Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mt. Yamnuska

Trip Dates: August 2009 & August 2012

Mount Yamnuska is the first mountain on the north side of the Trans-Canada Highway when entering the Canadian Rockies from Calgary.  It's located in Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park.  It is very easy to spot because of its most prominent feature, a wide south facing 152m tall cliff.  The mountain is officially named Mount John Laurie, after the founder of the Indian Association of Alberta, but is more commonly known by its Stoney-Nakoda First Nation name, Mount Yamnuska, which translates to "flat-faced mountain".  It is approximately an 8km round-trip hike with close to 900m of elevation gain.  We did the east to west loop of the mountain, which seems to be the most popular.  If you have a fear of heights this hike is not for you as there are a couple of sections on the backside with dangerous exposure.  

I've done this hike on two different occasions now.  Jaryd and I completed the hike in 2009 and then I was with Alison and Ashley from my Ultimate team in 2012.  The first time I was dog free, but the second time I had Rome with me, which made for a few interesting moments to say the least.  Read on to find out what happened!

Mt. Yamnuska
The hike is pretty straight forward until you break treeline and that's where things can get a bit challenging.  The first feature is a small chimney on the eastern end of the mountain that you have to scramble up.  It's pretty basic, and has very little risk, but apparently Rome had other ideas.  She sat down and wouldn't move.  No amount of coaxing could convince her otherwise.  Eventually I had to drag her by her harness and leash to the chimney and then I kind of half-carried, half-pushed her up it.  

Looking east towards Calgary after breaking treeline
Jaryd enjoying the view
Me just prior to entering the chimney section
The chimney section of the trail
We made it up the chimney and got a great view of the backside of Yamnuska
Another scrambling section
Making my way up to meet Jaryd
This Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel was scavenging along the trail
They must have been working in teams of two!
Jaryd looking over the front side cliff face
Probably the scariest section of the entire hike is the narrow ledge with the vertical drop below.  This section of the trail requires your full concentration as there's a chain bolted to the side of the mountain that you can hold onto as you work yourself along the ledge.  It's not a long section, but it can be nerve wracking.  I crossed the chain section uneventfully only to be informed that Rome was heading back down the trail from where we came.  I can only presume that she took one look at that narrow ledge and decided she'd meet us back at the Jeep!  I had to cross back over the ledge, chase her down the trail, and lead her back up.  I took off her doggy backpack and cradling her like some big, awkward football, crossed back over the ledge holding the chain in one hand and the dog in the other.  The entire time I was praying she wouldn't try to kick herself free at some inopportune time.  We managed to cross the ledge safely and continued on to the summit.  It's funny when you look back on it now, but it was pretty nerve wracking at the time!

Jaryd just before crossing the narrow ledge.  If you look closely you can see the chain attached to the rock.
Jaryd making his way cautiously across the ledge
On the backside of Yamnuska looking into the CMC Valley.  This photo was from 2012.
The summit of Mount Yamnuska (2,240m)
Jaryd on the summit
Me on the summit with a rock cairn
The summit register
Rome on the summit in 2012
The summit ridge with the 152m cliff face to the right
Rome's last challenge of the trip was to scree-ski down the front side of Mount Yamnuska after we were at the base of the cliff face.  Scree skiing basically means a controlled run down a field of broken rock fragments.  It's really quite enjoyable if you are under control and are wearing proper footwear.  It also covers a lot of ground in a short period of time, so the descent is much quicker.  Rome "skied" the scree like a champ and followed me all the way down the slope to the trail below.  She was definitely ready for a nap when we got back home!

The trail leading down from the summit
The front side of Yamnuska at the base of the cliff face.  You can see the trail across the scree slope.  We basically just dropped in at the end of the trail you can see in the picture and "skied" down to the trail below.

Saskatchewan Farms

Trip Date: August 2009 & August 2011

Every since I was a kid I was extremely curious about old, abandoned farm buildings and have always enjoyed exploring them.  I remember there was an abandoned farm close enough to our house in Regina that I could ride my bike to it.  There were some pretty crazy rumours floating around about why the farm was abandoned, none of which I'm sure were true, but we called it Deadman's Farm none the less.  Eventually they tore it all down and it's just a field now, but I can remember exploring the old buildings and letting my imagination run wild.

My aunt and uncle on my Mom's side still live on a farm near Abernethy, Saskatchewan.  I remember spending a lot of time out there for family get togethers.  There's an abandoned farm just down the gravel road from them, but I don't remember actually going inside the farmhouse until 2009.  The following pictures are of that particular visit with Kyle.

The abandoned farmyard
The old barn
The brick farmhouse
Inside on the main floor of the house
One of the upstairs bedrooms 
There were animal paw prints on the walls, probably from Raccoons
This is a picture of the well in the basement.  There was still water in it too.
Standing in a wheat field next to the farm
This wheat isn't ready for harvest yet, it's still green
Kyle's truck parked in the farmyard
They don't call Saskatchewan, Land of Living Skies for no reason!
After we wrapped up our wedding in 2011, I stayed in Regina the following week, as Rob and Amy's wedding was the next weekend.  Unfortunately Christine had to go back to Calgary for work.  During that week my Dad, Kyle, and I went to look at a few abandoned farms that he knew about from when he was a kid.  My Dad grew up on a farm outside of the town of Balcarres in rural Saskatchewan and I can also remember spending lots of time there while growing up.

This first farm we visited was on land that my Dad's family purchased a number of years ago.  The farm had two houses, a barn, and a few smaller buildings, all of which are still there today, albeit completely overgrown.

The abandoned farmyard
This is one, of two, houses on the property.  We couldn't get over to it because of the water. 
This is the second, and larger, of the two houses
Inside the house.  We didn't actually go inside because the floor looked really rotten.
This Garter Snake was slithering around outside the house
This isn't trick photography, the barn and shed are really that slanted!
This used to be the Deter Lake School.  My dad went to school here for Grade 1 before they closed it.  Then he was bussed into Balcarres for school.  The school was open between 1920 and 1964.
The inside was pretty gross.  There was even a rotting carcass of a Racoon inside.
Behind the school we found an overgrown swing set
This is the old Robertson's Farm
Inside on the main floor
A very pink bathroom
This is Violette School.  It was used between 1909 and 1964.
The sun setting behind the Balcarres grain elevator
It doesn't get anymore Saskatchewan than a wheat field!

Rockbound Lake

Trip Date: August 2009

Nestled in a natural bowl behind Castle Mountain lies Rockbound Lake.  It is completely surrounded by steep cliffs, rock slides, and massive boulder fields.  It also happens to be one of the largest of the Bow Valley's high lakes.  The hike is 16.8km round-trip and gains 760m in elevation.  The trailhead is the Rockbound Lake parking lot, which is about 160km west of Calgary along the Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A) in Banff National Park.  

Castle Mountain (2,766m)
The backside of Castle Mountain
Looking up at Castle Mountain
Tower Lake
Crystal clear water with bright red rocks beneath the surface
Eisenhower Tower (2,752m) overlooking Tower Lake
Tower Lake
Jaryd, Eisenhower Tower, and Tower Lake
Climbing above Tower Lake en route to Rockbound Lake
That boulder appears to have trees growing out of it
Our first glimpse of the lake
Rockbound Lake
This lake also has crystal clear water
Climbing on some of the massive boulders that are around the lake
Jaryd and I
If you look closely you can see me standing on top of a massive chunk of rock
Jaryd doing some shoulder presses!
There's a waterfall at the far end of the lake
Rockbound Lake, Eisenhower Tower, and Castle Mountain
Making our way around the lake just prior to heading back down the trail