Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hiking The Rockwall Trail, Kootenay National Park (British Columbia) - Day 2

We knew Day 2 was going to be a marathon. After a rather leisurely breakfast at Floe Lake, we set off at 0930.

3 mountain pass summits, 1320 m total elevation climbed, 1150 m descended, 20 km of trail, and 12 hrs. later, we reached the warden cabin at Wolverine Pass.

From Floe Lake, the trail turned to the north, taking us through an old growth forest. Once in a while we'd be rewarded with glimpses of the azure blue waters of Floe Lake through the stands of fir and tamarack trees.

The climb towards Numa Pass was gentle to moderate. Numa Pass stood about 315 m above Floe Lake.

As we gained altitude, the forest thinned, revealing large expanses of alpine meadows.

From here to almost the summit of Numa Pass, we were treated to a stunning profusion of blooming wildflowers with each passing meadow. I have never seen such a brilliant display of colors in the Rockies.

Here I caught Ahmed taking pix of one of my favourite flowers, the Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja rhexiifolia). For photo buffs, he's using the outstanding Fujifilm 30d, the king of point and shoots. The same camera that was stolen from me in Cairo, Egypt.

A field of Tall Purple Fleabane...

The ubiquitous LYDF. Little Yellow Daisy-like Flower. Ok, that ID is somewhat sketchy but I can't seem to find it in my nifty guidebook.

The boys tiptoeing through the Numa Pass meadows. Ahmed is standing by a marker that probably acts as a guide for backcountry skiers in the winter.

Indian Paintbrushes come in all sorts of colours ranging from deep red to pink to, in this case, yellow. I read that colour variations are the result of hybridization amongst these plants, but Ahmed says it has more to do with local environmental effects like soil composition.

Ahmed leading us towards the summit of Numa Pass (the scree/snow covered ridge on the horizon)...

Numa Pass and Rockwall in the distance... We lucked out that day. Hardly any wind.

Look, rabbit ears. That Ahmed's a comedian, eh...

The view north showed clearly our destination: the mammoth rockwall in the distance and the Hill from Hell just in front of that. Before reaching any of those features, we had to plunge 830 knee busting metres down from Numa Pass to the Numa Creek Campsite on the valley floor.

My knees were shattered on the way down from Numa Pass but with scenary like this high waterfall who can complain?

I sat beside this slime mold during lunch.

Nearly at Numa Creek campsite...I think the boys were looking for grizzly "bars"...

Felt like it took forever, but we finally arrived at the campsite. Normally, sane people would stop here for the night. But, silly us would march on to witness even more beautiful sights...

After the Numa Creek campsite, the trail was just up, up, up, and more up towards Tumbling Pass. Ahmed dubbed the this stairway to heaven as the Hill from Hell. Suffice to say, the boys, including yours truly, were quite demoralized.

Whenever possible, it was always fun to look back to see where we came from earlier that day. From our vantage point on the Hill From Hell, the dip in the skyline (right of centre) was actually Numa Pass. Indeed, the pass looked rather intimidating, whether one was ascending or descending it. What the hell were we thinking...?

Good grief... when the hell were we going to reach the top of this hill?

We finally reached the lip of the hill. Foot relief for all!! Pass the fresh moleskin!!

Flat landlubbers we were!! We saw our destiny. Just head to the low point at the end of this meadow... It looked like a walk in the park, a piece of cake the rest of the way.

That was until the trail veered to the right. Again, we started to climb relentlessly... In this photo, The Hill From Hell lies below the lip of the bowl in the foreground.

As consolation, we climbed so high that we found ourselves once again surrounded by alpine meadows and wildflowers. Here, Paintbrushes are surrounded by a dwarf variety of Fireweed.

Had the damnedest time identifying these Beefeater-like plants. But they were indeed Western Anemones (Anemone occidentalis). The fruiting bodies are insulated against the harsh cold alpine environs by the fluffy hair-like structures encasing them. The emerging Anemone flowers are nondescriptly white.

The remnants of Tumbling Glacier... the mass of ice was still very impressive. The summit of Tumbling Pass was along this trail but wasn't marked. Suffice to say, from this point the trail would parallel the lateral moraine in the foreground and take us on a 320 m plunge down to the Tumbling Creek Campsite. (It was also here where we met Mr. Roboto, Hiker Extraordinare. He hoped to reach Floe Lake that night. Good luck, eh...)

Hillside shows the result of eons of glacial action.

Ancient tree stump contrasts in stature with neighbouring wispy tamarack trees...

We finally arrived at the Tumbling Creek Campsite at 19:30. Normally, sane people would have pitched a tent at this point but we had no choice to move on. The cabin was waiting for us on the meadows of Rockwall Pass, about 300 metres overhead. As we climbed, "slowly, slowly" became my mantra. Time was on our side believe it or not with the long summer days. We topped out at about 21:00. The photo shows, from the meadows, Tumbling Glacier to the right and the huge lateral moraine (a faint greyish triangular pile of rocks) left of centre that we followed down to Tumbling Creek.

Suffice to say, we were exhausted at the end of the day (21:30).

Not tired enough to scarf down Ahmed's delish pasta dish though.


Hiking lover said...

Very Nice

Mats Lundkvist
Trekking is my lifes calling

Ashley said...

Hi! I know you've got the dates on your blog posts, but do those accord with the dates you actually hiked Rockwall? (I assume not unless Canada has developed some insane country-wide wifi.)

What dates did you actually hike? We're planning a trip in September, but I'd love to see the wildflower bloom you all did!

bubba said...

Hi Ashley,

Thanx for dropping by.

Funny what you said about the pan-canadian wifi network. Ha! We're still working on paving all the roads up here... just kidding.

I apologise for not posting the "real" dates of the hike. I'll add that to the script.

We trekked from July 28th to August 1, 2009.

From what I observed I'm sure the alpine flowering season extends well into the month of August, particularly at the higher elevations. You might have to adjust your schedule if you want to catch the main alpine blooming season. You won't regret it. The bloom is fantastic.

feel free to ask any more questions you might have.


Anonymous said...

Very nice blog about this trail. I am planning on doing it solo end of August. Wasn't sure what to expect.

bubba said...

Old loon, thanx for the nice comment. You'll have a great time!!