The Magnificent Canadian Rockies, Alberta, Canada

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14157A, Backpack

Highlights

  • Challenge yourself to the demanding hiking of the Canadian Rockies
  • Enjoy unencumbered day hikes on two layover days at different camps
  • Hike with your dog on this dog-friendly trip (limited to a total of four canines)

Includes

  • Tasty and lightweight vegetarian meals 
  • Group cooking gear and backcountry fees
  • Good camaraderie and great adventures

Details

DatesAug 4–10, 2014
Price$1,045
Deposit$200
Capacity10
Difficulty3 (out of 5)
StaffPaul Gross

Trip Overview

Please note that the trip dates have changed from what was originally published. If you have questions, please contact us.

The Trip

On the far westerly edge of Alberta are two obscure passes teetering on the Continental Divide. They sit just barely above 7,700 feet, yet are still above tree line by 400 feet. These passes offer spectacular vistas of the Canadian Rockies and the adjoining areas of British Columbia. From these passes you will see the Palliser River Valley laid out from north to south, revealing its hidden secrets of hanging glaciers, and the jagged peaks of the Royal Group. Both North and South Kananaskis Passes will offer us these incredible views. Our two layover days -- one near each pass -- will offer us incredible day hikes with amazing vistas, all without the need for supplemental oxygen. Our world-class day hike up to Northover Ridge offers unparalleled views and vistas. In case this isn’t enough, we will have the opportunity to take a day hike out to the edge of Haig Glacier. If you’ve never seen a high mountain glacier sprawled between distant peaks, with its lateral and terminal moraines, then this is the trip for you.

This area is home to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park and is located in the heart of Kananaskis Country (it sounds as it’s spelled). K Country, as the locals refer to it, was established in 1977, as a space to provide Albertans with an additional recreation area and to help relieve the congestion in the national parks.  This 10,000-acre parcel lays due west of Calgary. It is bordered by Banff National Park to the north and British Columbia on the west. The Continental Divide also runs through this park, and this is where we will be spending the majority of our time. The ever-present jagged peaks, as well as numerous streams, lakes, and glaciers will be our constant distraction as we hike along some rough and sketchier trails. The Canadian Rockies have an amazingly lush environment. Wildflowers of all sizes and varieties cover the alpine meadows, and miniature alpine plants dot the scree fields. The park is also home to a variety of wildlife, which includes mountain goats, deer, caribou, moose, black and grizzly bears, as well as numerous small animals and birds. Peter Lougheed Provincial Park is truly one of the hidden gems of the Canadian Rockies!

Itinerary

There will be a pre-trip meeting at a local campground on the evening before the trip departs.  Snacks and cold beverages will be provided. All participants need to attend this meeting. The exact meeting point and campground location will be sent to registered participants. There are several beautiful, short hikes that originate in the area -- try them if you arrive early enough.

Day 1: We start with an easy hike of 4.5 miles with only a 330-foot elevation gain on a well-traveled trail. Maybe we’ll get to camp early enough to take in a scramble.

Day 2: We’ll hike up five miles with a 1,600-foot elevation gain, as we set up camp for two nights at Turbine Canyon.

Day 3: Layover day. Unencumbered by heavy packs, we’ll day hike to Haig Glacier. Four miles round-trip and 1,300 feet elevation gain. Considering the views we’ll have, you’ll be amazed that we’re only at 8,300 feet.

Day 4: We’ll get up early and take a 2.5-mile round-trip day hike up to north Kananaskis pass. With only a gain of 420 feet, this will be our easiest hike yet, with some of the most incredible views to date. The Palliser Valley and the northern part of the Royal group, plus at least nine other named peaks, are all within easy eyesight. We’ll need to return by lunch, break camp, and head back down the same five-mile stretch that we did two days earlier. With only a 1,600-foot descent and lighter packs, we’ll easily get back to our camp at Forks before evening.

Day 5: We’ll break camp early and head out for our ascent to Three Isle Lakes. It will be steep and short as we climb 1,300 feet in less than two miles. We’ll set up our camp and head out for a day hike to South Kananaskis Pass and Beatty Lake. This five-mile round-trip day hike, with a gain of only 850 feet, will keep our legs warmed up. Our eyes should be adjusting to more alpine views, and yet another angle of Palliser Valley and the Royal Group. 

Day 6: Layover day. You can lounge around the lake, fish if you’re prepared, or explore with us as we hike an out-and-back on part of the Northover Ridge Route. This 6-mile round-rip hike with a 1,300-foot gain in elevation will be our most challenging yet, while offering the most spectacular views on our trip!

Day 7: On our 8.5-mile hike out, we’ll descend 2,000 feet and connect back up with our starting trailhead.

