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Almost Alone in the Mountains

Almost Alone in the Mountains

Submitted by: Pat

It was July of 1976, somewhere around my 21st birthday and while on a camping trip to hike in Banff National Park and visit friends, I decided to undertake a solo weekend hike starting at Sunshine Ski Hill. The reason I was going to start at Sunshine was that friends were working there and I wanted to visit them first.
Healy Pass, Banff National Park

First things first. I had to head into Banff and register for my hike with the Park Wardens. My plan was to start at Sunshine, hike over Simpson Pass, then on to Healy Pass, Whistling Pass and Gibbon Pass. I would camp at Haiduk Lake and Twin Lakes. Then I would hike out to the highway and hitchhike back to my car.

It had been a snowy winter and the Park Warden said they didn’t know anything about the conditions on Simpson Pass. Healy Pass was considered snowbound but passable and nobody had been over Whistling Pass or Gibbon Pass so would I please come back and report on the trail conditions.

I have to admit I started out in the morning slightly hungover. The evening before my friends had tried to convince me that the conditions weren’t very good for a solo hike in the mountains. It didn’t work and relatively early in the morning I set off. Leaving Sunshine it was hard to tell where the trail was so I basically just set off straight up the hill. The snow was pretty firm until I got up on top. There I encountered lots of melting snow and boggy ground. For a time there was no trail to speak of and I just jumped from hummock to hummock to try and stay dry.

Further along the trail was pretty easy to follow and Healy Pass was mostly clear of snow. I stopped near the top of Healy Pass for lunch and spotted another hiker coming up the trail behind me. I think he wanted to be alone because he stopped down the hill from me and also took a break. He would be the only other person I would see all weekend. After I finished my lunch I headed down the pass and onward toward Whistling Pass. The weather was good and I had good views of Egypt and Scarab Lakes.

Whistling Pass was indeed partly snowbound and following a trail buried under snow was difficult . Not that it mattered much. With no firm trail I spent much of the time postholing along as best I could. Going down toward Haiduk Lake was a bit easier as I could sit down and slide in some places. I found a clear spot at the end of the lake and set up camp. A short time later the other hiker came along and he camped at the far end of the lake. We were never close enough to have a conversation.

I enjoyed the evening solitude and had a good sleep. The mostly overcast skies meant I could only catch glimpses of the stars. In the morning I packed up and headed down the trail. I had considered going over Gibbon Pass and staying another night at Twin Lakes but my experience with the other passes convinced me it would be too much work so I hiked out via Redearth Creek. I never saw the other hiker again and there were no fresh tracks heading toward Twin Lakes. Back in Banff I duly reported my safe return with the Park staff.

It was only a weekend hike but I enjoyed my brief solo trip in the mountains.

Alberta Mountain Adventure

Alberta Mountain Adventure

Submitted by: Carol

In 1971 we had a wonderful opportunity to travel to Alberta, Canada. At the time we were living in the north eastern town of Billingham, Teesside, England and had only travelled within the British Isles. It was certainly a wonderful opportunity for us and we would be reunited with family in Alberta. There was only one charter plane owned by Wardair which left in July for Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and returned five weeks later.

In July of 1971 our adventure began. First we attended a family wedding and then our vacation to Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise, Emerald Lake and Mount Robson in BC commenced about one week later. We travelled with my husband Norman’s parents and camped for about ten days.

We were captivated by the beauty of the mountains and lakes. We saw many animals, but only one baby bear on our way to Emerald Lake. I also remember the moose steaks cooking on the open fire and the sound of the rain from a thunderstorm pounding on the metal roof of our camper​. ​I had never experienced a loud storm in the mountains​ and it seemed to go on forever.​

The next day we would wake up to bright sunshine radiating down through the mountain peaks. One of my happiest memories was riding and walking on the Columbia Icefields. I could never have envisioned that years later our son Nicholas, who was born in England the next year, would ski over those icefields.

In 1975 we did immigrate as a family to Alberta, Canada and so began many visits to this magnificent area and more adventures. However, that is a story for another day.


Banff and Jasper 1964

Banff and Jasper 1964

Submitted by: Mark

After a cross country trip from Toronto to Vancouver, my Great Grandfather Marcel continued his journey East toward the Canadian Rockies. Here is a movie he took of his travels in Banff and Jasper National Parks.

