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Canada - Pocaterra Ridge - (hard work but worth it).

Canada - Pocaterra Ridge - (hard work but worth it).


Postby ChrisW » Fri Jul 20, 2012 11:22 pm

Date walked: 19/07/2012

Time taken: 5

Distance: 11.3 km

Ascent: 812m

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For some reason I had struggled to get myself interested in a hike this week, I actually went jogging on Monday (shock horror) on Tuesday I went out on the Mountain Bike locally. Wednesday I had a work related phone call right in the middle of the day that effectively closed that day and suddenly the week was almost over.


On Thursday morning I struggled to get going but eventually got myself organised. I took the familiar route along the Trans-Canada highway to its junction with highway 40 South. It was a long drive along the 40, the furthest South I had been along here since our arrival but after 65km I reached the 'Little Highwood Pass' parking area, happy to see I am the only one there.
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it took me quite a while to get myself ready and I confess I still didn't feel much like it, not sure what that is all about but eventually I set off back across the highway to what my guide book describes as the 'obvious path'. After wandering up and down the road a few hundred metres in each direction I still couldn't see the 'obvious path' so I just walked into the forest directly across from the car park entrance. Fortunately I found the trail just a few metres from my entrance point.
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after a brief spell of twisting and turning through the forest I came across a wide creek, I looked upstream for any kind of crossing point and then downstream for the same, I found this cluttered area which crossed the creek in two stages, first to a small island then to the opposite bank, both using pretty thin and knobbly dead-fall. I didn't fancy taking the boots off so early in the hike so I took to the balance beams. The first was easy enough. As I crossed the second my GPS unit somehow undid itself and made a dash for the water, fortunately the tether caught on one of the knobbly stubs leaving it dangling just above the flow. With the speed of the flow I didn't expect to see it again should it make the water, I then had to perform a squat on the balance beam to reach the damn thing and retrieve it (all the time expecting an early bath). Remarkably both me and my GPS unit made it to the other bank still dry.
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it was incredibly hot in the forest and there wasn't a breath of wind to help cool things down. I followed the very narrow and infrequently used trail along the creek until it turns inland toward the ridge. It soon begins climbing very steeply and continuously up through the trees. The first few hundred yards is absolutely solid with Menziesia bushes, the trail still exists beneath them but it takes a keen eye to follow it, in the shot below the path is almost central in the image and heading toward the dark shaded area at the base of the conifers.
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There is no respite as I climb within the forest, normally I like a short steep ascent but this one is a real slog. The heat is almost unbearable and the ascent rate is incredible....and it just keeps going. Occasionally I get a view out above the forest looking back to the car park.
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another good excuse to stop is to capture some shots of the beautiful flora dotted around the forest
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after almost 2km of continual ascent I finally break out of the main forest and feel some cooling and incredibly welcome breeze. Looking back to the north from the breakout point shows the carpet of forest running along the Kananaskis valley
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to my left (East) as I ascend is Elpoca Mountain (the highest peak on the far left of this shot) to the right of shot there is the opening of the Elbow Valley not quite visible in full yet.
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there is a well worn trail here and closer inspection shows it to be a coal seam, the Yorkshireman in me wants to grab a pick and shovel and set into it. Up ahead I see the first summit, still just a grassy knoll even though it stands at almost 7500 feet (2286m)
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out along the ridge here with a lovely strong breeze blowing I begin to cool off at last, stopping to capture some more of the flora gives me more opportunity to recover. It really was a slog through the forest, maybe the heat and my lack of real interest today added to that but even my guide book refers to it as a 'strenuous flog'.....I think that is still and understatement.
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as I gain more elevation the views back along the valley are staggering, the pointed peak of Gap Mountain dominates the centre frame and to the right the southern end of the Opal Range including Elpoca Mountain standing tallest in the frame.
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to the left is the start of the Elk Range, steep cliffs that fall into 'Little Highwood Pass'. It was my intention to drop down from the summit and return along this pass to the car park but the incredible amount of rock avalanches pouring down these cliffs and thundering into the pass below is putting me off that idea....to say the least.
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turning back to the hike it is a much more gentle ascent now toward that first peak. Down to the south-east I can see the open end of the Elbow Valley and the car park for it cut into the trees, from the number of cars there I suspect that is the place to be around here. The valley actually cuts through the mountains for 26km to the 'Little Elbow Recreational Area' south-west of Bragg Creek. I hope to cycle the whole trail at some point in the future but need to get my cycling fitness up to speed first, 50km off road with a couple of thousand feet of ascent is quite a ride.
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finally I make the summit of the ridge and can take a moment to sit and relax on the lush green grass, up ahead I can see my intended target for the day shaded under a passing cloud and still some way off. Just visible in the valley on the right is the appropriately named 'Rockfall Lake'. As I sit here enjoying the views the avalanches continue to pour down from the Elk Range and I'm already sure I'm not returning that way.
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the view back along the ridge never gets boring. I took a good 10 minutes here for tangerines and juice before dragging myself to my feet and starting off again. The sun was relentless and its a good job the cool wind blew across the tops or it would have been unbearable.
