Alpine views

I think this might be the very last of these Throwback Thursday posts. Coming up with a theme for these posts has been fun, and sometimes a little challenging. Today’s link had me scratching my head for a few moments until I realized the connection: both photos were taken in one of my favourite places, the alpine.

1. TBT to a beautiful Thursday in September 2012 on the Skyline trail in Jasper, the view south over Curator Lake from the Notch

First up is this stunning view from the Notch, the highest point along the 44-km Skyline Trail. What can’t be seen is the howling gale that greeted us as we came over the rise. We were oh-so glad of the sunshine after the previous day’s miserable cold rain, and the view was as breathtaking as the wind, but the downside to the alpine is the lack of shelter, and we were certainly feeling that as we huddled down in a group to eat our lunch.

The wind was a constant companion for the next hour or so but it was worth it for the never-ending views along the ridgeline of Amber Mountain. Definitely an awesome hike, and one I would love to repeat.

2. Some colour for a grey day – my favourite flower, a glacier lily, taken a couple of years ago on the trail to Zoa Peak.

Some colour for a grey day – my favourite flower, a glacier lily, taken a couple of years ago on the trail to Zoa Peak. For #LeaveNoTraceTuesday I'll add that getting these kinds of flower photos often means going off-trail, a practice that requires a lot of care. It's also a time when even leaving footprints is not appropriate in case in invites the less careful – I've witnessed many a hiker simply not looking where they're putting their feet. On busy trails I'll simply not bother and just be content to admire the view from afar or use a long zoom lens 🙂 #zoapeak #coquihalla #alpine #wildflowers #glacierlily #erythroniumgrandiflorum #lnt #leavenotrace #beautifulbritishcolumbia #hiking #mec #mecnation #rei1440project

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The second photo is of a subject that entices me up into the alpine as soon as the snow has melted: the humble glacier lily. Every year I like to go in search of them just as they poke up through the snow, and this year will probably be no different. The trick is to find somewhere new each time, and I’ll need to start thinking about that soon as we’re already in May!

This photo was originally posted on a “Leave No Trace Tuesday”, so I’ll include the comment I made at the time. Getting these kinds of flower photos often means going off-trail, a practice that requires a lot of care. It’s also a time when even leaving footprints is not appropriate in case in invites the less careful – I’ve witnessed many a hiker simply not looking where they’re putting their feet. On busy trails I’ll simply not bother and just be content to admire the view from afar or use a long zoom lens.

I’m always wary of stepping off the trail in popular areas in case someone sees me and interprets that as a green light to wander wherever they please. What they don’t see is the extreme care I take to step through the flowers, sticking to rocks where I can and bare dirt otherwise as much as possible. If I can’t identify a way through then I just don’t go and I’ll find an alternative flower to photograph.

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Late season backpacking

Spring is getting nearer and our thoughts turn to backpacking options for the summer. But first, a quick throwback to a couple of trips from September 2015…

1. All set for the night – camping in the Barkley Valley

We’d heard many good things about this area and we were not disappointed. Well, except that our plan was to camp up in the alpine by the gorgeous lakes and not down here in the valley. However, we inadvertently made the right choice: it was so cold up at the lakes that we were much better off here!

See those slopes? They’re covered with wildflowers in the summer, which means that I have no choice but to return another day to see them in bloom.

2. Gorgeous green, lower Twin Lake

The colour of this lake completely took me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting such a gorgeous glacial green lake as no previous photo I’d seen showed that colour. Given that the lake wasn’t this colour on our return last year, I’m guessing that it was due to the melting snow washing lots of fine particles into the water.

Snow? What snow? According to the hunters who stayed in the cabin next to our tent, a weekday snowstorm had dropped about 50-60 cm of snow in the valley! In our planning for this trip we hadn’t reckoned on that, so it was a good thing that it all melted before we arrived. And it contributed to the beauty of this lake, especially in contrast against the red rocks shown in the photo below.