Some of the stops on the way are: Athabasca Falls, Stutfield Glacier, Banff & Lake Louise


Bicycle Touring in the Rockies – 1951-style

Bicycle Touring in the Rockies – 1951-style

Submitted on behalf of: Barb

In July 1951, two young women from Kelowna set out to ride to Banff. This was before the Trans Canada Highway, before 18-speed touring bikes and before lycra. No internet, no cell phones. The following account is based on a journal kept by Barb and Myrt.

This adventure began on Dominion Day (July 1), 1951. After two days, the women arrived in Sicamous, a distance of 125 km. Barb had a three-speed bicycle and Myrt had a one-speed bicycle for their trip. From Mara to Sicamous, they commented, “ate dust and flew over washboard for the next 20 miles!!! … Six more miles and Barb’s bike gave out. We tied it together with bobby pin.” The next day, after luxuriating in a hotel for the night, they caught the train to Field, where they camped with sleeping bags but no tent, swatted mosquitos, “pinned up their hair for the night” and washed off the dust from the train in a stream. After a rainy night in the open, they made a fire to make Lipton’s soup and cocoa for breakfast. (Note that the suitcases were sent to Banff on the train.)

Gravel roads, dust, no spandex and no panniers – cycle touring in 1951

From Field they cycled in the rain to the Yoho-Lake Louise crossroads and got a lift to Wapta Lodge (now called Great Divide Lodge), at the summit of Kicking Horse Pass where they stayed in a cabin to dry out. For $1.35, they had a breakfast of muffins, coffee, grapefruit juice, bacon, eggs and grilled tomatoes. “We are now putting in the colour film and will use it up on the lovely scenery we are encountering. By the way, we found a large bolt to fix BJ’s bicycle….”


July 6, 1951 – Banff National Park – Barb writes, “Were we ever tired last night when we reached our destination…encountered some horrible hills, both up and down. The first stop was at Lake Louise…the place is really lovely. We then went to Moraine Lake, or as close to it as time, energy and the hills permitted. The road wasn’t very good….Rest places were short because of the pesty mosquitos, who would eat one alive. We finally got to Castle Mtn. and asked for a cabin at Bungalow Camp (now Storm Mountain Lodge). Only offer was one for $4.00 with no water. We then started out for Johnson’s Canyon, 4 miles away. There we were offered a loft above the cook’s sleeping quarters so we rolled out our sleeping bags and spent a most unenjoyable night.”

The next day they rode to Banff, where they spent 4 days exploring. They noted seeing a bear and two cubs, pressing their pants by putting them between the mattresses and meeting two young men from Toronto and N.Y. who were riding “high-powered English bikes” westward, having started in Calgary. “We also saw the Banff School of Art group of sketching one of the nicer mountains (Rundle)….We ourselves attempted Cascade Mountain from Mrs. Kelly’s front lawn, Myrt with oils, yours truly with pencil.” Unfortunately, the weather was persistently cold and wet.


Some of their impressions of Banff:

“The golf course spreads out for miles. There were a lot of people standing around like fence posts….it was very cold and windy and of course they could have become petrified from standing in one position for too long a time.”

“…we went to the Cave and Basin swimming pool. The cave is a horrible, smelly, hot place….”

“When we got to the (Norquay) chair lift everyone else took the lift but us…lucky us. Everyone else was drenched and freezing when they came down.” (They took a bus tour up to the top for $1.25. The chair lift was $2.75.)

For the next day, they travelled with some other young people to Calgary and took in the Stampede Parade (“after which a real stampede got underway as we all made a mad dash to the Bay for dinner”) and the sites and sights of the big city. More cold and rainy weather was noted, along with unimpressive fireworks.

On the return trip, Barb and Myrt caught the train from Banff to Sicamous, meeting up with a train conductor who had befriended them on the eastbound trip. They had a layover in Field to do some sketching with the train conductors to keep them company, and at Golden again ran into one of the male cyclists they had met in Banff, who rode the train to Revelstoke to avoid going all the way round the Big Bend of the Columbia River. By having train employees as friends, Barb and Myrt spent most of the journey in the open air alley-way, “truly wonderful to view the scenery from this vantage point.” The next day they took the train to Enderby, then “once again we were on our way by one of the earliest conveyances known to man (and woman!!). It was terrifically hot and sticky….”

On the final day from Vernon back to Kelowna it was “another hot, sticky day which made travelling rather gruesome.” After about 20 miles, Barb’s father arrived in his old truck and they gratefully piled in with their bikes and all their gear. “A birdie had reported seeing us struggling up a hill just out of Vernon and had been kind enough to call the folks….”


“The Moral: If you ever want to enjoy a holiday, this is the way to do it, and if you’re crazy enough to try it you’ll enjoy it.”