Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Big Sister: Another Failue

I'm very tired from today's hike but because sleeping now prevents the nigh sleep I decided to tell the story of another failure: The Big Sister in Canmore, Alberta. Exactly one year ago, or better to say in 18-Jul-2014 I had the sucessfull ascend to the Middle Sister although it was with a minor injury, losing at least 1 hour over route finding and getting home very late. This whole past weekend I was planning for this trip and checking the weather forecast every day. When I opened my eyes in the early morning, even before the wristwatch's alarm goes off, it was almost 05:00. I didn't feel very comfortable waking up and going but I grabbed my gear and slowly sneaked out to make sure I'm not waking up The Lady. I needed to buy gas so I stopped at Stadium Shell, went inside for pre-paid and get authorization for $25, I guess. When I grabbed the nozzle to fill up the tank, I realized I had parked in a way that the tank gate is located at the other side of the pump! So I put the nozzle back and adjusted the car, this way in a way that the nozzle reaches. I started filling up and then I noticed that I was going above what I had paid! I thought the attendant, who was a Black guy had made a sort of mistake. I was ready to drive off that I saw him signalling me. I went inside and asked him what had happened. He said that he had to cancel the first authorization because I used a different grade(!) and I have to pay now! Obviously I did not use a different grade but I didn't want to argue so I paid and got the hell out of there. That was the first waste of time. Then I stopped at my usual McDonald's to get a coffee, the one across from C. O. P. and a young Filipino couple were ordering and the damn cashier was Filipino as well so you would think that should be easy but the dumb-fucks kept me waiting for probably 15 freaking minutes! Strike 2!
So I got myself on Highway # 1 after that and after Canmore I hit Smith-Dorrien Trail but just as I passed Goat Creek I noticed a thick mist has covered all around the area! That was another negative thing. I told myself maybe the mist goes away as the sun comes up. So I found the trial-head, based on the notes I had provided, and I have to add that it felt much longer than I had expected but very obvious and parked. It was exactly 07:30 when I had my gear on and heat the trail. 
Goat Pond from the trail.
I had not walked for more than probably 100 meters that I noticed a car pulled to the parking lot. That could be both bad and good. I kept going and I cross a big gully and was able to find the trail. It didn't take long that a group of 4, from the vehicle, two men and two women, caught up with me. Obviously they had good speed but when I saw them I was a bit surprised because the leader of a group was a gentleman between the ages of 70 and 75. The rest, except for one of the women, were above 40 or in their late 30's. They told me they were from Canmore and I found it a bless that the group was there because I simply could follow them and not worried about the route. But boy! Was I wrong? I followed them and I chatted with them off and on but never shut up! I realized I was not able to keep up with them and the trail was very bad. It's full of lose rock and very steep. At one point a damn strong wind started and I felt cold. So I stopped to put my windbreaker which I had taken off earlier, back on and that was it! That cost me the summit. I looked up and didn't see a sign of any of them and looked at my watch. It was almost 10:00 meaning I was on the trail for 2.5 hours. I was able to see Bow Valley, part of Canmore and Highway # 1 which meant I had gained a good elevation but the trail was faint and the surrounding was very exposed. The wind was blowing and wrong step could be fatal so I decided to climb back down but that was even harder. For a very long time I had to go down on the damn loose rocks until I finally find the trail but before that I fell at least twice and injured my right elbow and both of my palms! 
This is the narrow gully that I had to climb down from at the end of my descend. You see how bad it is. the rocks at the right side of me (left in the picture) were very fragile and sharp. That is why you see these pieces of stone, like cardboard, piled up. For me, the rocks were not a problem because I had already inured my palms badly! 
While going done I did a traverse and that took me to a cave-like hole that I had not seen on the way up and then I was on trail again but it certainly was a different trail because it ended up in a narrow gully instead of going beside the one we had come up beside it. Here was a nightmare again because I decided to follow the stream instead of going to the left and appear at the left side of the gully. I had to use my hands and the rocks were very fragile and could easily come out by even holding to them. At 2 or 3 points I had to sit on the stream and crawl down! It was so stupid. I guess it was around 13:00 that I finally got back to the car but when leaving the gully and to my surprise there was a noise which I turned back and it was the Canmore group! It was obvious that I had wasted a lot of time on my way down: 3 hours! They apparently had not wasted any time and after reaching the summit, quickly had headed down and there they were! I was disappointed at myself and embarrassed too. So I didn't wait to ask about the trail and quickly drove off toward home!
Will I ever try Big Sister again? maybe not. If a mountain is too exposed I normally prefer not to. Most of the hikes and summits I have done have not been very dangerous. So I have to think twice before going up the Big Sister because my goal would only be the summit. If that's not achievable, I won't waste time and money.
(Photo, top: Part of Bow Valley and Mt. Lawrence Grassi could be seen in this picture and of course the trail. This shows how exposed the trail is. That is as far as I went. Based on the notes I have gathered, there should have been at least another 2 hours, maybe to the summit. Maybe less but not less than 1.5 hours, I assume)

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