Alpine hike #2 - snow, snow and more snow!

14 posts / 0 new
Last post
Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27
Alpine hike #2 - snow, snow and more snow!

We did another of our favourite local hikes yesterday, this one into an environment of surrounding peaks, boulder rockslides, tarns, and snow.

The initial moderately-steep uphill effort to gain elevation is followed by quite a pleasant upwards stroll through the woods, with occasional views of the stream that rushes down from the alpine valley above.
1 - 4) There's not much in bloom this early in the woods, except in the odd spots where the sun can penetrate. All the usual suspects - Linnaea borealis; Clematis occidentalis; the earliest Cornus canadensis, Arnica cordifolia, and wintergreens (Moneses uniflora); plus a few Calypso bulbosa, at the tail end of their bloom.
5) The trail skirts the base of the slope to give us the first view - the lower shoulder of Mt. Sparrowhawk
6 -7) And the trail ahead... yes, there is still a clear (though unmaintained and unsigned) trail, not really apparent in the photo.
8 ) But the hike really starts here, where this formidable jumble of boulders spans the mouth of the valley...

Hoy
Hoy's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

Your first pictures of the flowers could almost have been taken where I am now: Moneses uniflora and some other wintergreens like Pyrola rotundifolia, Linnea, and we have Arnica montana by the wall of our cabin, and some small orchids. We have not Clematis here, but further east grows Clematis sibirica.

The other pictures show a landscape more like the west coast of Norway but different though. I would love to hike there!

Trond
Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

RickR
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-09-21

Lori, our Minnesota Cornus canadensis is quite different than that.  Leaves are much wider, without such an acute tip, and leaf size withing each whorl is uniform.

Rick Rodich    zone 4a.    Annual precipitation ~24 inches
near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

Very nice, and familiar-looking, Trond!  What is the little shrub between and slightly behind the two pyrola, with the glaucous, spoon-shaped leaves?  If it was here, I'd think of Menziesia ferruginea but...

The earliest bloom is always down in and at the edge of the rockslide, though this year, it is late even there.  Common plants of this area:
1) Saxifraga bronchialis
2) Aquilegia flavescens
3) Silene acaulis
4) Black gooseberry, Ribes lacustre

And we are gradually over the first hump...
5) The route ahead,
6) Looking back,
7) En route, Cassiope tetragona and Phyllodoce empetriformis in the treeline zone of alpine larch (Larix lyallii)
8 ) And by climbing steadily upwards, picking a way through turfy areas alternating with boulder fields, eventually, the broad valley ahead is revealed.  Oddly, there is no suggestion from this view of the many hogsback ridges and tarns ahead!

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

Yes, that is rather an odd little clump of Cornus canadensis there, isn't it, Rick?  Here's another photo of C. canadensis from elsewhere in the region that looks a bit more normal, though the leaves are still somewhat irregularly-sized, with two major ones and the rest smaller.

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

1 - 2) And, ascending another ridge, the first tarn comes into view.  It's a nice place to stop for lunch in the warm sun.
3, 4) Continuing on through one of the drainages, it's clear that the snow has only very recently left this area... In wet, turfy areas, there are countless thousands of Claytonia lanceolata (which I had a hard time getting a decent photo of) - little else in bloom yet.
5) This hanging valley on the edge of the main valley will soon be ablaze with arnicas, but now it is still flanked by a snowbank.
6) The area is terrific for fossils... here's a nice tabulate coral.
7) And, in the rocks, Saxifraga oppositifolia.  I had thought, since the season was so late, that we might, finally,  come upon the motherlode of S. oppositifolia in bloom... but no such luck, this was the only one I found.   ???
8 ) It was early enough for the various drabas that we usually miss.
9) Smelowskia calycina was in its splendour in the rocks!
10) Snow mold -it's not just on your lawn!  :D

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Hoy
Hoy's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

Skulski wrote:

Very nice, and familiar-looking, Trond!  What is the little shrub between and slightly behind the two pyrola, with the glaucous, spoon-shaped leaves?  If it was here, I'd think of Menziesia ferruginea but...

It is a relative of blueberry - Vaccinium uliginosum. You find it from the seashore to as high as any woody plant can grow. The berries are insipid but eatable. Some population can have rather good-tasting berries though.

A very interesting hike, Lori. How high is the treeline in your area? And what kind of trees goes highest? Is it allowed to take home fossils?
With the sedimentary rocks you have it is not strange that you also have a rich flora.

Trond
Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

1) A new one for me, Gentiana prostrata.  (Pardon the poor photo.)
2-3) The banks of this meltwater stream will soon be lush with Saxifraga lyallii but now, is still even running under snow in spots.
4) A Saxifraga spp. for ID... anyone recognize it?  I believe it is S. caespitosa.
5) Saxifraga lyallii

A lot of the following should be the photographic equivalent of standing in front of an open refrigerator door, for those of you experiencing heatwaves!  :)
6) So-called "watermelon snow", with the pink colouration formed by Chlamydomonas green algae.
7) Another of the several tarns... this one detectable by standing water; others, we walked over to get here!
8 ) And another...
9 ) And the big scree fan at the head of the valley, end of the road for today
10) The tarn at the base of the fan

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

Vaccinium uliginosum occurs here as well, but in the more northerly mountains, and across the northern part of the province.  The berries on our other locally-common bilberries are so tiny that it takes quite a focused attention span to collect enough for a mouthful!  
The treeline in this area is at around about 2200m, give or take perhaps 100 meters.  
This area is a provincial park, and in provincial and national parks, taking anything away, including fossils, is not allowed.  (I have long since lost any interest in collecting anything but the odd photo of a fossil anyway.  :))

1) The water is not looking too inviting right now (especially as it has clouded over and is starting to drizzle)- even in mid-August, it is still fed by meltwater from snow clinging in the cliffs.  There is a fair bit of yellow pollen floating on the water, probably blown up from the forest, I would think.
2-3) The scree fan will later be very interesting for alpine flowers, but now is barren.  Anemone lithophila and Silene acaulis, just blooming on this side of the tarn...
3) Glacial striations(?) and/or etching(?) in the limestone at the edge of the tarn
4) And turning around to amble down... we'll come back in a week or two to see how things have changed.
5) Hoary marmot (Marmota caligata), very handsome animals.
6) I always like seeing this spot where the water runs off the edge of the world!
7) Crossing a hidden tarn
8-10) Descending through a rocky stretch, we find the odd salix and Oxyria digyna in bloom

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

RickR
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-09-21

Every picture is interesting to me. 
And I love Aquilegia flavescens!

Rick Rodich    zone 4a.    Annual precipitation ~24 inches
near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

Thanks, Rick!
Sorry, Trond, I missed your one question.  The common trees that go the highest - to treeline - are alpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) and alpine larch (Larix lyallii).  Larches occur up on the valley walls in some areas, and not in others - I think they prefer more moisture (a guess).

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Pages

Log in or register to post comments