Note: This list of day hikes is tentative. They are all subject to weather and trail conditions, as well as the ability of the group.

Photos

Details

Getting There

Flying into Calgary International Airport (airport code YYC) is the simplest. Unfortunately the relatively obscure location of Peter Lougheed Provincial Park makes the use of public or private transportation to the trailhead difficult and more expensive than renting a vehicle for the week. The leaders will encourage trip participants to communicate amongst themselves and make ride-sharing arrangements. Shuttle bus service from Calgary airport to Canmore, Alberta is available, however there is no public transportation from Canmore to the trailhead at Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.

Doggie Details, Rules and Responsibilities

Participants are limited to only one dog per person or couple, with a total trip capacity of four dogs maximum.

Canine capacity will be determined on a first-come basis.

All participants will be responsible for bringing and carrying enough food for their dog, for the duration of the trip.  We suggest that participants with dogs bring snacks/treats for during the day while we’re day hiking. They need the extra energy as well. We also suggest bringing a small four-ounce container of honey or peanut butter, to be used as a backup fuel source for your dog.

All canine participants are required to carry and wear a dog backpack while we are hiking during the day. They should either be able to carry their food for the six days of backpacking or enough water for the day. We feel that this sets the stage for all of the dog participants to make the connection that this is different ("We’re going to pay attention and participate with our human companions and friends").

All canine participants must be able to socialize and interact with other dogs, both male and female in a non-aggressive and non-threatening manner. If there is a problem with an aggressive dog that cannot be effectively resolved, the owner and dog will be escorted off the trip. Dogs that are constantly barking will not be tolerated. If this behavior cannot be resolved, that is grounds for being removed from the trip.

The trip leader will e-mail a dog medical and dog approval form to all registered participants who express interest in bringing a dog. These must be sent in along with participant approval, medical, and liability release forms.

Regardless of a dog’s ability to respond to verbal commands, all owners must carry a leash with them on all hikes. 

Accommodations and Food

The leader takes pride in providing tasty, appetizing, and fulfilling vegetarian meals for human participants only. The majority of these are homemade and dehydrated. We will not feed table scraps to the dogs. Participants with any dietary restrictions or requests need to communicate these to the leader prior to the trip.

For drinks, caffeinated coffee, various teas (caffeinated, green, herbal), hot chocolate, and powdered sports drinks will be available. Chlorine-based chemicals (MICROPUR MP1) for treating drinking water will be provided.

All participants assist with camp chores, including the preparation and clean-up of meals. The Sierra Club will provide stoves and cooking equipment. We will be camping at organized backcountry campgrounds and in established tent sites. The food and commissary gear will be divided up among all the participants prior to departure. All meals will be provided from breakfast on day one through lunch on day seven. Metal bear lockers are at all backcountry sites, which eliminate the need to carry bulky bear canisters. Picnic tables located at all of our backcountry camps are another added luxury and convenience.

Trip Difficulty

The trip difficulty for this trip is rated three out of five (Moderate). We will attempt to cover four to ten miles each day, with elevation changes of 2,000 feet on some days. Some of the trails are well-maintained mountain trails; others will be rugged, steep, and rocky. We will be camping around 6,000 feet the first night, but we'll rarely be camping above 7,600 feet. Even though it will be summer, bring clothing that protects you from wind, sun, cold, rain, and yes, even snow.

Even though this trip is moderate, there will be some very strenuous days as we gain nearly 2,000 feet in elevation. You will need to be in good shape prior to the trip. While there is no technical climbing, you should feel comfortable climbing over boulders and using your hands to get over passes while carrying a day pack. Trip participants may also encounter a bit of exposure, which is a nice way of saying there is nothing but air below you. We are not doing any dangerous climbing, or any climbing that will require ropes or other technical equipment.  Good balance as well as sure-footedness is essential for your safety. We will go slowly when necessary, and no one will be rushed through difficult sections of the hike.

Backpacking in and of itself is difficult, and parts of this trip are more difficult than many others. Plan to come to the trailhead in good shape. Pack weight can be a demanding factor that will slow even experienced hikers. We’ll be starting out at 6,000 feet, which can be difficult for some people in the beginning. To fully enjoy this trip, participants should engage in a program of regular cardiovascular exercise. You're also asked to come equipped with a flexible and positive attitude, as well as a healthy sense of humor.

We will be traveling in bear country. Grizzly and black bears are unpredictable, and, in very rare circumstances, can be dangerous to people. Your trip leader will show you how to minimize the probability of having a dangerous encounter with bears, and, in the very unlikely event that one occurs, how to protect yourself and your fellow trip members. Please be completely frank when writing to the leader regarding your experience and physical condition. While this is not a trip for beginners, feel free to apply if you are a strong beginner with good balance (and good humor) and a commitment to go out for a weekend or two before the trip.

