Sunday, July 31, 2016

Keep Jumbo wild....

....because it is sooo beautiful as it is and we really do not need another ski-resort!!
Soon after we moved to the East Kootenays we heard about the long ongoing debate over the Jumbo valley. Developers would like to see a year round ski resort, everybody else would like to keep it wild. Curious about the valley I always wanted to hike it. But from where we live it's an almost 3 hour drive to the trail head, and two of these 3 hours are on a gravel road....
Then we saw Jumbo Wild last winter, a documentary about the fight over the valley, and I knew I had to go see Jumbo valley come summer!

Two weeks ago that day had come, four girls went up the mountain! It was Leica's first big hike and Lexie, as a seasoned hiking dog, took advantage of every water we passed to drink and cool off her paws.

It was one of these spectacular summer days, not too hot, and a few clouds overhead produced this really nice Kodak-chrome light.

Reflection without dog...

After the first part of the ascent we were greeted with this amazing view. 
This is Jumbo imagine the bottom lined with streets and hotels and the surrounding mountains furrowed by ski lifts....

The further we went up the more stunning the views became

Soon we had reached the jumbo hut. Originally we had planned to stop here, have lunch and then return. But there was one more "knoll" (as seen to the right in the image below) and we were wondering how the views would be from up there....

That last part was rather steep, especially on an empty stomach, but so worth it!

Floral mountain views...above Pasqueflower seeds heads, below Indian Paintbrush and Subalpine Buttercups

As always, please feel free to click on the images to enlarge's worth it.

 Once we reached the top, the view literally took our breath away. Below an almost 360 view from the summit. Two other hiking parties were up there, a mother-son team from Squamish, BC and a experienced  hiking couple. We briefly exchanged a few words before the couple headed off. Baffled I found out later, in a conversation with the Squamish lady, that I finally had met and talked to nobody else then Janice Strong! The author of my trusty hiking guide " Mountain Footsteps".
Janice, I hope one day we can hike together!

The panorama is best viewed enlarged!

While I was busy taking photos, Monika had started her well earned lunch. My growling stomach made sure that I joined her rather quickly.

It always surprises me how plants survive these harsh mountain conditions. These little gems flourished in the wind shadow of a big rock.

Slowly we started our way back....the dogs were rested and seemed not to be tired at all.

The flower girls....

Beautiful Pasqueflower aka Anemone, above in bloom, 
below the seed head.

Mountain Heather

Glacier Lily, bears love these...;-)

Merten's Moss Heather

While I was crawling around to photograph the wildflowers, Monika and Leica chilled on the rocks.

...and Lexie in the water...

The final steps back down to the trail head follow a little waterfall...fairy tale surroundings...

If time and location allows, go hike this extremely beautiful area.

The permit of the original planned resort expired last year and the government did not renew it. This is a major step towards the protection of Jumbo Valley but not yet a final victory. The developers have not given up and are working now on a down scaled version of the resort. For more info click here.
I urge you to watch the movie, Jumbo Wild, and/or sign the petition for the protection of this valley!

Link to movie trailer:

Link to sign the petition:

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Svalbard, Part 1

I can't recall into how many questioning eyes I looked after answering the question where I would travel to: Svalbard???? Where or what is that?
Well, Svalbard is an island archipelago north of Norway and east of Greenland. It is under Norwegian jurisdiction but does not belong to the Schengen area.

If you have read Philip Pullman's Golden Compass, Svalbard is the home of Iorek Byrnison and the armored bears.

After some looong plane rides, I finally arrived in Longyearbyn, Svalbards "capital", located on the main island called Spitsbergen. Only a thousand kilometers away from the North pole!
As the snow had just melted and new snow is expected from August on, there are no trees or any vegetation as we know it. There are lots of mosses and lichens though and a few tundra flowers here and there.

Longyearbyn was founded by and named after John Munro Longyear, an US entrepreneur,  in 1906. It owes its existence to coal mining which is still going on in a down scaled version.

During the short summer Longyearbyn develops into a flourishing tourist town which offers almost everything a cruise traveler might need and else. My favorite hang-out, the Fruene cafe, not only serves an excellent coffee it also is home of the most northern "Sjokoladeri".

To make the post not too long, I split the journey into two parts, the highlighted section shows the part of the expedition I will cover in this blog.

One thing I did not take into consideration was the constant daylight. During the height of summer the lowest position of the sun is about equal to our early evening never disappears below the horizon. Although still quite exhausted I couldn't get myself to go to bed...I could miss out on something, right?

And I was not alone on deck photographing this arctic paradise.

Around 11.30 pm on the first evening, I assume the sun reached it's lowest and, together with the light cloud cover, produced a wonderful coppery color on the water.

I don't recall when I went to bed, but it was rather late, or let's say rather early

Brepollen and Burgerbukta were our destinations the following day.
Magnificent glaciers and an abundance of birds in Brepollen.....

Black-legged Kittiwakes

...and "cool" icebergs at Burgerbukta

Our main transportation away from the ship, the trusty zodiac.

The Svalbard area experienced a very mild winter and an early and comparatively warm spring. Most of the sea ice was already gone and with it one of the main attractions, the polar bear. Our expedition leader decided it would be worth a try and chase the ice. In addition to that, a huge storm front had come up and heading north would be the fastest way to escape the rolling sea. hence we spent day 3 at sea,  a very rolling sea...

All were relieved as we entered calmer waters on the morning of the fourth day, and we had found the ice!

Unfortunately it was already too broken up for the polar bears. Nevertheless, we saw four bears, two males and a mom with her cub, on the distant shore.
Sailing through the ice by itself was just an amazing experience....

On day 5 we set foot on land again atTorellneset, a known walrus hang-out. Before we even saw the walruses, arctic terns had already announced our arrival.

I'm not sure who watched who...the walruses sure were curious about these funny stick figures walking all around.

Some took the opportunity to stretch their legs and went on a hike with one of our guides.

The afternoon we spent at Alkefjellet, an immense rockwall harbouring 60.000 breeding pairs of the Bruennich's Guilemot, also known as thick-billed murre.
I wish I could have taken a video, just to make you experience the noise and atmosphere around this rookery. Imagine almost a quarter million birds (120.000 adults plus about two hatchlings per breeding pair), perched on a precariously steep rock wall, constantly flying away or coming back and of course communicating at all times.
But being in a zodiac with quite a swell that would have been a mission impossible...

Close up of some neighborly dispute

The end of the rock wall was covered with yet another magnificent glacier

The evening ended with an outside BBQ,,,yup, BBQ in the Arctic with a once in a lifetime view.
The next day would bring us even farther north.....

Did we find more ice? And polar bears? What about reindeer?
I am already working on part 2 of the Svalbard journey which will answer all these questions.....