The skiing and trekking in the Rockies are finished now and I’m back home. But there are still a couple of things to write about.
Beginning with my jaunt to Sundance Canyon. I went there first in January 2011 after I damaged my ACL in a skiing accident. Reluctant to just sit around and advised by the physio not to let the knee stiffen up, once the swelling went down I started a short series of graduated rehabilitation walks before flying home. Culminating in Sundance Canyon.
First following the Bow River upstream past the Cave and Basin, the trail passes through the strange world of Ice and Steam, then on beyond the Marsh Loop where it rejoins the river.
In winter the trail is principally used by cross-country/Nordic skiers, in summer by cyclists. The views are impressive, made more so by blue sky and temperatures below minus 30, freezing all the moisture out of the air. The river is flat and lazy upstream of the Banff bridge and so is thick-frozen and snow-covered, with winter-long footpaths crossing the ice, a large oval skating track regularly cleared and much used by the local community. At one point a thermal spring keeps a channel open in the ice.
Before I reach the end of the trail I divert off to the left, steeply up through the pine forest following tracks barely the width of my feet in deep snow. Clearly not trodden for some time, there is 6 inches of fresh snow on top. I’m again grateful for my cleats and for the first time use trekking poles with snow-baskets. The trail is signed ‘Sundance Pass’ but the destinations are some tens of kilometres away. Closest is 12 kilometres to the Spray River, with a similar length return. With skiing tomorrow I don’t intend going that far. I follow it for an hour, sometimes steeply, sometimes more gently but always through the trees. When I reach a small clearing at what I guess is close to the highest point, I stand in the sun for a few minutes to eat a muesli bar and then turn back as my main objective is a little further up the canyon itself.
At the end of the broad trail are picnic tables thickly blanketed in snow even under the trees, a large log-built shelter with long wooden tables, benches and facilities for BBQs, and ‘washrooms’, the polite Canadian term for public toilets. Even here, the middle of nowhere, the latter are open even in the depths of winter, doors held slightly ajar by drifted snow.
From the ‘trail head’ a narrow and little trodden path crosses a low wooden bridge and then climbs increasingly steeply and clogged with snow up the side of a frozen waterfall. When I first came here in 2011 the sound of water tumbling beneath the ice triggered a flashback over half a century to an incident in the Peak District in Derbyshire. From that incident I wrote a piece on the theme ‘A Narrow Escape’. It didn’t win any prizes but you might like it.
I wanted to come back to Sundance Canyon partly because I enjoy the walk, partly to reflect on what might not have been, and to take a few photos.
With a low-angled sun much of the steep-sided canyon is in shade at this time of year, a little gloomy. But then the walk back is in bright sunshine.