Local snowboarders were cruising and carving, jibbing and jumping on February 22 in anticipation of an upcoming slopestyle contest at Marmot Basin.
The Jasper Freeride Snowboard Club is a non-competitive club for young riders, but having the chance to enter a judged event gives the team a chance to improve their snowboarding, said coach Cam Vos.
“The goal is not to win the competition but to go and challenge their skills,” Vos said.
Every Sunday, the group of seven snowboarders--five in the older group, two in the younger--meet at the mid-Chalet at Marmot Basin. From there, they head onto the hill to practice “finding their centre,” as Vos says.
“We start simple with some stance and balance techniques to help find that centre, then we can start going outside their comfort zone.”
And the Freeriders like to push themselves. Jonathon Jesperson, from Hinton, followed his coach off the terrain park’s rainbow rail. He had way too much speed, landed flat, but stuck it all the same.
“That was awesome,” Vos laughed. “He nailed it!”
Kace Ellis, from Jasper, the group’s senior rider, was often leading the charge down Punchbowl, carving the run’s high banks and drifting stylish 180s as he launched off a groomed lip.
“They’re all really good athletes,” Vos said.
The Freeride Club is also about being good people. They’re there to develop as riders, but also as young adults.
“That’s a big thing for us, to have a positive attitude,” Vos said. “Snowboarding is usually an individual sport. It’s nice to have that team aspect, to keep the stoke alive, to push each other.”
Help keep the stoke alive on March 7 by cheering on the Freeride Snowboard Club during the Northern Alberta Slopestyle Series at Marmot Basin.
The Jasper Midget Bearcats put a fine finish on their season February 22 when they beat the Viking Gas Kings 4-1.
The team had their work cut out for them after losing their first playoff game in Viking, 10-3. To cover the spread in the two-game format, the ‘Cats had to win by eight.
“We had a great first period in Viking but we were flat in the second and third,” assistant coach Steve Malcolm said about their road game.
Back in their home building, the Bearcats were determined not to put in a repeat performance. A strong start saw Erik Paukstat bang home a pass from Nathan Poirer to get the game’s first goal. Hard checking by Tristan Nissen and Jake Huckaluck had the Gas Kings on their heels and shut-down defence by Bryn Malcolm and Noah Bangle made it tough for the Viking forwards to get quality chances. When their opponents did get to the slot, Bearcats goalie Jake Melanson shut the door.
Paukstat added another from Jack Hilworth and Hilworth tipped one home himself after a booming point shot from Jake Delorme found his stick.
Back in their own end, Melanson’s puck handling was key to setting up the breakout, as the netminder controlled dump-ins and was opportunistic when he saw his forwards with open ice.
“He’s looking more confident with the puck than I’ve seen him all year,” local goalie coach, Ryan Verge, said from his perch in the stands. “It’s awesome.”
Team captain Morgan Poirier was fired up when he slapped home a blistering shot from the point, the ‘Cat’s fourth. It would be the last goal of the Bearcats’ season.
Head coach Tony Bielec said he was happy with how the boys progressed over the course of the year. He noted that much of the team grew up playing hockey together and for Jasper to ice such a strong squad of friends was unique to the league.
“This is a group of kids that largely grew up together, and they were playing in a league with a bunch of other select teams,” he said. “For them to walk in and play and compete at that level and have a lot of success at that level is something I’m really proud of them for.”
Fred Wall’s roots have been showing lately.
The 81-year-old Jasperite, whose grandfather came to Canada from Norway in 1906, finished his 10th long-distance cross country ski event on February 15 when he completed the Canadian Birkebeiner in Edmonton. He placed first in his category.
“It’s pretty easy to be first when there’s only one other person in your category and they didn’t finish,” he laughed.
In truth, there is nothing easy about completing the “Birkie.” The 55 km race (shortened this year to 44 km due to snow conditions) is Canada’s premier cross country ski event. The festival honours the spirit of the Norwegian Birkebeiner legend by requiring competitors ski with a 12-pound pack. The burden signifies two warriors’ carrying of an infant prince to safety, as the legend goes.
“A lot of people give up,” Wall said. “It’s tough.”
But Wall is pretty tough himself. He was cruising around Jasper National Park on skinny skis way before track setting was invented and he was a pioneer backcountry alpine skier in Jasper.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “I enjoy the scenery, I enjoy hitting my maximum and trying to stay there.”
All that skiing has paid off. Wall was not only the sole finisher in his age group, he beat out 59 other younger competitors, too.
“This was the most enjoyable one I’ve done,” he said. “The weather was perfect.”
Wall’s time was five hours and 23 minutes. The other Jasper competitor to complete the full Birkie was Mayor Richard Ireland, who placed 15th out of 27 in his category and came in at just under 4 hours and 54 minutes.
On paper, Saturday’s match between Jasper and Viking in the Midget Tier 1 North Central Hockey League looked like an easy 2 points for the visiting team.
The Bearcats were winless in their previous 10 and were without two key pieces of their squad: physical defenceman Jake Delorme, who was serving a suspension for amassing over 100 penalty minutes; and head coach Tony Bielec, who was sitting out a league-mandated one-game suspension for Delorme’s indiscretions.
The hole in the roster would require extra effort and discipline from the remaining Bearcats. The vacancy left by bench boss Bielec was filled by local hockey sage, Steve Malcolm.
The first period started with good pace from both teams. Scoring chances weren’t plentiful despite a mid-period parade of Viking players to the penalty box. The score sheet was finally inked when Bearcat captain Morgan Poirier fired a one-timer bullet from the point past the Viking goalkeeper. Poirier’s arms raised in triumphant posture seemed to offer his surrounding teammates a reassuring confidence that the captain was willing to carry the extra load.
The Bearcats settled into the second period of play with a loose confidence that allowed them to match up against the visiting squad. Shots were relatively even, but Jasper controlled the possession game, capitalizing on their scoring chances. Bryn Malcolm buried a timely shorthanded goal, and a streaking Tristan Nissen raced wide around a Viking defender and sniped a wrister high glove side to give the Bearcats a 4-0 lead heading into the third.
Jasper played a smart final frame. Strong back-checking forced Viking to abandon team play, and when individual efforts got shots to the net, goalie Chase Thompson made precision positional saves. Another Poirier blast from the point put Jasper comfortably ahead before Viking spoiled Thompson’s shutout bid. Jack Hilworth restored Jasper’s five goal lead one minute later, but the biggest play of the game was yet to come, courtesy of captain Poirier.
With 46 seconds left in a game that had been already decided half a period earlier, the hulking defenceman laid a thunderous hit on a Viking forward. Poirier’s inertia won out over both the forward’s leaner frame and a pane of plexiglass. Bodies hurled, boards shook, glass exploded and fans and players alike erupted at the sight. Play was stopped and Jasper was victorious on home ice.
This year’s Bearcats are not short on physical talent, as intimated by stand-in coach Malcolm after the game.
“They’re capable of playing competitively in a league of larger-statured teams which have greater populations to draw talent from,” he said.
This team has struggled with confidence and the psychology of staying positive through typical hockey adversity. Malcolm hopes that this victory is a springboard to the Bearcat’s last three home games (February 13-15), which will figure prominently in the final league standings.
A splitboarding festival will Ascend Jasper’s slopes for the second time in as many years next month.
Forty five participants will converge on Jasper’s backcountry terrain to ski up, and snowboard down, the March snowpack. Founder and organizer of Ascend Splitboarding Festival, Lucas Matejovsky, said the event is geared for people looking to connect to both Jasper’s backcountry, and to others interested in the sport.
“We want to create a community,” Matejovsky said. “This is a festival for beginner and expert splitboarders alike.”
Building on the success of last year’s event, the weekend’s main draw is the the chance to explore Jasper’s backcountry terrain with certified mountain guides for two days. Social events, incredible draw prizes, presentations and splitboard demos will ensure participants get their money’s worth, Matejovsky said. Off-snow events will be centred at the Astoria Hotel and D’ed Dog Bar.
“Last year the majority of people were really stoked,” he said. “New people who’d never tried splitboarding were excited and those mountain goat types who’ve ridden all across North America were also able to extend their knowledge.”
Splitboards are relatively new to the snow sliding scene. The specialized equipment is used like skis to climb up the mountain, then converted to a snowboard to ride down. Similar to alpine touring, climbing skins are used to grip the snow for the ascent.
Ascend Splitboard Festival takes place March 13-15.
A feeling of foreboding comes over me as I am buzzed through the cold metal door leading to the basement at the Jasper Activity Centre. I descend the staircase, my footsteps echoing in my ears. Silent, save for the humming of floursecent lights, the place feels more than a little institutional. Not knowing what awaits me at the end of the hall, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m headed to the gallows.
One thing I am certain of: I’m about to be punished.
The Fitness Network is geared toward Jasperites who want a quick, intense workout in a fun, motivational setting. There are several classes to choose from, each promising varying degrees of strength-building, cardio-conditioning and circuit-training. I tell myself that the reason I signed up for Rachel Bailey’s noontime Cardio Blast class is because my schedule is typically free on Mondays but deep down I know I am blatantly avoiding the other sessions. A hockey buddy told me of puking up beet juice after taking part in Katy Poirier’s Triple Threat class (at least he hoped it was beet juice) and the thought of keeping up to Lourdes Nunes’ in something called Power Pack makes me laugh, then cry, then stare into space.
Rachel will be nice, I tell myself. After all, she’s got a British accent!
I get changed and arrive in a low-ceilinged room that doubles as a dance studio. Off to the side there are sets of weights (omg) and straight ahead stands a full length mirrors (omfg). Nice Rachel is sharing a laugh with a fellow participant. Are they laughing at my socks, I wonder?
