Saturday, August 15, 2009

SKYLINER HIKERS DAY 3 WEDNESDAY AUGUST 5, 2009 - a day in camp and several more challenges

By Wednesday the weather had started to improve but despite a good night's sleep I still was feeling down in the dumps and would be staying in camp but another chain of events had unfolded while most of us were sleeping.

The first that most of the camp knew that something may be wrong was when we heard a helicopter overhead - while they often pass over the camp and the Ranger could come in that way this one was landing at 7AM which is our usual wake up call - a new form of a wake call for all of us.

The short story is that one of our campers took ill during the night and decision was made to medivac her and her husband out to Canmore for follow up treatment. So we are now down to 52 campers and her husband was also one of our hike leaders so that meant more changes to today's trips.

We have satellite radio in camp so when the incident occurred it was just a case of contacting Parks Canada and they arranged for the copter to come into camp.

I don't have a follow up report of the condition of the hiker.

This is the first time in all of my camps that we have had to medivac someone out - in a strange quirk there was also a medivac in the previous week's camp - in that case someone slipped a disk in their back and couldn't walk out.

The cost of the medivac is usually covered by Parks Canada as part of the backcountry access fee that we pay in our fees - otherwise the Skyliners pick up the tab.

After getting all the hikes out for the day I return to my tent and spend the rest of the day recouping and strengthening my mental state - towards the afternoon I am feeling better and join some of the happy hoursgang - have 2 beers and then started to feel even better.

But that was not the end of my woes - while chewing on an apple another one of my front teeth came out - I have three rebuilt upper front teeth - two are crowns and one a regular filling - the regular filling had already fallen out before camp and now one of the crowns has come loose - not the first time it has come out. Must remember not to smile with the mouth opened too much.

Below are some camp scenes taken throughout my time in camp.

This is the tent for the medic in camp - the red cross makes it easy for the campers to find if necessary.

The Skyline teepee is the official mascot of all the camps - up until the 1960's teepee's were used in the camps.

One of the two entrance gates to the camp - an electric fence rings the camp to discourage wildlife from entering the camp.
The tents are in several clusters - usually more to do with flat ground than anything else - as this is only the 2nd time the Skyliners have been in the area the camp area isn't as chewed up as some of the others.

The donut - our nightly meeting place - flags from many of the countries that hikers have come from are displayed.

Looking out from camp - the bridge crosses Cross creek in camp - separates our eating and outfitters area from our sleeping area - that's Whiteman Mountain in the distance - while the weather was improving it was still more cloud than sun.

That is our water pump and filter with some of the tents in the background.
I use the creek to keep my refreshment cool - as long as it is below our water source we are able to do this and also dip our feet into the creek - most used a spot just outside the main camp gate for their "bathing and foot relaxation "

Hikers arriving back head for the dining hall - for hot water, coffee and cookies.
I had a fire going all day - wanted to dry out some of the wet clothes - my tent mate Peter was appreciative of this - it doesn't take too long for the small pot belly stoves to warm up the tent.
Supper was pork roast, potatoes, veggies etc.
Next up - another attempt to reach Azure Lake.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Today turned out to be one of the wetter days that I have had for some time at Skyline Camps.

The thunder and lightning storm persisted through the night and into the next day. This also meant a juggling of the hikes as many couldn't be done safely because you are on exposed ridges.

First of all we postponed by an hour the departure of the trips in the hope that the weather would clear. It didn't clear at all but the rain and thunder did stop in the afternoon.

I changed my hike to Pass Lake instead of Azure Lake - it is only about 2km but with a climb to Whiteman Pass and then a drop to the Lake.

Leaving camp with the rain gear and heading for Whiteman Pass and Pass Lake.

There is a great array of alpine wildflowers along the trail to the Pass - the trail is slippery from the rain but we seem to be making fairly good time.

After about 25 minutes of hiking we arrive at the Continental Divide at Whiteman Pass - elevation 2175 meters or approx 7200' - we don't see much as it is pretty much socked in.

First look at the meadow as we near Pass Lake.

There are two parts to the Lake - this is the smaller of the two.

