hiking Mineral Ridge, Idaho

ID-courdalene

Mineral Ridge National Recreation Trail is a backcountry hiking area near Lake Coeur d’Alene

Construction began on the trail in 1963 and the area was designated as a National Recreation Trail in 1982. There is a self-guided interpretive tour along the 3.3-mile (5.3 km) trail.

Summit of Mineral Ridge, 2,400ft (730m). Elevation gain is 600ft (180m).

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We hiked it January 3rd after a snowstorm. With a 5yr-old. Late in the afternoon, slipping and sliding back to the trailhead in the dark.

Mineral Ridge

A bit more adventurous than usual. 🙂

Here’s a more typical lake view from the ridge.

americantrails.org
americantrails.org

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Each winter from November through February a migrating population of up to 150 bald eagles visit the area to feed on spawning Kokanee salmon. An interpretive viewing program is offered annually from Christmas through New Years during peak migration.

We saw two bald eagles. 🙂

official Bureau of Land Management page

Simien Trek Ethiopia – day 3

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

day 1 | day 2 | day 3 | day 4 | info

Day 3: Gich-Chennek (3600 m), 7-8 hrs walking

A cold night.

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But the sky was blue. People keen to get an early start. This would be the best day of the trek.

I love these high altitude grassy plateaus.

Vegetation changes significantly with altitude. Giant lobelias dominate the landscape from here on in.

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Nadine likes what our guide called Everlast, too. This high altitude plant blooms year round.

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The heart of the mountains. The central viewpoint of the Simien traverse.

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It’s a bit of a scramble.

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It’s from here that some see similarities with the Grand Canyon. Our trip organizer, Nur, joked that Simien is more of a Green Canyon.

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In fact, only South Africa’s Drakensberg were formed in the same manner. That’s the best comparison.

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Spanish Moss. Old Man’s Beard.

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When it’s dry, the trails are easy walking.

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There’s always an EMERGENCY horse waiting. Many fall victim to symptoms of altitude sickness. There are always people selling knickknacks. Their starting price for bartering is usually $8. For anything.

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We stopped for lunch at yet another fantastic cliffside viewpoint.

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The cold encouraged us to get moving again. This is 4000m (13,000+ft).

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I love best the sections of trail walking the escarpment cliff edge.

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The drop is typically 600 – 800m. There is one trail up from the lowlands, using ladders. Park Rangers use it.

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Red Hot Pokers. The prettiest flower on the trail.

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Finally we caught a glimpse of Camp.

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One of the great treats of a guided hike is having hot drinks ready on arrival.

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These are our mule drivers.

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We had hardly seen them as they and their beasts are not welcome at Camp. They were astonished and thrilled with a combined $15 tip. This is likely the only hiking trip they’ll get in a year. There are thousands of horses in the Simien, all waiting their turn to carry tents, stoves and sleeping bags.

At every campsite in the world there’s some camp thief looking to eat your lunch. In the Simien, it’s the thick-billed raven.

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Atypically, the clouds rolled in.

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I felt there was still zero chance of rain. It’s the dry season.

At 5:30pm we headed over to the cliff edge. Waiting.

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At 6:10pm the baboons headed for the cliff.

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Geladas sleep, when they can, on steep slopes for protection from predators, quite near the Ibex. Baboons have excellent hearing. Ibex excellent vision. Either/or may detect a lurking predator above.

I tried to stay up later around the campfire. But it was too smokey.

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Another early night.

more photos

day 1 | day 2 | day 3 | day 4 | info

Simien Trek Ethiopia – day 2

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

day 1 | day 2 | day 3 | day 4 | info

Day 2: Sankaber-Gich (3600 m), 5-6 hrs walking

I couldn’t sleep.

Tossing. Turning.

My stomach, not perfect on arrival for this adventure, was getting worse.

At midnight I rushed to the filthy toilet with diarrhea.

At about 2am I awoke suddenly, urgent to vomit outside the door of my tent.

Disgusting. But I was too sick and tired to worry about it until daylight.

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Early morning the thick-billed ravens squawked around my tent … eating the vomit. It was entirely cleaned up by the time I finally got up.

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These birds are the biggest and noisiest ravens I’ve ever seen, unique to this region. They mostly travel in male/female pairs.

Breakfast is normally a highlight of these guided camping trips. But I couldn’t eat today. As a test I forced down coffee and a couple of bites of scrambled egg.

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Our gear would ride horseback today. A mob of mule drivers crowded around, hoping they would get work.

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There’s a maximum weight / horse. 45kg or thereabouts.

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Back to the impressive escarpment walk. Amazing views.

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Joshua is smiling here, but his stomach was getting worse by the minute. He and I had eaten fish the evening before. We speculated that it was the fish that made us both sick. Why were we eating fish at 3000m in a land that has little refrigeration?