The class starts with some basic aerobics (I say this as though I’ve done basic aerobics before), keeping our feet moving to the high tempo dance music that I hate to admit I find awesome. We jump side to side, back and forth, on one leg, then the other. I think I’m getting the hang of it and Nice Rachel is offering all sorts of encouragement.
“That’s it! Get low!” she chimes.
Still moving to the Chipmunks-do-Shambala beats, we switch over to air boxing maneuvers, jabbing at the mirrors and throwing in some air-upper cuts for good measure. At first I’m keeping pace, but soon my hands are sinking lower and lower, until my punch is less uppercuts and more “aww shucks.”
Thankfully, no one seems to notice my bad form. Nice Rachel, meanwhile, has transformed into Prizefighter Rachel. I take a step towards the back of the room.
The next exercises involve fancy footwork as we simulate skiing and snowboarding stances while jumping to the increasingly fast-paced music. If I was watching myself from a chairlift, I’d probably spit on me. The weights come out next as we replace the hyper activity with slow, deliberate biceps and triceps curls. I had forgotten that I had triceps! For the next two days, I will be reminded of them often.
With 10 minutes left in the class, Nice Rachel is nowhere to be found. Although my eyes remain shut most of the time, when I do open them, all I see is Sadistic Rachel, Cruel-and-Unusual Rachel and Time-Suspending Rachel. Deep squats, lunges and pushups are supposed to transition us into cool-down mode, but the fact is I’m shaking fast enough to mix paint.
“Target those stabilizing muscles,” Wicked Rachel says.
“Mmm hmmm,” I manage to squeak out.
When the last of the exercises are complete and as we return the weights to their rightful place (didn’t sign up for that, btw), I’m approached by a soothing voice from behind me.
“You did awesome,” it says.
Scrutinizing the tone for a hint of sarcasm, I realize the comment is genuine. I turn to look. It’s Nice Rachel. It was her all along.
“See you next week?” she smiles.
Local biker Matt Staneland has successfully defended his title as Alberta’s provincial cyclocross Masters Champion.
Staneland nudged out three of his competitors on October 11 by less than five seconds. The course—a rolling, twisting, 2.5 km circuit at the Three Sisters Disc Golf Course in Canmore—played to Staneland’s mountain biking background. By staying on his bike, he was able to gain a few precious seconds at sharp corners and steep switchbacks—enough to propel him to victory.
“It was an awesome course,” Staneland said. “Fast, fun and chaotic.”
Cyclocross combines elements of mountain biking, cross-county running, hurdles and road cycling. Riders sometimes carry their bikes to negotiate obstacles and ascend steep or muddy paths. Staneland, whose training regimen often attracts strange looks when he sets up homemade steeples in Centennial Park, said it’s a great sport for working folks.
“The races only take about an hour,” he said. “So your training rides can be short and sweet, which is nice if you have a family or work commitments.”
So short on time was Staner during provincials, in fact, that he drove down to Canmore the morning of the race, secured his title as provincial champ, then drove back to Jasper in time for dinner.
“I only took one day off of on-call,” the CNer said.
Later this month, Staneland will have to book off for at least a few days when he travels to Winnipeg for nationals. In the meantime, he’ll take the prolonged biking weather to train.
“It could stay like this all year,” he said, hopping on his bike.
It’s 3:42 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon. Fifteen-year-old Liam Urie is standing on the tee box at the 368 yard par four first hole at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Golf Club.
Decked out in a loose-fitting white golf shirt and brown slacks, his long blond hair spilling from beneath his cap, Liam is showing off his new driver to local golf professional, Stuart Kidon.
“I hit one 310 last round,” he says to Kidon.
“How many times did it hit the cart path?” Kidon chides, eyebrows arched.
After he smacks his drive (slight push, 260 yards by Kidon’s estimate), Liam’s buddies, —Kolby Konsgrud, Bryn Malcolm and Jake Huckaluk—prepare for their own shots. Kolby yanks his drive a bit, Bryn sprays his right but Jake laces a bullet right down the middle.
“That’s how you do it boys,” Kidon chimes. “Nice and easy. You don’t have to swing so hard!”
As they set off down the fairway, the friends—who are in Grades 10 and 11, all of them 15 except Bryn, who’s 16—begin to settle into their round. They banter about pin placements, tease each other if they put one in the bunker and chat nervously about the upcoming provincial tournament they are entered in.
“There’s 27 holes on the course? I’ve never heard of a course with 27 holes,” Kobly says.
“We’re not playing all 27,” Jake explains.
The fact that the boys are playing in the high school provincial championships at all is still somewhat bizarre to the group. On September 20 they travelled to Westlock to play in zones and, to their surprise, came home with the trophy. Riding on the coattails of Liam, who shot his best-ever round of 80, the group combined for the lowest team score. Importantly, there were very few holes when more than one of them scored poorly. The team format eliminates the highest individual score on each hole, allowing the other players to bail their teammate out if he has a bad hole.
“Liam saved us,” Kolby said.
The provincial tournament, which will have taken place by the time this publication hits newstands, is hosted by Cochrane High School. The boys will play one round at River Spirit Golf Club, west of Calgary and another round at Redwood Meadows Golf and Country Club. Both prestigious courses have the boys excited, but anxious.
“I’m a bit worried about the par threes where you have to gap the water,” Bryn said, his lingo betraying his love for skiing.
While the weather holds, however, it’s all golf, all the time.
Thanks to the Jasper Golf Club, whose members are assisting the foursome with entry fees, they can focus on their game. Because after Westlock, Bryn isn’t the only one who wants a mulligan.
“It’s a chance to shoot better,” Jake said. “But just being there will be fun.”
What a difference a year makes.
Last year, when Jasper distance runner Jean-Yvés Doucet reached the turn-around point on the 44km, 1000m elevation gain Mount Robson Marathon, the 26-year-old knew he was in trouble.
“I hit a wall not too long after the turnaround,” he said. “I started hard...that was my mistake.”
This past September 6, although he ran just as fast for the first 22 km, Doucet had more left in him—much more.
“This time I was just getting warmed up,” he laughed.
Last year, he clocked a time of four hours, 17 minutes. It was a solid run and earned him a 17th place finish. This year, however, he was a half hour faster, and his 3:44 landed him a place on the podium; Doucet was first in his category and third overall.
“I felt like I was flying,” he said.
The difference? Training, sure, but more than logging laps of the Tonquin Valley, Skyline Trail or Fryatt Valley, it’s been the experience of competing and the knowledge of what it feels like to run up and down hills at a break-neck pace for four hours.
“This year I knew what it felt like and I could keep going,” he said. “I decided I was going to make pain my friend.”
Recently, he and his new friend had become closely acquainted.
Three weeks before the Mount Robson race Doucet entered the Iron Legs 50 Miler in Kananaskis. With 4,000 m of elevation gain, the race pushed his pain tolerance to new thresholds. He placed eighth.
“I went into survival mode at 60 km. I was in so much pain,” he said.
But he did survive, and with that experience under his belt, he approached the Mount Robson Marathon with fresh perspective. He was in fifth place at the half-way point, made a pass into fourth just below the Emperor Falls campground and caught the next runner at the Kinney Lake flats.
“I could see him from a long ways away, by the way he was moving I could tell he was hurting.”
Doucet remembered being in that state, limping into the finish line, getting passed by other racers.
“It was hard. I ended up collapsing in tears at the finish,” he recalled.
This year, however, he executed his game plan. Standing on the podium in front of Mount Robson’s magnificent backdrop, he felt vindicated.
“It was really satisfying,” he said.
Wendy Copp keeps on smiling.
At the finish line of the Banff marathon, where she was the fastest woman of the day, she was smiling. At the end of races in Kamloops (half marathon), Vernon (50 km ultra) and Canmore (half marathon), where she placed first, third and second place, respectively, she was still smiling.
And after 50 km of trail running at September 5 Lost Souls Ultramarathon in Lethbridge, when she still had 50 more kilometres to go before she would cap off her first 100 km race, she still had more of a grin than a grimace.
“I was excited to keep moving at that point,” she recalled.
But every smile has its limits.
After running for 80 km, Copp’s body “wasn’t happy.” A bruise on her back from a poorly-loaded pack was radiating pain, her legs were screaming and her stomach was a mess.
Despite being located in the middle of the prairies, Lost Souls is deceptively punishing, Copp said. The course runs up and down Lethbridge’s steep river valley, through long grass where runners can’t see their foot placement and across long coulees.
“I underestimated how steep the course would be,” she said.
Despite the obstacles, and despite her discomfort, however, Copp didn’t give up.
“I’m stubborn as hell, I wanted to finish and I said I was going to,” she laughed.
When she did, she was the second-fastest female and sixth fastest athlete of the day.
At that point, it was dark. She had been running for almost 13 hours and her body was giving her grief for taking it on the longest run of its 34-year-old life. But Copp has a way of looking at the bright side.
“The neatest thing about a long race is you’re out the entire day,” she said. “At the beginning you’ve got the early morning light and eventually you’re watching the moon come out and the sky turn pink.”
Copp’s sub-16 hour time in Lost Souls allowed her to qualify for a lottery to run the Western States Endurance Run, the oldest ultramarathon in the world which takes racers 100 miles from Squaw Valley to Auburn, California.
Before last week, Chris Leblanc had never ran a race longer than 10 kilometres.
When asked about his biggest “official” distance, the 41-year-old answered “The Spring Run Off.” And sure, while Totem’s Ski Shop’s annual Mothers’ Day romp attracts its fair share of strong athletes, it isn’t exactly known for its punishing sections or grueling vertical gains. More or less everyone—including kids—finishes the race.
