Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Perfect Weekend - 100km in three great days

I am feeling rather happy with myself right now: a little post run glow, content and mellow, tired and happy, but still freshly exuberant from 3 great days of running. The title of this entry says it all. A Perfect Weekend-100km in three great days! A magical 3 days, with 3 great runs, totalling 100 kilometres. Each day was very different than the other, with drastically different scenery and changing dramatic weather. It was truly an amazing fall weekend in Banff National Park! You be the judge, here are my 3 runs in 3 days:

Day 1: The Lake Louise Teahouse Circuit - 20km with Greg the Dog - Larches, Lakes and Glaciers

I awoke to a sort of cold and gloomy day in Banff, but the forecast was still calling for clear skys. After last weekend in Skoki, I really wanted to return to Lake Louise and see the larch trees in all of their yellow glory. The area surrounding Lake Louise has lots of them and a the Lake Louise Teahouse Circuit is probably the most popular walk in all of Banff National Park for good reason. Incredible turquoise lakes, rugged peaks and some massive glaciers all in one circuit. With the changing of the larch, I wanted a return visit! I picked up Greg the dog and when we arrived shoreline at Lake Louise it was cold and really cloudy. We started the climb up to Lake Agnes and I found myself surrounded by the moist cloud bank for most of the ascent. It was just sitting over Lake Louise and obstructing the views of the lake and Victoria Glacier. I took a detour to the top of Little Beehive at 2253 metres, when all of a sudden, POW!! I popped out of the cloud bank and this is what I saw:

The sun was shining and it was indeed a blue sky day!! It was amazing. We dropped back down to Lake Agnes and it was incredibly calm. The larches had changed colour and it even Greg thought it was cool!

We circumnavigated the lake and climbed up to the Big Beehive, before dipping back into the cloud and climbing up to Plains of Six Glaciers. On the way down, Victoria Glacier was grunting and groaning and burping and farting. It finally let out a huuuuuuge belch and a massive section of ice dropped off and let off a big avalanche slide of snow and ice!! A little drama. Greg didn't like it. He also started slowing down a bit on the return to Lake Louise, but after a pit stop in the woods he was good to go.

On the shoreline of Lake Louise we ran into my friend Allan Lam which was a great surprise, but a bummer because I was just finishing up my run! By the time we returned to the car, the sun was shining on Lake Louise and the cloud had cleared. Greg promptly jumped into the car and fell asleep in minutes. I think he had a good day.

Day 2: Mount Assiniboine Epic - 62km
Mount Shark Trail head to Wonder Pass to Mount Assiniboine Lodge to Citadel Pass to Sunshine Meadows to Bourgeau Parking Lot.

The most amazing thing about doing this epic point to point was just how frequently the scenery changed and just how jaw dropping it all was!! The changing weather just added to the dramatic feel of the day and I enjoyed every minute of it. I was fortunate to have the great company of Mike, who was as excited as me when I phoned, last minute and said "Hey, do you want to go for a 62km run??" And thank goodness for Steve and Brenda who gave us a lift at 6AM in the dark to the trail head. I sure appreciate my Banff friends.

Our run started before the sun came up and we were hooting and hollering to avoid any wildlife encounters, oh - all day. The first 12k flew by and before we knew it we were on the shore of Marvel Lake enjoying the first rays of sunshine. It's a big lake and we enjoyed a couple of km's of beautiful shoreline before climbing 550m up to Wonder Pass at 2395m.

We quickly emerged from the treeline and enjoyed the silver wet single track snaking it's way up the pass. It turned into snow shortly below the pass and when we reached the top, the view on the other side was a horizon full of larch trees and snow capped mountains!

It was very cool to descend down from the pass and through the beautiful larch forest. We were keen to reach the shore of Lake Magog and Mount Assiniboine Lodge for a little break and water refill at the 27 km mark.

From Lake Magog to Og Lake, the scenery changed drastically. We passed through a flat sub alpine meadow, that was loaded with grizzly bear diggings. It was really different and beautiful with the changing colours on the low lying vegetation. I was lovin' it!

Shortly after Og Lake, you enter Valley of the Rocks where the trail is a roller coaster of fun, as you slalom through a boulder field from an ancient rock slide. Then the valley opens up for some more fantastic views and ever changing scenery, before you take a sharp turn and begin climbing up to Citadel Pass.

It's a big, nasty, steep climb before the views open up above treeline. The last time I came through here, it looked like a back hoe had come through and excavated, but we never saw the creature who had done the damage. I made sure that we were making lots of noise!! Citadel Pass came at about the 46km mark and I was starting to sloooooow down. When we crested the pass, we were blasted with an icy cold Northerly wind and ice pellets were coming from the sky.

The views however, were fantastic and we could make out Mount Assiniboine off in the distance and see just how far we had come from. The run down from the pass, across the meadows and into Howard Douglas Lake was a lot chillier than my day here last Friday!! On the shore of the lake, the larch needles were being blow against the shoreline, which was really cool. Last week I was swimming here, today I was trying my best to keep moving and stay warm.

