canada general

the three sisters – canmore edition

I was walking past this viewpoint with someone the other day and saw people randomly pointing cameras off into the distance taking photos. We couldn’t work out what on earth they were taking photos of, until we remembered the mountains.



On another note, car doors are sometimes surprisingly heavy. It was 5.30am and I was sidling into the passenger side of the van, with the door only just open as there was another vehicle parked closely. I’d just dropped my bag into the foot well when the door gently swung closed. On my head. This led to pain and concussion and tenderness. I don’t recommend it. That was over two days ago and my head still feels a bit tingly.

bikes canada

bike park squirrel was not amused

He sat there looking at me for 20 seconds, then chattered loudly and ran away with his pinecone.



And just to prove it really was in a bike park:



Ok, even that shot doesn’t look that much more bike-parky. Rest assured, there were more log rides, and some jumps, and a see-saw. And a 10km single trail loop that started out fairly smooth, but then seemed to get rougher and rougher as you went round it. My hardtail and I are petitioning against the excess of pine tree roots around Canmore. Also perhaps the rocks.

bikes canada general

testing the lht

Despite the miserable looking forecast for this weekend, the weather actually turned out ok (apart from the snow on Saturday night/Sunday morning, which cannot possibly count as ok). So when we decided to go for a ride out to Grotto Canyon followed by a hike up it as far as we could be bothered going, my backpack ended up being full of a nice ballast of warm and waterproof layers while we stripped down to t-shirts.


Biking out along the 1A to Grotto Canyon


And we ended up getting to the waterfall tucked in the back of Grotto Mountain, many kilometres up the Grotto Canyon drainage – up where it opens up wide. Hiking along a canyon can be difficult. There were no people, no wind, no noise – just silence and stillness. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end and I had to keep fighting the primal urge to go and gain the high ground..

canada hiking trip reports

almost entirely unlike the edge of a knife

Mount Lady Macdonald – with an altitude of 2,606 m (8,550 ft) gives a 1200 metre elevation gain hiking from town. It was named in 1886 after Susan Agnes Macdonald, wife of Sir John A. Macdonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada (this is what wikipedia claims anyway, but there are all sorts of made-up things slipping in there these days, we all know Canada doesn’t even have a Prime Minister).

A typical 9 o’clock start had us leaving the house around 10 (we being Siggs and I, not Alex, who is stuck doing 14+ hour days at work this weekend), and walking towards Lady Mac – along a cunning short cut that actually forced us to walk uphill, and then ended up being tantalisingly close to the path we wanted, without actually reaching it. So we had to walk downhill again.

With the sore legs of people who had spent yesterday doing silly things (a 60km bike ride and hiking up Cascade mountain respectively), we hit auto-pilot on the way up, and told our legs to shut up and just keep walking.


Looking up Mount Lady Mac from the abandoned teahouse


We reached the teahouse and begun some heavy duty snacking. You could probably have even called it lunch, but for the fact we had a second one a few hours later. And the teahouse isn’t so much a teahouse as an unfinished wooden construction with lots of burn marks from where teenagers with no self-preservation have been lighting fires ON the teahouse using wood FROM the teahouse. It does provide a nice viewing and lunching platform though.



Following the teahouse there was a thankfully short slog up a scree slope until we reached the *dramatic chords* KNIFE-EDGE RIDGE. This was where I left Siggs, who has far too much common sense to be ignoring the fact she’s on a very skinny bit of rock with a definite cliff on one side, and a very steep slide on the other. There was only a light breeze, so the scramble across was actually really fun – there’s no technical difficulty to it, just the difficulty of ignoring your brain going ARGH, MY GOD IT’S A CLIFF, WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE! Thanks to climbing I’m accustomed to my brain’s panicked warnings of impending doom. Although I didn’t stop to get my camera out along the way – I’m coordinated when it comes to not dropping me off a cliff, I have a bad track record when it comes to cameras and cliffs however.


Looking back along the ridge from the summit (this photo doesn’t really do justice to the steepness either, it’s really quite narrow at the top, though you can spend a lot of the time with your hands on the top of the ridge, walking your feet along holds on the slopey non-cliff side)


So I hit the summit – finally, that ridge seemed to go forever. Maybe it’s about 150 metres? I had Siggs at the start of it as a reference point, and she was certainly a distant blob. The journey back was quicker and easier, as I spent much less time going “Am I at the summit now? Nope, this isn’t it, maybe it’s that next bit.”



We sat at the top of the scree slope and looked down at the teahouse, helicopter pad, and Canmore while enjoying a second lunch. Followed by interminable plodding back down a path that seemed a lot less steep than it had done on the way up, and gradual removal of layers as we hit the warm valley air.

bikes canada

mud and pemmican

Another ride up to Whiteman’s Gap, but without the hike up Ha Ling afterwards. It was cold (well, not really cold in the scheme of things for the Rockies, but cold after the nice 20oC temperatures I’ve become accustomed to), and raining as I cycled into the cloud. This left the dirt road lovely and muddy.



This photo was taken at the top, looking away from town across the dam. It takes just under an hour to bike here from home.



And it only takes about 15 minutes to get from Whiteman’s Gap back down to town. I can’t guarantee you’ll be clean afterwards though. Or that your camera will be dry after taking it out in the rain for the earlier photo.