The same can’t be said, however, for the Death Race, Grande Cache’s annual gathering of masochists. The 125 km test of tolerance for pain and mental breaking point typically sees 60 per cent of the soloists who sign up bow out before the cut off time of 25 hours. Those who do finish must pass over three mountain summits and ascend/descend 17,000 feet of elevation.
So what on earth did Leblanc think he was doing by entering?
“Go big or go home,” he chuckled, more of a question than a statement.
Perhaps he was being literal. Several months ago, Leblanc was in the worst shape of his life. He was pushing 200 pounds. He wanted to get fit.
“I needed something to motivate me,” he admitted. “And maybe 125 kilometers is a little extreme but I wanted to see what one of the hardest races in North America was like.”
A little extreme?
Despite the odds, with his wife, Beth, and his two boys, Gage and Cash, by his side, Leblanc started to train. He got into running. He got on the bike. He could be seen in Centennial Park with Tracy MacDowell’s Endurance Training group (incidentally, MacDowell was the fastest female soloist in this year’s Death Race). But he didn’t just put his body through the paces, he was gearing up mentally, too. He read as much as he could about ultramarathon running. He asked anyone who’d ran the Death Race about their experience. He talked to friends of friends who had run it.
“They told me it’s not a race against other people, it’s a race against a clock,” he recalled. “And as long as you can go into it healthy and keep your mind away from saying ‘I want to quit,’ you just have to keep one foot in front of the other.”
Sounds simple. It wasn’t. Or...was it? Leblanc had a great support team in his friends and family, he had a great meal plan and he wasn’t nursing any injuries. He started strong enough, and then, half way through the race, he was informed he made the second stage cutoff by 20 minutes.
“I thought ‘I’ve got 62 kilometers to go,’” he laughed.
That’s only six Spring Run Offs!
The mental fatigue wearing on him, Leblanc remembered what he was told: just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
“That’s literally what I kept telling myself,” he said.
In doing so, he walked all the uphills and ran every downhill possible, he said. “Lots of it was too steep to run, you were just stopping yourself from sliding.”
Fifteen hours into the Death Race, Leblanc completed the dreaded Hamel Assault—a boulder-strewn, rutted goat track which gains 6,500 metres practically all at once. Once that was under his belt, he was increasingly optimistic he was going to finish.
“That’s when I knew I was doing good,” he said.
Still, he had a long way to go. Was it being used to parenting two energetic boys that helped him focus? The dread of passing out on the trail, like other racers around him? Perhaps being part of the Bongs hockey team?
Whatever he drew on for those remaining hours in the dark, as he limped toward the finish line he and another racer made a pact that this would be their last solo death race.
“But now that I’m starting to heal I think I might do it again,” he said.
Two local runners once again put Jasper on the map as a breeding ground for distance athletes.
Wendy Copp was the fastest female in the first ever Banff Marathon on June 22 while Bruno Bergeron placed second in the elite ultra-marathon, Crowsnest Pass’ Sinister Seven, on July 5-6.
Bergeron, who placed eighth in the same event last year, ran the race of his 10-year ultra-marathon career, committing to a steady pace and finding the motivation to finish in a race where only 39 of 129 soloists could lay that claim.
“Everything went so good,” the 35-year-old said. “I like it when a good plan comes together.”
Two weeks prior in the Bow Valley, despite never having run a race on pavement before, Copp found her own wind.
“It was unexpected for me,” she said. “I surprised myself.”
The 34-year-old started getting back into running three years ago when she completed the half marathon at Mount Robson. Since then she’s taken it up several notches; Copp runs between 10 and 15 kilometres nearly every day, saving her big days for the weekends, where she will run up to 40 kilometers at a time.
Her training regiment isn’t that different from Bergeron’s; on race day, however, it’s tough to compare any athletic challenge to the Sinister Seven. Participants—who in most cases are on teams of seven—have 30 hours to complete the 161-km course.
Bergeron, who was racing in his sixth “ultra,” finished in just over 20. The elevation gain throughout the course is more than 5,600 m.
“Two of the legs are very steep and aggressive,” he said. “They’re like going up and down [Jasper’s] Old Man Mountain.”
Bergeron credited his girlfriend, Jen Wasylyk, for providing the support he needed at each aid station. Changes of shoes and socks, fully-loaded camel packs and a couple of carb-loaded pilsners from Valemount’s Three Ranges Brewery were among the many supplies she ferried from station to station for Bergeron.
“What an awesome support I have in my girlfriend,” he beamed. “I could have never done it without her.”
Bergeron, who discovered his stomach wouldn’t accept food about three quarters through the race, subsequently suffered the most on the last leg—a technically difficult section made more so by the lack of light. He knew he was in second place, but with every headlamp beam that approached from behind, he dreaded he was being caught.
“Every time I saw that light I thought ‘maybe that’s him,’” he said.
Copp recalled a similar feeling of anxiety. And because the half-marathon racers were in the mix, she wasn’t sure who she was running against.
“It was scary,” she said. “I was nervous running in front.”
Perhaps she and Bergeron can trade secrets: Copp recently signed up for her first 100 km race.
“You’ve got to be fit, but you’ve got to be smart,” Bergeron offered. “And maybe a bit crazy.”
Employer: Whistlers Inn
"The World Cup is always fun to watch, this is probably my favorite world event after the Olympic Games. I love the way everyone gets together to cheer for different teams. Although there are a lot of situations that must be changed by FIFA, this is still an event that makes the world get together for a few weeks. There will always be fair and unfair situations that cannot be changed after a game, but all of this is part of the entertainment of soccer".
Employer: Experience Gourmet Living.
"I had always been so crazy about World Cup before I came to Canada. Even if Taiwan is never in the game, I have always been a big fan of Brazil, especially Ronaldo. I am happy because this year Brazilians are doing great! I have to confess that this year I did not really watch the World Cup, now I just care more about hockey!
Employer: The Jasper Brew Pub and Sundog Tours.
" I am not that much into soccer. Actually, I kind of hate it. I do not like all the money my country spends in this sport and all the circus around it. Back in my country I never watch a game, do not care at all. But I like the World Cup. That does not mean I am for Spain. I like going to the bar and watch the games. I think it is fun. i wish some African country had made it to the final... I had all my hope in Algeria and Nigeria, because I do not like Holland, Germany or France. Now I am waiting for Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica or Colombia to win the World Cup. This one has to be for South or Center America. They deserve it!"
Employer: Jasper Adventure Centre
"I would like to see Germany winning the World Cup, but honestly... I do not think they deserve it. They almost lost against Argelia and they are not playing their best, the team is not being consistent in its game.
I wish they can start playing better from now on and I hope they can make it to the final. Anyways... Go Deutchsland, go!"
Attention young adults: JasperLIFE wants to help show you the ropes this summer.
Starting June 17, JasperLIFE hopes to help connect new Jasperites to the community and the park that surrounds it by giving them the opportunity to try new adventures in the mountains.
“The Mountain Adventure Club is a great way for people to connect with people who have skills in the mountains,” young adult outreach worker and JasperLIFE coordinator, Ryan Verge said. “If you have ever wanted to get into rock climbing but weren’t sure how to do it in a safe way, this is for you.”
In the first of several outings planned with Rockaboo Mountain Adventures, on June 17 JasperLIFE will bring young adults into the mountains to experience rock climbing with mountain experts and connect with like-minded individuals.
Verge said an offshoot of the adventures is that participants learn about the services that Community Outreach Services (COS) provides.
“It’s a good way for us to connect to a population that may only be here for a season,” he said.
COS is a one-stop-shop for all services; if outreach workers can’t address an issue directly, they have a vast network which they can help Jasperites tap into.
“If you’re a young adult who just moved to Jasper it’s not always easy being away from home,” Verge said. “People cane come in here for something as simple as accessing programs to something as serious as the loss of a job, depression or having trouble with housing.”
COS is located at 627 Patricia Street. Call 780-852-2100.
Scrambling season has arrived.
Actually, it’s been here for two weeks, if you ask 25-year-old Leslie Kreffer and Ryan Davies, 32. The two friends have been bagging peaks since May 16, when they checked off the good early-season warm-up hike, Morro Mountain.
“It was typical Morro,” Davies said. “We figured it’d be straight forward, got lost, got stuck on a ledge, and had to scramble down a massive rockwall.”
Oops. Luckily, their route finding on Cinquefoil Mountain was better. They summited in a blanket of fog on May 18.
“It was sketchy,” Kreffer admitted. “We couldn’t see 10 feet in front of us.”
Not so, however, from Opal Peak, which the duo bagged on May 22 after hiking to the top of Sulphur Skyline a couple days before. “The view from Opal was amazing,” said Kreffer, who works as a server. “The [registry] told us we were the first ones up there.”
There might have been a reason for that. So they wouldn’t have to sink up to their groins in snow again, for their latest scramble they chose south-facing Old Man (Roche Bonhomme).
“The clouds lifted for five minutes while we were on top,” Davies said. “It was unreal.”
With five peaks under their belts and counting, Davies and Kreffer have shown that despite the late spring, the summer sport of scrambling is beckoning.
“Bring extra socks,” Kreffer suggested. “It’s wet and freezing up there.”
There are long days. And then there are really long days.
On April 30 Jasper’s Dana Ruddy and Valemount’s Reiner Thoni engaged 3,500 m (11,483 ft) Mount Brazeau, but before they could ascend the mountain’s giant glaciers, gullies and gargoyles, they first had to make haste over 23 kilometer Maligne Lake.
