Friday, August 29, 2008

Sage 24 Hour Rogaine

Well, it's Labour Day weekend and I'm sure most of you have big plans all laid out to get in your last summer kick before fall sets in soon. However, you can delay the fall blues sooner and come out to an absolutely awesome event happening next weekend.

Thats right, the Sage 24 hour rogaine is being held next weekend and will be an absolute blast for everyone involved. There are not many Rogaines that take place each year, and so if you've never done one before, now is your chance. This is 24 hours of navigation in the Grasslands Provincial Park area of Kamloops, BC. The terrain here is absolutely fantastic and the temperature and weather should be well suited to keep going strong all night long.

I would highly recommended this event. There are a bunch of people going from the lower mainland and Victoria so, if you don't have a partner or way of getting there, I'm sure you could hook onto a car pool and find a teammate. Click on the link below for more info:


Teams of 2 to 5 people choose how long and how far they will venture to find as many of the Controls marked on the map as they can. The controls may be found in any order and teams may return to the central Hash House at any time to eat and/or sleep.

LOCATION: Thompson River Benchlands, west of Savona, B.C.

HOST CLUB: SAGE Orienteering & Rogaining Club of Kamloops

MAP DETAILS: Map created in OCAD by Leigh Bailey with additional field corrections by Murray Foubister

  • 60 Controls of varying value are spread over approximately 130 square Kilometres

  • Map Scale is 1:50,000 with a Contour interval of 100 feet with some additional form lines

  • Five colours to International Rogaining standards.

  • All controls and water drops have been pre-marked on the maps

  • The terrain is approx. 40% Open Grasslands...50% open forest and 10% denser forest

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Backpacking in Strathcona - Phillips Ridge

For those of you who have never been to Strathcona Park before, you are missing out. While many people know about the park, few venture past the parking lot or main hiking areas. Much of the backcountry routes are ridge line hikes that, as I found out, are very labourous and much much harder than the topographic map would imply. So, if you do go, be forewarned as you may be in for more than you bargined for.

One annoying thing about the park is that there is not much information readily available to hikers who want to venture into the backcountry. The only trail maps are a set of small pages out of the Hiking Trails III guidebook which are so hard to follow that they are virtually useless (the scale is small and you have no idea what a full route looks like since you can only see a small section at a time). Because of this, I made a huge effort to put together some custom maps using the NTS topographic series vector data along with hand digitizing all of the existing trails. It was a labourous process but the outcome was some really nice maps on size A2 paper.

The other annoying thing is that all of the information on times for trails is extremely conservative. We tried talking with various people about the terrain and timelines and we either go no answers, or again, very conservative estimates. I knew this but Kim, being much more concerned with timing and her ability, really thought that we would be in for a sufferfest on our vacation time. She really didn't want to be hiking for 14 hours a day and frankly, neither did I.

After much deliberation of picking a route in the park (I had a big long hike planned that really was way too ambious for the terrain) Kim and I decided on doing two separate loops that each ended close to the car and would allow us to resupply with food and thus, not carry as much. The first loop (and in the end the only loop we would do) was a ridge hike on Phillips Ridge, around to Marble Meadows, down to Buttle Lake, up to Mt Phillips, and down to the car. This would be around 55km with lots and lots of elevation (maybe around 4000 meters up and down).

We packed food for four days max but thought we might be out in three if the weather held. Kim and I had only done one trip in the past over in Olympic Pennisula National Park (which was amazing) and from that trip, I knew that I needed to take more gear to balance things out.

For all intent and purposes, going on a packing trip is much like being on an adventure racing team; you can only go as fast as a slower member and helping them out will only make everyone happier.

Not that we were trying to go as fast as we could but if I took more weight, it would slow me down, and keep Kim fresher and more comfortable over the duration of the trip. So, I ended up packing our camping mats, extra water, all the food, and all of the cooking supplies (stove, fuel, pots, cutlery, etc). As we went pretty light, my pack was still under 60 lbs and I think Kim got away with only 25 lbs. It was funny though, throughout the trip she kept trying to take some of the food or something to share the load as she felt guilty for not carrying more. She did cook all the meals which was great for me!

So, onto the trip. I won't go into much detail as the photos do a good job of what we were going through. The trip started with gorgeous hot weather.

We climbed up from the parking lot at the end of Buttle Lake Road (by the mine) up to Arnica Lake. It was during this section that we came upon a few other hikers who told us that it would take over 12 hours of hiking to get over to Schelderip Lake (which we estimated to be less than 8 hours). These guys seems fit and told us that the route was very tough going. This put a bit of a damper on our plans but it still didn't seem right to me that they were taking so long to move in the terrain. We continued on and arrived up at the lake in less than 2 1/2 hours (which was 3 1/2 hours faster than the estimated time!). We talked to more packers and they again explained there struggles and long time frames. I guess we would see what we could do.

From Arnica Lake, the trail moves up and up to 1600 m where you get panaramic views of the surrounding mountains and our route to come.

Hiking above the tree line

We decided to call an early day and found a piece of flat ground just big enough to fit the tent (after moving some rocks).

The views from the camp were incredible

Hanging Clouds

The next day we awoke to clouds and greyness. We knew that the weather was changing and there was a big low pressure system coming in but when you're on vacation for a limited time, what are you going to do? We kept going.

