It all started a few years back as a beginner day hiker. I had seen amazing photos of people climbing or scrambling mountains but did not know if I would meet anyone to experience something like this. I was fortunate to meet Chris Goulet who is an experienced mountaineer. I was willing to learn more. He had me begin with baby steps in his home town of Grande Cache, Alberta. We went on a winter hike in May 2010 to Lightning Ridge, my first wilderness camp! It was a great success and my first silver summit of the Passport to the Peaks. The next adventure was with a group of friends to Berg Lake by Mount Robson for a week. This would be my first long distance hike with a 45 lb backpack. It was a tremendous view of Mount Robson where Chris had joyfully fulfilled his climb in 2006. Chris had gotten me interested in a possible ice walk up the Robson Glacier, so after a couple days of enjoying the surroundings, and having all the gear, it was time to go. We left the group and I said "no worries", I am in great hands. It was an amazing trek across the ice looking into deep crevasses while Chris probed and I followed in each exact step. It was a amazing feeling for me to walk in such a place. We stayed the night at the Rearguard alpine meadow, then down we went even finding our previous foot steps.
The next adventure would be an even greater challenge for me. The plan was for me to join him for the month of August and attempt Mount Clemenceau, the fourth highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. I was unsure of my abilities but was willing to try a big new step. The pack would weigh 65 lbs! I needed a few lessons to get it off the floor. I also had limited canoeing abilities but the two days of paddling on Kinbasket Reservoir were in perfect conditions and Chris helped me with technique.
Canoeing on Kinbasket Reservoir to Mount Clemenceau
We carefully cached the canoe. I strenuously lifted my pack and off we went. The first backpacking day was a possible scramble up a logging slash, on a hot day. It was a bit much for me and I had a little breakdown wondering if I bit off more than I could chew.
Logging slash above Kinbasket Reservoir
Plan B was a longer route on a old logging road-- much better! But the road fizzled out to heaps of logs to the top of the clear-cut. Then we bushwhacked to the alpine and discovered that it was an endless stretch of boulders. Where in the world do we put a tent? But amazingly, in the middle of this heap, there was a big flat rock perfect for the tent, even with a bedding of moss! As we were sleeping soundly, I heard a scratching noise. Chris assured me it was just the wind. But it turned into a chewing noise. Chris unzipped the door and the headlamp shone on a bushy-tailed wood rat, aka packrat, enjoying the salty flavour of the gear straps. Chris attempted to scare it off with growls and rocks, but it was futile. It only quit at dawn as it was his bedtime.
As days went on Chris was patient and waited for me to catch up with snack and water breaks in between. The route on the map didn't show many difficulties, like having to scramble up a steep ramp. It was too tough for me, so I left my pack behind and Chris would do double duty.
Steep ramp that we climbed
Our farthest camp was on day 8 at a glacial valley. The slog to this spot was not an easy task. It was hours of scrambling over unstable boulders 2-20' wide. The other choice was down a moraine on steep unsettled rocks sitting in silt. I chose the boulders. We arrived safely and made camp near a glacial lake shore. This was our most memorable spot as we had a daily show of erosion. We were hoping for a big show because the sun was melting the glacier with tons of rocks on top. Nothing big today, so maybe tomorrow. We fell asleep with the sound of small dribbles. We awoke during the night with a THUNDEROUS CRASH! We bolted up and Chris looked out to see sparks from rocks falling off a piece of glacier. It had split off about 50 feet wide splashing into the lake! This would've made a great video during the day. In the morning we saw the damage. The ice fall had created little icebergs in the lake. Chris was able to reach one and pull it to shore. He used his axe and chipped some off to have 10,000 year-old ice in the water bottles.
Glacial lake camp. Tent is on the right.
We enjoyed a extra day of sunshine as we knew this would be our turnaround point. Chris scouted the next pass and saw that it was insanely steep, and that there were endless boulder fields ahead.
Endless boulder fields
There wouldn't be enough days left to find a new route and make the summit of Mount Clemenceau. We wanted to use our ice axes and crampons, so we trekked to the base of a closer glacier so I could at least have an experience of a climb.
Glacier that we climbed
Caves in the glacier
Caves and a moulin
The top was at 8400' elevation, and we were treated to the view of Mount Clemenceau! I said to Chris: "You mean we would've been up there?" He laughed and said "No, we could get to just below the summit and stop there."
Mount Clemenceau in the smoky distance
We packed up the next day and made the trek up the silty moraine, another hard task and I left my pack halfway for Chris to retrieve later. This was the same silty area that we did not want to descend a few days earlier. Chris chopped foot holds with his axe to make a safer ascent. We arrived on the other side back to the beautiful meadow for the night.
Alpine lake and meadow
On day 13, we got back to our canoe and hoped it and our extras were in good form. We noticed the canoe had been pushed off the large hockey bag and a muddy print of a bear. We opened the bag to discover that it had bit into the corner, piercing the full water jug inside.
Bear bit through jug
All else was fine and we made camp for the night. I am sure the bear was long gone, maybe it could later enjoy the other canoe we discovered cached in the trees with a box of fresh peaches and a water bong! I don't think these people would be gone too long. We enjoyed another two amazing days back to where we started at Mica Dam. We followed a rocky shore with limited tent spots. We looked up and saw semi-flat area and decided that was the best we will find. We anchored the tent with rocks.
Canoe camp on bedrock
As night fell, Chris noticed a dark figure in the water which seemed to be moving closer. He asked if I had noticed any logs earlier, and I said no. He got out his headlamp and it looked like there were reflecting eyes. Chris yelled "go away" and the log changed course. There was little wind that night so we are still unsure of what it was.
After 16 days in the wilderness, the journey continued back to Grande Cache. We happily relived funny situations and amazing sights we had encountered.