Their chosen mode of travel: fat bikes.\
“Maligne Lake is underutilized as a skiing and ice climbing destination,” Ruddy said. “There are lots of trips you can do there with a fat bike.”
Having ridden them to Warren Creek, at the south end of the lake, the duo ditched the bikes for skis and started their 15 km, 2,000 m ascent. Their goal was the mountain’s north face, but as they got closer they could see the entire aspect was blue ice.
“There wasn’t much snow,” Ruddy said. “We decided to get down a different way.”
While the skiing wasn’t great, the views made up for it. Brazeau is the furthest east of Jasper’s 11,000-ers. That perspective was unique, Ruddy said.
“For some reason the view seemed even more spectacular than normal,” he said. “You could see Mount Robson, Brazeau Lake, all the peaks of the Columbia Icefields.”
After the long ski down, the duo hopped back on their bikes. Unfortunately, the morning crust had deteriorated and the bikes were becoming mired in the mucky snow.
“It was a nasty, sloppy mission back,” Ruddy said.
At the end of the day, Ruddy and Thoni logged more than 70 kilometres in 14 hours.
“It was great, but that lake on the way back was a sunuvabitch,” Ruddy laughed.
Derek Anderson is a handy dude.
He can change an alternator, he can fashion a coffee table, he can bake a loaf of bread. And as a mechanic for Freewheel Cycle, the 30-year-old has got his hands dirty working on a lot of bikes.
"I don't know. Thousands," he laughed.
But although he's made old bikes new again, assembled out-of-the-box high end machines and resurrected rideable Frankensteins out of long-dead parts, never before has he built his own bike from scratch.
"This thing was a pile of steel when I started with it," he said, pausing long enough to show The Jasper Local his new road bike. "Now, it's exactly what I want."
He means exactly. Looking for an opportunity to further his knowledge, Anderson signed up for a bike frame building course at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abottsford several weeks ago. There, he was able to create himself his ideal road bike. Inspired by bike designers he admires, what he wanted was a machine that would be responsive enough for a fast burn up the Cavell Road but be beefy enough to handle long rides.
"It's firm but not harsh. The handling is quick but not twitchy," he said. "I wanted a bike that I could go on for 200 kilometer rides and not feel completely shelled at the end."
With the cycling season upon us, Anderson will soon have the opportunity to test out his new hardware. Having taken it out for a few spins already, he likes what he feels--and not just the physical aspect. Looking down and realizing his is the only bike like it anywhere is a satisfying feeling, he said.
"It's kind of surreal," he said, before zipping down Highway 93A.
“You look like you had a great day up there,” I said to a customer with a radiant apres-ski glow.
As a part-time bartender, I have developed a knack for being able to tell when someone’s had an exceptional outing at Marmot Basin.
“I sure did, and I bet you’ll never guess where I skied today,” the customer said.
“I’ll give you a hint,” he smiled. “You’ve never skied there before.”
Considering the source—Marmot Basin’s president, Dave Gibson—and considering the turns I saw off-piste at the resort earlier that afternoon, I actually had a pretty good idea.
After a moment of respectful hesitation, I threw my postulation out: “Tres Hombres,” I said, setting down his single malt. “I saw your tracks.”
I was right. Ski patrol had invited Gibson and a couple other management types to check out the terrain that is to the north of the ski hill’s current ski limits. Accessed by either the Canadian Rockies Express or Paradise ski lifts, Tres Hombres offers up more than 1,000 feet of fall line towards Whistlers Creek before angling out via a ski traverse.
“It was unbelievable,” Gibson said. “Not to rub it in.”
I didn’t mind. In fact, I was happy Gibson and his khaki-wearing peers got after it. Ski patrol had been poking around Tres Hombres at the beginning of April and I’d heard through the relatively short Jasper grapevine that the north-facing pitch was the best skiing they’ve ever had on the mountain. The only way it’s going to open is if those with some pull drop in and find out what we’re all missing.
“What’s it going to take to get it open?” I asked.
Ski patrollers have been showing management around Tres Hombres, an off-piste area at Marmot Basin that offers more than 1,000 feet of fall line. Whether or not the terrain opens next season depends on operational costs, Parks Canada requirements and other factors. The author, for one, hopes management will find a way. // Bob Covey
That question never really got answered, and of course the next day, when I phoned Brian Rode, VP of marketing, I didn’t expect to get any further. Rode is Marmot Basin’s PR man extraordinaire and has the ability to say a lot while actually telling me very little. What can I say? He’s good at his job.
“It’s very preliminary,” Rode said.
Tres Hombres is an outlier—geographically and metaphorically—at Marmot Basin. It’s considered off-piste, but it’s within the hill’s leasehold. It’s been the site of a caribou and a goat study (the methodology of which went badly) and there’s the issue of 10 or so trees that Parks Canada will require the replacement of if the trees are to be removed for the sake of the egress. Operationally, there’s a cost: ski patrol staffing, fencing, avalanche control and other equipment expenses would all have to be factored in.
“There’s a number of things that have to happen before that terrain could open,” Rode emphasized. “It’s definitely not opening this year.”
I for one, can wait. Hopefully, by the time next season rolls around, Gibson and his Hombres will recall that fall line descent.
Lada Kvasnicka is happy to be alive.
The 27-year-old triggered a size 2.5 avalanche while snowboarding in the backcountry March 27. He escaped unhurt, riding out of the slide path while tons of snow picked up speed beside him. After he came to a stop, he saw how close of a call it was.
“You get this feeling, man, I could die today,” said Kvasnicka, who hails from the Czech Republic. “It was taking out trees easily.”
Kvasnicka, his girlfriend and three other skiers and snowboarders were touring up from the Shangri-la cabin in the Maligne Range in the morning. The sun was out and 20 cm of fresh snow had been dumped overnight. Everything seemed perfect.
“We’re looking at the slope, there are no lines, the snow is great. It’s hard to say no,” he said.
And so the group of five climbed up Mt. Aberhart. Gaining the nose of the large slope, Kvasnicka volunteered to go first. He had the most experience in the backcountry.
“I did about 10 turns before it happened,” he said. “I heard the sound—boom—and felt it around me. There was a metre and a half high wall of snow behind me.”
Kvasnicka’s girlfriend, who was above him taking photographs, watched in horror as the scene unfolded. After she saw he was OK, she and the rest of the group descended on a less-steep slope.
“Once she got down she was pretty upset,” Kvasnicka said. “She was crying. We said ‘that’s enough for today.’”
All members of the group were wearing avalanche transceivers and carrying shovels and probes.
Kvasnicka said despite the scare, he’ll be a better backcountry traveller because of the experience.
“There’s two feelings: one is you feel lucky you survived, but on the other side that’s the risk you take. That’s what you love to do.”
Two local adventurers followed the Miette River as it winds and wends it way to the glacier fields in Mount Robson Provincial Park last week. Their hopeful objective: a treasure trove of skiing in the high country.
The upper Miette Valley is high enough to hold good snow and a peek at Google Earth indicates there could be some good lines, if one could only access them. It was with visions of virgin vertical that on March 15, two of Jasper’s most intrepid explorers, Rogier Gruys and Edi Klopfenstein, ventured into the bush to find out if it was indeed possible to get to the goods.
"We wanted to find out how easy it would be to get to the supposedly fabled skiing of the Upper Miette Valley,” Gruys said.
Starting on the B.C. side of the border, the two veteran bushwhackers picked their way up what soon became a steep canyon. A fixed rope to assist a particularly tricky maneuver indicated humans had been here before, but when they approached a large icefall—complete with huge boulders and boiling swirls of open water—they knew they wouldn’t be coming back this way.
“Beyond the falls, travel becomes easy and very pleasant,” Gruys said. “[But] we didn't feel like descending through the canyon.”
Realizing they were at their designated turn around time, Gruys and Klopenstein relegated themselves to the summer trail, where they traversed along steep side hills and over nasty, face-slapping alders. They knew they were leaving behind the possibility of pillowy powder above, but below, light was beginning to fade. Humbled by the vastness of their surroundings, they slogged back through increasingly-sticky snow and down the birchy brambles—which was preferable to what the canyon route represented.
“A lot of the snow bridges were collapsing ... we weren’t quite ready to go for a swim,” Gruys said.
Back at their car almost 11 hours and 27 kilometres after they set out, Gruys and Klopenstein admitted they weren’t anxious to march back up the Miette anytime soon.
“It’ll be there next year,” Gruys laughed.
An avalanche path choked with deadfall and head-high willows three months ago was laden with a generous (albeit rapidly-loading) snowpack when a group of ski tourers climbed 700 m above Moose Lake earlier this month.
In late December The Jasper Local wrote about a gung-ho ski party of four who were stymied by snarls of ski-snagging shrubbery 45 minutes west of Jasper and 50 m above the ice, in B.C. On March 8, at least one member of that group got retribution.
Alongside Max, an off-duty mountain specialist from Jasper and Matthew, an off-kilter whiskey survivalist from Edmonton, I rode the 150-plus cm snowpack down a north facing couloir, completing the mission local ripper Jesse Milner concocted some 100 days previous.
Max led the expedition into the cloud forest, where 50 m cedars towered above our sticky uptrack. Precipitation was heavy and temperatures were warm, making for tough skinning towards the 1,000 m ridge.
Sadly (and soggily), four members of our original party were forced to descend after scraping the snow from their skins became intolerable next to the thought of a hot shower and a cold beer. The rest of us sprayed pow above the freezing line, then slogged through sludge to the ice.
Moose Lake, we’re even.
And you thought your run was cold today.
Two Jasper runners are travelling to Antarctica to take part in a marathon at the bottom of the world.
