Canada 2: Rocky Mountains – North from Calgary

Previously on the Amazing Exclusive Race, one team of two flew over 700km from Vancouver to Calgary. There they picked up a hire car, and after a brief monster nachos lunch at Loco Lulu’s, they commenced the drive to the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

Their first stop was Banff. There they hiked around the town, check out the hot Springs and looked for bears. Simon mused at the sheer number of Australians living in the town. Ang remarked that she liked the town for its picturesque setting and that it was not overly touristy, even though it is a resort town. Later, a brief side trip was taken to Johnston Canyon and on to the Ink Pots.

Johnston Canyon falls

The hike to the Ink Pots, while more remote, was still on a well travelled path. Heels were cooled in the mountain stream before the team, in typical Exclusive Race fashion, took an alternative, less trodden track back to the car. This soon led to concerns about bears, particularly due to the team being without a map, the lack of signage on the trails and the many tasty berry bushes in the moose meadows. After a tense solitary hour long walk, the team returned to their car, successfully avoiding any potentially nearby bears.

Next, the racers departed for Lake Louise. The lake is a stunning body of water set below a mountain range and is fed from glacier melt water. The team’s task at this destination was to complete a hike around the area. This hike included Lake Louise, Lake Agnes and the Plain of Six Glaciers. Racing up the 400m elevation the team sampled some of the treats at the Lake Agnes teahouse, climbed the Big Beehive and witnessed the sanitation helicopter in action. The team then continued along and up to the Plain of Six Glaciers and its associated teahouse.

Lake Louise through the trees Ang contemplates the Lake
Even more of the Lake
Plain of the Six Glaciers

The last hot weather of summer was causing significant melting (and avalanches), so the team did not progress all the way to the top of the trail. They returned to Lake Louise, having completed the 15 km hike with no bear sightings. The night was spent at Lake Louise.

Second day Lake Louise

Leaving Lake Louise town the next morning, the racers headed briefly to Moraine Lake for some log walking. The next clue sent the team to Emerald Lake before they headed north to the Icefields Parkway, one of the most spectacular drives in the world. Their route took them past a variety of aqua lakes, precariously perched glaciers and vaulted peaks.

Emerald Lake, might as well go ahead and jump! Emerald Lake complete with Canadian paddelling a Canadian
Natural Bridge
Moraine Lake Noice lumperjack

Visited attractions on the drive north included:

  • Crowfoot Glacier
  • Bow Lake and Bow Glacier
  • Waterfowl Lakes
  • Mistaya Canyon
Driving the parkway Dramatic random mountain range

With accommodation not yet sourced and the sun beginning to set, the racers pushed north to Jasper. Both Ang and Simon briefly considered sleeping in the car, but with the high probability of Grizzly bears coming to investigate, they had to find proper digs. Right on dark they were able to find beds in a large dorm room (40+ persons) just below the Whistlers.

The town of Jasper, while not as pretty as Banff, seemed to be more true to the Canadian Rocky experience. Receiving a challenge from a friendly shop assistant, the team planned their next couple of days.

The first activity was to visit Maligne Lake.  There they saw deer and looked out over the 25km long lake. On the drive back to Jasper, they came across a Bear Jam, with traffic stopped in both directions, watching a lone brown bear eat berries. Then it was on to Miette hot springs, an area surrounded by Cougar warnings. Not wanting to squeeze into a pool that was dangerously overloaded, the team set off to find the source of the hot springs. These were located soon after, with the team deciding not to swim in the smelly water and that bears are probably more friendly than cougars. A retreat to the car was quickly completed.

A deer with no fear Mmm tasty pavement
Bighorn sheep Ang says hello to Mr Sheep
Lake Jasper, away from Mr Sheep Mmm tasty salty road

Back the team headed to Jasper and sampled some great gluten free pizza, then drove out of the town, out of Alberta and on Mt Robson. The mountain is the highest in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and was the northern most point the team travelled to in North America.  The team spent the night at a ranch that overlooks Mt Robson. Their host at the Ranch was an eccentric Japanese man called Rocky, who apparently had an ‘understanding’ with a local black bear.

Mt Robson on dusk Mt Robson sunset drinks (Winelands plastic ‘glasses’in hand)

The core challenge provided by the shop assistant was to hike to Emperor Falls in a day. Knowing that by accepting this challenge it would take most of the day, the team set off on the 32 km hike at a cracking pace. Lots of multiday back country campers were quickly passed by as the racers had the luxury of carrying much less gear. The team was also sans bear bangers (bear mace that is 6x stronger than human mace) and bear bells. This helped keep the per kilometre average high.

Standard Canadian lake

The track led the racers past aqua marine coloured lakes, through forests and up scree slopes. The valley of a Thousand Waterfalls was for Simon a highlight, although it would be much more impressive in early spring. Climbing the steepest portion of the track, the team arrived at Emperor Falls. There they received their next clue – make their way to Montreal by the fastest means possible.

Mt Robson and Emperor falls
Simon has an audience The Emperor and Ang

Then it was back 16 km to the car, passing the same groups with their Nordic walking poles and huge backpacks. The team was passed by a runner who had continued to Berg Lake (a ~42km round trip that seemed to be taking everyone else multiple days). No bears were sighted on the return journey.

Rest stop Another rest stop where the marathon trail runner caught up to us
Another standard Canadian lake Rapids!

The day’s racing continued with the team driving back to Jasper to spend the night in the mega dorm. Just before entering Jasper, a random posing elk stag was spotted.

Ang found a bear! Mr Elk

… to be continued

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2 thoughts on “Canada 2: Rocky Mountains – North from Calgary

  1. Fabulous photos!
    Bet you put all those bear references in to justify all my grizzly bear shaped anxieties I was having

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