Trip Report – Jasper Feb 5-8

melanie8Day 1: Travel to Jasper – A mysterious illness has befallen our trip leader. The final numbers come in before departure – there are 10 Ramblers about to converge on Jasper (Peter, Melanie, Uta, Tim, Nancy, Kim, Chris, Maggie, Barry, Ken ). Today sets the stage for the rest of the trip which is as much about scoping out food as it is burning it off. At 11am four cars head out in a loose convoy to meet in McBride for lunch at the Giggling Grizzly Pub, and then press on to our destination through pouring rain across the Robson Valley. Everyone arrives safely and settles into their respective accommodation. Our trip leader crawls into bed. We are officially on our own. We meet later in the evening for more food and decide on a plan for the next day

Day 2: Summit Lakes (Jacques Lake Trail) – Select trails are off limits due to wildlife restrictions or avalanche risks at this time of year, but local knowledge confirms that our trip leader’s plan to visit Summit Lakes Trail located at the south end of Medicine Lake is a melanie4good choice. One of our pack (Chris) elects to enjoy the ski runs at Marmot Basin. The trip leader is in bed, dizzy and glassy-eyed, napping and watching a James Bond marathon in the hotel room. We meet at 9:30am, divide the group of eight into two vehicles, and take care of a few morning errands (coffee/ gas/ ensuring Tim has all his gear). We eventually find the trail head and set off on showshoes by 11am. An overnight snow fall gives us 2-3 inches , and although this will melt at the town site due to +0C temperatures through the day, Medicine Lake with the help of some wind chill, remains steady at -2C or colder. The result is a beautiful wintery valley trek up the Jacques Creek Trail with mountains views at every turn and snow laden trees lining the trail. We have brief encounters in the morning with a skier and her dogs and four other showshoers who did not venture as far as we did. We lunch at the first summit lake, with no one else around, the sun warming us and open views of the surrounding mountains. Heading back to the parking lot we encounter more snowshoers and skiers and by now the trail well pack. The full round trip is 9.8 kms with a very gradual elevation change of 143m. We have enough energy and time to stop in at Maligne Canyon for some ice cleat walking. We meet at another pub in the evening to decide on Day 3. Our trip leader joins us this time for a meal and some fresh air.

Day 3: Sunwapta Falls to Big Bend – Our trip leader woke up feverish and remained at the hotel. Ken heads to Marmot Basin and then travels back to Prince George on his own. Again we are eight. After considering some trails around Columbia Icefields we opt for a trail closer to town, with no avalanche restrictions and a longer trail. Although the Sunwapta Resort is closed for winter, the parking lot at the falls is kept cleared of snow amelanie6nd the trail down to Athabasca River is, to our happy surprise, packed down with a snowmobile track. Very few people venture too much further than the falls near the parking lot so we have the trail to ourselves all morning. Similar to the previous day we trekked through pretty snow laden pine trees. The mature forest allows only glimpses at the foggy mountains until we reach Big Bend campsite along the river. It is cold and windy but the open river flood plain rewards us with amazing mountain views of the valley. We decide the picnic tables are too exposed for lunch so we seek shelter in some trees for lunch. The morning fog has cleared from the peaks and we see everything. Lunch is short due to the wind and we head back encountering two other snowshoers who are on their way in. By now the sky is blue and the mountain views from the trail are stunning. The full round trip was 12.6 kms and 96m elevation change. We stop in at Athabasca Falls on the way back to Jasper to enjoy nature’s glacier blue ice sculptures. The group divides for dinner, some choosing pizza, the rest participate in a Jasper Community Dinner fundraiser of Syrian food. Our trip leader finds the prospect of pizza alluring and emerges for dinner.

Day 4 Travel Home – The group is set loose from the official trip itinerary to decide on what activities they would like to do before heading home. Tim, Kim and Nancy stick with the original plan to snowshoe to Kinney Lake in Mount Robson Park and enjoy a rare chance to see Mt Robson unobstructed by clouds. Barry, Uta, Maggie and Chris meander home stopping for coffee in McBride, and as far as we know, plan to stop for a jaunt around the Ancient Forest. Melanie and Peter head straight home.

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