Jasper: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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Out of all the places in Canada, you would think that Jasper, Alberta would be a rather random place for me to highlight – but not after I show it to you!  When people think of the Canadian Rockies, they often think of British Columbia.  But how many people consider the eastern slope of the range? Banff, Canmore, Lake Louise, Kananaskis, Jasper are all stunning Canadian destinations in the Alberta rockies!

Jasper can refer to Jasper National Park or the Town of Jasper. People often say “Jasper” when they’re referring to that whole area in the Athabasca River Valley. The Town of Jasper was originally an outpost for the Hudson’s Bay Company (hey! My “H” #AtoZ!) and then was formally established as a town as the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and Canadian Northern Railway developed their lines through the region.

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Jasper was also used as an internment camp for six months in 1916, holding Ukranian men (and some women and children) under the terms of the Canadian War Measures act while Canada was at war with Austria-Hungary. This internment across Canada of about 4,000 people left a scar on the Canadian Ukrainian community – which I’ll likely talk more about when I talk about Ukrainian culture in Canada on the #AtoZ “U” day.

Today, Jasper is a Canadian mountain town known for its recreational tourism.  People come from all over the world to visit Jasper National Park and to experience the nature and wildlife in the region.  It is definitely worth a visit if you’re in Canada.

Enjoy some of my photos from my time in Jasper!

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M = Mountains

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I grew up in Ontario, Canada.  In fact, before I moved out to Colorado, I had never lived anywhere else. Mountains were never really a part of my life.  I knew they existed but had never been given the opportunity to experience them first hand.

I learned to ski at Horseshoe Valley Resort, north of Toronto. Horseshoe Valley has a difference in elevation of 308 feet. Another place in Ontario where I have skied is Calabogie Peaks, which apparently offers the highest vertical drop in Ontario of 761 feet.

My new home resort, Keystone Resort near Dillon, Colorado has a difference in elevation of 3,128 feet.  Just to give you an idea of what I’m used to and what I’m experiencing here in Colorado.

So, back to mountains. To be honest, I don’t know how I managed to live the majority of my life without being surrounded by mountains! My first time experiencing mountains was in Bosnia and then Switzerland. It was astounding to see them jut out of the earth as if they were the most powerful things nature had to offer.  It was terrifying driving switchbacks in Bosnia with no guard rails. It was exhilarating noticing the thinner but cleaner air.

When I cycled through the Canadian Rockies, I was really nervous.  I thought, how can I possibly get my little bike up those HUGE mountains?  But the mountains can be forgiving.  There are ways to get through them without going straight up. Valleys and passes assist us in being able to experience their majesty without as much effort as we might think.

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Although they can be forgiving, they are also not to be messed with. When I climbed Kilimanjaro, I truly learned to appreciate that the mountains are boss.  We passed many people who simply couldn’t handle the altitude, returning down the slopes with looks of defeat on their faces.

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Since I’ve lived in Colorado Springs, the form of Pikes Peak follows me wherever I go. I can drive into the mountains each weekend if I want to. I truly feel as if “The Mountains are Calling”, and I truly feel as if it’s where I belong.

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Skipping a 14er for Stanley Canyon Trail

Part of the reason my blog is called “Stumbling into Adventure” is because I don’t often plan things through.  I get an idea in my head and I make it happen.  It always seems to work out for me – somehow.  My husband likes to carefully plan and be prepared for every excursion – the complete opposite!

So I had it in my head that we were going to climb Pikes Peak (14,115 feet) today. We were going to take the Barr Trail, camp overnight, summit tomorrow morning and hike back down.  With the dog.  My husband thought we should summit the same day and camp on the way down. So we had it all planned out before realizing that Barr Trail gains 7,615 feet in elevation in 13 miles (not to mention the 13 miles back down!).  We then decided to go with an easier mountain, a class 1 but the highest in Colorado, Mount Elbert. Until we saw that a storm was supposed to roll in this morning around 11am in the region.  So we sat down.  And had a chat.  About starting with the biggest.

We settled on Stanley Canyon Trail.   This was close to home and would be a good practice trail with some good elevation, but that we could do in about 4 hours, round trip. 

Loki is ready to start hiking!