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along the Elbow Valley to the north-east I can just see Elbow Lake nestled within the trees there, another spot for Sarah and I to go (as long as I carry a picnic)
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it's disappointing to see the route drop down so far, by the time I am adjacent to Rockfall Lake I will be right back to the forest level, I really don't feel like it today and the thought of dropping down to reascend does little for my enthusiasm.
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as I descend to the forest I get a great view south along the highway before plunging back into stifling heat, the cool strong breeze is gone and I am back to overheating very quickly., at least the trail through the forest remains good and easy to follow.
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I was pleased to get through the forest again and out where the breeze could reach me, the remaining ascent was more gradual than the steep lumps so far and in some ways reminded me of the grassy mountains of home. Plodding on I maintain a steady pace toward my target that doesn't appear to be getting much closer.
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another hump goes by and I'm now beyond 'Rockfall Lake' and looking back over an incredible scene, a host of mountain ranges and passes with crystal lakes and lush green forests spread across the horizon as cloud shadows dance across them, it is truly beautiful.
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to the south Highwood Pass disappears into the distant ranges, to the right of this shot is the short ascent remaining to reach the target for the day.
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as I reach the modest cairn at the summit I feel a sense of relief, it really has been a slog today but I kept going and can now reap the reward for that effort.
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Almost the whole ridge can be seen now as well as a great view up the Elbow Valley to the right and across the ranges ahead, it is a wonderful scene that is the archetypal Canadian Rockies.
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zooming in gives a great view along the Elbow Valley toward Tombstone Mountain with Elbow Lake shimmering like a jewel in the dark green of the forest
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a zoomed shot to the north across the summit to Gap Mountain shows the peaks of the Opal Range to the right, the Kananaskis Range to the centre, the Spray Range at the left rear and the Elk Range on the near left....a stunning array of summits and potential future challenges.
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I used a second smaller cairn as a tripod to take the evidence shot, I'm happy it is a distant shot as I was so dishevelled at this point from a combination of heat and fatigue that I was not a pretty sight up close.
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I considered going further south and descending the ridge at that end and turning to the road for an easy flat hike back to the truck but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I'd rather face a drop and re-ascent going back the way I came than hike the road
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I tucked myself into the rocks behind the summit cairn and had my lunch before getting myself comfortable for the summit siesta, at 8300 feet (2529m) I was still 'huffing' the thin air as I closed my eyes and leaned back on the cool rocks.
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after a refreshing 20 minute nap I awoke feeling a little chilly. On opening my eyes I was greeted by a view of Mount Rae rising above the range opposite my position. Mt Rae provides sufficient shade to maintain a small glacier on its northern flanks...another target hike at some point.
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to get rid of the 'just woke up' chill I get my stuff together and set off along the trail, retracing my steps I considered dropping down to the left into Little Highwood Pass from the lowest col in the trees ahead, I calculated that this would bring me out beside Rockfall Lake, but with rocks still pouring down from the Elk Range I was going to have to evaluate it later before making a firm decision.
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before descending to the trees in the col I looked across the considered route, there were a number of moraines staggered along the valley, and I felt I could drop down the one that butted up to my ridge and walk out along the pass, but, even as I planned the route rocks fell into the lake and some bounded down the long slopes and across the pass before clattering into the moraine on my side. I quickly decided that reascending a little way was better than dodging rocks for 3km...I stayed on the ridge top among the mountain flowers.
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there are flowers everywhere now, all different types spread across the mountain in nooks and crannies with smaller short stemmed ones carpeting the top of the hill.
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the ascent back to the final bump was as hot as ever and reappearing on the grassy ridge was a blessing as the wind returned to cool me down one more time.
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I sat on a small rocky outcrop at the top of the final descent looking north along the Kananaskis valley as I chomped away my last two tangerines of the day.
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The good thing about that hideously steep ascent at the start is that it makes a hideously steep descent at the end. I bounded down the hillside and ploughed through the forest and Menziesia bushes in no time at all, on reaching the river I picked a reasonable looking spot and strolled across 'boots n all' as the water came over the top of my gaiters I realised just how bloody cold it really was, though it did feel fantastic on my feet. I was soon safely across and back through the forest to the highway and my truck parked directly across in the parking area.
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This was a strange day, I never really got into the hiking but absolutely loved the incredible views along the way. It's a shame the circular route was not possible due to falling rocks, but I'll definitely be back out here to Highwood Pass. It is a stunning area (but then aren't they all) just a little further south I have seen a hike to a spot called Paradise Valley....now that has got to be worth a look.
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ChrisW
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Re: Canada - Pocaterra Ridge - (hard work but worth it).