After leaving camp, we soon found that the terrain got much much harder. Flat areas on the map were constantly undulating; there were no flat sections on this hike. It was either up or down and much more than the topo map suggested. Nonetheless, we made it by Schelderip Lake in much less time than the other hikers and were starting to wonder what other people do and how much gear they must bring. Even then, it didn't really make sense. The only thing I could really think was that most people don't know how to hike. They move much too quickly, take lots of breaks, and fall apart from trying to push themselves too much. We were only going at a moderate but steady pace yet we were going 60% faster?!?!? I think Kim started to feel good about this :)

Lots of snow up on the ridges

Despite the clouds, we were gifted with some great views

The weather continued to worsen and by the time we got to the camp on Greig Ridge, we found our saviour; an aluminum framed canvas tent complete with chairs, kitchen counter, propane and a heater! The place was also stocked with some very warm down clothing which we used to temporarily get us nice and warm and dry. The camp was actually part of a Vancouver Island Marmot conservation project. While we had at least 3 hours of hiking time left to go, we decided that we should just hunker down due to the deteriorating weather. It was a very good plan as we faced lots of rain, snow, and what must have been gail force winds up on the ridge.

The next day, we awoke to thick fog, rain and more wind. This photo was taken during a brief open period. As the route was trecherous enough when you could actually see, we figured it wouldn't be very smart to move especially into unexplored terrain. The weather never let up all day which meant hanging out, listening to a hand crank radio, reading some backpacking magazines, and doing some Sudoku; all courtesy of the camp.

The next day we were greeted with clear skies although you could tell that this wouldn't last for too too long. Here's our camp on the ridge.

As we were weathered for more than a day, our food supplies were getting low and we couldn't really risk getting weathered in again. Thus, we had to abandon our full route and head back the same way we came. In the beginning, I was a bit disappointed but it didn't last long as the way we came was pretty incredible and definitely worth a revisit.

The Golden Hinde finally peaking out; upper mid left

A very welcoming sun to the new day
Greig Ridge looking over to our destination, Phillips Ridge

A couple of Mt. Finlaysons to climb on the way back. And then a few more.

Our first big ridge summit and Mt. Burman in the background

Mount Burman with Schelderip Lake
Good geology riddled the hike

Rock intrusion

The clouds moving in on us once again

It was a good 11 hike out to the car including a good and long final stop at Arnica Lake to fuel up before the last descent. Instead of doing another loop, we decided to head up to Mount Washington and maybe do a trip into Mount Albert Edward instead. In the end, the weather wasn't great and we just ended up relaxing, trying to walk properly (Kim :) ), and watching a bunch of the Olympics.
While it wasn't an ideal trip, it was still pretty incredible and the loop deserves a second go in the future. Maybe next year.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More Nanasivik Shots

Ok, these are the last photos. I promise. There were just so many good ones that I couldn't resist. So, here we go.
We were all lucky enough to get a tour of the last remaining open mine entrance before it would be fully decommissioned in several weeks time. It was an errie experience as the mine was just pitch black and freezing cold since the ground is all perma-frost under the top 2 meters of surface material.

Frozen walls of the mine were everywhere with thick thick frost in areas as well.

This was taken close to the entrance where water comes in and then freezes making inverted icesicles.

This was very neat to find. An old Inuit shelter complete with doorways, chairs and animal bones.

This rock tower would have been made to signify where the shelters were located.

An arctic hare

My office for two weeks.

Rock hoodos

Very old stratified rock with very old ice passing by

This is the community of Arctic Bay. I'm not sure what the exact population is but you're looking at about every home in town.

Leaving Arctic Bay with the Des Groseilliers sitting in her waters.

This was the best airplane food I have ever had! On Canadian North, you actually get real silverwear!!! I had a big piece of Arctic Char on wild rice with carrots and green beens, a side of salad, a whole wheat bun and butter, a raspberry strudel, and a mint chocolate to top it all off. Wow!
I should note here that the Arctic can be a very hard place to get into and out of. If you have strict plans following a trip to the Arctic, don't even bother going. Bad weather continually delays schedules and people were stuck in Nanasivik for other a week while we were there. The runway was either fogged out or it actually rained so much that the planes couldn't even land when it cleared up. I was trying to get to my friend's wedding two days after my flight was scheduled and this proved to be very stressful. The only reason I was able to make it out in due time was that a small plane had come in unexpectedly to the Arctic Bay airport, we hoped in the Coast Guard Helicopter to check it out, and fortunately, there was room for two of us to get out to Iqaluit. From there, I had over eight cancellations, changes, delays and other screw-ups that followed me all the way home. When I finally got on the final flight from Toronto to Victoria, another wrench was thrown at me.

We were all sitting in the plane, that was hours delayed, and were ready to go. Suddenly, the pilot came on and told us that the crew was bailing out on the flight since the flight time would put them over the maximum number of hours allowed to be worked. This kept us on the ground for over another hour and it was not until 5:00am my time that I finally arrived home...

...without my luggage!!!

Damn Air Canada!
You know, I thought to myself, at least I made it home. And with that, I headed home, got a short sleep, and was up to head up to Mt. Washington for Mike and Andreas' wedding.

Staying On Board the Des Groseilliers - Canada's Ice Breaker

My trip to Nanasivik included being welcomed and staying on board the Des Groseilliers Coast Guard vessel. It was quite the ship and included a very nice group of French people who treated us well. Apparently, few people ever get to stay on board the vessel so we all considered ourselves to be priviledged and honoured to be guests.

Looking down the dock

The bridge from the bow.

One of two barges that we got to work off of for some sediment sampling.

Our stay included a full tour of the ship from the top down. The engine room was huge with four locamotive style diesel engines. This ship had lots and lots of power!

A rescue helicopter under a retractable roof

Enjoying the views.

Sediment Sampling off the barge.

A zodiac ride to look for some background samples.

Taking a break in the rain.

Yes, the ship had a bar that was open every night. And a 1.25 a beer, how can you go wrong!!! Great times were spent down there usually followed by a group session of Rock Band!