Adventure Report: Hiking Abbott Ridge in Glacier National Park (Canada)

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Buffy and my partner taking in the views on Abbott Ridge. 

Glacier National Park (Canada) is located in between Yoho National Park and Revelstoke Mountain National Park, about an hour east of Revelstoke British Columbia. This park is known for being home of the Rogers Pass, a pass made famous for it’s big mountains and intense avalanche activity (sadly made famous when the rail was trying to build through the pass and a large avalanche in 1910 killed 62 men, eventually the rail was re-routed through a mountain via a tunnel). The park is a mecca for backcountry skiing and snowboarding in the winter and home to several camping sites and many amazing trails in the summer. The mountain range that runs through the park is the Selkirks, which run all the way down and into the states. The mountains in this park are big, steep and in the winter, covered in deep powder. 

This summer, my partner and I headed over for a couple days of camping. We visit this park regularly all winter to do backcountry skiing and snowboarding, but have only made a couple of short visits in the summer. We made it a goal of ours to do a bit of exploring in the area over a couple of days. After car troubles delayed out trip, we opted to get one large hike in with my dog Buffy tagging along (Cody sat this weekend out by spending time with my mother who had just lost her cat).

We camped at Illecillewaet campground. Our site was magical and located right next to a stream so we could cool our beer cans, Buffy could soak to her leisure, and after a big day of hiking, we could soak our feet. The campground is first come, first served and given its picture perfect location, it is quite busy! We snagged the last site after getting in around 3pm on a Thursday. 

Our objective for Friday was Abbott Ridge, the trail climbs with about 1,000 meters of vertical gain and is anywhere from 14-20km long from the campground, depending on your route choice. Given the hot weather, we opted for an early night to bed on Thursday so we could get up early on Friday and hit the trail first thing.

We hit the trail around 6:30am on Friday, only to discover, about a km in, that we had left lunch behind at the camp. So I ran back to the campground, leaving Buffy and my partner behind with my bag, to grab our food. Once I got back, we finally started the climb.

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Marion Lake in stillness, before Buffy jumped in. 

The first part of the hike takes you through endless, fairly steep, switchbacks all the way to Marion Lake. It’s a beautifully maintained trail and it wasn’t too warm but it was humid and we hiked in that weird temperature where you are cold but sweating due to all of the dew in the air; always a strange feeling. Once we got up to Marion lake, we took a detour to check out a beautiful view point, and then headed to the lake to throw the stick for Buffy. Hiking with a husky mix in the summer means you have to soak her at every opportunity. She was thrilled.

After a short break for a snack, we continued up and made it to the junction in the trail. You can opt for the short cut or the long way. We opted for the short cut. It’s steeper but with the sun coming up and the temperature rising, we wanted to make sure we summited as quickly as possible. The short cut is indeed quite a bit steeper, but we continued up until we finally broke through the treeline and into a beautiful alpine meadow. It was stunning and such a relief after hiking in the trees for several hours.

We found a melt pond in the meadows that helped to cool Buffy off, and by now we needed some serious food so we sat to eat some lunch. I was so happy we had realized we had forgotten lunch early enough for me to go back and get it. There would have been some serious hanger without lunch on such a hot day.

As we left the meadow to head up for the last climb, the trail continued to switchback, but in a much more gentle way. We switchbacked up to the rock face in front of us and started the traverse around. We encountered our first snow patch around the side of the trail. Buffy rejoiced and took a snow bath of epic proportions. Then the last climb started.

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Heading back down the final climb to the top of the ridge. 

Gaining the ridge from this point was straight forward and not too difficult. The trail had been expertly maintained from the bottom to the top. It was incredible. As the ridge flattened out, we were treated to 360 degree views of the amazing peaks in the park. We could see the Illecillewaet glacier perfectly. The rewards of this hike were incredible.

On our way down, we opted to take the long way down, thinking it might spare the knees a little. The trail traverses for a long time and we found ourselves not exactly regretting our choice, but wishing it was shorter. However, when we turned a corner heading further from our campsite and thinking ‘oh god, how long is this going to be’, we stopped in our tracks to see the views of the Asulkan valley. We hadn’t seen this view on our more direct approach and the new awe inspiring views made the seemingly long detour worth it.

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Our surprise view of the Asulkan Valley.

When we finally made it back to camp after endless switchbacks, we threw our camping chairs into the creek and iced our sore feet in the creek while we cracked some beers.

