Not-quite-Spring-yet trail run

I can’t wait for spring trail running in the mountains so I gave it a shot today. And I discovered that although it was sunny and warm, it is definitely not fully spring yet. This is really not surprising for end of February, but it has been unseasonably warm lately, making it feel much more like April. The ice was treacherous and covered about 90% of the length of the trail, making it absolutely necessary to have yak traks or other ice grips. I had to really keep it slow and walk carefully on most of the up and downhills.

The other indicator that trail running or hiking in the mountains in February is not that popular (or not that safe) is that in two hours of running, I only came across one hiker and his dog. Otherwise it was a very quiet run. I love those quiet runs, but I was wondering if anyone would come across me if I ran into trouble. I was trying not to think about bears waking up from hibernation a couple months early due to the warm weather, or the warning signs about cougars, or the cliffs immediately adjacent to the trail. But alas, it was a quite uneventful run.

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This trail was the Montagne Trail, a single track rolling trail on the north side of Canmore, Alberta. It skirted above the golf course but stayed off the steep parts of Lady McDonald mountain. I will have to head back out here to do the Lady McDonald trail to the peak in the summer sometime.

From what I remember, I think this is a very popular trail in the summer. I have heard it mentioned quite a bit but this is the first time I have been here.

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I had a great view on this sunny day of the mountains across the valley beyond the town site. I was inspired to do some peak bagging just as soon as the trail conditions improve – which is probably not before mid-June.

Just as I got to the car, a storm blew in with new snow. Good thing I didn’t start half an hour later. It would have been pretty miserable. But maybe the trails will be in better condition by the time I have a chance to head back out there for another trail run. Either more snow, or no ice would be great, thank you very much.

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Maybe I will aim for the peaks when summer hits. They look enticing

Montagne Trail in Canmore, Alberta. 1 hour west of Calgary, just outside the Banff National Park gates.

11 km, 1:45 hours – This sounds slow, but the ice made it tough going.

There’s ton’s of trail running in the Canadian Rockies. Check out this post

 

Running in Calgary and the Rockies

Are you a runner just visiting Calgary and wanting to know what Calgary and Banff has to offer for runners?

Or a Calgarian just getting into running?

Well, have we got a running scene for you. From trails to pathways, big events to wild remote places, running groups to solitude, flat long runs to epic peaks to conquer. This place is amazing for runners.

Where to run

In Calgary

Calgary is full of great running spots. The valleys along the Bow River and the Elbow River offer countless opportunities to experience the trails, and pathway systems which seem to go on forever. Lots of people start downtown and run along the beautiful rivers. Morning, lunchtime and evenings, it is packed with runners, in both summer and winter. And don’t discount actual real hard core trails inside the city limits.

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Continue reading “Running in Calgary and the Rockies”

Just me and the trails

Trails I run – Calgary, Kananaskis, Canmore, Banff, and everywhere between.

Collage of my trail running from late Winter to late Spring.

Instagram of the amazing trails I run: @trail_runner_guy

Stories to go with the pictures here: Ha Ling PeakEpic Trail Running, KananaskisGalatea CreekJasper, Hamilton Lake, Powderface Ridge

Sulphur Mountain, Banff – Signed, Sealed and Delivered

I’ve driven past this mountain dozens of times and have been eyeing it up each time. It is a tourist trap – especially the gondola method of getting up it. The long slog of getting up it is not nearly as popular but it was on my list.

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Sulphur Mountain is just outside Banff townsite. The trail head is at the Hot Springs parking lot. When you get there you realize the gondola is going the same direction you are. You have a choice. Slog it out, or take the easy, expensive route.

So on my last trip to BC, about a week ago, I didn’t have the family with me, so I left a couple hours earlier, just to get this climb in. I started climbing at 7:30 on a weekday which evidently was earlier than anyone else. I met a couple groups on my way down later in the morning, but otherwise it pleasantly lonely.

