Our final day in Canmore and the Lake Louise area was spent at one of our favourite crags, Grassi Lakes. Why? The lakes! Crystal clear and translucent water which seemed to change with the weather, quite gorgeous. Oh, and the climbing was awesome too. Our boots seemed to stick to the rock and not a polished foot hold in the entire place. To celebrate the end of a good week I found it neccessary to go for a swim in the glacier lake….. for about 30 seconds! Chilly is an understaetment but it kept Phil giggling and the small crowd of trekkers on the beach as I obviously make all the noises any middle aged woman would make doing something that hurts with no need to hide the pain.
Back on the road and it was a gorgeous trip through to a small, and I mean small place called Slocan in the Kookenay National Park. The drive over had stunning scenery and due to the heat we had compulsory ice cream stop offs. We had to stop to sleep on the way over and unfortunately chose a mosquito night club. They doubled up as ninja mosquitos that managed to get into our van and chew us to bits for most of the night. The worst night sleep for both of us on this trip. However, by the time we got to Slocan all was forgotten as we pulled into a quite simply charming wooded, quiet and clean campsite where we slept like babies for 11 hours the next night.
Our goal in this area was to climb Gimli South Ridge which is a North American Top 100 classic and a Fred Becky top 50 classic. It involved a 2 hours drive in on gravel/unpaved road, a 2 hour walk in, a camp, 8 pitch climb, long steep scramble descent. It was stunning! However, there were a few challenging aspects to our wee expedition. First we needed bear spray which meant Phil practicing his quick draw skills at camp. Next we needed to take Sheldon our beloved van, off -road knowing we are going to put him on the sale in a few weeks and he still had to get us back to Oregon. Finally, we had to buy chicken wire to protect Sheldon’s undercarriage from porcupines. This was not a problem, but watching Phil spend an hour building the equivalent of For Knox was a tad challenging after an hour.
That all said, the drive in was nail biting but Phil did great and Sheldon only lost the runner from the side of the van on a big boulder that got in the way. No porcupines got to even sniff Sheldon’s under carriage and the worst encounter with wildlife we had was an all night sound track of wild goats as they chewed stones and jumped on the boulders right next to our tent from dusk till dawn. When we got up at 5am is when the goats decided to chill out and lie down. Phil just turned to all 6 of them and said ‘NOW! Now you decide to chill out?!’ Oh how I tittered.
The walk in through ancient forests was stunning and as we came up to the clearing we could see what all the fuss was about. We had the whole place to ourselves ( well apart from the goats). We had supper and the sunset was like fire in the sky. Gorgeous. Then the flies came so we retreated to our one man tent to get ‘cosy’.
We were up at 5am for breakfast and an early start as the day was forecast to be in the mid 30’s. The climb itself ranged in grades from 5.7 to 5.10a. Each pitch was perfect and the rock was bomber for hands and feet. The scramble down was steep, and loose underfoot but the walk back through the woods was lovely in the Alpine flowers. There was no denying, by the time we were back at Fort Knox, we were pretty tired. Just the drive out…..not quite as nail biting as the drive in but close and then we could taste the cold beer and feel the coolness of Slocan Lake for a swim. All this lovely daydreaming stopped when we were 15 km from the main road when we came to a wooden bridge that was there on the way up. It had gone and the construction workers were on the other side of the river. Oops. We can’t deny we had seen a warning sign that there would be work on the bridge but so had another 5 car loads of trekkers who had also chosen to risk it and ignore it. We had no air con in our van, we were in the middle of a forest and in a heat wave. OOPS!
A man came across the river in big boots and reflective jacket. He was so nice and of course I could hardly get cross at him, so I just saw the funny side of it with him. I think he was a bit surprised and thanked me for my sense of humour….now there’s a first, somebody liked my humour! He promised to have the bridge in a fit enough state to get across and out by early afternoon the next day. I just needed to break the news to Phil. He was remarkably cool about it as we both knew it was our own fault and set to work on making our mosquito door net a perfect fit. We had food, water and shelter plus a river. We ended up being really uncomfortable in the heat for a few hours and just sitting in the river which was not good for a swim but made a great setting for dinner as we sat on rocks and our feet in the water.
Two other cars turned up and left their cars there as they were more local than us so they got a lift or hitched out.
The next day came and true to his word, the bridge was ready for us to go across by 2pm. Glen, the boss had come and joined us for lunch and he too had a chevvy van and we had a good giggle about life and vans. He invited us to his home that was en route for us for a few beers that night. What a nice guy.
First stop after our night in the forest was Slocan Lake. What a fab place. This is not a town, more of a village spread over a mile square with the friendliest people on earth. They also have a beach at the head of a 27 mile long lake which is stunning with a log framed swimming area and dive board. There was always about 5 families there so never crowded. I had a presonal challenge to walk the length of the logs to the diving board without falling off. Phil and I tried but it was impossible to do without falling off as the logs roll but what a laugh trying. I was laughing ‘with’ Phil, not ‘at’ him honestly. A 5 year old boy managed to prove me wrong as he almost skipped the length of the log giving me top tips at the same time!.
Next stop, a few beers at Glen’s place. Glen and his partner Ruth, who is an organic market gardener, lived in a stunning place by the Kootney River. We arrived and immediately relaxed into their world…Phil didn’t even lock the van!!! We had a couple of cold beers and then wandered down to their beach on the river by their house. Glen casually said that they tend to go skinny dipping rather than bother with costumes. I immediately thought Phil would freak so by the time we were at the river, I was first to undress but leave my pants on to make sure Phil felt comfortable to do the same. As I was getting in, a naked man flashed past me and it was Phil! Well….. didn’t I feel the prude. So, here we were naked in a Canadian river with 2 near strangers, stunning scenery and a bald eagle flies over us and then an osprey. What a cool evening!
The night went on and the chat was non stop with two great people. Another lucky meeting and a chance to confirm how lovely people are in this part of the world.
We are now working our way back to Tina in Oregon on our final week of this amazing trip.