With the snow lingering in the high country and lots of cool and rainy days, it's been a late start to our trail running season. I've been listless. I've been waiting. Heck, I've even been resurrected my mountain bike all in the name of variety. Don't get me wrong, there's always lots to do and see in my backyard - but mostly I've been contained to running at the valley level and dreaming of summer adventure runs.
And dreaming I have. My lists are long and large of places, trails and mountains I want to see in my summer play time in the mountains. And finally, the season is here! It crept up on me between rain storms and snow storms and visitors and work. And with the help of a sun that stays up late into a cool, moist June evening - the summer running season has begun.
I wasn't the only one feeling listless, my running buddies have been feeling that same tug to get out there. So, this past weekend we decided to say "Fuck You!" to the weather and go have ourselves an adventure despite a weather forecast of rainy and cold all across Alberta. We hopped in the mini-van and headed out of town for a long drive on the Icefields Parkway to unofficially kick-start our season.
Kick Ass Run #1 - Fryatt Valley, Jasper National Park - 47km
This run has been on my list for a long time, but the approach to this gorgeous hanging valley is long, forested and notorious for bears. It's 17km in the woods before you finally bust out of the forest and you can see your destination - the Fryatt Valley, sitting high and far above a massive headwall. I had heard that the Fryatt Valley was a jewel that rewards all of your efforts.
Fortunately, the forest wasn't near the drudgery that we expected and delivered a few surprises. First, the forest trail was soft and plush and with signs of spring abounding, it was rather pretty. Second, instead of seeing signs and souvenirs of bears along our trail, we found a trail that was being well traveled by wolves. I've never seen so much wolf scat in my life, and this scat was full of the largest bone shards I've ever seen.
When we finally emerged from the forest, the trail was a rocky beautiful gradually uphill romp across streams and avalanche chutes. The clouds parted and gave us glimpses of grandeur. The scenery got us fired up when we got our first glimpse of the valley which looked to be a long, long ways away. Had I been looking at my map, I would have know there was a lake - but the glacier fed Fryatt Lake was another nice surprise.
We were pretty excited to see some rare Harlequin Ducks on the lake, bobbing and weaving and on a feeding frenzy. These birds are a special creature, quite animated, lively and so pretty.
The Headwall was more of a fortress guarding the valley - a steep 200metre elevation push finally took us up and in to the valley. It was a snowbound, incredible place where spring is still fighting to come out.
Steve makes his own path
We scrambled and post-holed our way further into the valley and made our way to an un-named lake to enjoy some lunch, some laughs and the crazy beautiful scenery.
Mike and I
The Fryatt Valley definitely delivered the high alpine goodies, it's a wild and beautiful place and had it all to ourselves. The Alpine Club of Canada has a hut up there - the Sydney Vallance Hut, which is popular with summer visitors. We saw only 2 backpackers on the trail all day, which gave this adventure a more "adventurous" feel to the day. But now, I'm going to have to go back to visit this valley in all of it's summer glory. It's an incredible place.
Naturally, the descent out was quick - and I felt strong and was having fun. We hooted and hollered and danced our way across roots and rocks, making enough noise to scare all of the bears away.
The sun came out for the last 11km and we flew back to the car. We got the best surprise of all when we caught a glimpse of a lone wolf - probably the same guy who had left all of the souvenirs on the trail. That was exciting, as none of us have ever seen a wolf on the trail before. It sure was a nice way to wind up our first big adventure run of the season. Also nice, was a shower and meal in Jasper to wind up a great day of play in the mountains.
Let the season begin!