Monday, January 31, 2005


This last week I was down in Two Medicine trying to test out my new skis. While there was no snow, there were quite a number of nice looking ice lines. To be more precise, there were a number of what had been nice looking ice lines. The most impressive of these was a trio of tough looking alpine routes on the south face of Sinopah (pictured below)

You may need a closer look to see the remains of the lines. The 1st line looked to have a two pitch base on the outside of an arete - quite unusual. It then went through a few hundred meters of snow before getting into a steep smear. Hopefully the smear fleshes out with better weather because it was just verglass. Route number two had a look of a classic ice line. Again close to two pictches. Route 3 seemed to have some possible potential. It would be more a gully route. I am not sure what the upper sections would be like.

The other nice line I saw was over on Red Eagle Mountain at St. Mary's. There is a nice grade 3 ish gully that can be seen from the Sun Point gate. Unfortunately it isn't completely formed. Also you would have to cross the lake to get to it. The ice climbs north of the visitor center were, surprisingly enough, still present. While only the big smear had ice throughout, I am surprised at how good they are for the weather.

Friday, January 28, 2005


I was up in Waterton today, and it was incredible!! (see the above picture for conditions) All the ice is gone off the compound gullies. I can't imagine there is even an icecicle left on the Cameron Highway. People are reporting that the parking lot at Cameron lake is completely bare. So what should you do this weekend?

While a rock route up the hump is sure tempting, perhaps this would be a perfect time to take a drive up the Chief Mountain Highway. I don't know of another year where one was able to drive all the way up to the border at this time of year. As you can see in the picture below (taken Jan 28th 2005), the road is bare. I was tempted to pull out the kayak and go for a shallow trip down the upper belly. With the sun low on the horizon, views up into Michewabum are great. Perhaps a hike up into Belly River is in order.

Well, perhpas we will have to see about that. I may end up heading up the ridge just north of yarrow, or wandering down to Augusta. I guess we will see!

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Kintla Explorations

A number of years ago I was employed for the summer by a small mineral exploration company to prospect the south-western most region of British Columbia. While growing up I had head of a short lived gold rush which had taken place in the 1930’s and felt that the Kintla water shed would be a good area to check out.

While scrambling around some of the peaks in the area, my father and I spotted an interesting formation across the valley, high up on the north side of Starvation Peak. Bushwhacking down an up the Starvation valley, I eventually reached an open talus slope about a thousand feet above the valley floow. As I followed some malachite staining on the rocks, I was led higher and higher up the cliff side. After several hundred feet of scrambling I saw a beautiful sample across a large gully, out on an exposed face. I carefully edged my way toward the sample, crossing a small, loose scree slope perched above a thousand foot high cliff.

I could see some nice staining and other mineralogical signs in one of the cliff beds. Unfortunately, getting out onto this face required some serious climbing. Luckily, I found a small ledge that went near my desired sample, before it petering out. After all the hard work I had done getting up the mountain, and with my father watching with binoculars from across the valley, I decided a little bit of exposure wasn’t going to stop me from getting my sample. I moved out onto the face along a series of small, loose footholds. I kicked the moss and loose rock off a couple of indentations to make a stable, albeit, exposed stance. I removed my rock hammer and attempted to pry loose a few pieces of rock to get a clean sample. Unfortunately the location of the sample was the one spot on the cliff where the rock wouldn’t just come apart in your hands. I began to lightly tap on a protuberance to try and fracture it. It broke off rather nicely, but fell before I could catch it. I watched it bounce a few thousand feet down the cliff to the meadow far below. I tried again.

This time I removed my left hand from its hold and placed it under the section I was going to sample. With my left hand ready to catch the rock, and my right hand holding the hammer, I began to very gently tap the rock. However, I’d already knocked off the more friable rock, and quickly realized that I would need to put more force into the blows. I grasped the nubbin I was planning on breaking off, raised my rock hammer over my head and swung. The next things I knew, my feet had lost contact with the rock and I was dropping down a short, steep talus slope. As I hit I started skidding down a steep gully, coming to rest some ten or fifteen feet above one of the main vertical sections of the thousand foot face. Most of the loose shale that had slowed me down continued to bound down to the valley floor below, taking several minutes to come to rest.

