All posts tagged: mountains

The Flatirons at Chautauqua Park

On our brewery-inspired Denver adventure, we took a day trip to Boulder, Colorado to get a taste of the Rocky Mountains in the American mid-west (and a taste of more beer too, of course).  The Flatirons are a symbol of Boulder and a staple in Chautauqua Park.  Chautauqua was an adult education movement that began in New York, highly popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Chautauqua, according to Theodore Roosevelt, was the “most American thing in America.” While the Flatiron mountains are not as high or grand as the mountains I’m used to in the Albertan rockies, they have a unique shape and character.  Whereas the trees at home were bare, these mountains were embraced by autumn leaves at even October’s end.  We hiked around for a bit, enjoying the warmth before we decided that beer was calling. Advertisements

The Top of Crypt Falls

On our descent from Crypt Lake on  Waterton’s infamous Crypt Lake hike, a fellow hiker told us, “If you haven’t taken the path to the left to see the top of the waterfall, you gotta do it. I’m not sure what I was expecting with viewing the top of a waterfall, but it wasn’t this pristine, exceptionally colourful view of nature in its wildest form.  You could hear the narrow falls beginning their roar from the creek’s edge, but other than that noise it was a peaceful haven away from the hoards of hikers, and a gentle respite prior to scrambling along a mountain ledge once again.

Crypt Lake’s Hanging Valley

After recovering from the dizziness from being on a rocky scramble two feet wide with a thousand foot drop on the ledge, I finally felt brave enough to get my camera back out. This is the view of the hanging valley as you descend from the ultimate destination of Crypt Lake on this Waterton hike. The mountains of the western Americas all result from the same tectonic plate, and yet the differences between the ranges and even within the ranges are so vast.  In the Rockies, Waterton’s mountains have a red underlay while Banff’s are greyer in tone.  The Andes mountains of Peru are jungled while those of Patagonia are jagged. While I quest for more mountains and more mountaintop views, people have asked why I seek out mountains in other countries since we already have the gorgeous Rockies for just a short (or long, in Waterton’s case) drive away.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to explain it, so there’s a Robert MacFarlane quote to do it for me: “Those who travel to mountain-tops are …

Crypt Lake

The Crypt Lake hike in Waterton Lakes, National Park, Alberta is one of the most challenging day hikes I have ever done, both physically and mentally. Physically partly because I was in a bike accident four days before I did the hike and my knees were already wrecked, and partly because of the 32 Celsius temperatures. Mentally, it was a challenge because of my fear of steep drop-offs, especially when you’re scrambling on a two and a half foot-wide ledge with nothing but a bolted-in wire to hold on it. The end-point of the hike, before you descend and do it all again, is this gorgeous lake, which the hottest and most daring of hikers braved the ice cold temperatures and dived in to escape the heat.  It made for a lovely spot to eat lunch and recover from the panic I felt while looking straight down into the Crypt Valley.  

Sunset Over Waterton

In the book/film Wild, Cheryl Strayed details how her mother always used to say that there was a sunrise and a sunset every day, and you simply had to be present for it, to “put yourself in the way of beauty.” We were enjoying beers at our campsite just outside the National Park gates.  In the mountains, steaming hot days mean frigid nights, so every few minutes called for another layer of clothing.  My eyes drifted from the powerful draw of the fire pit’s flames as I got up for another beer.  To the west, the most beautiful pink sky was skirting over the distant peaks.  Knowing that time was limited, I left my opened beer in the truck box, grabbed my camera and tripod, and ran out of the campsite towards the highway for a better view. I only brought my wide focal length lens with me, which is a huge regret, but time was of the essence, and I still think I managed to capture that pink hue acting like a gradient over the mountain top, …

Gorge of the Gaitanes

El Chorro, or “the spurt”, lies an hour outside of Malaga, southern Spain.  Once a destination for 20th century miners, turned into a haven for adrenaline-seeking hikers.  What was once the miner’s footpath, the “Caminito del Rey,” became a decrepit series of railed walkways, leading to several deaths and the trail’s full closure. The boardwalk has been completed renovated as of 2015, so the fainter-hearted hiker like myself is now able to experience the beauty of the gorge.

The Jagged Mountain of Montserrat

50 kilometres west of Barcelona lies the Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey, nestled high up on the Montserrat mountain. The mountain cuts into the skyline like a handsaw.  In Catalan, Montserrat literally means “serrated mountain.” Funicular trains and hiking trails take you all around the imposing mountain,  once said according to Arthurian legend to be the site of the Holy Grail.  But for me, it is more of a holy grail of a view.

Rock Isle Lake, Banff, Alberta

After enduring a particularly gruelling day hike the day before with tough winds and pelting rain, we decided to spend day two of our Banff hiking trip in Sunshine Meadows, known during the winter time as the Sunshine Ski Resort. You take a shuttle bus up what is the ski-out in winter (and a particularly painful ski-out, since it’s quite flat and boring), and arrive at a landing of inoperative chairlifts, swinging softly in the gentle autumn breeze.  There’s not a cloud in the sky today, the sun is shining, and the larches are proudly wearing their new colours. We decided to hike up Rock Isle Trail and take the loop to Laryx lake.  As we walked, we could see Mount Assiniboine far off in the distance.  After a gentle uphill hike away from the unnatural ski equipment, we reached Rock Isle Lake, which is now one of my favourite lake spots in the Rockies. We cracked open a bottle of wine and sat on a perch overlooking the water.  The group of us alternated …

Jökulsárlón Lagoon, Iceland

After about the fourth time I saw a double rainbow in Iceland, it became less and less notable to repeat “Double rainbow, what does it mean?” to my new French and German friends on our tour of the south coast .  But the rainbow never loses its magic or power, and neither do the miles and miles of cracking ice, resting on a frigid lagoon nestled between glaciers, mountains, and ocean waves. The rain at Jökulsárlón let up for maybe a moment.  I was soaked through my MEC pants and my teeth chattered.  I nervously watched a British teenager jump onto one of the icebergs for the sake of a photo opportunity.  Gingerly, I touched the tip of my toe to a nearby chunk of ice while Janine snapped a photo.  In warm weather, you can see seals here, but alas, not in April. In the dead of winter and the heat of summer, this remains the backdrop photo on my iPad.  And even as Alberta tries to welcome the spring equinox (with snow, no less) …

Bourgeau Lake Trail, Alberta

After a thousand metre elevation gain on the Bourgeau Lake trail, which consists of an upwards walk through dense forests before a wet and/or gravelly scramble, you reach Harvey Pass and the small Harvey Lake.  If conditions permit, you can make the ascent to the top of Mount Bourgeau to unbelievable views. Or just go a bit further from Harvey Pass, and if you’re lucky and it’s autumn, get an incredible view of the larches in their full fall colours. By all accounts, there’s nothing particularly impressive about Harvey Lake, it is just another beautiful lake among many in the Canadian Rockies.  But there was just something about the light that day, and the quietness of the trail (we were a group of eight but we only saw four others), and the stillness of that beautiful lake hidden amongst mountains that just really struck me.  I didn’t make it to the summit due to the rain and wind, but I still saw this view, among others, that suited me just fine.