Looking at the main part of Pass Lake.

We stop at the outlet stream for our lunch with some trees providing us with some shelter from the rain and wind.

More of the flowers that were near where we stopped for lunch.

There is a small canyon and waterfall at the outlet - this is a brief glimpse of the waterfall - because of the conditions we didn't explore any further down the trail and the canyon.
Around 1:30PM the rain stopped - I lead the group back to camp - despite the weather all but a couple of the 54 in camp actually got some hiking in - two groups went up to Cross Lake - the other short hike that was easy to do in bad weather.
Tuesday evening the first of the trip reports were given and all the new first time hikers were given their Skyline Hikers membership cards.
While the day went fairly well considering the weather conditions I was starting to fell under the weather.
I suffer from some mild depression and anxiety attacks and despite meds occasionally suffer from bouts of fatigue - unfortunately for me I started to have the symptoms near the end of the day - despite lots of encouragement from my fellow hikers I did help with the trip reports but decided not to lead a hike tomorrow as I may stay in camp. My bouts with fatigue usually only lasts about 24 - 36 hours - with all the excitement of the first two days I was not surprised that I had an outbreak - hopefully as things stabilize in camp I will get back to being my usually self.
Next up - a day in camp and a surprise visitor

SKYLINE HIKERS WHITEMAN PASS CAMP AUG 3- 7, 2009 Pre-camp and the trip in


All Skyline Hikers camps actually start on the Sunday before the actual trip into camp - we use the Banff Y as our meeting point - most years we drop off our duffel in the morning and then attend an information meeting in the evening - this year due to our location, different wrangler, use of school buses etc we didn't need to check the duffel - just ourselves and attend the meeting.

It was also a sad time for many of us regulars - we received news that long time Camp 4 Hostess and Skyline member - Virigina Klatzel had passed away a few days before camp - while I knew that she had been battling cancer I wasn't aware that her condition was a grave as it was.

Also found out that another Week 4 regular and provider of comic relief at the nightly reports, Don Watts wouldn't be attending as he had another heart attack about three weeks before camp - he had bypass surgery and is expected to make a full recovery and hopefully join us again next year.

We also don't have one of our co-hike leaders in camp because of visa/green card issues in the US. As events unfolded this would create another major challenge for us.

All camps have a host/hostess, music director, hike leader and medical person - usually it is a doctor but this week it was a para-medic from Calgary.

We have 55 participants this year - a full camp but we will end the week with only 52 - details will be given as the events unfolded. There are 23 new members which is about normal for this camp. The ladies far outnumber the guys.


After arranging for my duffel to be transported to the Banff train station with the Counts family I walk the short distance to this meeting point with a fairly heavy day pack. There are two buses this week - while one school bus could accomodate all of us with the duffel stuffed in the back we needed the two buses. One bus picked up some of the hikers in Canmore and a few more at the Jay Street parking compound where many left there vehicles for the week . Because I am staying over on Saturday night at the Y they have let me keep my truck there for the week. The second bus loaded us up at the Banff train station - the drivers of the two buses had done all of the previous trips so they are very aware of the road conditions This year we are being transported by school because we have 46 kms of rough logging road to get to the trail head at the top of the Cross Creek Forest Service Road near Radium BC.

For the first time in many, many years our camp is located in BC and not Alberta - albeit we are only a km from the boundary and can clearly see the Continental Divide above the Camp.

Since we are using school buses which don't have washroom facilities and it is a three hour trip to trail head there is one scheduled rest break at the Kootenay Crossing picnic area on Highway 93 between Banff and Radium.

Here's what we are doing at the rest stop - it was nice and sunny and we had about a fifteen minute break - that was the only stop that was needed until trail head.

After about three hours of bus travel we arrive at trail head and see the pack horses ready to take our duffel the short 4km into camp. Other than one small creek flowing across the road the buses made the trip to trail head without incident.

We ourselves are preparing for the trip in - there will be five groups of about 10-11 hikers going in about 10 -15 minutes apart - the slowest start out first - I am leading a moderately paced group in. All day leaders carry radios in case of any problems.

While the last of the duffel was be loaded onto the horses the first group of hikers start the trip in.