Lorraine Wilkinson and Kimberly Stark will and bundle up their bodies for 42 kilometers of running on the world’s coldest continent March 5.
“I’m excited to see penguins, and for the adventure of the whole thing, but I’m most excited for the run itself,” said Wilkinson, a long distance runner who works as a nurse in Jasper’s Seton Healthcare Centre.
Wilkinson has raised $4,500 for An Ultra Sound Cause, a local campaign to purchase a portable ultrasound machine for the Ladies Hospital Auxiliary. She says the community has been really supportive of her efforts.
“A lot of people have come up to me with donations,” she said. “I’m pretty pumped.”
The women will fly to Buenos Aires, Argentina, before taking another flight to Tierra del Fuego, the world’s southernmost city. From bottom of the South American continent they sail through the Drake Passage and Beagle Channel before weaving through the icebergs and floes which surround the South Shetland Islands. The race takes place on the Antarctic Peninsula on March 9.
“Everybody’s been wishing me luck,” she said. “I feel ready for this.”
Both Wilkinson and Stark are linking the Antarctic marathon as part of a personal challenge to complete marathons on all seven continents. Last year Stark ran the Athens marathon; two years ago both women ran atop the Great Wall of China for their Asian marathon.
With the “White Continent” under their belts, each will have completed four of their seven world marathons. Wilkinson has a marathon on the Inca Trail in Peru lined up for July and a New Zealand run in her calendar for 2015.
The cold temperatures in Jasper lately helped Wilkinson and Stark prepare for what’s sure to be a harsh battle with the elements. Wilkinson is hoping to use that training so she can show her Ultra Sound sponsors how much she appreciates their generosity (the race expenses are her own).
“It’s the trip of a lifetime,” she gushed.
Local ice climbers have been staying on the sharp end as cold weather and sunny days have combined to form routes that require an artist’s eye and a sadist’s psyche.
On February 25 ACMG-in-training, Ryan Titchener, picked out a mixed climbing route for he and his partner Heff Dorian to amble up. The “test piece” is only 50m high, but features a thin lens of ice over top of marginal, vertical snow. Titchener said he was still buzzing from topping out a full day later.
“I call it type three fun, when you’re not having fun as you’re doing it—you’re actually terrified—but then afterwards you’re like ‘that was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life,’” he said with a hearty (maniacal?) chuckle.
Located adjacent to the famous Weeping Wall, 120 km south of Jasper in Banff National Park, the route is called Sniveling Direct, found in the narrow, clearly-named-by-a-climber feature, Sniveling Gully. Titchener suggested the route’s moniker doesn’t evoke the aesthetic beauty of the climb, but then again, who’s judging?
“I think for any ice climber you want to climb the most beautiful thing possible,” he said. “It’s definitely rewarding. I’m not a painter but this is my expression of artistry.”
"We'll pick you up at six."
When it's dry, even the slightest promise of pow turns is enough to drag one's butt out of bed two hours before dawn.
On December 18, four gung-ho lads from Jasper were rarin' to rip some turns just west of Jasper, near Moose Lake. Five centimeters of blower had fallen the night before and the gang decided they were going to get after it!
After scampering down a steep bank in the dark, scooting over a series of train tracks and scuffing their way across two kilometers of wet ice, the troops got to the spot that, from the road at least, looked "pretty sick."
"It'll take us two hours to get to the top of the main couloir," Courtnall Durrant said earlier, after the day's first rays hit the mountain.
Wishful thinking. After scraping the meringue from their ice-caked climbing skins, the group discovered that those nice pillow features they scoped from the car were actually head-high willows and a never-ending jumble of donwed trees.
"Once we got in there I wasn't too inspired," Jesse Milner laughed.
No one was going to deny the sunrise over the lake was pretty, but the skiing was less than ideal.
"It was survival skiing," Milner said. "And we barely did."
Jasper’s coolest season is shaping up.
“If you haven’t been thinking about ice climbing, it’s time to start,” said Jasper’s Ryan Titchener, an aspiring alpine guide, Marmot Basin ski patroller and avid ice climber.
Last week Titchener led a small group up Shades of Beauty, a classic Grade 4 ice climb at the south end of Beauty Flats. The session, a Jasper/Hinton Alpine Club of Canada outing, wasn’t the first time the 29-year-old has been vertical on ice this year, but the day marked a change in ice conditions, he noted.
“Routes are starting to turn,” he said. “It’s still early season conditions but the ice felt good.”
With a higher concentration of routes and a longer season than almost anywhere else in the world, the Canadian Rockies hosts arguably the best terrain for die-hard ice climbers. Titchener, who’s been placing axes into frozen waterfalls for the last nine years, said ACC trips are a great way to get introduced to the sport.
“Ice climbing is one of those things where once you get the technique you can climb any ice in the world, depending on how brave you are,” he laughed.
Shades of Beauty didn’t require too much nerve, he said. The three-pitch route gave the party some brittle ice to hack away at before rewarding their efforts with wet, “hero” ice.
“The climb is known for its aesthetics,” he said. “It’s a Jasper classic. A must-do if you’re here.”
fat bikes, cold pints to help Chief conquer yellowhead Highway
A sparkling white landscape is whizzing by me. Trails I’ve become intimately familiar with in the summer are all of a sudden foreign. A slight uphill becomes a momentous challenge of momentum; gentle downhills are now swoopy, frictionless roller coasters.
This, apparently, is fat biking.
While most riders in Jasper relegate their bikes to the storage room sometime in October, not all of Jasper’s pedalheads are willing to trade their bikes for skis when the snow flies. Sure, many commuters bundle up for their ride to work on the blacktop, but thanks to a new trend in the Jasper mountain bike community, our prolific trail network is seeing a growing number of tire tracks.
Read the full text here...
My boots are squeaking in the snow, my fingers are going numb and a biting wind is blowing from somewhere on the Columbia Icefields.
A sudden gale has raced over the massive icefalls of the Athabasca Glacier and is stinging that little spot on my face where my ski goggles and my hood don’t quite touch.
It’s by no means the most frigid day that Jasper will experience this winter, but as I stand in the blue shadow of Mount Andromeda, watching my friend Jesse Milner drill a screw into a dirty piece of ice with his gloveless hand, it feels like the south pole.
Screw securely fastened, Milner, who’s just back from a month in Belize, offers a comment on the weather.
“The ocean’s nice, but this is more soothing,” he laughs.
I shouldn’t be surprised. While he enjoys kicking back on a sandy beach, I know Milner is most at home when he’s looking over a sea of snow.
Read the full text here
Jasper dog park users are delighted with the new off-leash dog park, but as the days grow shorter, the area will see less and less use.
That’s because it’s a daylight-only facility.
I talked with Karl Peetom about it briefly last week. Peetoom, arguably Jasper’s most famous dog owner, pointed out come winter, the dog park will be good for star gazing, but not stick chasing.
“It’s just too bad we don’t have a light,” he said.
It’s a legitimate grievance. I’m not a dog owner, but even I can see how Jasper’s acquirement of a mostly-well-thought-out new facility near Sleepy Hollow Road is bittersweet. The upcoming short days will hardly allow afternoon dog walkers to make it to the fenced area before dusk.
Some history: The “bowling green”—the green space adjacent to the Aquatic Centre where dog owners let their animals off leash for years but which was never designated as an official dog park—was lit by peripheral street lamps. It was a situation that wasn’t designed, but owners got used to taking their dogs for a spin after the sun set. Work schedules being what they are, the evening is often the only time some dog owners can fit in a canine workout. Many an evening fetch session was had at the bowling green.
Now that the new off-leash area has been created, its ingenuity is somewhat lost for the fact that after dark, you aren’t supposed to go there.
I talked to Christine Nadon, the town’s communications specialist. I was genuinely impressed when I heard about all the thought that went into building the structure. It might not be the most handsome amenity we have in Jasper, but the unique doggie pen is certainly functional. The A-frame style reduces the chance of conflict with wild animals; it’s self-supporting; and it is easily disassembled—good for having to replace sections or adjust the size.
Despite it’s thoughtful design (kudos, Doug Rodwell), I remained dismayed about the user hours. Nadon told me when administrators signed a new license of occupation with Parks Canada, the town agreed to a dusk-til-dawn stipulation.
For now, the municipality hasn’t heard from dog owners directly that it’s a major issue. And there’s always the question of who pays for a new light, should the town and the feds write up a new agreement. But with winter’s short days almost upon us, it won’t be long before someone is barking up a tree.
My money says the chances that dog owners will come around to the time-restrictive license of occupation are worse than not stepping in dog poo in a pitch black field.
Let’s hope everyone sees the light.
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
The Jasper Park Cycling Association is celebrating its first birthday by reflecting on the gifts it helped give to Jasper trail users over the past year.
The 120-member group—the largest organized user group in the park, association chairperson Matt Staneland pointed out—is proud to have been part of the impetus for getting new Wildland Trails into Jasper’s impressive trail network.
And even if that process involved some push-and-pull with Jasper National Park administrators, Staneland said it’s been a positive experience.
“We helped get the ball rolling,” Staneland said. “If nobody had pushed back and said ‘you can’t do this,’ I don’t think [many of the Wildland Routes] would have happened.”
As part of Parks Canada’s Three Valley Confluence Trail Plan, the agency re-routed and rehabilitated some popular “unofficial” trails. The JPCA worked with the Jasper Trail Alliance to ensure any losses were offset with significant gains.
Staneland said the key was good organization and a strong voice, plus the recogniction that the group would have more success if they worked with, rather than against, Parks Canada.
“We worked with Parks and tried to be amicable,” he said.
Other highlights of the JPCA’s year included certifying more than two dozen trail users in trail maintenance skills. Those certified are able to do basic trail maintenance, including improving sight lines and clearing debris from trails.
