This summer for our annual Experience the Mountains Trip, we headed back to Rogers Pass. Thanks to Mick Hawley for submitting this trip report. Read all about their experience and stay tuned for next year’s adventure!
For the second year running, we had no one to car pool with, so when my 12 yr old daughter Antonia and I left Winnipeg at 6:00 am on a Saturday morning in July, I had a long drive ahead of me. But Red Bull is effective stuff, and 15 hours later we were tucking into fish and chips at Tony Roma’s, Banff, Alberta. From here I drove on to the parking lot at the trail head into Lake O Hara, where we spent the night in the truck. Not the greatest sleep I’ve ever had, but it sufficed, and on Sunday morning we backtracked into Lake Louise to meet Brian and Josee, who had also made the long journey west from Winnipeg.
We continued to Rogers Pass, BC and the Wheeler Hut. I have to admit that my first impression of this was less than awesome. There is an adjacent campsite, and on a July Sunday I was unable to park closer than ¼ mile from the hut, although it is a stone’s throw from the end of the road. The hut itself is a little dingy, being surrounded on 3 sides by trees, but it is comfortable and spacious, if a little close to “civilization”.
Josee suggested that we should go for a “short hike” as Kathy had generously agreed to cook for all on our first night. Following the trail south and east through the forest, we started to climb up the lower flank of the Mt Sir Donald ridge. We climbed steeply out of the tree line and up towards the “campsite” below Sir Donald, reaching about 7000ft before deciding to head back to the hut for supper. This was a good way to get my legs used to hiking uphill again after 12 months of life on the flat prairies.
Back at the hut, Kathy and family had arrived, along with Marilyn and her grandson Connor, making our number 10 in all. Kathy had prepared a Mexican stir fry with shrimp – it was delicious, and all the more so for not having to prepare it after our arduous “short hike”.
On Monday, we all departed the hut at what was to become our customary hour of 10:30am, bound for the Abbott Ridge on the west side of the Asulkan Valley this time. The trail zigzags steadily up through the forest and onto the ridge at about 7500ft, where it peters out and further progress south along the ridge is steady 4th class scrambling. Josee, Graham, Antonia and myself pushed on to the summit of Mt Abbott at 8087ft, with outstanding views in all directions. But it was a little late in the day to continue further along the ridge line, so we returned to the Wheeler for supper. This was to be our last day on “fresh rations”, so I fried salmon and potatoes, knowing that there would be food from packets and tins for the next 3 nights.
Tuesday again dawned fine and dry. We all left the Wheeler together at the usual time and hiked south down the valley, and up to the Asulkan Cabin, almost 3000ft higher than the Wheeler. Nearly all of the height so gained is in the last mile and a half, which was tough going with all of our gear and food for the rest of the week. I was mighty impressed with Antonia’s pace on the last part of the trail, she reached the Asulkan Cabin some 10 minutes ahead of anybody else in our group. I may have to re-think our weight distribution next time we do anything similar.
The Asulkan Cabin is the nicest that I have visited. It sits in an open and airy situation, surrounded on 3 sides by the mountains, well above the tree line and just below the snow in July. Better still, it sleeps 10 and we had it to ourselves for the next 3 nights. It doesn’t get much better than that. The cabin itself is light and open. The outhouses were the cleanest and most pleasant in my experience, they actually smelled of pinewood, rather than the usual.
On Wednesday morning Brian and Josee left us to rendezvous with their guide back at the Wheeler. Marilyn volunteered to watch Bryce and Connor at the hut, so 5 of us trekked up over the snowfields to the head of the Asulkan Pass. From her we went east towards Youngs Peak, stopping maybe ¼ mile short as it was getting late in the day. Not a bad decision it turned out, as we were safely back in the hut when heavy showers arrived late in the afternoon. We amused ourselves with chess and card games, some read, and an inevitable game of “who can get upstairs without using the stairs” developed. I think that Garth and I surprised Graham at this one, giving away more than 30 years and an undisclosed amount of weight…..
Our last full day was Thursday, this time Kathy stayed to watch over the younger boys, and the rest of us set off for the Asulkan Pass again. This time we turned west and scrambled up onto the south peak of the Mount Jupiter massif at 8800ft. If going up was a little steep and loose, coming back down was doubly so, and I was relieved to get back on level ground at the pass. “A bit marginal” is how my late, great friend Peter would have probably described it. Not for the first time that week, I was astonished how much Antonia’s confidence in the mountains had grown in the last 2 years. She no longer seems overly concerned with exposure or tricky ground, a far cry from our first ETM in the summer of 2014.
Once again our late start had really precluded further progress along the ridge of Mt Jupiter, and we returned to the hut for early evening. I may have to re-consider the mid morning start in future – but then again, it is supposed to be a holiday. We enjoyed another night of fun and games in the hut, before a much earlier start on Friday, in order to be back at the truck and on the long drive east at a sensible hour. This time I broke our journey at Moosejaw, the lure of a hot shower, fast food and a comfy bed proving too much to push on any further that day.