bikes canada general hiking trip reports

Lake O’Hara – I think this might be paradise

A gloriously cunning plan came together at the last minute, after our original weekend plans were scuppered. I sat refreshing the Lake O’Hara website until I saw that someone had cancelled and there was a free night of camping for either Friday or Saturday night. I missed the first Saturday, and then a Friday spot, but was successful in snagging the next Friday spot that someone had cancelled – presumably because they didn’t fancy the rain-filled forecast.

Due to the afore-mentioned rain, we didn’t bother booking the early bus up. Instead we opted for the 3.30pm bus, and while the menfolk sat at home putting the final touches on packing (by which I mean, assuming I’d done a good enough job, and sitting around playing computer games) I set off from home on my road bike.

It wasn’t raining at all! Well, not at first. It was mostly uphill, and a bit headwindy, but it often seems to be in that direction. I’d allowed four hours, which is about what it took. Four hours and 95km later, I was slightly soggy but pulling into the Lake O’Hara trailhead parking lot, pretty sure that I had beaten the menfolk in their fancy car.

I stashed the bike in the trees, did a few laps of the parking lot to confirm they hadn’t somehow snuck by me, then sat and ate the rest of my food while I waited for them to arrive. Which they did. With some nice dry clothes for me, and thankfully with at least 10 minutes to spare before it was time to jump on the bus. I did a quick carpark change into dry hiking/running clothes, draped my stinky bike clothes artfully about our car interior to dry, then we leapt onto the bus.

The buses that run up and down the Lake O’Hara access road are big old school bus type things. Loud and roaring, they do the job without much grace, but a certain amount of jolliness.

At camp, we nabbed a site, got the tent set up and semi-assembled, then went prowling about. The boy wanted to find friends, while we wanted to go for a walk to the lake.

We managed to convince him to walk first, then he spent the rest of the evening in seventh heaven as a hoard of other small children descended on the camping area.

His new best friend was a fellow 4 year old, a Czech-Columbian girl named Kati. She was just as boisterous as him, and they had great fun running about in the rain and the mud.

We huddled in the tiny shelters to cook dinner. Our fellow campers were all lovely and friendly, and despite the cramped quarters it was a much more enjoyable experience than our recent Assiniboine stay. The rain showers passed, and we emerged to sit around the fire pit in the social area – chatting, and stepping in to prevent the children from getting too Lord of the Flies when necessary.

After a lazy sort of morning in the tent, we eventually got up and found that the morning was gorgeous and clear, and congratulated ourselves on winning the weather forecast lottery.

After a delicious and fulfilling breakfast of a Clif Bar, I set off to run the alpine loop while the menfolk went for a hike. I shot straight up to Wiwaxy Gap, trying to make up a little time after a late start.

Then it was over to Lake Oesa, which I’d never seen before, and it was at about this point I began to realise just how beautiful this area was. We’d been up to Lake O’Hara before, but never much higher, and higher is really where it’s at.

From Lake Oesa, a trail through the scree lured me around to the Yukness Ledges Alpine Route.

I was surprised how much of the alpine routes were runnable. Although I spent a lot of time distracted by the scenery, and not running at all. And I couldn’t bring myself to put my camera away, which made running a little more awkward anyway.

Then it was down to Hungabee Lakes, and through a little nest of lakes that had drawn herds of photographers to them like bees to some particular bright coloured and pollen laden flowers. It wasn’t just photogenic, it felt like a dream. It was the sort of place that made me just want to stop and lie down and gaze at the world in wonder.

And yet, I kept running. Up along All Souls’ Alpine Route, and a quick stop at All Soul’s Prospect.

Then down, down down, and as fast as I could go back to camp. There I tagged off Alex who took off on his own run.

The boy had already been out for a hike, so we sat and lunched, and he played with Kati. There was chatting, and relaxing in the sun, and then more food and lazing.

Alex made it back in time for us to catch the 4.30pm bus, so we jumped on it. Although it was running about 10 minutes late, I managed to retrive my road bike and be ready to start pedalling at around 5.20pm.

I had some lights for the bike. I wasn’t sure how good they would be, but as long as I didn’t dawdle too much, I figured I shouldn’t have to do too much riding in the dark. The up-side of riding uphill most of the way there though, was that it really was downhill nearly all the way home. And not raining! And reasonably warm! And basically a perfect calm, clear September evening. It was hero riding weather, and I enjoyed every pedal stroke.