The group also organized two “Big Rides,” one for mountain bikers and a second for road riders. The events had great participation and garnered support for the JPCA’s overall mission.
Staneland said the Jasper Trail Alliance—another young group which is comprised of Friends of Jasper National Park volunteers—was paramount in growing the trail network.
“The trail network took a huge step forward this year,” he said.
The JPCA is looking to keep the momentum flowing with new executive members. Check out www.facebook.com/JasperParkCyclingAssociation
It’s Saturday night, 12 hours before Freewheel Cycle’s annual biathlon is scheduled to start and I am getting anxious. I have committed myself to taking part in the event, but I still don’t have a partner.
The needling voice of Freewheel’s Chris Peel is echoing in my head. “It’s a bi-athlon, not a uni-athlon,” he teases, meaning a true competitor would complete both the 30 km bike ride from Jasper to Athabasca Falls and the 10 km run on the Geraldine Lakes fireroad, not one or the other. I try to sleep, but a vision of Matt Staneland finishing both events before I can unclip from my bike pedals keeps me tossing and turning.
Peer pressure (or Peel pressure) aside, I’m hoping Nicole will heed my bedside plea for help and do the run. Alas, she wakes up feeling ill. My last hope—my friend Jo—laughs away my request. He’s going to Medicine Lake. I am torn. Do I join my fishing buddy on what looks like one of the last nice days of the season? Do I hit the couch with Nicole and eat bacon and chocolate all afternoon? Or do I pull on my chammy, lube up my bike chain and pedal over to the Miette River bridge, where a couple dozen cyclists and runners are signing up for an event that’s become something of a rite of passage in Jasper’s recreational community?
After one last nibble of bacon, I’m out the door.
When I arrive at the registration booth, I realize two things. One: I forgot the oil; and two, not everyone has their running shoes strapped to their bikes. In fact, no one else does. Also, no one else has a back rack or knobby, cyclocross tires. I find this unsettling. Concerned less about my finishing time than simply finishing the race, I decline the invitation from fellow competitors to shuttle my shoes to the transition zone. Shrugging off the howls of spandex-clad John Kovacs, I thank Peel, who’s taken to oiling my rust-encrusted chain.
As the racers start to line up for the 1 p.m. start, I get a look at the competition. Along with Staneland, who’s won the solo event the last three years running, it’s an elite field. There’s Kovacs, Sean Smith, Doug Hammell, Warren Van Asten, Brian Rode, Dick Ireland, Ryan Gardener, Steve Brake—all local fitness freaks who have put in many miles on two wheels. Standing over my rag tag setup and surrounded by iron men on carbon fibre bikes, I share a shaky smile with Dr. Mark Addison.
“Keep ahead of the doctor,” I think to myself. “You might need him.”
Soon enough, we’re on the move, car horns and cheering sending us off toward the park’s south gate. We move as a pack, riders jockeying for position. I’m trying to draft from the likes of John Wilmshurst, but he’s too skinny and I’m too slow. As I approach the Marmot Basin hill, barely five kilometres into the ride, most of the pack is long gone.
Happily, not everyone in the race is an Olympian. Half way up the grueling climb, I catch up to Barb Schmidt, who, like me, is more comfortable on a mountain bike than a roadie. The worst part behind us, we are cheered on by Peel and Wendy Hall as we approach the Astoria River bridge. In honour of dirtbags everywhere, when Peel offers it up, I can’t resist taking a quick swig of his beer.
On a long straight away I can make out the profile of what looks like one cyclist, but other than that glimpse, it’s just Barb and I. She’s thanking me for “towing” her, but I’m equally grateful for her company. With the headwind, the knowledge that I’m the last soloist and the idea that I’ve still got 10 kilometres to bike before I start the run, I don’t want to be in “no-man’s land.” We struggle up Leach Lake hill before descending towards Athabasca Falls. “You got this,” she yells at the interchange, tagging her partner as I hand my bike to Kovacs, who apparently still hasn’t stopped laughing at my back rack.
Someone once said about running races ““The reason we race isn't so much to beat each other,... but to be with each other.” I don’t think that person had “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” in their head when they said that. As I take my first steps down the Geraldine Lakes fire road, I curse every soulful passage ever written about the beauty of running. However, as the leading runners—who have reached the turn-around point many minutes ago—approach from the opposite direction, I soon forget about the earworms. High fives are exchanged, whoops of encouragement are passed along. I inch toward the methodical quick-stepping of Kim Stark, who’s registered for a marathon in Antarctica next year, and I think I begin to experience the “runner’s high.”
Until, that is, a jolt of pain in my hip flexor brings me back down. Cramping up, I pull out a sugary candy in hopes I can quell the pain. Unfortunately, now I have a new pain: in my tooth! The sweet is harder than a raw diamond. Spitting it out (enjoy, ravens!) and making sure my incisor isn’t chipped, I’m worried the spasm will get worse when out of nowhere a glucose-wielding angel who looks like Robby Squires appears. Marking the turn-around point and offering recovery gels, I am on him like a rabid dog.
The last section of the race goes surprisingly well. I manage to catch up to Marc Chalifoux, another Jasper athlete training for an ultramarathon, and just as I’m coming up the final hill to the finish line, I find seven-year-old Logan Didduck and his mom, Dani, knocking off the last 100 metres. He keeps looking back at me, not wanting to be caught but I’m too out of puff to yell “don’t worry about me!” To the delight of the crowd, Logan and I sprint for the finish, his victory and incessant cuteness happily distracting the onlookers from the fact that I’m about to puke and/or collapse.
Hall, who would have recruited me to volunteer had I not signed up for the race, tells me I snuck in under two hours: that’s apparently a good thing. While Peel—whose strategic goading got me to the start line in the first place, is here now at the finish, offering congratulations, a hug, and most importantly, the rest of that dirtbag beer.
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
Click here to see an exclusive Biathlon Photo Gallery
A new festival celebrating splitboarding wants to take the relatively young sport to new heights in Jasper.
Ascend Northern Rocky Mountain Splitboard Festival will bring together passionate riders to Jasper National Park’s snowy playgrounds on March 21-23, 2014.
“We want to focus on bringing the splitboarding community together and playing safely in the backcountry,” said Lukas Matejovsky, an Edmonton-based splitboarder who is currently in the planning stages of the festival.
The weekend will feature guided tours in the park, snow safety presentations and events where participants can get to know other splitboarders.
Dylan Ruddy, a local shredder who spends many winter days on his splitboard in Jasper’s backcountry, is excited for Ascend.
“I’m stoked, I told them to let me know if there’s anything I can do to help,” he said.
Bob Routledge of Jasper’s Senate Skates is also marking the dates.
For more information, visit ascendsplitfest.com.
Mighty Mount Robson gave Jasper and Banff rescue personnel a taste of what climbers can be faced with during an exploration mission of the Canadian Rockies’ highest peak.
On September 14, Jasper’s Max Darrah and Barb Sharp, along with Banff’s JP Kors and Chris Gooliaf, ascended to the Dome, the hulking shoulder which, as the standard staging area for climbers’ summit bid, presents great crevasses, ice cliffs and steep slopes leading up to the bergschrund at the base of Robson’s south-east precipices.
“Our objective was to increase our familiarity with an area where we often work,” Darrah said.
The 3,954 m giant did not let them off easy; a violent storm blew in at midnight, forcing them to reanalyze their summit ambitions.
“I got out of my tent at 2 a.m. in full storm gear,” said Darrah. “We all felt pretty sure we were heading down.”
Back in his sleeping bag, at 4 a.m., however, Darrah said he awoke to the sound of possibility: silence.
“At that point we poked around and decided we had a weather window to deploy to the upper mountain,” he said.
The team made a 16 hour push to the top and back to camp. Having been turned away from the summit several times, Darrah said it was exhilarating to be on the roof of the Rockies.
“We maximized our time on the mountain,” he said. “It felt great.”
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
Mountain bikers wanting to test their skills on the sandy steeps of the unofficial track known as Tunnel Trail were surprised to learn that the trail has been recently closed.
“It was dug up and there were trees covering the entrance,” said Sean FitzGerald, a local biker who had enjoyed the trail’s unique features, including its namesake exit beneath the rail line.
On September 10, Parks Canada confirmed that trail restoration had commenced on Tunnel Trail and the route is now off-limits to users. The Jasper Trails Project had identified the node as one with close proximity to a wildlife corridor; rehabilitation work on the trail was planned as far back as 2009.
Product Development Officer Marcia Dewandel said she understands locals will resent losing the trail but hopes that they will see the bigger picture.
“There are going to be some losses of unofficial trails but there will be many other gains,” Dewandel said, pointing to newly minted loops 2H and 2I, plus plans for new singletrack in the Whistlers' Mountain area.
Loni Klettl, who knows Jasper’s trail network more intimately than perhaps any other user in the park, is comfortable with sacrificing what she called a “steep, cool and funky” trail for the promise of more trails in the future.
“What’s being planned...I could ride for a million years and not get bored,” Klettl said.
Last year, Parks Canada began rehabilitation work on Lee Valley and Cliffhanger trails, irking some in the biking community. Other unofficial trails slated for closure include Cash Box and RJ’s.
Klettl said she sees the future of trails in Jasper as bright and bountiful, so long as trail users keep contributing positively.
“There are four other areas where we get to build trails and we can build them as hard as we want,” Klettl said. “The onus is on people to get involved.”
Check out the Jasper Trails Alliance Facebook page to find out what’s happening with trails and how to share your input.