Collecting myself, I scrambled back up the scree to the face from which I had just fallen. After traversing across the face again, I spent a few minutes brushing away loose rock to improve my footing. Once again I tried a few rather tentative swings to no avail. I very carefully repositioned myself and prepared for a harder strike. Still being on a bit of an adrenaline rush, I was surprised when I realized I was again sliding down the same gully to the large drop off below. This time I had somehow twisted in the air, and was sliding down the slope face first. I desperately dug my hands and heels into the scree, but the slope had been swept clean by my first fall. Luckily the stays on my old wooden framed Trapper Nelson must have dug into the dirt because I stopped about five feet before the cliff face. By now adrenaline was really rushing though my system. I had to sit on the edge of the cliff for a few minutes before my legs would stop quivering.

With an ominous glance back down the cliff below, I slowly, and carefully worked my way back up the gully. At the cliff face, I stopped, and looked over at my reticent sample. Again I took a few minutes to collect myself. This time I very, very carefully worked my way across the cliff into the same position I had previously been in. I positioned myself as solidly as I could and raised my rock hammer. With the hammer in the air, ready for another blow, a semblance of wisdom finally glimmered within. I thought “three strikes and you’re out.” I lowered my hammer, looked down at the exposure below, and worked my way back onto more stable ground. From there I carefully descended down the mountain into alpine fields of glacier lilies and burrowing grizzilies.

David Goble

Wind Storm

With the high winds at the start of the chinook it seems like one of the garages of the houses near crooked creek had the roof torn off. I beleive it was Wendy's place (from Zumburger house). I will see if I can get a picture of it posted.

Knight's Lake

I recently over heard someone saying that the park was bubbling Knight's Lake (Lower Waterton) over the winter to prevent a fish kill. Has any one heard if this is true or not. I don't imagine the warm weather will make this necessary, I was more jsut wondering out of curiosity.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Conditions Jan 23rd -Jan 30th

After the poor conditions reported by Dave and Blair maybe one should take their rock shoes out on the Hump. After all, the rock does get surprisingly warm with the daily sun. I know I have gone up there a few times during the chinooks and had a pleasant day.

While driving to work this morning I got moon lit look at the compound gullies. The bottom pitches are out. The upper pitch on the right is gone. The upper pitch on the left looks like it is still in good shape. However, I am sure it is getting quite mushy. With the ice gone, a walk up to Crypt should prove productive. That is a chilly valley in the winter. I would doubt that Burnt Rock Pillar or whatever it is called on the various maps is out. The headwall should still be quite good though. I would also guess the same would apply to Sullivan's and to the Midnight Express area. I wonder about how well Lineham left stands up in the chinooks. It tends to get a lot of water flowing down it.

Hot Springs

Waterton Hotsprings?

The other day I paid my first visit to the Banff hot springs. I was surprised how enjoyable they were. While basically just a hot water pool, the atmosphere wasn’t quite as sanguine as I thought it was going to be. Although I wonder if part of that was due to the cute bikini clad blonde I got to sit next to. Actually it was quite enjoyable being able to relax outside with a decent view of Rundle in the background. Which brings me to my next question, where is a poor fishy white frozen watertonite supposed to go for sulphuric fun?

I beleive the Lodge still has their fitness center open this year. While frequently broken for long spells, the hot tub there makes for a nice rest. Unfortunately they never did get the layout of the buildings quite right when it was desinged. Also the windows tend to steam over, watering down the views of Bear’s Hump.

Lussier Hot Springs is about 6 hours or so away near the town of Canal Flats. It has a decent sized pool that is fairly accesible and usually quite busy. Giblratar wall isn’t that far away. Also the skiing up by top of the world is supposed to be quite nice.

Lussier Hot Springs

Dewar Springs is a summer time option. Although the small pool size, and burning water makes enjoying them a bit of work.

For those that don’t mind a long approach to poach a privately owned spring, Three Medicine Springs at the head of Gibson’s reservoir is an option. So far I have only wandered by it twice. Since both those trips were in the day, I didn’t have the guts to wander around in front of the dude ranch looking for the exact location. If the reservoir freezes, this could be a nice ski trip. The back country valleys are quite open, and there is lots of gentle touring terrain further up the main valleys.

