Saturday, October 02, 2010

Day 11: Jasper to Wilcox Pass Trailhead Campground

The morning found me downing a quick breakfast of ramen, tea, and sneaking out of the youth hostel by 6:30am. I started worrying about getting to the Mt. Christy lookout by first light, but I needn't have worried. The mountains kept Mt. Christy and others in shadow, which meant that I had plenty of time with which to shoot the sky prior to the anticipated alpenglow.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism

When the actual alpenglow arrived, it was quick. I estimate the time of the start of the colors and the time of the finish was no more than 15 minutes. This was to be anticipated: it took till 8:00am before the light started to show, which meant that our golden hour was cut short by at least 20 minutes. I worked furiously at the Mount Christy lookout, and then drove quickly to the next site North to work it as well.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors

Afterwards, I found out that other photographers were congregated at another site just a little further north, at a designated lookout point. If I had more time I would have tried that as well. I then headed towards Mt. Edith Cavell, which turned out to be on the road leading to the Athabasca Falls. I vaguely remember this set of Falls from 15 years ago, and paused for several pictures and some video.

From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors

I then stopped by a road-side picnic area to make a bigger breakfast (brunch, if you choose to call it that), eating some bread, eggs, and then my eyes fell upon some expired freeze-dried food I had packed just to see whether expired freeze-dried food was edible. The food had been acquired from ages ago when Lisa was still eating seafood, and I didn't find it particularly palatable then, and it was even worse now. I quickly threw away the rest of the expired food after an initial tasting. I supposed that if I was stuck away from other food sources for 3 days I would find it palatable, but I figured that I would save my future self from such misery by tossing it away now while I still had my head screwed on straight.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism

Mt. Edith Cavell's glacier walk started in a Canyon that's pretty much obscured from the sun during most of the day. Definitely some place to visit for a sunrise shoot one of these days, since even by mid-morning when I had started, the place was already nearly covered by shadows from the surrounding mountains. I walked up the trail rapidly, catching up to a group of Michigan hikers whom I enjoyed a conversation with, so chose to walk with them for a while. They mentioned that they were in the rockies for a week, hiking twice a day, but Michigan did not have any hills, so they struggled a bit on the climbs. This gave me plenty of time to do photography though!
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism

Kenneth was a cyclist, so I pointed him at my cycle touring web-site, and told him about the 2007 tour, since he was headed to that area of Switzerland next year. Since Ken was a CPA as well as a cyclist, we enjoyed a conversation about the kind of people who needed financial advice, the kind of people who ignored advice, and what the consequences turned out to be. Some of his stories were truly mortifying, but having similar stories of my own, I was not too surprised. The hardest part about investing is emotional control, and it's one factor that has no relation whatsoever to how smart you are. It's not a surprise at all that even the smartest people I've met have trouble overcoming their own greed and short-sightedness.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism

We got to the part of the trail where the easy walk ended and the strenuous uphill climb and scramble would start. We said goodbye to each other and I began the climb in earnest. The trail was barely defined and steep. More than once I wish I had had the foresight to bring my hiking poles. To my surprise about 45 minutes into this section I ran into two familiar faces. I recognized them from the hostel last night: they were two German speaking girls. Apparently the hostel manager had given them the same advice he'd given me (probably sans the sunrise location). "It's much longer than it looks," one warned me. (Never mistake a clear view for a short distance is one of my favorite quotes from Beyond Entrepreneurship, a book Reed Hastings talked me into reading years and years ago) The other said, "It gets quite slippery at the top with a lot of loose rock." Well, I had water, I had food, and I was used to pain, so I pressed on after asking the two girls for a photo of myself.

They were not kidding about the steepness and the climb, and in fact, at the start of the scramble I was forced to drop my backpack full of photo gear and my tripod in favor of going light with one lens, the SLR, and of course, my backup camera. I figured my photo gear was safe because if anyone actually tried to steal it while I was scrambling, by the time I came down I'd have a very easy time catching him on the downhill and without a load. The top of the scramble was spectacular, not only lending a great view of Mt. Edith Cavell, but on the other side, an amazing view of the ice field parkway. The wind was very strong and there was no one else around, causing me to have to pile rocks together to make a tripod with which to get pictures.

From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism

You should ignore the GPS coordinates for most of those pictures, since the GPS unit was abandoned along with the rest of the camera bag. The descent was a little sketchy, causing me to fall at one point, but fortunately it was a "sit down suddenly" type of fall, so there were no bruises except to my self-confidence. My camera bag was still waiting for me when I arrived, so I strapped it on and started hiking down, which was a much faster descent than the climb up. I started meeting lots of people, and then realized that I was encountering day visits, including the outdoors club from Prince George University. I had a brief conversation with them and then headed on my way to finish the rest of the easy walk.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism

Mt. Edith Cavell's glacier was pretty, with lots of waterfalls flowing off it overhanging a cave. The park ranger told me not to go there, even though there were lots of tourists standing under the glacier getting photos. "The glacier can calve multiple times a day, sometimes with no warning. If you're standing right under it when it does..." She did not have to finish the sentence.

It was mid-afternoon by the time I got off the trail, but I wanted to check out the Columbia Icefield the next day. I was told to stop by the Beauty Creek Youth Hostel to speak to the manager there, whose name was Tim. I arrived around 4:00pm, and he took the time to tell me about possible places to go, one of which I was probably going to use, Wilcox Pass. He mentioned a bush-whack that could get me a better view, but I was dubious about making the trek in the dark. "You do have time to scout it out now, you know." That was a good point. So I hurriedly ate dinner using the hostel's stove, and then drove out, passing what looked like a good Falls for sunset on the way to the start of Wilcox Pass.

I was pretty tired from one already strenuous hike that day, but that meant that my pace would be similar to what I could manage in the dark. I started the hike in shadow but after about 40 minutes made it to the ridge of the pass. From the ridge I could tell that it would be a long walk to get to the mountain in front of the ice field, but furthermore, from a photographic point of view, it would not be necessary. The big glaciers were right in front of the Wilcox Pass trail, and with a telephoto I could reach all the areas that would be hit by Alpenglow. Even the ridge line in front of me could be useful, and not necessarily be a hindrance.

With that bit of responsibility done, I hiked back down to see what I could make of the fading light. As I drove past the ice-field, the remaining bit of evening light caught my eye and I drove to the ice field's parking lot and made several exposures with the mountains and snow against the changing light.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors

The limited extent of the light meant that I had to use the 200mm lens, which is a continual source of wonder to me. Fully open it is beautiful and sharp, but stopped down and aimed at a mountain top it has a magical quality that impressed me.

I kept driving into the twilight to verify that Wilcox pass was the best place to be. In photography, the amount of effort put into the photo has nothing to do with the results, and sometimes the road is a better place to shoot. I thought I had found a better place until I checked the compass and realized that it would be entirely back-lit by sunrise. So Wilcox pass it was. I decided against staying at Beauty Creek hostel: it had no power or showers, so I might as well camp out at the Wilcox Pass trailhead, which conveniently had a shower. On my way back there, however, I saw a pair of mountain goats, and snapped several shots with my 200mm wide open. The camera was set at ISO 3200, which meant that I would be lucky to get anything at all, but to my surprise my Canon once again came through with a shot that I would never have expected from my days of shooting chemical film.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors

I arrived at the campground around 8:00pm, brushed my teeth, set up my sleeping bag for sleeping in the van, and set my alarm clock at 6:00am again. Not having to drive far the next morning allowed me to sleep in.

Previous
Next
Post a Comment