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
It is 6 a.m. on Saturday August 17 and as I finalize the logistics of a week-long trip, I manage to spot the last missing item on my long list: my watch.
Reflecting back at me through the bathroom mirror, it reminds me time is precious in the summer. I leave my apartment with the intention of making the most of a full week of improving my mountaineering skills at magnificent Lake O’Hara. All summer I’ve been anticipating this trip, which has been organized in partnership by the Jasper/Hinton and Edmonton sections of the Alpine Club of Canada.
Curtis, from the Carrot Creek section, picks me up and as we begin the three-hour drive over the Icefields Parkway, any anxieties about compatibility with other participants quickly dissipate. Time flies as we talk of family, friends and careers, as well as past and upcoming trips in the mountains. Soon, we arrive at the parking lot and meet up with a few more participants to load our impressive bulk of food onto the 10:30 a.m. bus. It’s an 11 km shuttle to O’Hara Lodge, in Yoho National Park and we are soon getting our first bit of exercise as more than a few mule trips are required to unload gear at the Elizabeth Parker Hut, yet another beautiful ACC accommodation in the heart of a very special alpine mecca.
It was during the early 1900s, in Lake Louise, Yoho and O’Hara areas that Canadian mountaineering took off after the construction of the CPR railway. The ACC built a network of backcountry lodges and imported competent Swiss guides to pioneer climbing in Canada’s Rockies. O’Hara is steeped in alpine history and the dreams of founding ACC members and of visionaries Tommy Link and Lawrence Grassi are on display in an unparalleled network of trails which provide access to numerous, worthy objectives.
As the rest of our group is due to arrive on the 3:30 bus, I head to the namesake body of water with my fly rod for an hour or two of relaxation. Based on the trout fishing, the week is looking very promising indeed. After releasing a few silver cutthroats, I am anxious to start making plans, for the forecast looks good and possibilities seem endless. My angler’s appetite satisfied, I walk back to the hut to enjoy a generous serving of beef stroganoff. Over the first of many gourmet meals prepared by Diane, our volunteer chef for the week, I meet my fellow campers and discuss options for the next day. Curtis and I settle on a local trifecta: Schaeffer ridge, Yukness Mt. and Wiwaxy peaks. A few others decide to join us for the first objective.
Following a hearty breakfast, our party starts walking the high-level trail, offering us a spectacular perspective of Lake McArthur, one that only improves as we scramble further up Schaeffer ridge. On the way down, we opt for a little diversion and bootski a near perfect scree slope which joins up with the appropriately-named All Souls Prospect Trail. From that point on, the beautiful views increase proportionately with the hike’s gradient. We continue on to Opabin Lake, where a well-cairned trail takes us to the top of Yukness Mountain and offers a fine look at the entire O’Hara area. North lies Wiwaxy peaks, Mt Huber, Mt Victoria, Abbot pass and Mt Lefroy; to the east we spot Glacier peak, Ringrose peak and Mt Hungabee; southward we regard Mt Biddle, Park Mt and Schaeffer ridge; while to the west we take in Mt Odaray and Cathedral Mountain. It is a panorama of potential.
Down below, reflecting the snowcapped mountains, the turquoise waters of Lake Oesa, Opabin Lake and Lake O’Hara surround us in a mirror of timeless beauty. Among this relatively small serving of the Rockies exists a lifetime of possibilities in the mountains. Time seems to stop and when my senses reawaken, it is too late for a rendezvous with Wiwaxy. We walk back to the hut for soup and dinner, everybody seemingly on mountaineer time. Spirits are high and superlatives numerous. The whole place emanates freedom, happiness and a richness of spirit.
The incredible day is to be a typical one for our week-long ACC section camp at Lake O’Hara. Trails are walked, peaks are summited, glacial water is swam, wine and port are enjoyed and friendships are made. Members of our group eventually go on to climb Grassi Ridge, Mt Stephen, Wiwaxy peaks, Mt Victoria and Little Odaray. It is an incredible week spent with amazing people.
Thanks to the following ACC Jasper/Hinton – Edmonton section members: John, Diane, Keith, Marie-Josée, Ken, Curtis, Bruce, Sud, Allan, Kathy, Catherine, Erika, Rick, Hilary, Allison, Phil, Archie, Priya and Doug.
Jo Nadeau is a teacher in Jasper
Members of the Jasper/Hinton chapter of the Alpine Club of Canada had a different objective than most of their fellow Maligne Lake boaters on August 10: rather than capturing Spirit Island on camera, they planned to rekindle the early-explorer spirit as their party of six approached the high flanks of Maligne Mountain, on the east side of majestic Maligne Lake.
After a 10-km paddle to the trailhead (and a quick cool down in the lake), the party of six hiked through the thick bush to set up camp at 2,000 m. A 4:45 a.m. alpine start saw the group moving up the mountain and by 9:30 a.m. they were on the crux—high on the glacier, 1,500 m away from the summit. The trouble was, the snow was deteriorating quickly.
“The snow became unsupportive,” said Mike Eder, who was wearing his ACC badge, rather than his Parks Canada uniform, for the exploratory trip. “Soon enough we were breaking through to our waist.”
With a summit push determined unrealistic, the next objective was to descend safely. Several full-length rappel stations were required, for the terrain was steep and icy enough that a misstep could have been disastrous.
“It was such that a fall couldn’t be held,” Eder explained.
Fatigue began to set in as the group methodically lowered off the mountain. Melissa Carroll, secretary for the local ACC chapter, was feeling the burn.
“I had an amazing, albeit exhausting, day,” she said.
Ropes back in the bags, the adventure wasn’t over yet. The group was anticipating the three hour hike out, followed by a two hour paddle in choppy water, with some trepidation. It was back at the canoes when the distant whine of a boat motor sounded like angels’ harps. Warden Mike Westbrook, having heard the party’s radio call in that they were running late, came with a ferry-assist. The group touched the shores of Home Bay just as the last bit of light left the sky.
“We were grateful to the Maligne caretaker that he knew we were there,” Eder said.
Good weather, high spirits and the knowledge they were making history helped push Eamonn Walsh and Carl Diehl to the top of Mount Robson on the 100th year anniversary of the mountain’s first ascent.
At the same time, a solo alpinist was high on the mountain, having touched the roof of the Canadian Rockies only hours before.
Walsh and Diehl reached the summit a century after pioneer alpinist Conrad Kain laid claim to the 3,954 m peak on July 31, 1913.
“The conditions were good,” Walsh, a 38-year-old stonemason based in Canmore, told The Jasper Local. “It was pretty fun the whole way, I’ve got to say.”
The pair connected the east face—called the Kain face in honour of the Austrian guide who kicked the first steps up the mountain’s final serious pitch—with a large rocky feature on the mountain called the Patterson spur. After spending the night at the Alpine Club of Canada’s Ralph Forster hut, Walsh and Diehl started at 6:30 a.m., July 30, to begin the long traverse to what’s known as the Dome. The Dome is a huge ice hump that affords a good view of the seracs which present an overhead danger to climbers.
Luckily, the conditions were favorable.
“The sun was on [the Dome] the whole time, but the snow was good,” Walsh said.
As they were heading up the Helmet, another prominent feature on the east side of the mountain which is rife with gravity-defying snow gargoyles, the men noticed a solo climber dropping below the Dome.
“We saw his tracks to the summit, he was moving very efficiently,” Walsh said.
After seeing their alpine peer descend, Walsh and Diehl made camp 350 m below the top at 5:30 p.m. “We wanted to be on the summit for the anniversary,” Walsh explained.
After spending the night at 3,600 m, the men struck out for the top at 4:20 a.m. They spent 15 minutes on the summit before beginning their laborious descent.
“The snow was perfect,” Walsh said.
Descending 10,000 feet to where their bikes were parked at Kinney Lake, the men had lots of time to reflect on Mount Robson’s history of alpinism, including Kain’s first ascent.
“It would have been cold in that primitive gear,” he laughed.
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
You know when veteran Jasper mountain guide Peter Amann asks “Where was this photo taken?” you’re getting into a part of the park seen by few people.
Jasper’s Jon Mark Goulet, Dwight Romanuik and Regis St-Pierre were not only off the beaten trail, at times they were suspended high above it when the trio explored the lesser known Garrone Canyon in the Colin Range July 15.
Descending the waterfall-strewn slot from the Alpine Club’s Colin Hut, the adventurers rappelled more than 14 times, from drops ranging between 10 to 75 m, before they were back on flat ground. Goulet, who first learned about the canyon from local rock and ice journeyman Greg Horne, said it was a natural high.
“When you’re rappelling from that height the rope’s curl makes you spin and you get these 360-degree views of open air, the canyon and the ground below,” he said. “It was amazing.”
Some might call it amazing. Others might call it terrifying.
Goulet said the scariest part was that once you dropped, you were pretty much “all in.” While the group carried climbing gear—in the event one of the anchors they planned on using had been knocked loose, for example—by and large, once they committed to the descent, there was no turning back.
“There are really only two places where you can escape,” he said, referring to spots where they could potentially climb up and out of the canyon.
At the bottom of each rappel, the men had to deal with the water which piled anywhere from two inches to four feet deep. Keeping warm while belaying his partners down the rock face was a challenge, Goulet said.
“I was in the river for 30 minutes and by the time we all got down I was shivering so bad I had trouble talking.”
Thankfully, the brisk hike out warmed him up. The team called in an all’s well 12.5 hours after they began.
BOB COVEY // BOB @THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
Gathered around the breakfast table, three raft guides excitedly discuss the state of the Athabasca River. Its current height, its speed, its unique features and its timeless beauty are all on topic.
“You have to watch out for the Kerkeslin ledge in the centre of the river,” one suggests.