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The vegetation seemed to get more interesting the higher we climbed.

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We tried resting at the waterfall lookout, but Josh was getting sicker. He spoke, for the first time, of possible quitting the hike. Not only was his stomach bad, but he was feeling symptoms of altitude sickness.

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waterfall Simien - Josh and Nadine

Climbing back up to the road, we discussed our options. With an interested local audience.

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Camp tonight was much higher (3600m) and much more remote. If we continued and Josh was to get sicker, there was no road escape route.

We could try descending and see if he improved, but if we waited too long, there may be no vehicles heading back down this afternoon.

There are a few tourists jeeps each day. And these local people movers.

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Finally one of those heading down arrived. Josh made the decision. Hopped up into the truck, paying an absurd $30 for the ride back down to Dabark. Happily one of the hiking guides was in the truck. He promised to get Josh to the mini-bus station and all the way back to Gondar.

It was the correct decision. But it wasn’t easy for Nadine to continue without her husband.

I felt Josh was decided, determined and rational when he scrambled up into the truck.

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Later we learned he couldn’t even remember departing. His mind was confused all the way back to Debarq where he was detained for riding illegally in the truck! 😦

Luckily he was finally allowed to take a cab the 2 hours back to Gondar, all the minibuses having departed.

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At lunch we were visited by hungry goats.

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Baboons live here in conflict with local farmers.

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Farmers grow barley. And it was being harvested. Geladas like to eat barley. Each field has a child who’s job it is to chase away baboons.

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This lovely Muslim village has 1200 people.

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Our scout, Adim, lives here. So he greeted most everyone we met.

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My stomach at this point was 90% OK. I’d eaten almost nothing all day. But I was very tired. It was a huge relief when we finally made camp.

I only wanted to lie down for a nap.

But as I dropped my pack, Paul ran over and said: “What are you doing? The Ethiopian wolf is here.”

We rushed to look.

Ethiopian Wolf

The Ethiopian wolf is native to the Ethiopian Highlands. It is similar to the coyote in size and build …

Unlike most large canids, which are widespread, generalist feeders, the Ethiopian wolf is a highly specialised feeder of Afroalpine rodents with very specific habitat requirements. It is one of the world’s rarest canids, and Africa’s most endangered carnivore. …

Only about 400 survive in 7 different mountain ranges, perhaps 90 in Simien.

Instead of climbing up to the famed sunset viewpoint with Nadine, I crashed in my tent for an hour.

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Africa sunsets are the best anywhere, however. I forced myself to get up with my camera.

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Nadine got the BIG views up high.

Simien - Josh and Nadine

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I ate almost nothing for dinner. Went to bed immediately. The indoor campfire was too smokey.

more photos

day 1 | day 2 | day 3 | day 4 | info

Simien Trek Ethiopia – day 1

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

day 1 | day 2 | day 3 | day 4 | info

Day 1: Gondar-Sankaber (3250 m), 3-4 hours walking

6:30am Ethiopian coffee

7am pick-up at the (recommended) L-Shape Hotel in the tourist town Gondar. Room about $13 in 2014.

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It was an easy 2hr drive to Debarq, the jumping off point for Simien Mountains National Park. Quick stop at the National Park office.

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We had breakfast at the Great Work Hotel. Excellent Mango juice.

Our car returned with gear, guide, cook and … personal armed Park Ranger. They call themselves Scouts. A guard is still required for each trekking group in 2014, though these days it’s more of a make work project for the Rangers.

We drove through the Park gates and continued about another hour.

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This road is rough. Though it was being improved while we were there.

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We’re HERE. Trekking the Simien mountains. What a thrill.

Simien Ethiopia Map

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I’d joined Josh and Nadine, a couple from Edmonton, Canada who have been volunteering in Burundi for the past 2 years.

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Here’s our excellent Guide, Adoo.

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And our Scout, Adim.

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Immediately we headed for the great escarpment.

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It’s a long, long way down. About 800m here.

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Simien - Josh and Nadine horse

Local people are everywhere. This is a shared use National Park.

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We heard that road and power lines being moved further away from the trekking route. I hope that’s true.

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Adoo detoured from the cliff when he spotted a group of 200-400 Gelada baboons. (more photos)

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Geladas are found only in the high grassland of the deep gorges of the central Ethiopian plateau. They live in elevations 1,800–4,400 m above sea level, using the cliffs for sleeping and montane grasslands for foraging. …

Geladas are the only primates that are primarily graminivores and grazers – grass blades make up to 90% of their diet. They eat both the blades and the seeds of grasses. …

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They mate in May, have babies in November. Females were very protective of their youngest. Some looked like newborns.

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We sat down and let the group graze past us. Some of the toddlers were curious enough to TRY to touch us.

