Everything was planned out. Everything was considered, weighed, and decided upon. Except by me. A now comical mistake born of naivety and perhaps a bit of laziness tossed in. it didn’t seem like a problem at the time. Hearsay declared the approach short; the climb easy; the descent not noteworthy. So why do research, i.e. work?
The watch blared it was 6 am. Still dark out, I simply stated “No.” and did not get up until 7am. After getting in around midnight the night before, I was not prepared to get up so soon. My climbing partner, Patrick, and I decided to sleep in the parking lot at the base of our climb after much fruitless searching for campsites. Pat was up before me already making tea and feeding our two dogs. I got up when I noticed sunshine and joined the hour-long process of getting ready for an upwards of 10 hour day.
For once, hearsay was correct. The approach was 20 minutes on an easy, wide trail. One fit for bus loads of Canada’s finest senior citizens to enjoy. As a bonus the trail wandered next to a lake surrounded by gorgeous peaks, we found a cairn and thus the day truly began. It was poised beneath a huge talus/scree field. “What is this garbage?” I thought. Perhaps I should have done my research… An arduous 40 minutes later after going up the wrong direction, we had arrived.
Looking above us, 2000 feet of slab beside a dihedral simply called “Joy” stretched seemingly forever. The dogs would hang back as usual. This place didn’t seem busy and there were acres of lakes for them to drink from and play in. Everything was set so we began. Pat leading the first two pitches, being ‘easy’ (as described by the guide book) and the next 5.4. The two pitches went well, smooth climbing, very few necessary gear placements, nice ledge-y belays, and awesome views. Except something wasn’t right. It took getting to the second pitch belay to see there were huge water streaks coming from the dihedral’s corner and spilling out ten, fifteen feet. Exactly where we were supposed to climb. Decision time. Great. More responsibility, i.e. work. To climb or not to climb. I think that’s how the saying goes. To not climb meant down-climbing those two pitches and scrambling back down the talus field defeated, frustrated. To climb meant risk, uncertainty, adventure. We decided on the latter. We’d come too far, right? Or, realistically, we were far too stubborn.
I gladly took the sharp end as I absolutely love slab climbing and am quite comfortable on it. Hearsay strikes again as the route stands up to its name. We were using a slick 70 meter rope to its ends, placing only a couple pieces of gear each pitch. You could just go, forever. Every so often you could follow perfect hand cracks away from the dihedral, traversing back and forth as the mood struck. Every other pitch beheld a roomy ledge for the belay and the view got better and better the higher you went. Turns out we were completely surrounded by mountains and alpine lakes. The day was described as ‘splitter’ with not a cloud in the sky. We summited with no problems 6 hours from our start.
The summit turns out to be a razor-back ridge: the slab we climbed on the west side, a sloping scree field on the east side, with no discernible exit. Well, poop. Research. The descent turned out to be a terrifying traverse across the east side for 150 meters followed by another half an hour walking slanted alpine meadows dotted with a thousand burrow holes. Snakes? Marmots? Should have researched the flora and fauna. Bears are a given, but what else calls this place home? If you keep walking across the meadows it is said you would hit a now closed hikers trail. But we were tired, impatient, eager to collect the dogs. We took the first meadow-y gully that looked like it went straight back to the starting trail. Halfway down, a faint trail begins. I was worried it was a game trail but it was better than tripping down the non-trodden areas. Another 20 minutes on that trail connects you with the “ now closed due to prime Grizzly habitat” hikers trail. Following this rocky mess another 30 minutes puts you at the beginning of the senior friendly trail. Never have I been so stoked. Now to get the dogs.
Turns out, they had had quite the day. Swimming in the lake, bugging the seniors for belly rubs, and generally causing dismay that they had no noticeable owners. Which apparently is NOT ok in Canada. Every Canuck that saw us had something to say about leaving your dogs. Every Canuck including the local park’s cop. Warning: Do NOT have your dog off leash in Alberta’s provincial parks. This cop was extremely unhappy. After much belittling and an hour of our time, we each got a ticket for unleashed dogs and illegal camping adding up to a grand total of $460. Turns out, we could not park overnight in that parking lot. “Should have done your research,” the cop stated without an ounce of care. To top it all off, delivered with supreme satisfaction, an eviction notice from that series of parks for 72 hours. Warning: Do NOT make it apparent that you find the until-then-unheard-of eviction from a park a laughing matter. It does not make said cop happy to feel powerless. We were done. We climbed our climb. We were already packed to leave. We gladly accepted the last of our charges.
Driving off we debated if we should pay our fines. More research must be done to see just how seriously Canada takes their ‘dogs off leash’ tickets. We were warned they would stop us at the border but something tells me that that was just an idle threat tossed in to puff up an ego. All in all the day definitely had its ups and downs. You can’t beat the climbing, the views, and even the approach wasn’t that bad. However, the descent and the police were far from pleasant. So, never forget, do your research. Weigh your options and choose adventure.
September 11, 2013 By Mollie Bailey