Most of the trail is two-person wide trail, with a rock base and A LOT of steep switchbacks. If you want a real switchback experience, this is it. You don’t get out of the trees until the very top. So the view is minimal on the way up, except for the odd peak through the trees. On the day I did it, it was foggy most of the way up. However, at the top, we were way above the clouds. The gondola must have just started as I got to the top, since there were only three people there when I got there, and by the time I left the top, it was up to dozens.

Amazing viewpoint! The Canadian Rockies in Banff are pretty impressive.

5.5km each way – 750m vertical – 1.25 hours up with very fast hiking and occassional jogging, 45 minutes down.

So, I’ve just crossed this climb off my list. Okay, what’s next?

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Instagram of amazing trails: @trail_runner_guy

More mountain climbing stories here: Ha Ling PeakEpic Trail Running, KananaskisGalatea CreekJasper, Hamilton Lake

Hamilton Lake Trail – Don’t do it in May!

Tip: When running a lonely mountain trail, google it first! Check out the trail conditions before committing.

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I didn’t Google Hamilton Lake trail before I ran it last weekend. If I had, I would have found out that it was at least 2 weeks too early in the season to try to get up there. I was post-holing up to my knees for the last 500m (i.e. very tough slogging). At the top I discovered that the lake was still frozen over and not much to look at, let alone soak your feet in. This was May 30th. But the backdrop was amazing, making up for the tough conditions.

Hamilton Lake is a tiny mountain lake located near Emerald Lake which is a popular tourist stop in Yoho National Park, adjacent to Banff National Park. Emerald Lake is a must see, and Hamilton Lake is a tough hike from there.

I should have taken one of several obvious hints to do this trail later in the season:

1) The hand-made sign at the bottom recommended snow-shoes and bringing a buddy for the steep avalanche area. The sign looked legit for winter conditions, but it sure didn’t look like winter conditions at the bottom (900m lower). When I saw it, I felt the sign should have been taken down long ago.

2) I was trying to figure out if that many spiders would build webs across the trail in the middle of the day after the on-rush of morning hikers. As it turned out, there was no rush of hikers that morning, or who knows how many days before that. I was the first in a long time.

3) The snow peaks had fresh snow on them, but I thought it unlikely this trail went that high. Wrong!

The touristy trails at the bottom were packed on this amazing Saturday afternoon, but my trail was VERY quiet (i.e. absolutely no one for 2 hours).

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The inspiring view at the bottom of Emerald Lake makes you forget it might still be winter way up there.

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The first glimpses of snow, but by then I was 600m up. No turning around.
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View of Emerald Lake from half way up.
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3/4 of the way up
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500m to go
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Post-holing knee deep for the last 500m
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Hamilton Lake – Frozen over, but beautiful backdrop.

Just as I turned around at the top, I suddenly sunk to my waist and nearly lost my shoe at the bottom. Crawled out, with blood streaming down my legs from the ice slicing my knee.

Then I saw fresh bear tracks on the snow-covered trail.

Then I left in a hurry making sure my bear bell was loud and clear.

1.5 hours up, 0.75 hours down. 11km round trip, 900m vertical

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Mountains are made for climbing – Ha Ling Peak

On Friday, we did one of those “epic” climbs.

From the backseat: “Which mountain are we climbing?”

“Not that one? Are we?”

“We’re crazy!”

From the frontseat: “Yup, we’re crazy”

We climbed the backside of Ha Ling Peak and got right to the peak. 800m vertical over only a few km. 2.5 hours up, 1.5 hours down. 1 hour of viewing and basking in the sun at the top. There was absolutely no wind and virtually no clouds while at the top.

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There was a lot of trees to get through before there was a view. But the trail was well trodden and not too muddy. Even most of the snow and ice was gone by mid-May.

Very steep! Like 30% steep. Slow hiking for sure.

