin jackets made by the First Nations people that live in the area. They still trade furs brought in by local trappers. Wild rice harvested in the area’s lakes is available in town.

Making Camp

Making Camp

You can park at a small compound at McLennan Lake where they sell the only map of the area that has the campsites on it. This isn’t a park, it’s just wilderness, so campsites are not marked, nor are portages. There is no outhouse, or pic-nic table, or place to hang your food away from the bears.

You need to be prepared for anything the wilderness might have in store for you, including bugs, animals, rain, and blistering sun from being on the water all day. Bring a bug helmet, and plan to go later in the season unless you want to get eaten alive by the bugs. Mosquitoes are extra large here and many other flying creatures abound.


Beaver Lodge

Beaver Lodge

You can camp anywhere you want. We discovered that it’s just easier if someone was there before you and cleared a spot for your tent. Most campsites are on islands or on a spit of land where there is a breeze to keep the bugs away. The sites probably were used by the First Nations people, and fur traders who trapped the beaver in the area.

There are beaver lodges everywhere. Muskrats will also take advantage of the free room and board, and occasional visitors such as otters, ducks and turtles will also share the beaver’s lodge. (Beavers build and maintain houses called lodges. There are two main types, the conical lodge and the bank lodge. The most recognized type is the conical shaped dwelling surrounded by water. It is made from sticks, mud and rocks for protection from predators. )



Portages are interesting and can be marked by an empty bag of chips hanging on a tree if you’re lucky, but mostly you just have to look hard to find them. Forget about the wide portages you might find in some government parks. Some portages were quite muddy, and once we walked on rocks down a small stream to the next lake.

(Anyone who says they like portaging is either a liar or crazy.)

Despite being pretty far north we were able to swim in August. We didn’t come across any sandy beaches, although we saw some on the way back on Lac La Ronge.


Lull for a Little Fishing

Lull for a Little Fishing

You can swim off the rocks at most campsites or just slide into the water from your canoe.

There are a few fishermen that you might bump into occasionally, and we saw lots of loons. The fishing is good for pickerel and pike.

Sunsets are awesome.

If you register for your trip in La Ronge, you could get rescued if you don’t show up on your scheduled return date, and you can collect your official Voyageur certificate when you come back.


Les Voyageurs

Les Voyageurs

If you use your imagination, you can just see through the mist those hardy fur traders singing les chansons des voyageurs as they paddle across the lakes.

M’en revenant de la jolie Rochelle;

J’ai rencontré trois jolies demoiselles.

J’ai point choisi, mai j’ai pris la plus belle

J’l’y fis monter derrièr’ moi, sur ma selle...


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