BORING! A 57km backcountry trail run from Mt. Assiniboine to Sunshine Meadows through some of the finest subalpine scenery the Rockies has to offer. A cold, cloudless morning at Mt. Shark trailhead turned warm and sunny as we cruised along buttery singletrack, climbed a couple gnarly passes, ran out of water when we needed it most and narrowly dodged thunderstorms, experiencing the full spectacle of mountain weather without bearing the brunt of it. In the course of our trip, we crossed the BC-Alberta border six times, courted a few aches and pains, incessantly made fun of each other, and crushed nearly 60km of Continental Divide eye-candy in one sitting. Like I said, pretty boring…
My second go at this masochistic little scrambling endeavour first devised by two buddies of mine in 2012 and reconfigured by myself into a 100% bipedal effort around this time last year. The Triple Crown is a one-day ascent of Mount Lady Macdonald, the east end of Mount Rundle (EEOR) and Ha Ling Peak, a grand tour of the city of Canmore, Alberta totalling thirty-eight horizontal kilometres and over 3500 metres (puke!) of accumulated vertical gain. Assuming I was stronger this year than last, I had definite intentions to beat my old time (12 hours), but both trips certainly involved their fair share of lollygagging, selfie-taking, and sitting on my ass eating sandwiches whilst cursing the mountains.
I crushed my old time, sweltering in inferno-esque temperatures (to me, anyway), chugging back melted snow with my running pack fully prepared for winter-mode if necessary. It definitely wasn’t necessary. I hope to return to this project some day with a lighter pack and a little less time devoted to taking pictures of myself to put up a truly speedy FKT. Until then, I’ma hit up this foam roller and drink some water 🙂
(7:45am start from Rocky Mountain Bagel Co., downtown Canmore)
1h03m – EEOR trailhead (TH) | 6.4km | 372m ↑ | 6.4km total
1h12m – EEOR summit | 2.3km | 884m ↑ | 8.8km
0h51m – EEOR TH | 2.4km | 872m ↓ | 11.2km
1h03m – Ha Ling summit | 2.9km | 801m ↑ | 14.2km
0h43m – Ha Ling TH | 2.9km | 808m ↓ | 17.2km
1h54m – Lady Mac TH | 11.1km | 469m ↓ | 28.3km
2h13m – Lady Mac summit ridge | 3.9km ↑ | 1182m | 32.7km
1h02m – Lady Mac TH | 3.3km | 1151m ↓ | 35.5km
0h17m – Bus stop | 2.5km | 118m ↓ | 38.0 km
Total time: 10h20m40s
Travel time: 09h03m54s
Peep the Movescount data for this trip here.
I often do epic things in the mountains right before going home to Ontario to visit so I am somehow imbued with epicness and the spirit of adventure in a place I associate with an almost suffocating sense of banality. I don’t think this practice really counts for much, except perhaps to stroke my ego, but it’s not like I boast about my adventures and once home my focus became firmly centred on visiting friends, spending time with my family and revisiting old hiking haunts in my newfound trail-running style. I also ran a rather flat 10km trail race at Terra Cotta conservation area which, by some stretch of the imagination, serves as a qualifier for a spot in the elite division at the Canadian Mountain Running Championships, a 12km/1200m vertical sprint at Kicking Horse Ski Resort, Golden, British Columbia three weeks from now which I’ll also be attending.
Though the Terra Cotta course was a modest one, it was a good, early test of a new dimension of running I want to explore: speed. In the past I’ve always focused on distance, building the overall length of my long runs week after week, trotting along through the backcountry for thirty, forty, fifty kilometres at a pace intended to keep me from sweating too much and prematurely burning too many calories. Now I wanna do the same thing, faster. Misunderstanding how the race’s timing worked, I snuck into the back of the first wave seconds before the starting buzzer and shot off in a high-velocity tiptoe through the winding roots which covered the trails of this course. I finished in a respectable (for me, anyway) 19th place out of 260 runners. Not fast enough to qualify for the mountain running team, but I have different racing plans on my agenda this summer, anyway. Peep the Movescount data for this race here.
My calves feel like they’ve been used for boxing practice. Getting out for long runs rather inconsistently, yesterday’s thirty kilometre run to Canmore and ascent of Ha Ling Peak in the deepest and slushiest snow conditions I’ve ever encountered it in means I’m a little sorer than usual today. To reach Canmore I jogged along the Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail, which is much flatter, paved and runnable than what I’m used to running on, so I wasn’t really sure if the benign-ness of my chosen route would destroy me over twenty-five kilometres.