I even made the 95km home without having to turn my lights on!

canada general hiking trail running

Out to Citadel Pass

More Autumn running. This time driving up to Sunshine Village around the time of the last bus, and then leaving Moosling and Grandma Moose by Rock Isle Lake, Alex and I ran out to Citadel Pass. Aaaaallllll the way this time.

The larches were bright yellow, and there were only two other people on the entire trail.

By the time we reached Citadel Pass the sun was starting to hide behind the peaks.

On the way home I managed to crash at one point, clipping my foot on a rock, and doing an impressive superman dive onto my chest. I was winded, but thankfully no bears or cougars came to eat me while I was lying on the ground trying to regain my breath.

A fantastic 20km return run from Sunshine Village.

bikes canada

making a crunchy pudding from the bones of americans

Driving to work along the highway this morning: notice leaves are looking increasingly yellow. Combined with snow on surrounding peaks, begin to suspect it isn’t Summer any more. Contemplate purchasing worm farm. Will not help fend off approaching winter months, but will reduce production of bags of rubbish. Also will be able to have pet outside-worms, which is considerable bonus. Resolve to raise the issue at next board meeting.


Up at Whiteman’s Gap, feeling the breeze of a surprise chinook as the sun sets


Watch WALL-E and Get Smart, and am amused by both. No repeat of the hiding-under-blankets incident which followed viewing of Dark Knight. Ponder whether the Autumn will drive away the swarms of RVs which seem to come to the mountains to breed during the Summer months. Will continue my efforts to monitor the behaviour of this strange species.

climbing general hiking trip reports

rewind – the colorado story

So, I’ll take a break from packing my bags for the trip back to Australia to give a rewind account of the Colorado adventure.

Flying into Colorado, we had some trouble adjusting to the fact it was flat. Really flat. All through Denver and Boulder, up until the point where it suddenly shot up to about 10,000 feet. We’d been hoping to climb the Third Flatiron that night, but we were tired, and weren’t sure about the descent, so we decided to eat lots of food and sleep instead.

the flatirons

As the moon was peeking above the horizon on the evening of Day Two, we were hiking up to the base of the Third Flatiron. By the time we started climbing the moon was hanging low above Boulder, looking enormous and red. The climb we did was the Standard East Face Route – 5.4R. Although the gear was a bit sparse, the belays all involved a single enormous eyebolt, that has probably been there since the days people were doing the route in top hats and crinoline frocks. Climbing by moonlight was amazing – headlights only needed to search for eyebolts, and the occasional foothold. And somehow, all 8 pitches and descent were completed without epic-ing. So we retired to spend another night in our van in the Walmart carpark (did I mention our rental car was upgraded to a van? Vans are the best roadtripping vehicles ever, why have I not done this before?).

Day Three took us to the Longs Peak campground, at 9000 feet or so, where we wandered part way up the trail towards Longs Peak. Day Four, and we decided to head out to Lumpy Ridge (outside of Estes Park) to do some climbing. This plan was going well until we’d hiked a couple of hundred metres towards the cliffs, realised how much further we had to go, and how much harder hauling all this gear around seemed at altitude. A quick change of plans, and the rest of the afternoon was spent bouldering and lazing around.

twin owls

Day Five brought the epic ascent of Longs Peak (14,261 feet), a story that will be told another day. Suffice to say, we got up the mountain. Day Six, and we drove out through Rocky Mountain National Park towards Leadville. Everything was ridiculously picturesque, and I became angered when I realised we were driving along a stretch of road that was pretty much half as high again as anywhere in Australia.

All throughout Colorado, there were patches of bright yellow aspen trees contrasting against the dark green of the fir trees.

aspen trees

Then after leaving Rocky Mountain NP, on our way to Leadville, we stop off at a town called Hot Sulphur Springs – and guess what?

hot sulphur springs

We stopped in Leadville for dinner, then took our trusty van out on the dirt track to the Mt Elbert trailhead.

colorado hay balse

Day Seven dawned, looking unpleasant and foggy. Eh, the mountain will still be there later in the day. We kept sleeping. Eventually we started out, finally break through the sea of clouds, and have the spectacular view of the surrounding 14ers. Several false summits later, and lots of snow, and we arrive at the summit of Mt Elbert, at 14,440 ft, the highest mountain in Colorado.

mt elbert

We are greeted by a hoard of ominous looking clouds, and scarper back down to the carpark, where we start heading back towards Boulder.

mount elbert views

Our final day in Colorado, and we head to Eldorado Canyon, just outside of Boulder. A lazy day, we climb two pitches of 5.6, a climb called Calypso. Then Boer dislodged an enormous boulder as we make our way down the descent, and we decide to call it a day. Time for more food.