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  • Writer's picturevanlafaxine

week 35 : revelstoke, glacier national park


bill: the entire okanagan valley is currently very much on fire and bc has declared a state of emergency, so we blasted straight through from squamish across the whole okanagan in one day. the smoke was extremely intense, we basically couldn’t see any of the views the whole way and we even had to wear masks in the van at some points. i have never been to the okanagan, and i still can't say i know what it looks like. we made it past the major fires in kelowna and salmon arm to the town of revelstoke, just on the edge of the valley.

Amy: After many nerve-wracking hours driving through the sepia-toned Okanagan, we made it out of the smoke and took a break at a fruit stand/creamery (fresh peaches, ice cream and cheese curds!!!). Once we got past the major fires in Kelowna and Salmon Arm, Revelstoke was green and rainy, a reprieve from the parched yellow smoke-scape we just drove through.


Apparently Revelstoke (mountain) is a National Park! Who knew. Adding it to the growing list of parks we've visited this year. We felt our first whisper of fall weather here - it's definitely colder than the coast/scorching interior.

bill: i had some patients to see so we hung out here for a few days mostly to use the cell service, but we did do one 14km hike up along the summit ridge of mount revelstoke to a sub-alpine lake that was sub-cool. not the best, not the worst, an okay way to get the exercise for the day. driving the motorcycle up to the top of mount revelstoke on the other hand was very cool, a million switchbacks climbing 1200m over 25km, wide open windy road. but there is no climbing here and everyone here likes mountain bikes a little too much so we are leaving and continuing east.

amy and an inquisitive marmot

miller lake - it's okay.

heading east towards the rogers pass

glacier national park

Amy: Glacier National Park is in an area called Roger's Pass - the easiest path through the mountains connecting the west coast with the rest of Canada. The Canadian Pacific Railway pioneered the route, laying tracks that were covered by avalanches so frequently that they built a tunnel through the pass. Decades later, the TransCanada highway was built along the same route. Avalanches still pose a massive threat in the winter, so the road is often closed so park staff can shoot missiles into the snow to trigger avalanches in a controlled way. I'm glad we we're here in the summer!

bill: just outside of revelstoke and before the rockies start are a range of mountains called “the selkirks” which are home to glacier national park. the mountains here are very different from the rockies; the rockies are the loosest, chossiest, most bullshit piles of loose gravel ever, but the selkirks seem to be actual solid rock, mostly quartzite, which makes them stand tall and sharp, covered in dozens of glaciers. very cool. they are however too steep to have real lakes, and it also means that all of the hikes here are extremely punishing. this is a severely underrated national park; while banff and jasper get all the attention and book up super fast, glacier is under 2 hours away and is relatively empty and probably cooler.

the illecillewaet glacier

abbott ridge in the centre

our first day, we did the abbott ridge trail, which is a definite contender for top day hike of all time. 1200m and 15 km leads you out of the valley and up into a beautiful alpine meadow surrounded with a 360 view of the selkirks and the massive, imposing glaciers atop of them. further down the trail is the actual abbott ridge, a razors edge ridge scramble with 1000m of exposure on either side. pretty freaky but extremely beautiful scrambling in the best alpine rock i have ever felt. after an hour of scrambling over the abyss, we made it to the highest point along the ridge. there was an option of descending to a col and climbing mount abbott, but we opted to eat lunch and turn around since that would mean 4-5 hours hanging over the vertigo inducing exposure and my nerves we already getting fried. at least the rock was solid, if this were in the rockies no way would we have done it. overall, incredible views, 100% recommend.

abbott ridge, mt abbott to the right

mount sir donald: the tallest peak in the selkirks; the ridge on the left is an all-time alpine climb that would be a very cool life goal, much too intense for us currently though

Amy: First impressions of Glacier: it's probably the best Canadian national park we've visited. For one, there are endless mountains to climb and glaciers to see. For another, it's relatively quiet - devoid of the usual crowds of tourists that often descend on national parks. We pulled in and easily found a first-come, first-served campsite within walking distance to all the hikes we wanted to do. Score!