After a big dump — which we just received a weekend of — I’m used to powder piling up on Ha Ling at treeline, resulting in, say, a one-hundred metre stretch of waist deep sugary snow to plow through, with the rest of the peak wind-scoured and barren. Yesterday, however, I found the whole alpine zone of the peak caked with knee-deep isothermal snow from treeline to summit, with a crust that would barely hold your weight with one step and would break through on the next. Of course, what did I really expect at 4pm in the afternoon on a sunny day after, oh, our biggest single snowfall of 2013-14? I rank that as my most arduous ascent of Ha Ling, ever.
Descending Ha Ling wasn’t too difficult; I gained so much momentum on the slushy, muddy lower part of the mountain that I almost ran over Adam Campbell, 5Peaks Race Series organizer, Arc’teryx-sponsored athlete and one of Canada’s strongest male ultramarathoners. We shared gripes about the post-holing nightmare that was the top of Ha Ling and chatted about trail-running, races and the revered New Balance MT110 over a few kilometres through the boulders of Grassi Lakes before my descent into town. A highlight of my day. Peep the Movescount Move for this trip.
Frank discussion about backing out of a small peak – Beautiful weather – A short glissade – Downhill snow running – Observing longline rescue practice
The usual fare of spring scrambling in the Rockies.
In the spring of 2011, while traveling to the Yukon, I stopped and took a picture of Canmore’s mountains with my phone and sent it to my buddy Jay, saying, “Yeah, I think this is where we wanna be.” For months we’d discussed setting up shop in Canmore (because living in Banff seemed like a pipedream) and spending all our free time bagging every summit possible. I pictured myself like some old-school mountaineer with wool alpenstocks and a long ice axe toiling up these snowy mountainsides amid snow squalls and spindrift…
Although the steep rock faces seen in the top picture possess heaps of technical climbing routes, I never suspected the backs of these mountains had routes that could be walked (or run) up in a matter of hours. Three years later, Banff is my home and the Canmore mountains I’d once fantasized about climbing are now routine trips I do in the dead of winter, when my eyelids are freezing shut, or on days when I don’t really feel like hiking or running at all. The thought of actually standing on top of these peaks once seemed incredibly out of reach, let alone doing it in a style that is fast, light and aesthetic or linking together multiple peaks as per the Canmore Triple Crown, which I wish to repeat this season.
I’m grateful every day for this landscape, the passion it inspires and what it has molded me into.
Last week ushered in springlike temperatures in the Bow Valley, allowing me to strip off the leggings and try my hand at a couple different — variably slushy or icy — front range mountains.
The week began with my first time doing repeat runs up Sulphur Mountain (37km, ~2000m vertical) and my first outing wearing shorts this season! I’ve long seen Sulphur X2 as a fairly gnarly training day but both climbs were super easy and neither was any worse than the other. The stellar weather also let me to test out gear donated by Lululemon Athletica Banff for my go at Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc’s CCC this summer. Loving the superlight fabrics of the Metal Vent Tech and Surge Short, closest thing to running in a loincloth possible. And running in a loincloth is my life goal 😐
Thursday and Friday after my Sulphur repeat, I had some spare time to run/scramble — and I really just can’t help myself — so I hit up a couple of dry, windblown front range peaks. Thursday consisted of a 6km/800m jaunt up Heart Mountain bordering the prairies; Friday was a 10km/1250m ascent of Mount Lady Macdonald overlooking Canmore. Although free from deep snow, I found the trails on each incredibly icy due to recent melting during the day and freezing during the night. The clear, slick water-ice emphasized the dullness of my Microspikes and my need to seek out a file and sharpen those bad boys up. Goddamn shoulder seasons, first gnawing apart my YakTrax and now dulling my Microspikes…
All in all, last week I did four mountain runs in three days, back to back to back (to back). I ran about 53 kilometres and ascended over 4000 metres. Like I said, when conditions are prime, I just can’t help myself.
A near-PR to the top of Sulphur plus my first “long run” in a while, combining a trip up and down Tunnel also. The second climb kinda sucked but I ran the whole way and felt fairly fresh and pain free. So far, this season I must be doing something right…
3h15m | 26km | 1244m vertical