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And we got to the peak

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From the top we could check out the peaks on the other side of the valley for more inspiration (but that would have to be another day)

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So amazing to live this close to the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

The trail head is 15 minutes south of Canmore, Alberta. The town you see from the peak is Canmore. I am definitely thinking of retiring in Canmore (but that’s 20+ years away). Hopefully I can still do these hikes then.

More information on this trail here.

Other hikes we’ve done in the Rockies here

Canadian Rockies Trail Running – Expect Epic-ness

I am getting excited about trail running in the mountains this summer. The snow is melting and the trails are drying up. I have all kinds of plans to get in some long epic runs. The Canadian Rockies can be amazing. I found a website describing some mountain running trails in our area (called Kananaskis) and after studying it I realize that I have defnitely not done them all yet, not even close.

With my need for vertical training this summer for Ironlegs 50 miler, I should have a lot of options. I just need to find the time to get out there without making my family feel like they are abandoned. For mountain running options, it is only 40 minutes to Bragg Creek area, 1 hour to Canmore, and 1.5 hours to Banff townsite. Bragg Creek has mostly treed, and well travelled single track in the “foothills”, although there is a lot of vertical to be found. Canmore is surrounded by several large peaks and has a lot of community trails. And Banff, well that is just amazing.

Last summer’s exploration of the trails was pretty amazing. I described the trails we found in Jasper, Kootney, and Banff in this  blog post from last fall.

I stumbled across this book “Mountain Running in the Canadian Rockies” by Bob Walker (although I believe he is a runner). I’m going to dive in when it comes to my local library. http://mtnrunning.ca/

One problem is that the “winter gates” don’t open until May 15. So most of the good climbing is inaccessible until then. But right after that… I plan to be out there.

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Galatea Creek, Kananaskis

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Galatea Creek, Kananaskis
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Galatea Creek, Kananaskis
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Near Allen Bill, Kananaskis
Dog Lake
Dog Lake, Kootenay National Park
Floe Lake - Numa Pass
Floe Lake, Kootenay National Park
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Canmore?
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Near Canmore
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Cougar Creek, Canmore

Happy Trails! See you out there.

Trail Running in the Canadian Rockies

It’s not too early to start dreaming of summer mountain running, right? This isn’t the weather to be trying it out in for sure, but come May, I’ll be searching for some wilderness.

I happened across this website listing the best trail runs in Banff and area. Trail Running in the Canadian Rockies: http://www.experiencemountainparks.com/trail-running-in-the-canadian-rockies/

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Out of the 12 most epic trail runs they list, I’ve been on 5 of them in the last 3 summers. They truly are amazing. It helps when they are four national parks only an hour or two from home (Banff National Park, Jasper, Kootenay, and Yoho).

Highline Trail – Run 2013

Goat Creek Trail – Run 2013

Stanley Glacier – Hiked 2013

Valley of the Five Lakes – Hiked 2014

Athabasca River Trail – Run 2014

Of course the conditions they list and the pictures they show are of running in July and August. Anything outside of the middle of summer can be pretty sketchy for weather. And don’t forget the bear spray. Bear spray never goes on sale, so you might as well stock up now. Prep for that amazing summer of running in the mountains.

I feel pretty lucky to be able to get out to Banff. Even my family joins me on a few of the trails once in a while.

Dog Lake
Dog Lake, Kootenay National Park, 2014
Floe Lake Trail
Numa Pass Trail to Floe Lake, 2014
Floe Lake
Floe Lake, Kootenay National Park, 2014

Check out the full list of epic runs in Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho National Parks, and plan a holiday. Never too early to plan a holiday to the mountains.

I’ll be back next summer as I train to do a lot more vertical than I’m used to.

More posts (and PHOTOS!!) of the trails in the Rockies: 

Elbow River, Bragg Creek

Heart Creek Falls

Cougar Creek, Canmore

Kananaskis, Bragg Creek

Sunrise in the Rockies

 Ever run in Banff? Which trails did you do?