The upper lake is just beyond the pass at the top of this photo. There’s a sporadic trail that leads up through a lovely meadow, across the aptly-named Crystal Creek which tumbles down the waterfall seen across the lake, and over some boulders to a more spacious bowl. A little less dramatic than this, perhaps, but I liked it because it really reminded me of the Lake District in the UK.

3. Steep slopes around lower Twin Lake. Glad I rediscovered this photo as it doesn’t work as a square.

When I joined Instagram in mid-2015, it was limited to square photos, a feature I actually liked because it forced me to think differently about framing and cropping. Square photos can be exceptionally effective and are ideal for scenes with symmetry or strong geometry. Of course, most of the photos Maria and I take don’t work for Instagram as we try and fill the frame with our compositions. However, it was only a few months into my Instagram experiment that they started allowing alternative aspect ratios, which led me to re-examine a few photos. I was really pleased to find that I could squeeze this one onto the new format as it was no good as a square crop. It still loses a little of its presence, but retains enough, in my mind, to be quite effective.

Ideally I would have taken the scene from a greater distance to permit a square crop, but that’s really hard to do when you’ve just arrived at a new location. Furthermore, the scale of this area overwhelmed me: none of the photos I’d seen before had come anywhere near capturing the scale of the lakes. It’s really quite spectacular, and I posted a few photos from our revisit back in September 2017.

For more photos from 2015, take a look at our set on Flickr, or read some more about that trip on my hiking blog.

4. End of the day in Illal Meadows, Jim Kelly and Coquihalla Mountain in silhouette

As ever, a still photograph conveys nothing of what it was actually like to be in spot it was taken. What can’t be shown is the freezing cold, howling wind that caused us to rethink our attempt on Jim Kelly Peak. We were so very grateful for the shelter of the trees.

Despite being taken with my phone, I’m quite happy with the appearance of the shadows which I had to lift quite a bit. The colours on the side of Jim Kelly are a bit garish and the shadows are a bit blue, but overall it works to my eye. What I like most about this photo is the curve of the creek, which stands out clearly reflecting the blue sky.

Funnily enough, I didn’t take this scene with either of our SLRs as we were filtering water at the time, but my phone was in my pocket and as ever it’s the camera that’s on you that counts. However, I did take it the following morning. Alas the light was not as good… A lesson to learn there!

Downton panorama

Panoramic view of the Downton Creek basin, taken on our first visit 5 years ago today.

It’s a funny thing looking back at trips from 5 or more years ago. So many of them felt like they’d been on our to-do list for many years, and yet when I think about it, they were on that list for less time than has since elapsed. Time is a strange thing. Downton Creek was one of those areas that had been talked up on Club Tread as an exceptional destination, and in Sep 2012 we spent a weekend there exploring some of the area.

We had a fantastic couple of days, but I remember coming home and feeling a little disappointed with the photos – it didn’t seem to me that they’d captured the feel of the area. I’ve had this reaction on multiple occasions before and the only solution is time – leave them alone and go back to the photos some time later. This has the disadvantage of delaying putting any photos online; I’ve read many trip reports that were composed within a day of getting home, but I don’t seem to be able to do that. I like to savour the feeling of the weekend in my own mind before jumping in to the photos.

For me, one of the biggest problems with photos is that, once you’re away from the place, they define your memories of it. That’s another reason that taking a bit a time to get back to the photos works for me. Then I’m in a position where I’m having to rely on the photos to relive the experience.

And so it was several years after I took this panorama that I revisited it, reprocessed the 18 or so photos, and recreated the panorama with Hugin. And now when I look at it, I can sit back and enjoy the view and remind myself of what it was like to be there. I like the soft light, the autumn colours, and the mountains seem more impressive than I remembered. Here’s the full panorama (as linked from Flickr):

Downton Creek, 22 Sep 2012

Triangle

Life will find a foothold wherever it can – a lovely triangular patch of cheery pink moss campion high on Finch Ridge.

