Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Athabasca Pass - Jasper National Park, AB    September 8 - 13, 2015

(Day 3 - September 10 - Scott Campground to Kane Meadows Campground)

This day was supposed to be sunny but instead it was partly cloudy all day. It was another short day where we only moved further up valley to the next campground. It started out in the forest then moved on and off of the rivers edge throughout the day. 

 First view along the river. You walk beside these two mountains for some time.

 Looking back.

 Some of the forest is very mossy. I like those parts as the moss adds much charm to the forest.

 Old bridge. Still works.

 Getting out into the open for a bit again. Note the tree across a channel you have to cross.

 View of glacier up on the mountain.


 More charming vegetation in the forest.

 First view of the 'infamous' Mount Brown on the left. Part of the unique history of this place is that when this pass was first being used a botanist named David Douglas came through in 1827. He named the two mountains on either side of the pass, one of which was Mount Brown. As he was very mistaken about the height of the pass itself, he thought the height of the two mountains was 16,000 or 17,000 feet. He even said that these were the highest mountains found so far on the continent. He claimed to have climbed Mount Brown in a single afternoon, which adds to the mystery of why he thought they were so high. As if they were that high, how did he climb them in one afternoon, and also there were higher mountains in the vicinity you would be able to see from the top. After he wrote about this several of the Rockies first mountaineers tried to get to the area and find these giants which did not exist. As there were no roads back then along the icefields parkway area, it was an arduous journey and many failed even to get to the pass. Those that did, obviously found that there were not mountains of such height in the area. It took a long time to put the rumor of them down, and even have maps changed to be correct. 

 More mossy forest. 

 Finally you get to KM 38.8 where the old bridge over to the east side of the Whirlpool River was. It is now gone obviously, most likely it was unstable as well and cut down by the Wardens. It used to lead in a kilometer to the Kane Creek ford just before Kane Meadows. Now there is a detour re-route that has been cut and marked by parks.

 The river here is deep and super fast flowing. Again they must have built the bridge here simply because the distance was short and the river couldn't change course.

 The start of the re-route. They call it a bushwhack, but there was very little bush to whack on this. It is quite a nice little reroute. The trail is faint in places, but still obvious if you are even somewhat used to route finding. There are trees cut down along it, and most underbrush is gone. Only at the end is there even a bit of bush to trip on. But it is all very small. I wouldn't call this a bushwhack at all myself. It is marked by the yellow signs on trees as well as tree cuts.

 It goes through forest for some time, then gets out into the open here. The channels of Kane Creek join the Whirlpool River up ahead. The trail then goes out on the flats for a bit, into the forest for a bit, then back out to the crossing.

 New bridge over stream. This one has five whole logs! How luxurious! But only one piece of string holding them altogether?

 This is at the new ford/river crossing, which is just upstream of where the last channel of Kane Creek meets the Whirlpool. The Whirlpool River here is quite narrow, very slow, and shallow. It was only knee deep when we crossed, and it must have been high for this time of year because of all the rain. This crossing looked a lot easier than the crossing of the Kane Creek channels would have been, so I was very thankful for the re-route. I hope and believe (from when I talked to the Wardens) that Parks is keeping the trail this way in the future.

 Crossing the river.

 After a short section heading up the side of Kane Creek in the same manner as the rest of the reroute, you get back onto the main trail. Here are the many channels of Kane Creek you would have had to cross before. No wonder a bridge couldn't survive out there, it is a large area where the river moves around a lot.

 Kane Meadows Campground.

Mount Brown in the evening light.

Total distance was only 10km on this day.

(Day 4 - September 11 - Kane Meadows Campground to Athabasca Pass & back)

This day started out really cold when we woke up, but finally the sky was clear. It turned out to be a beautiful sunny day. It was nice this happened on the day we went to the actual pass, so that we could see the pass in the best light. Also, it was much more cheerful to have such a  nice day, when we were the furthest into the backcountry. 

 Another stream crossing.

 Travelling through the only meadow that wasn't totally wet.

 This part, closer to the pass along the river, was a very wet and muddle section. The trail was quite indistinct through the meadows here, and route finding skills are necessary. There is some orange flagging tape on trees and a few yellow markers as well to help you along. The whole trip to the pass does not gain any elevation steeply.

 As you can see the trail is very indistinct. This is about as steep as it gets. I don't have any decent pictures of the mud or the streams that flow along it but expect the whole trail to be wet.

 Then finally you get up to the pass. Which is, as people have noted, still mostly below treeline. There are up to three lakes depending on water levels. Despite the fact it was September, it had been raining a lot recently, so we got to see three very large lakes. This is the first northern one.

 This it the middle one that drains both to the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic, as it has two outlet streams at both ends. It is right on the continental divide. It was named the Committee's Punch Bowl by the early fur traders. It is named after the Committee of the Hudson's Bay company. The fur traders started a tradition to drink a toast to the committee once they got here. First of water (since there was a no liquor rule in the company), but then later, more appropriately, to rum. These days you are supposed to drink this toast at the commemorative plaque to David Thompson, the first fur trader to find the pass. The plaque is listed as being on the southern shore of the lake. I could not find this plaque as I spent half an hour wandering around this shore: the southeastern shore. The plaque actually sits on the southwestern shore to the left there in the trees. To me it could go either way, but perhaps I was being very silly. I should have taken out a compass just to check. We drank our toast at the AB/BC border marker instead.

 The third lake to the south.

 Third lake again.

 Third lake from a bit higher up.

 Committee's Punch Bowl from a bit higher up.

 Parks sign.

 AB/BC marker.

 Sign about the pass.

 Heading back along the first lake on the way back. As we came down from the pass through the avalanche slopes that meet the trail from the right, we went back through the section of trail where I saw bear sign.  There were diggings and scat. It was the only bear sign I saw on the whole trial. It was here that I picked up my scat sample for Parks. I am actually quite excited to hear about my bear. I dropped this sample off at the Parks office in Jasper on Sunday. 

 Heading down into the trees. As you can see the ascent to the pass is gentle. This is about the best view you get back down valley as a result.

Back at Kane Meadows just west of camp.

Total distance was 16km.

(Day 1 & Day 2)
(Day 5 & Day 6)