The first part of the trip is down the road and along a logging spur until we reach this bridge and the start of the proper trail up to camp.
One of our slow hikers is our Camp's chief hike leader - now 80 he wants this to be his last camp and last one as Chief Hike Leader - but it wasn't to be - about 20 minutes into the hike the radios came to life that he was having serious walking problems - his legs were really sore - on the advice of the medic he decided to abort his trip into camp - but this then created two more challenges - one taking him back to trail head and getting him back to Banff - he was escorted by four of the other hikers back to trail head where they waited out a thunderstorm in one of the school buses that had been left at the trail head. One of the wranglers would later drive him back to his car in Banff.
Now we had no Chief Hike Leader - only co-leader Tony. More on that later.

The trail climbs steeply for its entire distance - we have two more crossings of the Creek - at the second one we have a short lunch break - protocol dictates that you can't pass the group ahead of you on the trip in as we have to wait for the final group and the camp host/hostess to welcome us to camp.

The third creek crossing and another break - we are about 1km from camp but still have a fair amount of climbing to do - there are lots of flowers along the trail and the weather is also changing - the thunder clouds are starting to form and a few drops of rain could be felt but it did stay dry until later in the day.

The trail finally levels out and we are now only moments away from our objective.

So after about 2 hours and 45 minutes on the trail - 4kms and 1500' in elevation gain we reach camp in a broad meadow with Cross Creek flowing through it and the massifs of Whiteman and Red Man Mountains looming over us.
Once in camp I retrieve my duffel and get my tent assignments from our host/hostess - Dawn and Geoff - I am paired with a gent from Pickering, Ontario - Peter G - a couple of years younger than myself.
One casualty of the trip in was one of my tins of pop which burst - didn't do a lot of damage - just made a bit of a sticky mess.
As one of the more veteran members of this camp and one with some experience in the trip planning I am soon asked to help Tony with some of the trip planning chores - one important one is recording how many on each hike and if anyone is in camp - we need to know where all are hikers are.
Before supper we get a heavy and intense thundershower - unlike most of the Province this part has been getting some rain so the forest fire risk is fairly low and we will be allowed to have fires in the stoves in our tents.
At 6PM we get the call for supper - it is chicken, salad, potatoes etc. Great and this year we have a proper cook in camp. A couple of his creations were outstanding. Cooking is done on propane stoves.
The four hikers who took the other hiker out to base camp still aren't into camp but through radio communications they are getting close.
Usually at 7:30PM those interested in leading hikes usually meet to plan the next day's hikes but this is delayed while Tony has his supper - my now the rain has started in earnest - during the previous week's camp they had T-Storms most nights and then it cleared the following morning,
We do finally get a list of hikes planned for tomorrow - in the Chief Hikers log book is a list of the trips and reports that the previous camps have done. There are 15 known hikes - one of the other challenges facing this group of hike leaders is that none of us have been here before - we were scheduled to go in 2003 but had our camp cancelled at the last minute due to a large forest fire and thick smoke a valley away. Jamie's Ridge, Azure Lake and Marmot Pass look popular - I elect to lead a group to Azure - it is an easy to medium hike of some 7km R/T.
Take in the donut - which is our evening meeting place where are inform of any issues and given the list of hikes for the next day.
Next --- a wet and soggy hike to Pass Lake.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Banff - Town views, flowers, Cascade Gardens and a walk to Bow Falls Aug 2, 2009

I spent the Sunday before camp doing the Banff thing - which included taking in the flowers along the Bow River bank, meeting up with other Skyline Hikers, walking along the Bow River to Bow Falls ans watching the rafting companies take there clients down the river to Canmore - I walked across the street and took in the beauty of the Cascade Gardens and then later in the afternoon officially checked in for camp - in the evening we have our final instructions - I took a little stroll after that meeting and then turned in for the evening.

These images reflect my day in Banff.

Hope you have enjoyed this three pages of images and stories of my trip to Banff in August 2009.
I will be posting my Skyline Hikers trip to Whiteman Pass and Cross Creek camp in the next couple of days - expect more text and less images.