Loki is ready to start hiking!

It gains about 2000 feet in elevation in about 2 miles.  The beginning is the worst and requires scrambling over rocks at times. But the views, they were breathtaking!  There were a couple of spots where you could look back and see over the entire city of Colorado Springs and the Air Force Academy.  Once inside the canyon, the steep walls make for a surreal experience, and at the top of the first section of the climb there is a beautiful, sunny, waterfall area filled with butterflies!  

Flowers in a clearing

Flowers in a clearing

The geography of the entire trail changes about 4 or 5 times along the way up.  Fields, forest, rocky climbs, waterfalls, canyon walls, and finally at the end, a hidden reservoir.

Scrambling up the rock/scree

Scrambling up the rock/scree

Scrambling down the rock/scree

Scrambling down the rock/scree

The reservoir at the top was a nice secluded location for a lunch or in Loki’s case, a nap!

The Stanley Canyon Reservoir

The Stanley Canyon Reservoir

It was a great day and a great hike. And yes, I admitted to my husband that maybe going after the biggest 14ers right away wouldn’t have been such a great idea!  We have decided from this point to work our climbing endurance for a while before going big!  We’re going to try to do two trails a week, alternative between easy, level but longer trails and steeper, moderate trails!

Looking out over Colorado Springs

Looking out over Colorado Springs

Hiking Buddies!  Loki was a champ!

Hiking Buddies! Loki was a champ!

I is for Incline!

Since I arrived in Colorado Springs, the Manitou Incline is one of those things that all the “fit” people talk about doing. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that climbing the Incline was the start to every day!

I’ve heard rumours of old men jogging to the top. Women with babies on their backs strolling up as if they were walking around the block. Children scrambling to the top with boundless energy.

The hike is a 2,000 foot incline in less than 1 mile. You are practically one degree from having to climb up a ladder to get to the top!

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When I first got here, I hadn’t acclimatized to the altitude yet, so wasn’t sure it was a good idea. Then winter in Colorado came and I figured it would be best to not tempt Mother Nature. Now I have almost been here for a year. I can handle steps without gasping for air, and the Incline is closing in August for a couple of months in order to do repairs. It was now or possibly never!

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I have to tell you, the rumours were true. The 80 year old men zipped past me as if I was standing still. The uber fit moms carried their babies to the top with ease. Colorado hippies ran up and down wearing nothing but shorts and flip flops, their dreadlocks waving behind them. It was surreal!

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Me? I started gasping for air on the first three steps! But it wasn’t so bad. Everyone was super friendly, it was a beautiful day and the higher we got, the more beautiful the views! It didn’t suck half as bad as I thought it would!

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My friend who climbed with me was 23 weeks pregnant, but a hardcore cross fitter. There was no way I was going to complain! We took it slow and made it up in just under an hour and a half! By the way, the world record is just under 17 minutes. Yeah. Probably by one of those 80 year olds!

All I can say, is that I want to try it again and better my time! What a way to get fit!!

Here’s a video of what it’s like!

 

P is for Pike’s Peak

Yes, I missed a few. And it’s no longer April (in fact, it’s no longer May either)!

So I have lived in Colorado Springs for just under a year now and the over 14,000 foot Pike’s Peak has been looming over me almost every day, watching my every move. The mountain is to the left of me as I drive to work and to the right of me when I drive home.  It is standing there directly across from me as I walk out of my westward facing front door. The only time I don’t see the peak is when the weather systems roll in and the entire mountain range is engulfed in clouds.  Even at night I can see the light flickering from the top of the mountain.

I always feel like somebody's watching me. And I have no privacy... ~Rockwell

I always feel like somebody’s watching me.
And I have no privacy… ~Rockwell

Pike’s Peak was named after Bridagier-General Zebulon (if anyone knows the origin of that name, please let me know) Montgomery Pike who “discovered” the mountain on an expedition to find the headwaters of the Red River. Ironically to me (the Canadian in Colorado), Brig.-Gen Pike died in battle during the war of 1812 in York (now Toronto – so sorry about that Americans, I’m glad we’re friends now).

