Monday, July 27, 2009

Time to Taper

I do my big 100-mile (160 km) race weekend after next (it sounds a lot further when I say it in kilometers so I think I'll just keep referring to it in miles!)

I can't honestly say that I've been doing any specific training for it except for getting out into the mountains and "just running" so it will be interesting to see what happens. My longest race so far is the Canadian Death Race which was 125 km. So, it's only another marathon on top of that. Yikes!

Oh well, I'll do my best! I've got no emotional attachment to this race which makes me feel pretty good; it's more of a morbid curiosity at this point as to what's going to happen to my body!! Hopefully it doesn't break as I've still got a long list of runs I want to do before the snow flies (which isn't actually that far away!)

Sunday, July 19, 2009


When the forecast was predicting 30 degrees (86 for our Southern friends) and a fire ball of sunshine for this weekend, I knew that I wouldn't be going too far from home. It's not very often it hits 30 degrees in Banff and I wanted to be sure to get a piece of the heat! So after considering various options, I decided to run from Sunshine to Mt Assinboine, camp overnight, and then run back out the next morning. The 29 km to Lake Magog was a lovely mixture of alpine meadows, forests, funky rocks and beautiful views of the Canadian Rockies' own version of the Matterhorn. It was a toss up where to camp but the mosquitos were pretty bad at Lake Magog so I ran back to Og Lake where it is more exposed. After a yummy breakfast, I hot-footed it back to Sunshine Meadows and enjoyed every minute of the 22 km trail. It was hard to believe that I was back in my house by mid morning - very civilized!

Mt Assinboine
My campsite for the evening.
Another fab-o weekend!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Rockwall

The Rockwall makes for a classic run. You have the choice of running the whole thing (55km) or doing some smaller loops. Whatever you choose, you'll come away happy because the views are STUNNING! Steve and myself decided to do the full 55 km and thanks to Leslie, Keith & Miles who were doing a run in the same area, we were able to drop our car off at the ending point and then get a lift to the starting point. What a great place to spend the day!!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Day 3: Poligne Creek-Maligne Pass-Maligne Lake

Avalanche campsite is in a pretty location next to the creek and was deserted so I had a choice of where to pitch my tent.
And how's this for a dunny (toilet)? The high back and sides give you plenty of privacy and they're way better than those shed-type drop toilets where it's pitch dark inside and smelly.

After breakfast, I started towards Maligne Pass where I could see the clouds starting to look threatening. There had been days of rain on the forecast so I wasn't surprised but was hoping that it would blow over.Maligne Pass is another beautiful area but as soon as you head over the other side, you start entering hours and hours of willow meadows and forest trails which becomes very monotonous. The willow bushes vary in height but sometimes I ended up swimming through shoulder height bushes which was quite a slow process. The rain finally came so I put the camera away for the rest of the day and focussed on getting to Maligne Lake. Once I reached Trapper Creek Campsite, there was only another 5 km to go and thankfully, the trail turned into a beautiful forest run which almost looked sub tropical in the rain.

I reached Maligne Lake at 4.00 pm and decided it would be best to skip running the Skyline Trail as originally planned as there was still quite a bit of snow on the Notch and the clouds were low so I wouldn't be able to see anything from up there. It only takes 4 hours to drive to Jasper from Banff so I can head back to do that run some other time.

It was strange popping out at Maligne Lake as it's quite a big tourist attraction and I felt out of place amongst the holiday makers. I felt really pleased with my trip and was already starting to wonder where else I could go - preferably for a lot longer next time.

Day 2: Nigel Pass-Jonas Pass-Poligne Creek

Not the best night's sleep as I woke up cold a few times, and not having eaten the night before probably didn't help. I was camped in a beautiful area and it was lovely to get up and see the mountains and hear the creek running nearby. I love being in a tent. When I lived in Nepal, I worked as a trekking guide so would spend the season taking hiking groups into the different regions of the Himalaya, camping in a tent for up to 3 weeks at a time, and from there I moved to a beach in Southern Thailand where home was yet another tent ... good days.

After getting up, I boiled some water and had my oatmeal and coffee and slowly packed up. After bidding my campspot goodbye, I headed off towards Boulder Creek.

I bumped into a couple at Boulder Creek Campground who were surprised to see me out running, especially as it was only 7 o'clock in the morning! After Four Point Campground, the trail takes you into a forested area and you gain a lot of elevation. Coming out into the open meadows of Jonas Pass is very sweet as it is long and very beautiful.
After enjoying the meadows, it was time to start climbing again, this time up to Jonas Shoulder. The one side of the shoulder was free of snow but the other side still had quite a bit on it so getting over to the next valley was a bit nerve wracking as it meant traversing a fairly steep, snowy slope. I took my time working out the best route to take and weighed up the risks and then moved as quickly as possible. I had realized when I was out on my own the weekend before that it wouldn't be an animal that would give me a problem, it would the natural environment. So, I made sure I was as careful as possible, knowing in the back of my head that something as simple as a twisted ankle would be a big problem out here.After getting over the shoulder, it was time for some more sweet meadow running before hitting the forest trails that would take me to my second campsite at Avalanche.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Day 1: Norman Creek-Cataract Pass-Nigel Pass

My buddy, Mike, joined me for the first day to see me off on my merry way. After grunting up the Norman Creek trail, it was a relief to see meadows so that we could start running but with the pack, it was harder than I expected. After enjoying the views from Sunset Pass, we headed down to Pinto Lake, climbing over lots of deadfall on the way where we were rewarded with the sight of a moose and her calf.

After consulting the map, we headed up Cataract Creek where we found a faint trail to follow. I knew this area would be the most remote and difficult to navigate through so I was surprised when we came across a defined trail but this ended very quickly and gave way to either no trail or sometimes a faint trail. Passing lots of grizzly digs and wolf prints, we kept heading in the general direction of where we thought Cataract Pass would be but once the landscape opened up, we realized that we had lots of options in regard to which route to take.

After struggling up to a ridge that we thought might be Cataract Pass, we realized that we needed to be further over in the valley. Oh well, at least we were rewarded with this amazing view!!

By the time we reached the Pass, I knew that Mike had to get out of there as quickly as possible if he was going to reach the Parkway by dark. He then had to head down the road as the car was still at the trailhead. So, as soon as we got ourselves down off the Pass, we split up. Mike zoomed off in the dusk and I sat, exhausted, on a rock trying to find enough energy to get to my first campsite. However, I was done. It'd been a long day and I was wiped out so I decided to do some random camping in the meadows. After finding a spot nestled amongst the trees, I pitched my tent and crashed for the night.

Made it!

Well, I made it to Jasper in 3 days (not too sure on mileage but somewhere near 140 km I think). And it was fabulous! Once I reached Maligne Lake, I was intending on continuing up and over the Skyline Trail but unfortunately the weather had turned and it was pouring rain with very low cloud coverage. I don't mind the rain (being a Brit!) but being up on a ridge isn't the smartest place to be in those type of conditions so I had to end the trip at Maligne Lake instead. I'll go back and do the Skyline once we get better weather. I felt a little at a loss as to what to do next as I was wanting to stay out for longer, but that's the way it goes. Mother Nature will always have the final word. Trail report and photos to follow.