Simien - Rick baboons 600

What a fantastic 2 hours. This might be the best wildlife encounter anywhere in the world. It was my best wildlife encounter ever. 🙂

Simien was one of the first sites to be made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (1978). Due to serious population declines of some of its characteristic native species, in 1996 it was also added to the List of World Heritage in Danger.

The word Semien means north in Amharic. But the name Simien and the word simian do make a good mnemonic for this hike. Geladas are the highilght. 🙂

Elated, we shuffled another hour or so to Camp 1. Talking about the baboons.

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poison tomatoes
poison tomatoes

It’s a very easy half day, yet everyone was huffing and puffing due to altitude.

Popcorn and hot drinks on arrival were much appreciated.

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I rested an hour. (I opted to use my own tent. Not the one supplied.)

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We headed over to the ridge for the sunset, surprised how cold it was in Africa at night.

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Josh got some great pics.

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Dinner was impressive: soup, bread, fish, salad, spinach, deep fried banana. I skipped the salad (worried about my health) but tried some of everything else.

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We checked the full moon, then retreated to our tents. There was no campfire. I climbed into 2 sleeping bags. The one provided. And my own. Everyone was surprised how cold it was at night in Simien.

Simien - Josh and Nadine

more photos

day 1 | day 2 | day 3 | day 4 | info

climbing Fanispan in a day

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

“the Roof of Indochina”

AT A GLANCE

  • map Fansipan3,143 meters (10,312ft), Fanispan is the highest mountain in Indochina
  • northwest region of Vietnam, near the Chinese border
  • 9km southwest of Sapa (Sa Pa), a gorgeous hill station developed by the French
  • pine forests, bamboo thickets and jungle

Oct 20, 2014

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Breakfast at the fantastic Unique Hotel starts 7am. Since I was leaving at 5am, the cook awoke early and put together a takeaway breakfast for me. 🙂

I arrived at Sapa O’Chau travel agency at 5:10am for the 5:30 rendezvous. Guide and driver were there already, so we departed instantly.

By 5:30am we were marching briskly up the trail. In the dark.

“Silver”, my guide, spotted a wounded bird near the Ranger Station. Knowing that some dog would dispatch him in the morning, he carried the bird along with us until finding a safer place in the forest.

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We started early because I opted to climb Fanispan in one day US$95, rather than the normal US$180 2-day itinerary.

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Silver quickly decided I was strong enough to make it. I hoped he was right.

The trek is wet. And muddy. At the bottom you are often walking in creek beds and runoff streams.

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Happily for me, it had been very dry of late. My feet did not get wet over the entire day!

The best sections are ridge walks with misty valley vistas far below.

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Surprisingly, long sections of the ridge are protected with concrete railings. They are well built and seem to be enduring the climate very well.

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I asked my guide about poisonous snakes. He laughed, saying the snakes this high are very wary. People don’t see them. But in his village, Kat Kat, there are many, many.

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Just around the next corner we came across that one, bludgeoned to death. Silver was sorry to tell me that his people eat large snakes and kill small ones.

You’ll only see goats and buffalo on this trek. For anything more exotic check the restaurants of Sapa. Some Asians are happiest eating the most endangered species. 😦

porcupine Sapa

Almost everyone climbs Fanispan with a guide. But I did talk to one guy from Hanoi who did it alone. In a day. Much faster than me. Parts of the trail are marked with collapsed signposts and fading red markers.

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It would be easier to follow the trash, however. Only western tourists and guides pack out what they pack in. I’ve always found indigenous peoples to be the very worst litterbugs.

This day we were first to arrive at Camp 1 – 1,500m (4,920 ft). You can buy snacks and drinks here. The guard dog was chained.

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Up and up. Into the clouds. Fanispan’s summit is usually clouded over.

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Multiday hikers normally stay at Camp 2 – 2,800m (9,190 ft). Either in fairly dirty buildings or in much cleaner tents carried by porters.

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We had a meal here on the way up. And on the way down.

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Though I set out my alcohol gel, my guide didn’t use it. Other cooks I saw were equally unsanitary.

Camp 2 is atrociously trashed. The main reason I chose to do a one day climb was to avoid staying here. 😦

If you feel I’m exaggerating, click over to a photo of the toilet.

This is a tough trek. There are dozens of sections where you really need to scramble. Many inexperienced hikers must turn back.

Here’s one essential handhold.

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Though in a hurry, we got stopped high up for 30min because a work crew was blasting rock.

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Turns out a cable car is being built. It will open September 2015 or sooner. There must have been 200 workers living atop this high mountain.

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I took perverse pleasure in seeing this mess, but I’m not going to recommend Fanispan to others. The cable car will further degrade the hiking experience.

We did finally stand on the summit, the highest spot in Indochina.

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I assumed it would be quick down. But we didn’t get back to the Hoàng Liên National Park Ranger Station until 5pm.

That was 11.5hrs up and down. Including 2 half hour stops for food.