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There are three main ways you can get to the top of Pike’s Peak:

1. The world’s highest Cog Train: For $36 a head, you can ride the train to the summit of the mountain.  It lets you off for about 30-40 minutes while you scramble to take #summitselfies and try the freshly baked altitude donuts, before taking you back down to the bottom. Total trip time: 3.5 hours.

 

The Cog Train waits while its passengers gouge themselves on mountain donuts...

The Cog Train waits while its passengers gouge themselves on mountain donuts…

2. Drive the Pike’s Peak Highway: Pay between $10-$12 at the tollgate (hint $2 off coupon) and drive all the way to the top! Not for the faint hearted though – although the train probably isn’t either! There aren’t any guardrails, and the right just simply drops off the side of the mountain. My husband was like, “Jenny, you can get a little closer to the right. You have lots of room.  You don’t have to crowd the line,” to which I retorted, “No, I’m good.  Thanks for the advice but I’ll just keep driving up the centre of the road.”  Also, word of advice, if you don’t have hill assist on your car/truck, don’t ride the brakes on the way down or you’ll have to stop halfway to let them cool off.  Not good for your car, and you really don’t want to lose that thing that will stop you if you need to!

Loki is the Queen of the World!

Loki is the Queen of the World!

Lil Guy made it to the top!

Lil Guy made it to the top!

3.  Hike it: The Barr Trail ascends 7,900 vertical feet in just over 11 miles. You could do it in one day – the average ascent time is between 6-10 hours – or you can spread it out over two days and stay at Barr Camp half way up. Doggies on leashes are allowed! How do you get down?  Have a friend meet you at the top, take the train, or hike back down another 5-7 hours! (I’ll opt for the train…)

Someone looks a little pooped!

Someone looks a little pooped!

Some neat events based on Pike’s Peak:

The Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb: every year in June, racers of all shapes and sizes test their skills and fear of heights to race to the top of Pike’s Peak. I wanted to go and watch in person, but once you’re up there you can’t get down until after the race is over.  Haven’t decided yet.

 

The AdAMan Climb: Every year, a select group of climbers ascend Pike’s Peak on December 31st (actually I think they start on the 30th) along Barr Trail and pop off Fireworks at midnight to ring in the new year.  Here’s the view from Garden of the Gods with my first-time attempt at using a tripod in pitch black and no professional skillz to try and get a photo of this cool phenomenon.

11,000+ feet of pure firepower!

11,000+ feet of pure firepower!

Amazing Africa Part 3: The Summit

3 September 2009
 
I put on every layer I had, ready to start climbing. Angela had Emanuel as her guide and I had Eli, so that we could go at our own pace. We climbed very slowly, taking one step at a time. It was the night before the full moon (I think) and so I didn’t even need my headlamp; we were guided by the light of the moon. I have no idea how long we were climbing for, but we went from steep trails to zigzag scree. After a while, I could look down and see the headlamps of others directly below me and knew that one wrong step would send me plummeting down the side of the mountain. 
 
I’m not sure of the time, but about ¾ of the way up, I started feeling sick to my stomach. I quickly got water from Eli and started to feel better immediately. I continued climbing but about 30-40 minutes later felt confusion between needing to pass out or throw up. Eli told me that I was ok and told me to force myself to vomit. I got a little bile out and continued up, but I was not doing well. It was everything I could do to put one foot in front of the other and move forward. The last scramble over rocks brought us to 5685m and Gilman’s Point. It was amazing how fast the sun rose; within minutes it went from dark to daylight.  I remembered our briefing before the climb.  We were told “Whatever you do, don’t have a nap at Gilman’s Point no matter how tired you feel”.  Now I knew why.  Not only was it unsafe to nap at such a high altitude if I was feeling the effects of altitude sickness, but I would miss the sunrise, which was worth every penny I paid for the trip just to experience.  
 