To say Glacier National Park is spectacular, would be an understatement. In the winter as much as in the summer, the mountains in the park tower over you in ways that make you feel tiny and so insignificant. They are steep, tall, full of inspiring rock faces you could only climb with a rope, and jagged peaks that drive a desire to attempt to. I am most often in the Rockies adventuring on those large mountains, but the Selkirk Mountains are different. They’re alluring and always seem to drive my desire to adventure even higher.

 

 

Hiking with a Reactive Dog

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Cody, my reactive dog, taking in the view after scrambling to the summit of Grizzly Peak.

I love my dogs, I love mountains, and I especially love both together. I love taking my pooches on all kinds of outdoor adventures because they love it just as much as I do. I can see a switch go off in my dogs when we hit the trails; they are engaged, sniffing, exploring, stomping over everything, rubbing themselves on all kinds of surfaces (…sometimes poop) and just being dogs. They deserve this recreational time as much as any dog who is trapped in a city for most of the week.

My dogs both have very different personalities. Buffy is a happy go lucky dog. She is what people think of when they think of friendly dogs. She happily greets everyone she meets, she loves getting in for petting, she smiles, and will play fetch with anyone. Cody has a very different personality. I rescued Cody when he was roughly 6-8 months old. He had not been properly socialized and the world terrified him. We worked hard on changing that and today he can go for a walk on a busy city street and usually warms up to strangers within minutes. He is especially at home in the wild, hiking, camping or whatever activity I have taken him along for. For years we frequented dog parks at peak times for him to play and he was a pro at never getting into trouble. Then it all changed. Around 4 years of age, he started to show signs of reactivity towards other dogs and since then I’ve considered him a “reactive dog”.  Continue reading

Preparing for K9 Emergencies in the Backcountry

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My dogs and I enjoying the view near our backcountry campsite. 

I have been adventuring in the backcountry with my dogs for many years. From the moment I had Cody we were hitting the trails in the parks near Ottawa. Although we spent a lot of time on those trails, it was never a remote enough for me to bring around emergency supplies and I just thought if something happened, I would figure it out.

Fast forward a couple years and we found ourselves in the backcountry in Cape Scott Park at the northern tip of Vancouver Island. Continue reading

Tips for Adventuring in the Mountains with Dogs

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Buffy and Cody take in the views on a water pumping break near our backcountry campsite in the Skoki area.

I like to adventure (scramble, climb, hike, sleep in the backcountry, splitboard, cross country ski, trail run, etc…) It keeps me fairly busy on my weekends and as much as possible, I like to bring my adventure mutts along with me. I own two rad adventure dogs: Cody and Buffy. Both have summited mountains, been on backcountry treks, skijored and been backcountry skiing with me.This article is all about some of my tips for having fun in the mountains with your dog safely. It goes without saying though, use your judgement to adapt these to your dog and your adventures. What’s right for us, is not going to work for everyone. Continue reading

Utah Part V – Go big then go home 

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The last few days we spent in the desert turned into sister adventure time. I love climbing with my sister. We both learned to climb indoors in our teens and when I moved back to Calgary in 2014 she had started outdoor climbing and immediately brought me out with her. She taught me all of the basics, how to climb on rock, how to clean an anchor, how to set up an anchor, how to lead, how to multi pitch. Climbing together is always fun. She never makes me feel like I’m not strong enough (even though she climbs so much harder than me) and she always encourages me to push my limits.

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Utah Part III – The sharks are calling

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We woke up at 5:30am. My alarm was quiet to try and keep from waking up the others. I nudged Mike awake and we slowly got up and out of the tent. It was still dark out with just a little twilight of dawn behind the eastern cliffs. Mike and I packed our gear together for the day, brewed a quick coffee, threw the dogs in the back, and we pulled out, groggy but excited for our day.

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Utah Part I – Canucks Hitting the Road

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We figured it was going to take two days to drive from Calgary to Moab Utah. We had decided we would leave early on the 7th. That way we could make it through most of Montana and sleep somewhere near the Idaho boarder for the night. But, surprise, things don’t always go as planned. It ended up being one of those hectic mornings where things kept going missing and time moved too fast. By the time we left it was 1pm, but we finally had the truck packed with all of our gear, the dogs, and we hit the road.

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The shitty side of being a weekend warrior

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I have been a steady weekend warrior for the past three years. What does that look like? It looks like 5am wake ups in the winter to get out touring in the mountains all day. Or 7am starts during the summer to go on scrambling and climbing adventures. Or if I am camping, then Friday’s at work where I rush home, throw everything into the car and head out to adventure. Generally I crawl in late on Sunday and usually don’t unpack before going to sleep and waking up early for work on Monday.

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