“Not quite centre, it’s a bit river-right, isn’t it?” comes the retort.
“Yes, a bit river-right. It will certainly get you in trouble if you’re not ready for it,” is the third’s diplomatic rejoinder.
It’s typical shop-talk for this time of year and the three guides could be staff at one of several whitewater rafting companies in Jasper. What makes these rafters different is that they’re not just co-workers or even good friends. They’re family. In fact, they’re all part of the same paddling legacy that helped buoy the sport in Jasper 40 years ago.
“I tell my clients that my family doesn’t care what you do as a career—you don’t have to be a doctor or a lawyer—but you do at some point have to be a raft guide,” says Tekarra Valiulis, 19, who took the plunge this year.
Gilly Thomas, sitting adjacent to her daughter, has to laugh. As Jasper’s—and likely Canada’s—first ever female raft guide, she remembers the sport’s inherent sexism when she first started guiding clients down Jasper’s rivers in 1981. The pressure to be as good as the guys was constant. “When one of the guys would carry the raft by himself down to the water, I’d do it in bare feet,” she says.
Leaning back in his chair, smiling at the familiar banter, is Gilly’s father and Tekarra’s grandpa, Bryn Thomas. Since coming to Jasper in the 1960s, Bryn has watched over not only a successful lineage of raft guides in his family, but the rise of Jasper’s paddling community. It was Thomas and local iron man Ron Steers who founded Jasper’s first rafting company (first called Rocky Mountain River Guides, then Jasper Mountain River Guides, then Whitewater Jasper). Bryn was a keen kayaker when he accepted the job of principal at the Jasper Elementary School in 1968, and a year later, when a friend suggested he share his passion for the river with visitors to the park, his hobby for exploring Jasper’s waterways by kayak evolved into a business.
“I thought if nothing else it would pay for the equipment,” he chuckled.
In 1969, equipped with their two-seater Klepper Aerius kayaks and holding as much knowledge as anyone in the area on Jasper’s rivers, Thomas and Steers were approved to begin operating. Soon, like a river in June, demand was swiftly rising. Gilly recalls riding in the back of the family’s VW Beetle with her mom while her dad and a client sat up front. On top of the bug’s roof was the kayak. In the front boot was the simplest of gear.
“There were no wetsuits, no helmets, no neoprene vests,” Gilly said.
But there was interest. Soon, demand outstripped what Rocky Mountain River Guides could supply. The business partners knew they would have to start offering a new product after Bryn took an entire day to guide a father and three sons down the river, one at a time.
“We thought ‘there’s got to be a better way,’” Thomas said.
The answer was rafting. While a Banff-based company was offering occasional float trips down the Athabasca River in huge, black, non-self-bailing rafts, the newly dubbed Jasper Mountain River Guides decided to begin providing a more participatory whitewater experience, i.e., less floating, more paddling. Steers procured what would be Jasper’s first small commercial raft in 1979, and by the end of the season they had guided 120 rafting clients down the river. The next year, that number rose to 600 and by 1981, when Gilly was handed the guide’s paddle, the company introduced 1,500 new paddlers to Jasper whitewater.
“We wanted to get people involved, we wanted people to have their own paddle,” Bryn said.
Forty years later, the legacy is alive with five different rafting companies in Jasper offering paddling experiences on three different rivers. While Bryn and Gilly recall celebrating their 1000th client of the season with champagne on a sandbar, today, it isn’t unheard of to have that many visitors experiencing rafting in a weekend. During the Canada Day long weekend, Maligne Adventures alone brought a record 244 people downriver in one day.
Maligne Adventures is where Tekarra hangs her wetsuit. With Bryn and Gilly having retired their guide paddles long ago, Tekarra is proud to be the torch bearer for the family. Her “interp”—knowledge and information that she passes on to clients—is rich with stories of her family’s paddling exploits. After all, her co-workers learn about her pioneering mother in outdoor school and her grandfather has a wave named after him.
“I’m in a cool position,” Tekarra said.
For Bryn, he is pleased that his granddaughter appreciates the river like her mother and uncles before her.
“I’m glad they have the same respect and enjoyment I always had.”
bob covey // firstname.lastname@example.org
Most people consider hiking one of Jasper’s neighbourhood peaks an all-day affair.
On June 18, locals Cameron Vos and Viet Tieu annihilated this common perception of a long day when they successfully summitted Old Man, Pyramid and Whistlers mountains in just under 23 hours.
The adventure started at the base of Roche Bonhomme at 5:30 a.m. Armed with trekking poles, Nutella/banana sandwiches and an alarming amount of gusto, Tieu and Vos flew up their first peak, conquering the steep grades of the classic Jasper scramble. At 11:30 a.m., they got on their bikes at the base of the Pyramid fire road. However, deteriorating weather conditions on the mountain's upper reaches forced them hunker down in the driving snow.
"At that point we were nearing our limits," Vos said.
A couple Nutella sandwiches and a heartening pep talk later, they ticked off their second peak. But the delay meant they weren't at the Whistlers' trailhead until 9:45 p.m.
After some challenging route finding in the dark and the fog, Tieu and Vos—accompanied by several friends for the last leg of the journey—reached the summit of Whistlers' at approximately 1 a.m., but challenges awaited the group on the descent.
Tieu experienced the dreaded “bonk.” Also known as hitting the wall, this level of physical exertion siphons your motivation, strength and energy—and occasionally empties the contents of your stomach onto unsuspecting trailside vegetation. Tieu’s advice for travelers on the Whistlers trail: “Mind your step.”
Camaraderie, dogged determination and relentless optimism carried the group to the parking lot just after four in the morning.
abby morgan // email@example.com
James Osmond is a longboarder on a long journey.
The 25-year-old Blue Mountain, Ontario, native arrived in Jasper Monday afternoon. Like many tourists, he was only staying for a few days before he moved on. Unlike most, however, his mode of transport was a skateboard.
"I get about 50 - 70 kilometeres in a good day," the jovial dude said.
Osmond is planning to have a lot of good days. His quest is to cross the entire country—9000 kilometres, from coast to coast. He's used to getting funny looks.
"I've never heard of anyone else doing it," he said.
Osmond was inspired to start The Big Push 2013 after his papa passed away from prostate cancer. "Maurice Gordon Rafuseone was one of the strongest men that I have ever met," he said.
Now James is tapping into that strength. Since May 1 he's skated from Vancouver to Victoria to Port Hardy (ferries not included) to Prince Rupert to Jasper. "I had seven days straight of rain on the north island," he recalled.
Skateboarding is traditionally a laid-back pastime, but Osmond is taking the sport to new extremes. He's already gone through three sets of wheel bearings, two sets of trucks and three pairs of shoes. He was happy to carve around Jasper sans-60-lb-pack and he was still recounting the close grizzly encounter he had near McBride.
"The Robson Valley is one of the most beautiful places I've been," he added.
Osmond is looking to raise $25,000 to go towards prostate cancer research. He's got the support of the Canadian Cancer Foundation and of course his mom, who helps with the website.
Unfortunately on Wednesday, while boarding on the Maligne Lake Road, James took a spill. He banged up his shoulder and scraped up his hand, but the rad rider seemed to take it all in stride.
"It's a beautiful country and I've met some amazing people," he said.
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
For most seasonal workers in Jasper, scoring two or three consecutive days off to hike the Skyline Trail isn’t likely over the summer when hiking conditions are prime. It’s impossible if you have to match days off with a hiking partner.
Faced with this issue last summer, James Walter and I decided to try the hike in a single day. We packed light – only snacks and a windbreaker – and hit the trail at 6 am.
For those who don’t know the Skyline Trail, it’s a 44-km traverse from Maligne Lake to Signal Hill. The 25-km section of trail above treeline is spectacular and helps makes this hike one of the Canadian Rockies’ most famous.
Our hike went like clockwork: Little Shovel Pass by 8 am, Shovel Pass by 9 am, The Notch by noon; and Signal hill by 2:30 pm. We ended the day with a mid-afternoon celebratory pint at the De'd Dog.
It turns out its fairly common practice, too, as our attempts to brag about the day were foiled with tales of locals who’d hiked it in foul weather, beat our time, or, one girl, who’d hiked it before joining into a Freewheel Group Ride.
When local climber Jesse Milner skied up to the glacier on Mount Englehard after a reasonably smooth tour up Wooley Creek, in the Winston Churchill Range, he was surprised that he was all alone. When his partner, John Crowley, finally showed up, the Tete Jaune farmer was in agony. Inexplicable, crushing pain in Crowley’s feet was making the tour excruciating.
“He was thinking of pulling the pin,” Milner said.
Crowley was convinced he wouldn’t be able to muster the energy for the big summit push which lay ahead. Concerned, Milner told his friend to remove his boots and inspect his feet. When Crowley discovered that he’d put his boot liners in the wrong shells, Milner said there was nothing to do but laugh. Four hundred ice-steps later, both men were on top of the world.
Spring conditions allow for unique adventures in Jasper, as Sean Elliot, Carl Diehl, John Crowley and Dana Ruddy proved when they approached Mount Unwin April 21.
At 3,268 m, Unwin juts out of Maligne Lake on the west side of the Samson Narrows. To get to the start of the route, the men strapped their skis to their mountain bikes and rode down the lake on the ice for approximately 10 km.
Ruddy, who had not climbed Unwin previously, said a thin snow crust and heavy packs made the bike ride a slog. Once they were at the “beach,” however, the excellent ski conditions made up for the slow cycling.
“It was really good travel,” he said. “We had ankle deep powder and everything had gone through a strong melt-freeze cycle. Objectively, the thing was probably as safe as it gets for that time of year.”