Eli thought I was fine to continue to Uhuru Peak, although I wasn’t quite sure. He took my arm and we began walking slowly toward our final destination. He was telling me to look back at the other climbers, reassuring me that I wasn’t the only one having difficulty. We passed an American man coming down who said it was his twelfth summit of Kilimanjaro. I remember thinking to myself “Why?” It took another two hours to get to Uhuru Peak (5896m) and I couldn’t believe how crowded it was! People from every nation waiting their turn for a photo op by the summit sign. In my itinerary, it says “spectacular glaciers that still occupy most of the summit area”. It was a spectacular glacier that BARELY covered any of the summit. There was no snow or ice anywhere we walked, and the effects of global warming were evident. This mountain may not see any of its glacier left in the next 10-20 years. It was truly a beautiful yet sad sight to behold.   The air was thin, but I barely noticed in my excitement to capture every bit of the experience.  The summit was buzzing from the energy of all the tired climbers realizing their dream!
 
We began to head back down and after scrambling over the summit rocks I was instantly glad that we did our ascent in the dark. It was super-steep! If I had seen that hill, I would have surely been demotivated to continue!  Eli grabbed the back of my shirt and we slid down the loose scree like we were skiing. It was a lot of fun, and the lower we went, the better I began to feel. But when I got back to Kibo, I had a brutal pressure headache and severe chills. I couldn’t get warm until I started moving, had to take Motrin for the headache but couldn’t eat barely anything. Eli explained that it was normal to feel this way. We spent the night at Horombo Hut and ended up sharing with two Slovakian soldiers that we shared with at Mandara. One of them summited. A Canadian girl named Leah also didn’t make it, but a 62-year old woman ticking off items from her bucket list made it! I was really impressed!
 
Sunrise at Gilman’s Point
 
I was really tired….
 
Have to keep going…
Our team!  Eli and Emanuel were great and encouraging the whole way!  
I might not have made it if it wasn’t for them!
 
4 September 2009
 
Back to Springlands for a hot shower and rest! We were lucky on the way down to walk through a part of the rainforest teeming with monkeys. I learned “Safari n jima” which meant “Good Luck” and I said it to everyone climbing up. We made it to the gate and “Maliza!” we were finished! Eli told me after that he was worried that we might not summit because the night before saw a 50% success rate. Angela had been taking Diamox since day 2 because she was feeling sickness the first day. I didn’t take any altitude drugs and had a bit more trouble at the end, but made it anyway! 
 
I gave the North Face jacket I was wearing to our waiter/porter Fide. The whole tipping situation concerned me. Before our climb they handed us a tipping sheet with guidelines on what was expected. If I was on my own I would be expected to pay per day: $20 to the guide, $10 per porter (x4) and $15 to the cook for a TOTAL of $345!!!!! This on top of the $1000+ I paid for the climb! I simply could not afford to tip that much. I don’t know where the money from these organized climbs goes, but the tipping expectation was a bit much. A couple from the UK, who the husband climbed had the porters/guide demand tips from them on the mountain. If that had happened to me, I wouldn’t have tipped at all.
 
Angela and I had dinner, sorted out when we could afford to tip and then I met with three Americans and a Swede who turned out to be the owner of Zara and Springlands. He met his wife on a plane and in the 80’s as she was working as a travel agent in Tanzania and they were unable to book clients because the hotels were full, they decided to build their own. Over the years it expanded with more buildings and the pool to be what it is today. I was telling the story of my summit and mentioned that I met a crazy man who claimed he had summited twelve times!  They all laughed and one of the Americans, Macon Dunnagan told me that he was the one that I saw! His wife had died of ovarian cancer and he carried her ashes to the top and buried at Uhuru Peak.  He asked me if I had called my mom and told her of my achievement and when I informed him I hadn’t, he handed me his cell phone and told me to.  From Africa!  It’s incredible the amazing people you meet around the world when you’re travelling!
 
This photo is deceiving, but it’s actually taken pointing up at the sky. 
 This gives an idea of how steep it was going up AND back down!
We’re on the moon. It started raining for the first time of the whole trip on the way back down.
We were really lucky.
 

