The Last Minute Adventure
The last minute adventures have been some of my most rewarding trips. But all the same attention to detail needs to be there as if it were a well thought out, ahead of time adventure. This adventure was a special mission and due to our late, gorgeous fall weather I had the window of opportunity to achieve it.
My backcountry experiences really started with Wates Gibson Hut 10 or so years ago. I cross country skied in with a group of 10 of us. It has always held a fond spot in my heart as it was such a special place in such a remote location.
Recently I learned that my bestie, Justin’s Great Uncle, Bill Dowler helped build it for the Alpine Club of Canada. Along with a few other huts with Justin’s Great Grandpa, Hobart Dowler. They have been recognized as Master Builders of many cabins and huts in Alberta’s History. Very few of his family have had the opportunity to see any of them. This one being special to me as well so it made it a fun mission to go take pictures, videos, and write a brief report on the history of the area for them.
There are 2 routes into the hut…one is via Edith Cavell road through the Astoria River for about 31 kms. The route I chose took me on a more scenic more twisty turny route…that you better know where you are going because no sign til about 27 km in tells you that you are on the right track. There is no map. Just some written directions. To this campground, turn right, then follow this lake, turn left, to this campground, turn right….you get the idea. It was almost 34 km to the hut. I had all the weather on the way including snow!! But by the time I got up to the hut the sun was shining again! The route had me park at Portal Creek trailhead on the Marmot Basin road. From there I went up the stunning Maccarib Pass. Taking me further on to tour some of Tonquin Valley’s highlights. Such as Amethyst Lake, Surprise Point, The Ramparts, and then onward and upward (and when I mean upward…the last km is a kick in the teeth!!) to Outpost Lake where Wates Gibson Hut is located.
This hut is not on the way to anything….it is the destination. It was built for mountaineers, ice climbers and skiers. But due to the Caribou closures in the winter of recent years the hut is not accessible at all past November 1st til the spring. The Tonquin herd is the largest in our Rocky Mountains at only about 60. So they are trying to protect this herd. Reasons for the closures in the winter is they believe that the winter travel backcountry makes it easier for wolves to travel and kill the caribou as well as disturbing the habitat that the caribou like to be in during the winter.
This hut can sleep about 20 people and is one of the most well equipped huts I have been to…..especially for how remote it is. And I had the whole thing to myself!! Except maybe a Momma Griz and her 2 cubs that were in the area. But we left each other alone!! My journey back out was a warm one….it was a bluebird sky and I was in tshirt and of course shorts!!
So now it comes down to what the heck am I thinking taking this on by myself. I have said many times that if I wait for people of my ability and schedule to come with me then I may never go. So the other option is to learn to “Be Aware”. Wednesday night at 8:25 pm I called the ACC to book into the hut. From there I had 30 hours to plan!! They say “Backpacking is a lesson in what you do not need to carry”. So lists, lists and more lists!! So here we go:
- Write an itinerary. Share it with 2 friends. Take a copy with me.
*departure and arrival approx. times
*approx.. time on trail
*trail location, hut location, details on my route
*emergency contacts – I had 2 – notify them they are emergency contacts…haha!!
*set check ins – not going to lie….I sometimes fail on this one but at least they can message me if I miss one…and I did.
*Jasper National Park backcountry emergency number
*when to push the panic button and call the above!!
- Packing list
*I have a spreadsheet on my backpacking gear that I use to
remember all the little things.
*Pack for the worst, hope for the best.
*I even took my tent in case something went wrong along the way…it
is a long ways back where nobody else is at this time of year.
- Bear Spray, wildlife horn, Zoleo, and switchblade!!
*all are accessible if needed
*Zoleo contacts have uploaded the app and we have tested message
sending. For this reason keep phone charged and bring charger.
- Situational Awareness
*Be Aware of your surroundings – weather, trail conditions, evidence
Of animals, other humans, ensuring to know you are going the
*Being careful not to be complacent….I have to make sure I stay
switched on to my surroundings…it is easy to get lost in ones head
when you are alone so long on the trail. This is where missed turns
can happen, or even signs of wildlife nearby.
*this means looking behind you once in awhile too to ensure you are
aware of things around you 360 degrees.
- Fear and a healthy respect creates 2 different reactions – do not go out
On these adventures afraid. Have a healthy respect to the hazards you
*Fear will bring on one emotion coming from a panic state
*a healthy respect will bring on another emotion from a thoughtful
My journey started at 5 am Friday morning, 3ish hour drive to trailhead, gear up, 8 hour trek to the hut, beautiful evening by the lake with a beer, slept by the fire in the hut, tea by the lake for sunrise, gear up, clean up hut, back on the trail, 6.5 hours back to vehicle, beer and snack at Jasper Brewing Company then the 3ish hour drive home. Home by 8:30 pm Saturday night. In 39 hours, 67ish kms trekking, close to 3000 m of vert, 0 human contact, over 150 pictures, 12 videos, = memories to fill my soul for a long time!!
What I do is not for everyone but I take the steps to make myself as safe as I can be. I have learned a lot over the years with the adventuring I have done as well as the numerous courses I have taken. Right now I am working on an adventure planning and situational awareness program called “Be Aware” with Courtney the owner of Run Like A Girl. We are working with Adventure Smart to learn more on how to make this program the best it can be in teaching others wanting to get out to run, hike, camp, adventure in groups or solo on how they can do it safely. Stay tuned!!
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