When we climbed up from the lake, for our last ascent of the day there was some fresh snow to greet us at the false pass. We could also look back and see the lake and the Citadel off in the distance where we had just come from.

From there, it was a quick journey back across Sunshine Meadows through more incredible larch forest. The scenery, the sky, the larch trees were all amazing. We had travelled through 55km of vast, immense, wild, wilderness and only seen 2 people. We blast out the last 7km on the Sunshine Village Ski Out and found ourselves back at the car around 5:00. Yiiihaw! Nine and a half hours of running and 62km later, I was a very happy girl!! I love the epic long days and especially such a beautiful and scenic point to point. Thanks for a great day, Mike!!

Day 3: Lake Minnewanka Shoreline - 18km

I slept for 12 hours straight and awoke to clear blue sky!! What is a girl to do, but go for a lazy recovery run. And it was sweeeeeet. My legs felt surprisingly good, I relaxed, I drank, I ate, I enjoyed and I soaked up some sun. I even squeezed in a nap on the shoreline in the sunbeam. Drastically different from the day before, yes?!? What a great day. What a great weekend!


Jamie Anderson said...

Stunning pictures. Wow. Very impressive and congrats on a great three days through some beautiful country.

Journey to a Centum said...

I couldn't help but feel the energy of change in the air as I spent the weekend up in the Cascade Mts. It seems to make you even more aware of the surroundings.

Great run report! You are so lucky to live where you live and be able to make these runs. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Griz diggings? Are they digging up hikers they stored during the summer?

Anonymous said...

You know how to stir the envy pot Leslie...and regardless of how far or great my weekend runs were, you just raise the bar by 2 or 3 times! But you do inspire me to go bigger and better so I'm not complaining and thanks for sharing. Great to see you have a new canine companion for your runs too!

Mike said...

Thanks for an awesome run Leslie!

The only thing that could have made Saturday's run any better would have been if we could have had the blue skies from your run on Sunday.

If I hadn't had to drive home I would've slept in the trunk just like Greg :)

Did you take a rest day today?

Phil said...

Holy Crap that's alot of running! I backcountry skied Sunshine to Shark via Assiniboine years ago and always wanted to run that route, especially through Valley of the Rocks...Think I'll have to convince Bob on one more epic run before the snow flies...
Thanks for the great report and pics!

Leslie said...

Hi Jamie! Hope you are recovering from that nastiness and will be back running soon. In the meantime, enjoy the pics! You just got to point and shoot around here. Oh - and go for a really, really, really long run.

Hi Eric!
Looks like you had fun in the mountains this weekend also! A couple of weeks in summer in the Cascades is definitely on my wish list.

Aaaah, yes....change is in the air. And coming fast and furious here. That's why I have the urge to get out every weekend I can right now until the snow flys. We shall see how many more adventures I can sneak in. Grizzly diggings everywhere above treeline in the meadows these's just one of those things!

Howdy Hugh!
Hey, the last time I was through Citadel and Valley of the Rocks was with you, 4 YEARS AGO!!
Geeez, time flys when you're having fun. That was the longest trail run I had ever done before, 27km I recall.

My new borrowed dog is great, but I don't think Greg was up for 62km after his first big mountain run. How is your new running buddy going??

As for raising the bar, I am planning a little adventure for next summer that I think you will enjoy. I'll keep you posted...

Hi Phil!
Ya, it's awesome in there. Last year we did it in October (a loop of 50k starting and finishing at Shark) but there is something special about doing a point to point. Loved it!!

Hiya Mike!
Yup, that sure was fun. I didn't even mind the "dramatic" weather!

Leslie said...

And yes, I took a rest day complete with a trip to the chiropractor and the massage therapist tomorrow!

JeffO said...

My god, Leslie, those photos make Colorado look like Plain Jane! What an awesome set of runs.

Backofpack said...

You really do live in the most beautiful spot in the world. I have to keep reminding myself of the months of snow you endure to get the summer/fall beauty! I'm pretty sure Eric would pick up and move in an instant!

Greg looks like a lovely companiion for your run! How different from our sunny trek last summer.

CoyoteGirl said...

OMG Beautiful! You should seriously enter your pics in some contests.

What a cool pooch! I miss running with a dog. It looks like he thoroughly enjoyed it.

See you at Stinson!

Leslie said...

Hi Jeffo,Michelle and CG!!
Yep, it's true. It's pretty sweet here. And craaaazy beautiful!

Michelle gave us the reality check though - winter is long. Good thing I like all forms of skiing!! I think Greg the dog may enjoy some runs up Sulphur Mountain in the snow to tire him out, I can't wait!

Matt Hart said...

you. are. killing. me.

these photos are unreal.

Danni said...

It's like GNP deluxe - even more beautiful than here!

Leslie said...

The word is oooooooout!!!

Banff is the word! Have you heard? It's got's got feelin'!

Stuart said...

When I die I want to come back as a Canadian!