Postby Stretch » Sat Jul 21, 2012 6:23 am

Definitely worth it, Chris. I remember you getting this kind of sky while you were in Scotland, while the rest of us got Gammy-style clag - clearly these have followed you west.

What kind of temps are you guys getting? It's hotter than 40 foxes freaking in a wool sock down south, too hot for a hike even.
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Re: Canada - Pocaterra Ridge - (hard work but worth it).

Postby ChrisW » Sat Jul 21, 2012 7:02 am

Stretch wrote:Definitely worth it, Chris. I remember you getting this kind of sky while you were in Scotland, while the rest of us got Gammy-style clag - clearly these have followed you west What kind of temps are you guys getting?


Cheers Stretch, the opportunity to pick my days makes the weather thing a bit easier :wink: the last couple of weeks it has been well over 30 and bloody uncomfortable, on this hike it was 28 when I left the truck (around noon) with some humidity too so I suspect it went above 30 again :roll:

It's hotter than 40 foxes freaking in a wool sock down south, too hot for a hike even.

:lol: :lol: this is an awesome phrase, I saw on the weather that you guys were slow roasting and even a breeze just made it a convection oven rather than a regular one :lol:

At least it's cool here when I eventually drag my weary ass to the summit, may start exploring the Banff area soon :thumbup:
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Re: Canada - Pocaterra Ridge - (hard work but worth it).

Postby gammy leg walker » Sat Jul 21, 2012 8:32 am

Stretch wrote: while the rest of us got Gammy-style clag
029.JPG
Welcome to the "gammy clag"


What kind of temps are you guys getting? It's hotter than 40 foxes freaking in a wool sock down south, too hot for a hike even.
...........Only an American could come up with this sentence!!.

Well done on keping going Chris,it sure was worth the effort................keep"em comming mate.
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Re: Canada - Pocaterra Ridge - (hard work but worth it).

Postby Johnny Corbett » Sat Jul 21, 2012 9:02 am

What a life you've got and i hope you told the midday telephone caller to call at a more respectable time next time :lol:
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Re: Canada - Pocaterra Ridge - (hard work but worth it).

