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Thursday, 4 February 2016

Walls of Stone Part 8 – Assiniboine

Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame!
- William Butler Yeats

We crossed Bryant Creek 
that morning and climbed to a westerly traverse of Wonder Peak above Marvel Lake. Whomever named the various features along the way to Mount Assiniboine, spared me the effort of having to break out the thesaurus to come up with superlatives. The weather was good and I found my eyes drawn to the lake below. There were several islands and it looked quite windy down there. The resulting riffles sparkled in the sunlight. Don drew ahead of me as usual, but not because I was struggling. I was determined just to enjoy the hike. This day promised to be the highlight of the trip.

A spruce grouse got ahead of me and was continually driven further and further along the trail. Finally he worked his way uphill from me, then flew over my head and down towards the lake. When I drew even with the end of the lake, I began my ascent toward Wonder Pass. I stopped at a pretty ledge and took a tripod-mounted selfie of myself sitting on a rock and rehydrating for the work ahead.
I resumed my climb to the pass. It was a busy trail, with people coming down the mountain and others heading in my direction. I played leapfrog with a group of young Japanese men, who had also camped at McBride’s the night before. The only thing that took away at all from the experience was the constant din of helicopters, flying hikers and gear back and forth to the lodge. Even that wasn’t really bothering me that day. It all just added to the buzz of finally being on my way to one of the top destinations on my “bucket list”.
The trail switched back and forth across a steep gully and then at tree line it leveled off somewhat. I stopped to take photos and video along the way. All of the elements that make the mountains so enchanting were in abundance. I looked all around at the rocky summits, topped with glaciers. Icy meltwaters cascaded down the cliffs and disappeared behind emerald forests that encircled the shores of the azure lakes below. The pass itself was a garden of alpine flowers, tundra and scree bordered to the west by the cliffs of “The Tower” and the more gradual slopes of Marvel Peak to the east.
Wonder Pass was a busy place. There were backpackers leaving and arriving at Mount Assiniboine, but many of the people had taken a day hike out from the campground or lodge, just to see the pass. For me it was the way forward, but to them it was a destination in itself. I could certainly see why. Eventually, I arrived at the wind-swept summit and saw Don’s pack leaning on the marker. This was our third and final crossing of the Continental Divide.
Don was just across the pass, perusing his topo maps. I stopped to shoot some video and compose a time-lapse of the scene across the pass. I was surprised by the openness of the park. I had expected tighter, narrower valleys. Don pointed out some of the park’s main features including the meadows around Nub Peak (a destination for many hikers). We looked toward Sunshine and Og Lake. After passing a canyon and two young women taking a shower in its waterfall, we arrived at Mount Assiniboine Lodge. 

A woman at the lodge recognized Don and began a conversation. While we were chatting, I noticed a sign that alleged the Simpson River Bridge remained closed and that fording the river was not recommended. I asked her what she knew about that. She had heard a rumor that National Parks staff had closed the bridge, so they wouldn’t have to clear the deadfall along the trail to the Radium highway. This was disconcerting, because our whole traverse of the Rockies hinged on the advent of this one river crossing.

Don’s old style external frame backpack was the “talk of the town” on the boardwalks around the lodge. People kept approaching him to discuss how “retro” it was and most of them shared stories of their old backpacks. Don and I both found it quite amusing.
We headed toward camp and I stopped at a wondrous spot above Lake Magog. Don carried on ahead to find us a camping spot. I found myself transfixed by the iconic scene before me. I took some more time-lapses and ultra-high definition footage of the pretty blue green lake backed by stunning Mount Assiniboine, the “Matterhorn of the Rockies”. I had waited over thirty years to behold this scene, which rivals any in the Rocky Mountains.

We were late for dinner, which was probably my fault and the cook shelter was overflowing with people from every corner of the Earth. Don cooked supper on a stump next to the shelter. I pulled up a stump and joined him for the usual sumptuous meal and a desert of freeze-dried cheesecake, which was surprisingly tasty. Sitting outside the shelter was fine with me, because I could enjoy views of the summit and glacier of Mount Assiniboine. A bald eagle flew high above it all, riding the winds around the summits and over the clifftops. I tried to imagine what that would be like. It struck me that there was no purpose to the bird’s meandering flight, other than the complete joy of riding the up-draughts. Don always had many amusing tales of his many adventures. He told me of a time when two climbers took him to Assiniboine’s nearly 12,000 foot (3618 m) summit and of a more recent time when he took the chopper to the lodge and the mountain was completely obscured by cloud. This can be a common experience for visitors and we were lucky to enjoy such excellent views and good weather.
Me and my baby
I seized every opportunity that I could to spend time with the mountain. After supper, we sat in the meadows next to our campsite and watched the light of the setting sun reflect off of the summit. Being in the presence of Mount Assiniboine, was akin to sharing the room with a most stunningly beautiful woman and being unable to draw one’s eyes away from her.

1 comment:

  1. I went in at sunshine village and to Mt Assiniboine. It was awesome to watch huge chunks fall off the glacier. It was nuts to see the venturer scouts and two female chaperones swim in the lake. We came out wonder Pass. It was an unforgettable trip.