The natural springs around the Missoula area are my personal favorites. They are about an 8h drive from Waterton. The three pools at Jerry Johnson are usually crowded, and for good reason. Located at 50m apart, each has a unique feel. One is in a small gravel bed in an open field, another is under trees in a pine canopy, and the last is high among boulders looking out on a meadow. The trailhead is well marked.

Upper Pool at Jerry Johnson

If you are in the area, Weir Creek is my favorite. it has a nice setting up a hillside in the trees. The water in these areas is also a lot less murky than even Lussier.

Weir Creek

For all the information, try Hiking Hot Springs in the Pacific Northwest. It has good directions, and lots of info.

Friday, January 21, 2005

By Jove, Don’t You Know

In early September 1928, after a hard day in our school, four of us decided to relax by climbing the Hump. There was no trail up the Hump in those years as there is now. Our usual way to the top was on the south side up through the steep coarse talus slope at the base

After admiring the view up the valley, the two Pittaway boys, Bert and Jack, and my older brother Clint and I noticed how messy the place looked. There were boulders lying all over. Being good house keepers, we decided to do some house cleaning. We’d get rid of some of the rocks that were cluttering the place.

The small rocks were easy to move, but they didn’t make much noise when we turned them loose from the top. They usually hit once or twice then disintegrated into small pieces.

There were some big rectangular boulders lying here and there and we went to work on one that was nearest to the more or less sheer face. It took some hard work to get it moving down the gradual incline that topped the cliff, but once it started moving the result was spectacular - it bounced out into the air in a free fall, making a gratifying whir as it fell, striking the talus below with a terrific crash before gradually coming to a stop near the edge of the Akamina Road.

Two more of the bigger rocks soon joined the first one down below, and we had a fourth one just starting to move by itself when we heard a loud yell and looked down to see the park superintendent, Bert Knight, whose house was located in the trees beyond the road standing there waving his arms and yelling something at us. He had picked a bad time to come up onto the road – the rock was already on its way. It rolled slowly, bounced out, whirred down, hit the talus slope, continued heading directly for Mr. Knight. Fortunately for him, he had the good sense not to try to outrun the fast moving boulder. He ran up the road. It passed behind him and disappeared into the trees.

A car started up the Akamina road, stopped, and two park wardens got out, looked up to the top of the Hump. We decided it was time to vacate that place and move on to some new territory in a hurry.

We left the Hump on the run, headed west for several hundred yards, above the big gray cliff that skirts the base of the mountain. When we thought we had enough distance, we cut down toward the road, crossed the creek, went up the other side to the Alderson trail and started running down it. We left the trail, and cut across the mountain (Bertha). Bert, being the fastest runner, was in the lead. As he passed a big spruce tree, a bear that had been sleeping there jumped up startled. It started woo-oo-oo-ffing, saw the rest of us coming and decided it had better start moving. This is did right on the heels of Bert.

With the bear in the midst of our group, we continued on across the base of the mountain, through the trees and the underbrush, heading for the Bertha trail. It occurred to us running in the rear, that with the bear out in front, this would be a good opportunity to turn him, run him through the campground and make him swim the lake. As a rule, when we were doing this, we had to spend an hour or two hunting around the campground for a bear. This one had already volunteered.

Bert, covering ground fast, seemed undecided as to who was chasing whom. It must have occurred to him that with the bear behind him instead of out in front as usual, he would not have any room to maneuver on the lake shore. However, the other three of us weren’t at all worried about this.

After a while, those of us in the rear figured the bear must be enjoying himself. Perhaps he liked running after Bert this way. He had made no attempt to turn off to one side or another, or to climb a tree as they usually did. He just loped along behind Bert and ahead of the rest of us.

We passes the police barracks, and continued on down Main Street. A car turned the corner into the street, stopped, and the driver got out. We saw that it was the park superintendent.

Bert stopped beside Mr. Knight. The bear turned away toward the lake shore. The three of us pounded up to where Mr. Knight and Bert were standing. “By Jove boys, don’t you know! By Jove! That was a brave thing you did, rescuing Bert that way! By Jove!”

Well, we were surprised at this. Here, after seeing Mr. Knight, we thought the least we’d get would be a good lecture about chasing bears, and possibly some questions about rock rolling, but there he was congratulating us for “saving Bert”. We didn’t enlighten him, figuring the less we said, the better.