Postby jonny616 » Sat Jul 21, 2012 4:19 pm

great stuff as always Chris. My current scenery is similar. 65k long drive. My nearest Munro i haven't climbed is now 155 miles from my house. Your summit shot looks great no sign of dishevelment :clap: :clap:
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Re: Canada - Pocaterra Ridge - (hard work but worth it).

Postby ChrisW » Sat Jul 21, 2012 4:58 pm

gammy leg walker wrote:Only an American could come up with this sentence!!. Well done on keping going Chris,it sure was worth the effort................keep"em comming mate.


Cheers Gammy, it was a tough day this one and I'm really not sure why. I've hiked further and climbed higher over here than this but just couldn't get it going on this one :crazy:
Johnny Corbett wrote:What a life you've got and i hope you told the midday telephone caller to call at a more respectable time next time :lol:

Cheers Johnny, the time differential is a pain in the butt sometimes....but life is not too tough just now :lol:
jonny616 wrote:great stuff as always Chris. My current scenery is similar. 65k long drive. My nearest Munro i haven't climbed is now 155 miles from my house. Your summit shot looks great no sign of dishevelment :clap: :clap:

Thanks Jonny, I'm loving your recent reports - it's so good to see a family enjoying the mountains together. I think I've been spoiled with distances (though it was 60km to the start of highway 40 so 125 in total) it's still a beautiful drive with mountains everywhere though :roll: ......155 miles is a good stretch to reach your nearest :shock: ....maybe you should move house :lol:
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Re: Canada - Pocaterra Ridge - (hard work but worth it).

Postby morag1 » Sat Jul 21, 2012 6:29 pm

Just love all those photos of the flowers 8)

Sorry you seem to have lost a bit of Mojo - think one or two others on the site are feeling the same. maybe a wee break for the summer then its back to business :think:
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Re: Canada - Pocaterra Ridge - (hard work but worth it).

Postby ChrisW » Sat Jul 21, 2012 7:14 pm

morag1 wrote:Just love all those photos of the flowers 8)
Sorry you seem to have lost a bit of Mojo - think one or two others on the site are feeling the same. maybe a wee break for the summer then its back to business :think:

Thanks Morag, there are so many flowers around right now, it is beautiful.

Not sure what's going on with the motivational side of things, one of my greatest loves is being out on top of a mountain alone. There is a recognised roller-coaster effect on emotions when relocating though I don't suffer much with it as I relocate all the damn time :lol: Ridiculous though this may sound I think I need a holiday :lol:
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Re: Canada - Pocaterra Ridge - (hard work but worth it).

Postby ceaser » Sat Jul 21, 2012 8:07 pm

excellent report and pictures as usual chris ,just what we,ve come to expect :clap:
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Re: Canada - Pocaterra Ridge - (hard work but worth it).

Postby ChrisW » Sat Jul 21, 2012 11:15 pm

ceaser wrote:excellent report and pictures as usual chris ,just what we,ve come to expect :clap:

Thanks Ceaser, it's easy to get shots like these around here though :wink:
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Re: Canada - Pocaterra Ridge - (hard work but worth it).

Postby willywalker247 » Sun Jul 22, 2012 4:39 am

Great report and pic`s as always :clap:
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Re: Canada - Pocaterra Ridge - (hard work but worth it).

Postby ChrisW » Sun Jul 22, 2012 3:12 pm

willywalker247 wrote:Great report and pic`s as always :clap:

Cheers WW :thumbup:
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Re: Canada - Pocaterra Ridge - (hard work but worth it).

Postby blanchie » Sun Jul 22, 2012 4:07 pm

I see what you mean! That is some hike and some view, and the blue is incredible!
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Re: Canada - Pocaterra Ridge - (hard work but worth it).

Postby ChrisW » Sun Jul 22, 2012 6:41 pm

blanchie wrote:I see what you mean! That is some hike and some view, and the blue is incredible!

cheers blanchie, Kananaskis is an incredible place, I don't know why everyone heads for Banff & Lake Louise with the enormous crowds when they could see so much unspoiled beauty without the crowds just to the south in Kananaskis........I'm glad they do though :lol:
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