Sunday, September 5, 2010

One heli of a day!

I finally did it - I finally went on a heli-hike!! It is something that has intrigued me for a very long time, and my friend Andrea, whom I met through the Canmore Hiking Club, was able to set up a trip into Pinto Lake on Saturday.


I've never been in a helicopter - so that in itself was quite an exciting event for me! I got to ride up front and I have to say, the flight was probably the highlight of the day. I found it to be a bit unnerving - the winds in the area are gusty and the chopper seemed like a far more unstable form of air transport than a fixed-wing craft... However, we flew with Icefield Heli Tours out of Cline River ( and our pilot Adrian was exceptional. The scenery was fantastic and he pointed out many interesting things to us during the flight.

My co-worker Brock and his girlfriend Caroline came along as well, and the three of us and Andrea were dropped off several kilometres up the Cline River Valley on the north side of Pinto Lake. We walked off-trail out of the marshy landing area and through some trees to the lake's northeast edge, where we made our way west along the shoreline and crossed over the outlet stream to check out the campsite.


A short bushwhack from the campsite got us onto the actual trail, and we proceeded up to Sunset Pass where I was hoping we'd take a ridgewalk and enjoy some spectacular views. My hopes were squashed by a nasty mini-blizzard which blew in, just as we were approaching the pass... so instead of hanging around on the lovely, grassy flats and ogling Pinto Lake and the valley below, we ended up hunkering down and charging over the pass as quickly as possible. The conditions deteriorated to white-out at times, and it was dang cold!

Of course, as Alberta weather would have it, within an hour (and by the time we were into the massive meadow south of the pass) the snow shower had dissipated and we were back to decent temps. Boooo!! So basically we missed the best part of the entire trip. Oh well - what can you do!!

We continued on past Norman Lakes and down, down, down towards Hwy 93, stopping at the Norman Creek Gorge to see the amazing waterfall that tumbles down the canyon. About six hours after we began, we arrived at the trail's end.


It was a bittersweet day for me - of course I realize that you cannot control freaky Mother Nature - but I was super sad that we did not get to see ANY of the views offered up by Sunset Pass. Pinto Lake is kind of nice, since it is located beneath a cool headwall and is very peaceful. And the mountains surrounding the never ending meadows between the pass and Norman Lakes are quite splendid. The waterfall and the giant gorge near the end of the trail were an unexpected surprise, too. But overall, much of the route traveled through dense trees, and I'm not a big fan of hiking in the trees for hours on end. Perhaps if I'd been able to balance out the time spent in the trees with some time spent on the open, rolling pass, I'd have come away with a different opinion... which is I thought the hike was fairly average.

The comradery was WAY above average though, which totally made up for everything else! We shared many laughs and awesome conversation the entire day... and that far outweighs wet feet, cold hands, and crazy weather, anytime!

Thanks so much to Andrea, Brock and Caroline for joining me! I look forward to more hiking adventures with all of you!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

CHERYLE;what a wonderful way to spend the day with freinds,,,as always ,unique pictures of MOTHER NATURE many of us will never see in real time,,thanks for posting,,definitly was not THE SAME DAY TWICE !! cheerio,,, dunkster,,,