Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Middle Sister

This past weekend I wanted to go to Wasatch Mountain in Lake Louise area but after checking the forecast learning it would have been rainy, I changed the plan to the summit of Middle Sister in Canmore. I had to drop the lady at work so by the time I was parked at the parking lot of Stewart Creek Golf Club it was I guess 09:30 or after. I checked around and didn't see anything which could have been similar to trail-head. So I checked with a few young fellow of golf club and one of them told me where I had to park.
After parking at the end of Stewart Creek Dr. I started my walk toward east and based on the information I had downloaded from the web got myself in the golf course. It actually is very nice place similar to most of the course. The difference is it is in middle of forest. I kept going and at my right I saw a tall rock which was standing hundred of meters but I was not sure which sister out of the Three Sisters it was and didn't see any route to it.
I walked toward east for about half and hour and then there was a branch to northwest which seemed to be the right way because I realized I was distancing myself from the sisters! I took that road but just after a few minutes I found myself in front of a confined fenced room with an antenna beside it! It was dead-end. I turned back and went to the golf course again and that was where after crossing a little footbridge I realized I had crossed Stewart Canyon Creek. I then turn to south and saw the water control section. It was the trail-head. I guess it was around probably 11:30 or maybe 12:00 when I started from there.
The trial is basically no trail! Most of it has been washed off in the last year's flood and after 1 hour of so you have to walk in the creek and over the rocks.
This is how most of the trail look like: A big pain in the butt! You have to have your eyes glued to the ground, minding every rock that you're stepping on. This happened in the last year'f flood. Many trees died. You can see a few in this photo. 
I once turned back to see if there was anyone else behind me and that was when I saw a guy coming up. He soon caught up with me but we were at different sides of the creek. I waived at him and he waived back and I then asked him where he was headed. He pointed at the big rocks ahead. They were one of the Three Sisters and asked about my destination my answer was the same: The Middle Sister. I then joined him after the creek narrowed. He surprisingly extended his arm, offered his hand and introduced himself as Boris. I told him that I knew Boris is a Russian name but he could be Ukrainian too. He said he was Russian and from Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) and had not been back to Russia in the past 16 years.
That is a case with most of the former Soviet people and former Eastern Block fellas. They hate their previous life so much that they don't want to go back to see what's happened in the many years that they have been away. Perhaps now that the Iron Curtain has come down they are jealous of the people who have a little bit of freedom they never had, although their economic and financial situation might not be very good!
I and Boris went up for a while and he told me that it was his third attempt. It seems he knew where he was going because he told me that I had to go right at the end of the creek while I thought I had to go left! On the other hand when I asked him if we would be able to find water when we get higher, he was not sure. The fact is I found stream in a bit higher in the creek and filled up my water bottle. I would not have been able to make it to the top, if I had not have access to the glacier water. Then a light shower started and he told me he wanted to take a short break. I told him that I would be waiting for him a bit higher and left. I then stopped shortly and put my windbreaker on. When I looked down after a few minutes I saw him climbing up while had a cover on. I then reached a snow patch a big basin and took a rest.
Took this beautiful tiny flower's pictures just a few minutes away from the summit
My decision was to take a break, take a few photos and then head up the scree for the summit. According to the information I had received from Canmore Nordic Center the summit was 1 hour above me and I had to make my way up the easiest way up!!
I waited for about, I guess, 20 to 25 minutes but there was no sign of him so I decided to go up. The way up to the summit did not have a trail until you make a half of a circle and then you can see a cairn and footpath. It's not very steep but breathtaking a bit.You walk the col which connects two summits and reach where you can see Bow Valley to your right and Mt. Lawrence Grassi to your left. That's where people have used small rocks to write messages on the ground. Then you go higher to reach another spot which again you can see Bow Valley, Highway No. 1 and the plants to your right, which is east. There are still a few meters to the top and then you see a wind shelter and to your north is Mt. Grotto, Town of Canmore and the entire Bow Valley from east to west. I only stopped there for maybe 10 minutes and took a few photos and headed back. It was on my way back when I realized that Boris had gone back down. 
Going down, particularly after I passed the cairn got really nasty perhaps because I missed the major route. Every step I was taking I had to watch where I was putting it. That didn't help much either because I lost my balance at least 5 times and fell at least 3 other times! 
I was happy when I reached the basin again because I thought I had finished the hard part. I also knew that I would be getting water. My throat was parched. Based on my calculations I was supposed to be in the parking lot in 2 hours but I later on learnt that I miscalculated because it took 3.h damn hours to reach down there! I guess it was around 21:50 when I reached the car! 
Grotto Mountain is seen in the back and Stewart Canyon Creek in the middle where you have to come up to reach a natural rest area, a basin. From here to the summit of Middle Sister should not take you more than an hour and a half, tops.
I was tired and I had bruise on my right palm because once I stepped on a rock and the rock rolled down my foot and I fell. The wooden stick that I was holding and helped me a lot to get to the summit scratched my palm and a subsurface wound appeared but I was happy that I was able to reach the summit in a timely manner. 
Here is the information about the Three Sisters in case anyone is interested:
  • Big Sister (Faith Peak) - 2936 m. - 9632 ft.
  • Middle Sister (Charity Peak) - 2769 m. - 9084 ft. (The one that I reached its summer) 
  • Little Sister (Hope Peak) - 2694 m. - 8840 ft.
Under the following circumstances you should be able to the summit in 7 hours or less:
  • You are physically fit.
  • Don't have much to haul.
  • Don't stop a lot on the way up or down for photographs like I did! 
  • Have enough water.
  • Don't take too many breaks.
Overall the Middle Sister is a hike which provides both scenery and beauty as well as a good exercise. As far as wildlife I should say that I only see a few Ground Squirrel and a Rabbit. In the last 100 meters to the basin I notice rocks are falling off the east side of the creek and when I look up I saw a light brown creature passing quickly but I was not be able to distinguish what it was. The key to this hike is to start early and keep going. That's all! The elevation gain in this hike is around 1400 m
(Photo, top: Bow Valley, Town of Canmore and Highway No. 1 from the summit of Middle Sister)

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