Frank Goble

Monday, January 17, 2005

Quick & Dirty

Saturday Rob, Jessica, Dave and myself climbed Quick & Dirty and then continued on up the gully to climb the upper falls (can't remember the name of it). It's worth the hike and i'm sure the others would agree with me. The first bit is steep and then angles back and becomes stepped to the top. Bottom peice is grade 4 and then levels off to grade 3 and is about 40 meters.

Friday, January 14, 2005

I like warm weather

The other week I managed to make it back to the Park. Coming from Lethbridge, I was surprised at how much warmer it was in the town site. While part of this is no doubt due to the moderating effect of water on local climate, I have heard that the Waterton area gets a subtle shift in micro-climate, presumably due to warm moist air coming over from Oregon. From what I have heard, Waterton sits at the intersection of a number of different general weather patterns. For instance, the area south of the Crowsnest Pass usually gets slightly different weather than that north of the Pass. Also, if you get much south of Browning, the patterns change again. Most people also recognize that heading over to Fernie can also result in quite different weather. While this isn't noticeable in big fronts, the subtle differences, presumably add up.

So, what good is this you ask? Well this has meant that during the last minor ice age, Waterton and Cypress hill managed to escape total devastation. In Waterton, this has meant a rather strong base of genetic diversity. In particular, I remember talking to some researchers who indicated that the gizzilies in Waterton had much more genetic diversity in their population than compared to Banff and other areas. In fact, many of the bears in the north descending through Waterton bears.

So all this cold weather really just has me thinking, if Waterton partially hid out from the last ice age, perhaps it isn’t such a bad place to be if the big freeze is going to stay. While the climate in Alberta may change, I am just glad I am not living at the coldest spot on earth. Of course, the temperature at there right now is only –29C, so I am not sure how much better it is in Lethbridge right now. Well actually I am. It is 1C colder in Alberta! Maybe I just need to find a nice den in which to curl up for during the winter.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Quick and Dirty Conditions

Quick and Dirty is in super condition. The ice straight up the center is thick, blue, and sticky. French Kiss is a little chandeliered and wet on the right side. Pillier is not quite touching down, I gave it a go on Saturday but the ice was super hard. Pearl Necklace is very mushroomed all the way to the top.


Thursday, January 06, 2005

THE MIDDLER (1st Annual Ice Fest 2005)

Without further adue, The Middler - The First Annual Ice Fest 2005 has a proposed date of February 12, 2005. The location, as always, will be Quick And Dirty on the Cameron highway. We are going to try and line up some bbqs and the like. Scott Whiteside from the Ascent climbing center will also be bringing fun and cheer from the wall. Let me know if this works or not for all who are interested. I will be putting out a flyer sometime next week. My email address is (delete the nospam to send).
Cheers Scott

PS icefarmer sorry for ripping off your term but it has a nice ring to it.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Ice Fest Anyone?

Since the conditions for the ice opener were less than dismal, would anyone be interested in having an ice fest day in late January/early February? There was great deal of turn out and I thought it might be good to try another day. It seems our community of southern Alberta climbers is increasing and it would be good to try and connect with others that we don't know. Please post any comments or interest to give an idea of whether to pursue this or not.

On a side note, Dave Fuller, Blair Piggot, and I went out to bridalveil on Jan 3. Things have definitely improved; however, be aware that there are hollow pockets around 5-6 cms deep that proved to be a little frustrating with an ice screw that would not come out. Blair and I had the pleasure of watching Dave crank through a tough lead on pearl necklace.



We are now up at 1600 hits on the blog. On a daily basis we average about 40 page loads and 20 unique visitors. The 17th and 19th of December have been the busiest with 136 and 132 page loads respectively and 88 and 58 unique visitors. SO far no day single day seems to be much busier than any others.

If you are wanting a source for free stats for your webpage, try Stat Counter. It has fairly detailed stats that can give you a good idea what is bringing people to your site. Plus, you don't need to have an annoying counter.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Best of the Banff Film Fest

The best of the film fest is on again this Tuesday and Wednesday at the Lethbridge Library. For more information, check the schedule of film dates. For film clips click here

For those that have seen it, what were some the unexpected gems? I still remember "Beserk in the Antaractic" from a few years back as one of the most interesting films I have seen. I may just have to order a copy of that one. While there is a book about the trip. I still think the movie can't be beat.

Email me