Amazing Africa: Part 2 – Climbing Kilimanjaro

Money continues to be a problem for me. I was worried to bring too much cash with me, but now that I’m here, I can’t get any. I’ve had to budget my money to make sure I can eat and have enough water. I spent the whole day lounging around and doing nothing. I slept in – a well needed rest after months and months of working. Living in a cashless society has made the beginning of this trip difficult, but as I was riding into Moshi Town with four local guys, I had an interesting conversation with one of them who seemed well educated about history and world politics. In a cash society like Tanzania, you spend what you have and save what you have for unexpected expenses. Himself, for example, explained that because they don’t have insurance, they must save their money incase they get sick and need medical care. I went to the bank and took out money. Probably too much, but I won’t have to worry about that for the rest of the trip. I met some students from an Ottawa University eco program here in Tanzania. They had the best luck on their Serengeti Safari and had animals all over the place. I met my guide Eli (pronounced Elly) who seemed very nice. A girl from Australia will be joining us up the mountain. Her name is Angela and she’s travelling on her own as well. I have to eat well, sleep well, drink lots and polé-polé (slowly, slowly). No problems there! This is going to be quite the experience!
 
31 August 2009
Where do I start? I’m sitting here at Maranda Hut, which is, according to my trusty GPS, sitting at 2715m above sea level. Our total journey from Marangu Gate ascended 831m in 3 hours of walking for a total distance of 10.8km. Our average walking speed – well it says our moving average was 3.7km/h but I think that includes our driving distance. Polé-polé! When we started, I was feeling a little strange: my chest felt tight and I was having trouble breathing. My head ached! We were walking very slowly, almost ridiculously slow, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Honestly, what’s the rush? We stopped at a site for lunch along a main road – apparently the porters were cheating! Just kidding – we have one chief guide, 1 assistant guide, one cook, five porters, each porter carrying 20kg. Angela told met hat the porters get paid $7 for the whole trip? I hope that’s not true. I would really like to know who’s benefitting from my $ spent because the trip wasn’t cheap! The food has been delicious and Eli has been a real treat. A positive, smiley man eager to please. Today was really great and I’m very tired but not exhausted. I’m going to sleep well tonight!
 
Eli and I at the entrance to the Mandara Huts (2720masl)
 
 We ate everything on our plates so we’d have the energy needed for the next day’s climb
 
 
1 September 2009
Today was a longer day, but not too bad. We made it to Horombo Hut, sitting at 3780masl on the edge of the world. We are above the clouds and ascended out of the rainforest and through the moorland. Eli has been the best guide and very patient with us. He is always smiling and laughing. He checked our oxygen and pulse when we reached Horombo: 91 oxygen and 89 pulse. Not bad! He said if oxygen is below 50 and pulse over 150 (?) then they don’t let you continue. So far I am rockin’ but I am nervous. We met a guy at the lunch site from Bermuda who said he didn’t make it to the summit. Now both angela and I are a little scared of how we’ll do. A positive mental attitude, coupled with eat well, sleep well, drink lots, polé-polé, and mine: smile all the time! We learned some slang today “mumbo” means “what’s up” and we respond with “poa kecheezie, kaman deezie”, which means “crazy like a banana!”. Well, poa means ‘cool’ so it would be “I’m cool, crazy like a banana!” Both Angela and I feel pretty good, no headaches or nausea. I think tomorrow will be the real test.
 
I still can’t get over how these guys can carry 30 pounds on their heads without using their arms or hands to keep them in place!
 
I made it to Horombo! (3780masl)
 
It seems as though we’re at the top of the world!
 
Goodnight!!
 
2 September 2009
The climb today went through the last of the moorland and into the lunar desert of the saddle. We stopped for lunch with some mountain mice, one of which decided to drink Angela’s juice box through the straw. How in the…? There was a chilling wind as we walked through the clouds to Kibo Hut. I kept looking for Beth or Shingo. I finally saw Beth as I arrived at Kibo (4700masl) and she was just heading back down. She didn’t make it to the summit; started feeling nauseous at Kibo and tried to climb but couldn’t continue. A lot of others we passed didn’t summit either and Angela and I were starting to get worried about our chances.  To help with the altitude, after dropping our things off at Kibo, we climbed for a while and hung out above the huts before coming back down.  Eli wanted us to start early to get to the top, so we ate and crawled into bed around 1730, to wake at 2300h! For the final push.
 

 There she is!  Amazing to look at today’s picture of Kili, and one from 1978.  There’s almost no snow left on the mountain top.  We’re running out of chances to see the mountain like this…

 The long trek ahead.  We’re climbing although it doesn’t look it!

 

Kibo (4700masl)  5 hours to Gilman’s Point!