Day 1 we hiked Abbott Ridge. Highlight: the VIEWS! About halfway up, we crested above the tree line into a grassy yellow alpine meadow. From this point on, we had unobstructed 360 views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers. The official trail ended at the start of the ridge, but we continued past this point, picking our way over boulders and bushes to the highest point of the ridgeline. Worth it!

mount sir donald, alpine meadow

Day 2 we hiked up to Perley Rock. Highlight: seeing another glacier!! I struggled my way up, still exhausted from yesterday's hike. Unlike Abbott Ridge, we did not get outstanding views on the way up, so it was hard to stay motivated. I found a second wind once we made it to the top and could see the massive illecillewaet glacier and its accordion-like crevasses. Because it is (was) so accessible, it's one of the most-studied glaciers in North America and its retreat has been well-documented. When it was first discovered in the 1880's, we could have touched this glacier from the valley. Now 100+ years later, it has receded more than 1.5 km. Yikes. I'm grateful we could see and touch this behemoth of ice and snow before it disappears.

bill: the next day we did the perley rock hike, another massive 1300m 14km day of brutal switchbacks up the opposite side of the valley. this trail leads up a smaller summit and down to the toe of the illecillewaet glacier. the hike was worth it to get to stand next to this absolutely massive glacier and check out all the ice caves along the toe, but it was super exhausting. rest day tomorrow for sure.

rest day

rest day activities: Bill decided to shave his head!

hermit meadows

bill: we met up with graham in glacier for another backcountry trip, this time to hermit meadows. the hike in was another punishing 800m in 3km so we stopped for a lot of breaks along the way, but the positive was that there were lots of huckleberries to eat while we stopped. hermit meadows is essentially a small alpine meadow facing out over the whole of rogers pass with a large group of mountains surrounding it to the back. watching the sunset over the pass was unreal.

Amy: Time to explore the other side of Rogers Pass! Just across the highway is the Hermit Meadow trail, which has the reputation of being the park's steepest hike. We did it with full packs so that we could camp at the top which was a lot... but look at that view!

"catch me as i'm looking over my shoulder... now!"

moonrise over the sir donald group

woke up at 0430 to catch the sunrise

bill: the next day we set off with a plan not so much for a summit attempt, but more to explore the area with some different possibilities. we set off across kms and kms of loose talus towards mt sifton. we had initially thought about climbing sifton, but when we got there the glacier at its base had receded so much since the guidebook was published that the “easy ice climbing” to get on the base of the mountain was much steeper than indicated, and also covered in silt and rockfall. across the glacier on the other side was the grizzly ridge, so we set off that way to explore. it wouldn’t be glacier national park without a glacier crossing!

the grizzly shoulder from the col across the glacier

at the end of the glacier we met up with the ridge at the col and scrambled some weird vertical shale towers up to the summit of the grizzly shoulder at the end of the ridge. since it only took 4 hours to get there and we had some time, we headed down the ridge farther towards grizzly peak, which was very exposed at times, though less than abbott ridge, but with way worse quality rock. amy is getting bolder than i am for sure, there were some very exposed moves that i was very hesitant to do that she cruised over and then had to coax me into crossing. partway down the ridge, we ran into an impasse: a vertical face of crumbling very 5th class rock, drop offs on each side. i did bring a small trad rack and i tried putting a few different pieces in, but they just peeled the shale apart even without any weight on them. so we turned around and ate lunch on the summit of the grizzly shoulder at 2750m, only 7m shorter than grizzly peak. nice day.

approach shoes and crampons: the combo of champions

exposure therapy (pardon the pun) is an interesting thing. you would think that frequency of exposure to a scary situation would desensitize you, which is what has happened with amy (she is getting much more bold and pushing her limits a lot more these days), but for me it has done the opposite. over the course of the trip, the more time i spend in scary, dangerous situations, the less resilient i am to them, which is antithetical to the a lot of the point of the trip; i was hoping to get better at pushing my limits, not worse. maybe more time sitting at a desk daydreaming about climbing mountains is the real way to build up the guts and the stoke instead of constantly hanging over the abyss thinking about the consequences of a misplaced foot.

view from the summit

Amy: We had a fun day scrambling the mountains around our campsite. It was a "choose your own adventure" kind of day; the highlight being walking across a glacier in Glacier National Park! It's cool that we are able to put our new skills/equipment to use on an unplanned/spontaneous glacier crossing to get to a peak we saw and said "let's climb that". Another solid day in the mountains.

making sure we know how to build a crevasse rescue system

amy downclimbing some 3rd class terrain

an impasse (we would have to crack climb that crumbling, unprotectable face to continue)

bill: when we got back to camp, a family of mountain goats had invaded our camp. very cool.

"catch me as i'm looking over my shoulder... now!"

the next day we hiked out and drove over the rogers pass and over the great divide! welcome to alberta! a quick trip down to calgary for a visit with brendan and nicole before we pick up james from the airport and head back up to the rockies!

no video this week, one big rockies video coming next week!




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