I was awarded a certificate and medal. 🙂

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I could barely walk that evening. But seemed to be completely recovered next morning. 🙂

See my high resolution photos from this adventure on flickr.

See our old information page – Fansipan, Vietnam – not recommended

 

Simien Traverse, Ethiopia

I’m hoping to do the famed Simien Traverse in early December 2014. I’ll be in country Dec 1-14th. It’s the best hike in Ethiopia, one of the best in the world.

Simien

Click PLAY or watch a some highlights from a 2014 trek on YouTube. It looks spectacular. Scenery and wildlife. Especially the Gelada Baboons.

I’m using the most recent Lonely Planet Ethiopia to start my research.

I plan to fly Addis Ababa to Gondor, buying my ticket when I get to Ethiopia. Spend at least one night in Gondor, acclimatizing, before traveling about 2hrs north to Debark.

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The Simien Park Hotel in Debark is reputed to have hot water showers. One night there while I organize my adventure at the National Park Office.

I’m hoping to either join a group headed up or to hire the minimum for a solo trek. That’s one ‘Scout’ (armed park ranger) and one English speaking guide.

No mules. No cook.

The most popular route is 4-5 days to Geech or Chenek and back. I’ll not summit Ras Dashen, the highest peak in Ethiopia.

Leave a comment if you’ve done this trek.

lost on the Heart Mountain Horseshoe

Heart Mountain is west of Calgary, Alberta …

The 2,149 m (6,020 ft) mountain is easily distinguishable by its heart-shaped summit

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At the base of the mountain a left turn onto the flat, good quality, Quaite Creek trail delivers us past a pristine swamp with mirror surface water and back to the car. The 11 KM (7 mile) loop

Hiking with Barry

Barry makes it sound easy. 🙂

Local hiking Guru Kelly Mock recommended that loop, due to an early winter snowfall, but in reverse. Finishing coming down the Hart Mountain trail. We parked at the the Heart Creek trailhead.

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Steve had done the loop before, but in the normal direction. We set off looking to ascend on the Quaite Creek trail.

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Only Sept 13th, there was much more snow than we anticipated. But we hoped the snow would have been blown off the ridges, once we got up there.

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We tried bushwhacking through deep snow between trees to get up on the windswept ridge.

We tried.

If was tough going, postholing non-stop. For hours. Off trail. 😦

Here’s the highpoint reached.

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Sadly slipping on that snowfield up to the ridge was a death drop. We turned back, the sun warm, the sky blue, the wet snow … turning to slush.

steep Heart Mtn

Yes. It was steep.

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We scrambled off trail down a different route, eventually getting back to the regulation track after 8 hours.

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Phoning Kelly Mock to curse his bad advice, it turned out Kelly had started the Horseshoe in the normal direction, hoping to surprise us half way round.

After a half hour Kelly quit. You’d have to be an idiot to try Heart in these snow conditions. 🙂

Oh well. It was a terrific quad workout.

more of Steve’s and my photos

Lake Lovely Water Trail, B.C.

The Tantalus Range is easily viewed from the “Sea to Sky Highway” that travels from Vancouver to Squamish and Whistler.

Tantalus

Lake Lovely Water is a Mountaineer’s and Scrambler’s Paradise. But it’s not for the inexperienced nor ill-prepared.

There is a 6.5 km (4-6 hour) hike to Lake Lovely Water. The trail is very rugged and steep. Good route finding skills and proper equipment and clothing are required. Weather can change quickly, causing limited visibility.

There are steep and rugged established trails leading from the cabin towards Niobe Meadows (approximately 2.5km one-way) and Lambda Lake Meadows (approximately 3.5km one-way).

BC Parks

Access to the Lake Lovely Water trail requires crossing the Squamish River. Jetboat service may be available out of Brackendale. Or you could chopper out of Squamish Airport direct to a hut. Contact Omega Aviation 604-898-1067 or Black Tusk Helicopters 604-898-4800.

I’ve heard of hikers canoeing across.

By reservation only, you could stay at either Tantalus Hut on the Lake (3850ft) or Jim Haberl Hut (6800ft).

Lake Lovely Waterrelated – Tantalust, Part V: Epilogue (heli hiking)

Roof of Yosemite Loop

Leor Pantilat seems to have invented his own high Sierra route:

The Roof of Yosemite Loop travels to the highest point in Yosemite National Park on 13,114 ft Mount Lyell and also includes ascents of 12,900 ft Mount Maclure (5th highest in the park) and 12,561 ft Mount Florence (9th highest in the park).  …

The Roof of Yosemite Loop combines many of the highlights of this region into an aesthetic and highly scenic loop. …

 
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roof_of_yosmite_loop

Leor Pantilat’s Adventures – The Roof of Yosemite Loop

That looks one wild and challenging adventure. 🙂

I believe I saw this linked from Hiking in Finland.