Canadian Rockies

The mighty western edge of Alberta will stick with us forever. For a couple of California kids, we'd never seen mountains like this...the magnitude is nothing short of humbling and the prominence of these peaks will make you constantly stare upward, possibly drift into oncoming traffic, and scare the crap out of Sarah. We came in at the very end of August, luckily beating some of the crowds, but not the weather. With lots of moisture in the air and chilly temps, we got snowed on almost every time we hiked into the mountains. It takes a lot to keep us indoors, so we chased weather windows and had some unforgettable adventures in the backcountry. Pretty sure that we subsisted entirely on summit burritos and PB+banana+honey sandwiches during this time (oh and lots of hot tea back in the van). We entered this area from the north, and explored the less traveled park of Jasper, where bull elk casually stroll through the tiny town (one almost stuck their head in our window!) and hiking opportunities abound...(continued below)

Backpacking permits were surprisingly hard to come by and we couldn't even find two days in a row without a rain/snowstorm, so we ended up creating our new favorite sport, "long distance picnicking". We'd find the coolest looking backpacking trip, get up early, and do it in a day (with a hefty lunch somewhere in the middle). Our most memorable was a 26 miler out to Amethyst lake...

Then we continued south along the Icefields Parkway towards Banff, finding a hidden canyon and some epic free camping along the way...

After crossing into Banff, the mountains somehow get more impressive. One of our first days there, we went for a hike and realized there was a peak we could bag, but ended up hustling down after getting caught in a whiteout...on the bright side, we never expected to have our hike out beautifully covered in a light dusting of snow. Next we scrambled up the Tower of Babel for a different view of the famous Moraine Lake...

We wanted to get a long multi-pitch climb under our belts in the Rockies, and Achilles Spire definitely delivered (and then some). It's a 13 pitch alpine-sport route, with nearly 1000ft of climbing up a dolomite tower overlooking the Icefields Parkway and central Rockies. Once again we were toying with a narrow weather window, but we decided to go for it, and made a bunch of PB/banana sandwiches before parking near the approach trail to get some sleep. We woke up early in the morning, and realized after a little bushwacking that we were NOT at the trailhead. Our coordinates were off, and we didn't have any cell service, so we slowly drove up and down the highway until we found it. A late start on a 2hr approach hike, but oh well. We made good time to the base of the route, only to find another party on the first pitch (dang!). They were slow moving, but we gave them some space, especially after they started sending rocks down on us. The climbing was amazing though, and the route followed a nice line with stunning views. Just a few pitches up and you already feel like you're in an airplane floating above the Icefields Parkway. The weather definitely made the 5.8+ climbing way more exciting...dusting snow off holds, fighting 30mph winds, and rock so cold it made our fingers/toes numb. We passed the slower party halfway up (they decided to bail), and we topped out in the evening with jaw dropping views of the Rockies (and storm clouds blowing in fast). As soon as we setup our first rappel, it started to snow...and we still had 13 more to go. We ended up finishing our last four rappels in the pitch black darkness with snow coming down, and then still had to hike out another 90 minutes downhill. The last part of the hike was right through the heart of grizzly bear country, so we talked loudly about our favorite foods the whole way so we didn't surprise them (and because we were hungry). We were downright exhausted by the time we made it back to the van, but it was one of our most exhilarating days in the mountains thus far. We kind of can't wait to do it again...

The last part of our journey in the Canadian Rockies took us to Lake Louise (go at dawn to avoid the crowds!) for some hiking and alpine teahouses, before we ventured south through Kananaskis Country. We capped off our stay in Canada with a bluebird day at Waterton Lakes...and then we hopped the border back to the good ole USA! πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