Equipment and Clothing

The leaders will send a comprehensive equipment list to all registered human participants after their formal approval. The list will cover gear for both human and canine. In this region a good rain suit (not a poncho) is essential, and gaiters are highly recommended. We can expect a broad range of temperatures. Typically daytime temperatures will range from low 80s to low 40s at night. As in any mountain environment, temperatures can drop significantly anytime, day or night. Summers tend to have clear days, and afternoon showers are infrequent. A weather front from the Pacific Northwest can tend to bring extended wet weather, but it is not typical. Each participant will carry 12-15 pounds of group gear and food. A good weight to shoot for in your personal gear is 22-24 pounds. Allow space in your pack equal to a brown paper grocery sack. Tent sharing will be encouraged to minimize our impact on this fragile alpine environment and lessen our pack weight.

The Sierra Club will provide all group gear: stoves, cooking equipment, rain tarps, and of course, food. The food and group gear will be divided up each day with each person carrying an equal share. You will bring your own standard backpacking gear: pack, broken-in boots, tent, sleeping bag, raingear, and clothing.

You will need a passport for travel to Canada. A driver's license and birth certificate are no longer adequate! Non-U.S. citizens must have a U.S. re-entry visa and Canadian visas where applicable. 

References

Map:

  • Gem Trek Publishing, Kananaskis Lakes, scale 1:50,000

Books:

  • Daffern, Gillean, Kananaskis Country Trail Guide.
  • Galdd, Ben, Handbook of the Canadian Rockies. A field guide to flora, fauna, and geology.

Websites:

Conservation

We will be traveling and visiting in a World Heritage site. The entire Canadian Rockies Park system is a part of this site. The World Heritage List recognizes that some places are of sufficient importance, either natural or cultural, to be the responsibility of the international community as a whole. Member countries pledge to care for World Heritage sites in their territory and to avoid deliberate measures that could damage World Heritage sites in other countries. As such, the World Heritage List serves as a tool for conservation. We will discuss the importance and impact this designation has on the selected locations.

We’re all aware of the impact of global warming. In few places is it more visually dramatic than in the glacial areas of the Canadian Rockies, which we’ll be visiting. Glaciers in Alaska and neighboring Canada, with a combined area of approximately 90,000 square kilometers (roughly 35,000 square miles) and accounting for about 13 percent of the mountain glaciers on Earth, have thinned substantially. Over the last 40 years, thinning has been on the order of 50 to 100 meters (several hundred feet) at lower elevations of glacier occurrence, and about 18 meters (60 feet) at higher elevations. We’ll be discussing how each of us can positively contribute to this global crisis.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wildernessWhile the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.

Staff

Leader:

Paul Gross, an avid outdoor enthusiast, has been a cycling and backpacking vegetarian living in harmony with his surroundings for many decades. Ten years spent building his homestead in the Ozarks and living self-sufficiently have given him a significant appreciation of being connected with nature. Paul has been leading local Sierra Club outings for the past 17 years, and national outings for 10 years. He decided to share his love of the outdoors -- not to mention his zest for life and people -- with the National Outings program. Providing fellow adventures the safety to experience the wonders of nature is especially rewarding. Besides backpacking 5-6 weeks per year, Paul is also an avid cyclist and cycle tourist. He has completed several long-distance, self-supported cycling tours with his wife Melody on their tandem bicycle. When not backpacking or cycling, Paul can be found in his garden, experimenting in the kitchen, or ballroom dancing with Melody. In his spare time, Paul supports himself as a remodeling contractor, carpenter, and cabinet/furniture maker. Paul has and maintains a Wilderness First Responder Certification.

Co-Leader:

The co-leader of this trip is Melody Gross. Her husband Paul introduced her to backpacking 17 years ago, and she has been a hopeless enthusiast ever since. She is the consummate tree hugger, ardent follower and teacher of LNT principles. Besides canoeing on the local rivers, she can be found backpacking in southern Missouri and Arkansas, three or four times a year. She's quite often out in the mountains with her husband, too -- their weeklong trips into the wilderness are annual events. A more recent passion is backpacking with her dog Sandy, which has expanded into new National Outing trips.

Equally at home in the backcountry or on the ballroom dance floor, Melody has learned how to be one with her surroundings. She is a practicing home health nurse, as well as a Reiki master. She also practices vibrational healing and cranial-sacral therapy. Her other passion is singing: If you hike near the sweep, you may be fortunate enough to hear her singing with the birds. Her Native American cedar flute has also been known to stow away in her pack for after-dark serenades. Melody has and maintains a Wilderness First Responder Certification.

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