Moss campion always catches my eye. It’s one of the few flowers in the high alpine, finding places to grow among rocks and dirt and not much else. Most often, it creates a little pillow of green from which the cerise flowers emerge, though it’s extremely rare for the flowers to cover more than half of the foliage at any one time. Earlier on the day this photo was taken, I found one completely pink patch right in the middle of a field of shattered rock; a real treat. But then I found this little near-equilateral triangle of pink and green, which was just perfect. All I had to do was make sure I stood to one side so my shadow wouldn’t fall across it.

Blue sky, blue lake

Blue sky, blue lake. Birkenhead and Sun God Mountain form the backdrop to Tenquille Lake, a view almost good enough to take your mind off all the mosquito bites…

Well, we couldn’t resist going back to Tenquille Lake this weekend, and our little CR-V got us up to the trailhead again with not too much difficulty. Once again we were greeted by merciless mosquitoes and I picked up more bites in the first 20 minutes of the hike than in the past couple of years! I counted 35 on one side of my back…

But as ever, it was all worthwhile to spend time in such beautiful surroundings. And yes, there were glacier lilies. Along with thousands of other flowers too; it was a stunning display.

This is a lazy photo, taken from the western end of the lake near where we camped. I could have got a better view of Sun God had I walked a couple of hundred metres further east to the next camping area, but we were just about to leave and I didn’t want to hold us up any longer than necessary. So it’s not ideal, but I really liked the colour of the lake (especially in contrast against the green of the trees, though that doesn’t show in this photo), and this was my only chance to take this photo. My goal for our next visit is to get a lovely sunset shot of Sun God Mountain living up to its name. Having been reminded of how beautiful this area is, I hope that will be sooner than another 6 years in the future!

My happy place

OK so yesterday’s flowers were pretty nice, but nothing beats a meadow full of glacier lilies! Truly, my happy place 🙂

Much as I love seeing all those other flowers, there is one in particular that I get a little giddy over. Yes, it’s the humble glacier lily. I was hoping that there would be a remnant snow patch or two in the higher elevation meadows that would be ripe for a glacier lily bloom. Sure enough, there was one little snow patch that had a handful in bloom, but my eye was drawn to a bigger patch of yellow in a more distant meadow. There was something about the particular shade of yellow that had me thinking I was not just seeing more arnica. We tiptoed our way around the flowers to get to a well-placed rock at one end of the meadow where we could see without doubt that this was a great big patch of glacier lilies in peak bloom. Yay!

I had found my happy place.

Misty mountain top

Not much of a view atop Mt Outram yesterday, but the flowers were beyond spectacular. Check out the lovely purple silky phacelia (sky pilot) which was in full bloom throughout this alpine area.

Oh wow. This weekend’s trip up to Mt Outram was nothing short of spectacular. Beautiful forest, superb views, and some of the most extensive and abundant flower meadows I’ve ever seen. Sure, the hike up was every bit as tough as the stats suggest (especially with an overnight pack) but it was worth every step.

Our glorious sunny Saturday gave way to a cloudy and sometime snowy Sunday. We didn’t really have time to make the summit on Saturday, and we believed the weather forecast that predicted sunshine for Sunday. Well it didn’t quite turn out that way, as it rained in the night, and we woke to low cloud shrouding the summits. Not that we cared. We’d come this far, so why not head up to the summit anyway? And we’re glad we did – it was eery and atmospheric up there in the mist. And so what if we missed the panoramic views? We found other things to enjoy, such as all the flowers, and the sheer delight in being up in the mountains.

Definitely a hike to repeat.

(I should point out that the obvious, pale purple flower in the foreground is not silky phacelia – that is the darker purple flower behind – but the well-named skunky Jacob’s ladder, confusingly also known as sky pilot. I thought I caught a hint of something skunky as I was crawling around getting flower photos at the summit!)